Tag Archives: food

Merry Christmas 2012

21 Dec

In that day they will say,
“Surely this is our God;
we trusted in Him, and He saved us.

This is the LORD, we trusted in Him;
let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.”
Isaiah 25:9

Have you ever noticed that in my midst of the busyness of Christmas, there are questions everywhere?  All are demanding answers in order to stay in the fast track of the season.  What size does he wear?  What color of ribbon goes with this wrap?  Should I bake sandies or sugar cookies?  How much money are we suppose to spend on the office gift?  How many places do I set at the table?  All legitimate queries needing a response to complete an action or thought …

What child is this, who laid to rest
on Mary’s lap, is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
while shepherds watch are keeping …

Newborn Lillianne

Newborn Lillianne

A child sleeping … the most precious news of the year for the Van Hook family was the birth of our second grandchild, Lillianne Hope Arndt.  This sweet bundle of pure joy was born early on Sunday morning, April 29.  She arrived one day early of her planned entrance, healthy and happy to finally meet the little boy behind the loud and animated voice that she had heard for the past 9 months.  3 year-old Cole has adored his baby sister from the first moment he saw her, laughing and giggling at her, accepting the simple fact that she now belonged to him and his family.   What a thrill it was to also share those first few days at home from the hospital with our son, Ryan, and his girlfriend Brittany.  They didn’t want to miss out on this awesome family event of welcoming Miss Lillie into our world.

Seattle Duck Tour

Seattle Duck Tour

A couple months later, our east coast family flew across country to spend the week of July 4th with Ryan and Brittany in Seattle.  What gracious hosts they were as they made us feel very comfortable in their home, fed us like royalty, and showed us the sights of the city.  The Space Needle, Pike’s Place Market, a Seattle Duck Tour, and the zoo were just some of the fun places we visited.  The highlight of the week was the BBQ in the park we had with Brittany’s family from Spokane.  It was very special to finally meet the parents and sister that belong to the girl we all have fallen in love with. The nice and relaxing vacation was certainly an answer to prayers, for having a rambunctious 3 year-old and an infant along for the occasion was potentially hazardous to everyone’s well being and sanity!

Speaking of nice and relaxing, Tim and I love to take advantage of our less stress and more spontaneous life-style these days and the fact that we only live 3 hours from the Atlantic Ocean.  We found ourselves at the shore on 3 different weekends this past summer, enjoying the sand, sun, and surf.  One fun weekend included Kim, Troy, and the kids, and another weekend we stayed with some friends in Toms River. We take our beach chairs and umbrella to the water’s edge and just soak in the day, after which we dine at one of our favorite DDD joints and head home.  We have become quite the fans of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives on the Food Network Channel.  Living in such a close proximity to a few large cities, we have found several unique and quite tasty establishments that have been featured on the popular reality show.  Honey’s Sit and Eat in Philadelphia, Joe Squared in Baltimore, and 10th Ave. Burrito in Belmar, NJ are three of our favorite places to eat.  Since Hurricane Sandy wrecked havoc on our summer playground, we are anxious to take a drive out there sometime after the first of the new year…just to see what we can see ~ and to hopefully stop for a burrito.

Mimi Wells met Miss Lillie in June

Mimi Wells met Miss Lillie in June

 

Tim has become quite the domesticated husband this past year … he loves to cook and bake, trying new recipes, and also finding fresh produce at local stands as much as possible.  We have come to realize there are more than 4 seasons to our year … there is strawberry, blueberry, peach, corn, tomato, peppers, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and apple season!  We were busy with each one, and our freezer is full and running over!!  My mother chuckles and says that we are a couple nuts squirreling away for the winter!

Lillianne met Grandma Van Hook on Thanksgiving

Lillianne met Grandma Van Hook on Thanksgiving

Both of our mothers are in relatively good health, (my mom had her gall bladder removed in October), both had 3 new great grandbabies born this year, and these two precious ladies still live in Indiana. We are very excited to be able to spend time with them both over the Christmas holiday!  We don’t get to see them as often as we would like, but they are loved more than words can express.

We also don’t get to see our son, Ryan, and his girlfriend, Brittany, as often as we would like.  He is still working for Verizon Wireless and she as a medical transcriptionist.  Weekends of playing ultimate Frisbee with his buddies, keeping up with the latest sport, and relaxing at Starbucks with a good read are some of Ryan’s favorite things…and Brittany, of course!  They are spending the Christmas holiday with her parents in Spokane this year, enjoying their family traditions … so we will greatly anticipate a visit from them later in the winter!!

Work remains stable for us both, for which we are grateful!  Tim continues his position as installation manager at Kitchen Saver, staying very busy with all of his responsibilities.  A few months ago, I was asked to add more hours to my week at Robert Clofine Elder Law Firm, working 32 hours as the office assistant.  I have diligently protected my Fridays, for they are truly life-giving morsels that help retain my sanity by providing me time to write, shop, clean, travel, and have fun with my grand children and daughter.

These are exciting days for Kim and her family!  They just bought a home and will be closing on the sale at the end of this month.  They are moving from a rented townhome that greeted them 2 ½ years ago with nice accommodations and room to expand, into a much larger house that will provide extra space for growing children and all that accumulates with a family of 4 and a dog.  We are happy for them in their find, for it is still about an hour and 10 minutes away from us, located in a great school district, and close to their church.  Cole is a Benson Buddy in the Caravan program on Wednesday nights, and his parents are on the leadership committee for their Encounter service on Sunday nights.  Troy runs the sound and Kim is in charge of the coffee bar.  They are also involved in a weekly Bible study group, MOPS, retreats, and welcoming first time visitors.  Theirs is a busy and full life … just as it should be!  Troy is still employed by Booz Allen Hamilton and in the process of earning a master’s degree in Cyber Security via an online program through UMUC.  Kim is working full time at home with Cole and Lillie … a job that has the best benefits of all, such as warm hugs, dirty diapers, snotty noses, and slobbery kisses.

This Christmas season, now as a Mimi of two, I find myself asking questions from my heart as I look at Cole and Lillie in awe, … ‘who is this child, asleep here in my arms?’  I can only imagine the questions that the shepherds, the wise men, and even His own parents asked as they gazed down at the Baby before them.

Who is this child asleep on the manger?
Tender and mild, this intimate stranger
Recklessly, wildly loving a dangerous world

Who is this light invading our darkness?
Glorious night, the sun rising for us
Conquering might, He captures the hardest of hearts;
we sing…

Little did they know at that time, what all was wrapped up in that tiny bundle of Life!  The Answers to their questions have filled hearts to overflowing, offered forgiveness, redeemed broken lives, restored marriages, healed the sick, and brought hope to the hopeless.

What child is this?  This is our God!!
Click here to listen to the song http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9JIVojLyymE
Long Hollow Baptist Church Choir and Travis Cottrell

This is our God, living and breathing;
call Him Courageous, Relentless and Brave
This is our God, loving and reaching;
scandalous mercy and mighty to save


Hallelujah, this is our God; hallelujah, this is our God
Hallelujah, this is our God; sing praise…

Who is this One Who will not condemn us?
Why would He come to shoulder our sentence?
Nothing we’ve done will keep Him from giving us grace.

Who is this one?
We watch and we’re speechless God’s only Son,
embracing our weakness He overcomes all death,
and He frees us to live;  and we sing…

This is our God, suffering and dying;
call Him the Hero, redeeming the lost
This is our God, love sacrificing;
all that is holy, accepting our cross


Hallelujah, this is our God; hallelujah, this is our God
Hallelujah, this is our God; sing praise…

Oh, this, this is Christ the King,
whom shepherds guard and angels sing
Haste, haste to bring Him laud
The babe, the Son; the glorious One
The babe, the Son of Mary.

Won’t you join me, not only this Christmas season, but all year long, in responding to the difficult questions of life, with the One true Answer…

This is our God, living and breathing;
call Him Courageous, Relentless and Brave
This is our God, loving and reaching;
scandalous mercy and mighty to save.

This is our God, suffering and dying;
call Him the Hero, redeeming the lost
This is our God, love sacrificing;
all that is holy, accepting our cross…

Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!
Tim and Debbie

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Green Chile

24 Aug

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Matthew 5:6

While living in Albuquerque, New Mexico for 9 years, we quickly learned that the state colors were red and green … along with the state question “Red or green?”  Chile, that is.

It also didn’t take very long for us to become quite the fans of this staple ingredient, which was served in, on, or beside most every dish served in the Land of Enchantment.

As Work and Witness coordinators for the Nazarene Indian Bible College for those years, we picked up on several fun facts to share with our visiting team members, all the while trying to educate them on the popularity, the heat, and the addictive qualities of the chile.

Did you know that one medium green chile has the same amount of Vitamin C as 6 oranges?  Also, more people consume green/red chile in the state of New Mexico than all of the other states combined.

For those of us who were temporary transplants, but acquired the appreciation and anticipation of its flavorful addition to our meals, we do what we can to keep a stock of chiles on hand.  One confirmation that our move from Albuquerque to the Cincinnati area was God ordained was the fact that an international market by the name of Jungle Jim’s was no less than ½ hour away from our home!  They sold frozen tubs of Bueno roasted green chiles, processed in Albuquerque – mild, medium, hot, and extra hot, so we kept our freezer well stocked.  Since we now live in Pennsylvania, a dear friend of ours in Cincinnati fills her cooler full of our ‘hot’ commodity and it makes for a perfect excuse to get to see her and other friends while visiting our family in Indiana.   Green chile chicken enchiladas and breakfast burritos smothered in green chile have both remained regular menu items for our family.

Roasting our green chile

A week ago today, we received a special 12 pound care package full of fresh Hatch green chile from Albuquerque.  The gift giver was our son who had spent 4 days visiting with his high school buddies, playing ultimate Frisbee, making the rounds at his favorite restaurants, and driving by the old campus of Nazarene Indian Bible College.  Before leaving town and heading back to Seattle, he sent us a picture of 2 burlap bags full of fresh chile, captioned with the question “How can I get you one of these?”  We began scheming and Ryan ended up making a quick trip to the post office nearest the airport where he filled a box for priority mail with his treasures … knowing delivery would be 2-3 days.  Sure enough, by Friday evening, our home was filled with the unique aroma of roasted green chile ~ our method was crude, but simple and efficient.  Following an award-winning recipe from an Albuquerque web-site, we treated ourselves to chili rellenos for dinner.   The following day we completed the task of roasting the remaining 11 pounds of chile and storing them away into the freezer … which caused visions and dreams of another shipment… or maybe even a visit of our own back to the place, the people, and the food that we left behind.

Scripture talks about hungering and thirsting after righteousness  ~  To satisfy our own personal hunger and thirst, Tim and I have gone to great efforts this summer to store away fresh fruit and veggies in the freezer, along with some meats and now green chile.  Makes me think about how much effort is put forth to hunger and thirst after Jesus.  Won’t you join me in seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness, with a real hunger and a real thirst for Him?

Until next time,
Debbie

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given to you as well.
Matthew 6:33

Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy;
without holiness no one will see the Lord.
See to it that no one misses the grace of God
and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
Hebrew 12:14-15

Potpourri

5 Aug

Keep your eyes open, hold tight to your convictions,
give it all you’ve got, be resolute,
and love without stopping.
I Corinthians 16:13
The Message

Most of the time, life seems like one great big blur, filled with everyday routines.  Each day is different, depending on the day of the week, the weather, and the schedule.  Just like the other night.  I was at the kitchen sink washing the dishes … all the while peering out the window watching the huge moon rise into the evening sky, it’s fullness being a beacon of light reaching out to everyone all at the same time.  The moon, a hot summer afternoon thunderstorm, a visit to a restaurant, time spent with family, and more … the potpourri that helps bring special moments to the mundane of the everyday blur of life.

I think it’s safe to say that no matter where YOU are reading this from, it’s been a hot summer.  Summer is the season for hot weather, but for some locals, the hot dug in deep with not much intention of leaving.  And not much rain.  For some, that is.  Here in our area of the world, we have been blessed with sufficient showers and thunderstorms that have kept our crops healthy and our yards green.  In fact, our plush green lawn has bluish gray streaks all through it … Google says it’s called slime mold, a symptom of hot temperatures and high humidity.  As the season changes, this oddity will automatically clear up and go away.   In other parts of the country there is drought with lost crops, dead lawns, and thirsty rivers and creeks  … and here there is thick green grass and slime mold…crazy!  Oh!  And the bugs!!  We have a friend who lives in Denver … he made the comment once that due to their near perfect climate, there are “no bugs in Denver!”  I can’t imagine!  Due to our very mild winter that blurred right into a very hot summer with lots of moisture, we have a gazillion bugs!  As I mow the yard each week, I day dream of mosquito netting and how nice it would be to be wrapped in some.  Oh well, this too will pass  ~  in our everyday blur of life, we’ll be shoveling snow before we know it.

If Tim and I were supposed to list a favorite hobby, we would have to say that near the top of the list is eating.  As we get older and our bodies are reminding us of that fact, we have become more conscience of eating healthy.  We have gone out to the u-pick fields this year and brought back lots of tasty strawberries and blueberries, freezing the majority of our finds so we can enjoy them all year long.  It is now peach season … nothing like a bowl of hot fresh peach cobbler with ice cream!  I know…not so healthy.  But the hour of workout at the gym helps to offset the tasty treats!  The Food Network Channel is also another favorite – watching competitions, food preps, and our all-time favorite, Guy Fieri with Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.  In a previous blog post, I told all about our DDD trip to Philadelphia.  Well, we have recently been to three other places in Baltimore, another breakfast joint outside of Philly on our way to the shore, where we also ate at 10th Ave. Burrito in Belmar, NJ.  More potpourri in the everyday blur of life.

Cole Michael at soccer camp

Soccer camp for three-year olds … what fun!  One hour, every evening for 5 days.  Mimi and Papaw drove down in the middle of the week (freshly baked blueberry cobbler in hand) and watched with the parents as Cole ran, kicked, tossed, chased, laughed, and burned off a lot of energy with 19 other little people.  The intention of signing him up for this slight taste of organized sports was to get an idea if he (and they) were really ready for the focus, understanding, and the commitment of time which would be involved in an entire season of the sport.  The conclusion was no.  This week was fun and made for some really good memories, but all of that older-kid stuff will come all too quickly, with the everyday blur of life.

One of Cole’s soccer mates was a young lady whom Cole accidently knocked down.  As soon as he realized what he did, he went over to her, told her he was sorry and kissed her.  What a testimony of love and care this little guy has been taught at home … which now the parents realize needs to be tweaked just a bit.  Kissing his classmates at school each time he needs to apologize to them will not go over very well.   What a blessing it is to be Mimi and Papaw to two precious little lives.  At three months old, Lillianne just went to the doctor the other day and now weighs 13 lbs and 5 oz.

Mimi and Lillianne

Wildfires in Nebraska, Aurora Colorado shootings, the Olympics, Chick Fil-A …  news and happenings that contribute to the potpourri in the everyday blur of life.  Today’s headlines will be old news next week, for life doesn’t slow down for anything or anybody.  We’ve all heard the saying … “Seize the moment!”   I think of that often in the busyness of life, as a reminder to not be SO busy that I miss out on the blessings that are hidden and only revealed if we slow down.  Just a couple evenings ago as Tim and I were sitting down to supper with Cole at the head of our table, he was his usual distracted and pokey eater.  After taking a bite of my own food, I was just getting ready to turn to him and fuss at him to start eating his chicken nuggets.  As I looked his way, I quickly noticed that he was already very intent at watching me.  Instead of opening my mouth to speak, I simply sat there and smiled at him.  His little face lit up in the biggest grin as he reached over to lovingly hold my hand as he began to eat the rest of his dinner with the other.  I would have missed that very special moment with my grandson had I not been paying attention and had just swooped in to hurry him along.

Today is a potpourri day of birthdays in our family.  My husband turns 51 and our daughter shares his special day by turning 29 years old.  Born an hour and 45 minutes before our daughter Kim, was our niece Joanna.  Tim’s baby sister, Becca, also shares in the occasion of August 5 by turning 36 today.  Mimi and Papaw are celebrating this year by having Cole and Lillianne with them at the beach in New Jersey.  Oh … their parents are along, too!  We are enjoying sunshine, ocean waves, sand, tasty food, and the blessings of family … on this on-purpose, not-so blurry day of life.

Won’t you join me in not allowing the blur to detract and take away from embracing as many moments as we can? … for there just might be a smile to melt your heart and a hand to hold.

Until next time,
Debbie

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith;
be men of courage; be strong.  Do everything in love.

I Corinthians 16:13
NIV

 

Keep your eyes open, hold tight to your convictions,
give it all you’ve got, be resolute, and love without stopping.

I Corinthians 16:13
The Message

 

Seattle 2012

20 Jul

For he was looking forward to the city with foundations,
whose architect and builder is God.
Hebrews 11:10

Everyone stayed calm and happy!

As our plane continued to descend, making its way from above the clouds to below them, our travel-weary back sides and our sappy hearts were anxious … for someone special was waiting to meet our entire entourage of 6 people from the east coast.   The pilot banked that monstrous purple and orange beast to one side as he changed direction and headed us toward the city, allowing the passengers to catch our first glimpse of that unmistakable skyline.  My Mommy heart swelled a bit, squeezing a couple tears into my eyes as I anticipated the hug I would receive within a short while.  Looking across the aisle to the 3 year old and his parents, Mimi could only image the thoughts, the feelings, and the need for trust this little guy had going on right then.  Right beside me in her Papaw’s arms, Little Miss was sleeping and snuggled up tight, fully expecting that someone would make sure all of her needs were taken care of.  Within a few minutes, our 5 hour non-stop flight came to an end as we touched down with all the usual jolts, bumps, loud engine sounds, and energy.  Cole was glued to his window, watching as we landed … and once all the drama quieted down and we taxied to our gate, he turned to his Daddy and asked if we could do that again!

July 2 – 9 were the dates of our family vacation this year.  Since Ryan and Brittany has been out to see all of us several times in the past 3 years, we wanted to pack everyone and everything up and go see them this time.  With 2 kiddos under the age of 3 and the distance being traveled, we obviously had to fly.  Two-month old Lillianne flew free, as did all of our luggage, including car seats and stroller … “with Southwest your bags fly free”.   What a blessing!  We were graciously welcomed to stay with Ryan and Brittany, sharing their 2 bedroom, 2 bath apartment, utilizing their very roomy living room with a large couch as extra sleeping spots for our hosts.  The open design of their place was great as it allowed family fun times and then quiet rest for all when we finally settled down for the night.

The Seattle Space Needle

Seattle is a beautiful city, located on 7 specific hills, and is made up of over 100 ‘neighborhoods’, giving a hometown feel, supporting mom and pop establishments, from vacuum cleaner sales to coffee shops.  When needing one or two forgotten items for a meal, Ryan simply walks down to the corner grocer, picks up the needed ingredients, and is back within a few minutes.  Café Vita was the preferred coffee shop for our morning beverage … a short distance from the apartment.  The zoo was only a few blocks away, allowing the anticipation of our animal adventure to grow as we enjoyed the morning stroll to the gates.  It is a very ‘people friendly’ area.

Our family ~ Duck Tour Seattle

Of course, the City of Seattle comprises of the usual tall skyscrapers, office buildings, and seaport, personalizing these neighborhoods with a distinctive and classy downtown personality.   Giving us a very unique tour of the business district and the surrounding communities of downtown Seattle, Uncle Ryan treated us to a special day of fun on July 4th as we took the Seattle Duck Tour.  Climbing aboard a refurbished and DUCK decorated WWII amphibious landing craft, we went on a 90 minute tour driving around on the streets of the city, along with a jaunt on the waves of Lake Union.  Accompanying our site seeing journey were the persistent quacks of uncle and nephew as they joined several other travelers making noise with their duck calls.What a fun and memorable time!

4th of July fireworks, Pike’s Place Market, Seattle Children’s Museum, Space Needle, the International Fountain, Bowling, Woodland Park Zoo, and the Ballard Locks were the main attractions that kept us busy and about the area of Seattle all week.  The necessity of a daily nap for Cole always brought us back home for a much needed break for all … during which time we would watch a movie or play games.  Family time is so special!

Bergams/Van Hooks/Arndts

The highlight of our trip was our cook-out at the nearby park on Saturday.  Ryan and Brittany invited her family to drive over from Spokane, WA to join us all for a fun-filled day in their neighborhood of Fremont.  Grilled hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, veggies, and fruit were all on the menu … and Frisbee, A-Z, visiting, and family photos were the activities of the day.  When late afternoon naptime rolled around, we all headed back to the apartment for a slide show of the day, Phase 10, and continued eating.  This Mommy heart was pleased to finally meet the parents of our sweet Brittany … and to connect with these fine people who have raised such a precious daughter.  We look forward to many more family gatherings in the future!

Have I mentioned the weather??  It was beautiful!!  Other than the rain that fell on the day we arrived, the sky was blue, the sun was shining bright, and the highest temperature while there was 81 degrees.  Ryan keeps trying to tell us that it is usually cloudy and drizzly, but every time Tim and I have come to visit, we always seem to bring the sunshine along!  This perfect weather was quite a switch for all of us coming from the east coast where we left behind hot and dry temperatures in the high 90s.

Mimi and Papaw with Lillianne at the Zoo

Since our own children are now grown adults with lives of their own, I find it extremely heart satisfying to spend time with them and to simply soak up every morsel of time and activity with them that I can.  There are 2752 miles between Ryan’s home and ours.  That’s far.  I’m grateful for the availability of air travel that allows us to turn 45 hours of expected travel by car into only a matter of 5 – 10 hours, depending on flight schedules.     I prayed a lot about this trip … traveling with a 3 year old and a 2 month old was potential for disaster (especially on the plane), the weather, everyone staying healthy before, during, and after the trip … on and on  ~  all reasons to stay on my knees, asking God for His touch upon our family time.  He truly blessed us with HIS plan.  We still had poopie diapers on the flight, sore and tired bodies from our long days of adventures, and even a 3 hour flight delay that got us back home in the wee hours of the morning … but it was all good, and we are thankful.

As I think about our flight into that beautiful city, my heart is reminded of the anticipation of my arrival to another City. As the Pilot banks the plane for the final descent, I know my heart will swell with emotion as I will finally see the face of Jesus.  Just as all of our lives are literally in the hands of those piloting the plane we are traveling in, won’t you join me in putting our complete trust and confidence in the One who wants to take us on the Journey of a life-time … to a Place where the Skyline is unmistakable, the Son is always shining, the Itinerary never ends, and the Host is our Savior.  I so look forward to seeing you there!

Until next time,
Debbie

After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude
that no one could count, from every nation, tribe,
people and language, standing before the throne
and in front of the Lamb.
They were wearing white robes
and were holding palm branches in their hands.
And they cried out in a loud voice:
 

“Salvation belongs to our God,
W
ho sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
Revelation 7:9-10

The City does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it,
for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.
Nothing impure will ever enter it,
nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful,
but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Revelation 21:23 and 27

The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city,
and his servants will serve Him.  They will see His face,
and His name will be on their foreheads.  There will be no more night.
They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun,
for the Lord God will give them light.
And they will reign for ever and ever.
Revelation 22:3-5

**   If you are interested in viewing all of the pictures that I recently posted on Facebook, feel free to click this link … whether you have Facebook or not!!    Enjoy!!
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.3781228124019.2151740.1076414018&type=3&l=33fd9ae4b9

 

 

Bread Bites

21 Mar

Give us this day our Daily Bread.
Matthew 6:11

Definition by Domino’s Pizza ~

Bread Bites by Domino's

Parmesan Bread Bites:
Oven-baked, bite size breadsticks lightly sprinkled
with parmesan-asiago cheese and seasoned with garlic
and more parmesan.  Available in 16-piece or 32-piece orders.
Share them with everyone or no one!

Debbie’s definition ~

Delicious little bites of airy dough balls … the texture reminiscent of a Krispy Kreme donut FRESH from the production line … tastefully seasoned with garlic and sprinkled with parmesan cheese.  Oh SO yummy!

On top of the two boxes of pizzas that were picked up to bring back for dinner, was a bag of piping hot Bread Bites.  The aroma of fresh baked bread and its seasoning quickly filled the vehicle, causing my taste buds and my tummy to turn summersaults in anticipation!  Not to be unfair to the others, I only snitched one of the Bites from the tempting bag, savoring every morsel of garlic and speck of parmesan. That meal was over two weeks ago and I still think about those Bites … but for more reasons than their taste.

The 2nd year anniversary for Morsels of Mercy has come and gone.  I had great intentions of once again finding a new blog theme, freshen things up a bit, and add new pictures, but life has been a little crazy.  Not necessarily bad crazy, but crazy nonetheless.  Just when I think I have a few extra moments to sit down and peruse the various different new blog formats on Word Press, my attention is diverted by something more important.  It’s these little bites of bread in my world that I keep partaking of … seasoned with the spices of life and then lavished with the love of Jesus.  Bread Bites are meant to be shared … so don’t mind if I do!

Kim and Cole

Baby Lillianne … This Bread Bite is the one right up on top.  The months of anticipation have suddenly become weeks ~ with only 6 left at the time of this post.  Six weeks early was when her big brother, Cole, arrived on the scene – in a state of emergency for Mom and Baby.  Momma has done her best at preventing a repeat of circumstances, but sometimes our best is not enough.  Kim’s body seems to react adversely to pregnancy – last time with pre-eclampsia and this time with cervix issues.  After the initial period of moderate bed rest at week 24, permission to resume normal activity was given.  Several weeks later, after a routine OB visit, an exam showed early dilation and cervix issues again.  Prompt attention and concern were immediately put into place as Kim was once again placed on bed rest – this time restrictive.  Her daily routine of caring for her home, husband, and nearly 3 year old son quickly came to a halt as she found herself lying on the couch for hours on end, except when she made her way upstairs to sleep and to shower.  Appreciation beyond words cannot express my heart when I think of those friends from Grace Pointe Community Church of the Nazarene where Kim and Troy belong.  They truly do belong there, for it has been that family that recently blessed them with an overwhelmingly bountiful shower of baby gifts, and has provided meals and extra care for Cole during the week days while Daddy and Mimi were at work.  Kim’s latest appointment with the doctor showed great signs of improvement, releasing her from the bonds of strict bed rest to that of moderation.  Help with meals and care for Cole will continue as these final weeks bring us closer to the birth of our Baby Lillie!

Cole ... on purpose spilling himself.

The world of Mimi … this Bread Bite is huge, sprinkled with a lot of seasoning!  To share every speck of parmesan would require the writing of a book all of its own entitled Cole Michael.  The fun, the laughter, the non-stop chatter, the busyness, the curiosity, the tenderness, the stubbornness, the love, and even occasional frustration …   Need I go on?  With every effort to do all we can to help lighten the load for his parents, Papaw and Mimi have had Cole at their house as often as possible, or Mimi has spent weekends in Baltimore.  Cole’s world continues to be all boy – cars, tractors, stickers, balls, and monster trucks.  Despite the unusually warm temperatures this winter, we were truly blessed with a few inches of snow during an overnight visit from Kim and Cole.  A year makes such a difference in the fun of a little boy … he graduated from his protective and safe little sled to the adult long board, which allowed him to self-spill and tumble out into the snow.  Cole is very excited and shares in the anticipation of Baby Lillie … not quite sure what he is expecting, although the details of tiny, crying, pooping, and sleeping have all been explained to him.  For the moment, Baby Lillie is the existence behind Momma’s ever-growing belly, which he kisses, includes in his prayers, and enjoys her company as he raises momma’s maternity top up so she can also watch the CAR movie with him…the preciousness of a little child.

Another Bread Bite that is full of evening gym visits, lots of energy, and better health is one that I’ve already recently shared.  Tim has been on a mission to lose substantial weight, and has experienced great results … giving credit to his exercise routines at the gym and a change in his eating habits.  He has all but cut out all sodas, which is a huge change for him.  He used to drink at least 5 Pepsis every day.  Fruits and vegetables have replaced chips and Swiss Rolls, and we also recently pulled our Champion Juicer out of the archives of the basement.

Not just one, but a handful of Bread Bites represent my recent trip to Indianapolis, leaving behind the aroma of spices and specks of parmesan all over the place!!  Having arrived Wednesday evening of last week and returning home late Sunday night, the sponge of my heart soaks up as much as possible, but there’s never enough time …

Great Grandma, Great Aunt Debbie with Jaxon ... & Daddy

Baby Jaxon melted my heart as I sat there that first evening holding my great nephew and remembering special times over 30 years ago when his Daddy was this size.  It was a real treat on Sunday for his parents to bring him to my home church so his great grandma could show him off.  Hopefully he was the only one who slept through Pastor Swesey’s message!

There were 16 of us at a friends’ home on Thursday as my ‘Higher Ground’ girls gathered in for the evening.  A surprise bridal shower for another friend provided the reason to come, along with the realization that my momma and I were coming to town!  What a true blessing these girls are to my heart as they still seem to love me and miss me, even though I have been gone for over a year!  Those feelings are very mutual!

Friday and Saturday were  both busy from dawn to bedtime … a special lunch with a dear friend, sorting through bags and closets of my Daddy’s clothes, time spent with family, and some relaxing in front of the TV watching movies and special events that Mom recorded for me.  The weather was exceptional all weekend, allowing me to slip on the flip flops and capris for the first time this year.

It’s always a joy for me to attend church with my Mom on Sunday ~ the church in which I grew up in … where I found Jesus, met my husband, got married, dedicated my babies, my Daddy’s funeral, …  During the Sunday School hour, I chose to sit in the Senior Adult class with those I have known for many years, discussing the disciple Peter and his tragic failure of loyalty … a lesson from the Nazarene spring quarterly.  I chimed in with my own comment that even though Peter failed and made a horrible mess of things, because of Christ’s love and forgiveness, Peter was restored and later had a dynamic ministry in spite of his past.  I’m personally grateful that Jesus does not just condemn and leave me in a pile to rot.  But instead, he is all about redemption and restoration.

A Divine Appointment on the flight home … a pastor’s wife from Lancaster was flying back from Denver where her daughter is attending college.  It was nice to once again connect to a total stranger through the bonds of Jesus.

A very special Bread Bite remains in the bag, filled with lots of yummy goodness and extra spices … Sunday was our son Ryan’s 26th birthday.  There will never be enough garlic and specks of parmesan to express this Momma’s love for her boy.  Someday, I would love to be with him in Seattle for his birthday so we could celebrate him and his special day together.

There’s another Birthday Bread Bite still in the bottom of the bag ~ Cole will turn 3 years old on Saturday.  A low-energy level birthday party is being planned, allowing Momma to participate by sitting and watching while an assortment of little tykes and their parents, along with various family members gather to thank God for another year of growth, development, love, and lots of life in the person of Cole Michael.

As a Morsel of Mercy represents God’s gifts of undeserved favor throughout our everday, I believe that from time to time, my life has a bag of warm and tasty Bread Bites.  Moments that are full of life, saturated with time consuming events, and covered with specks of details.  Every Bite is fresh, warm, and lavished with the love of Jesus.  I just shared mine ~ find someone who needs some encouragement or a friendly visit and share your Bread Bites.

Until next time,
Debbie

 Jesus said to them,
“I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven,
but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.
For the bread of God is He who comes down from
heaven and gives life to the world.”


“Sir,” they said, “from now on give us this Bread.”

 

Then Jesus declared, “I am the Bread of Life.
He who comes to Me will never go hungry,
and he who believes in Me will never be thirsty.”
John 6:32-35

For my friends who subscribe to Morsels of Mercy and automatically get a copy sent to your email, check out the blog on my website to see additional photos of my family         https://morselsofmercy.wordpress.com

**  Blog photo of Baby Shower Gift Bags  –  March 2012

Food in Philly

22 Feb

Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.
Psalm 34:8
 

Tucked away in the middle of February, close to Valentine’s Day, was a weekend available to go do something fun and unique.  The city of Philadelphia, Google maps on my iphone, delicious food, and pleasant weather all contributed in gifting us with a great time.  We were in no rush, no hurry, and the only real agenda we had was to eat. And we did.

One of our favorite TV shows is “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” with Guy Fieri on the Food Network Channel.   As he pulls up in his bright red convertible in front of another not-so-attractive place to eat, we enjoy watching as Guy visits the kitchen and finds out the secrets to the success of the establishment.  A combination of fresh spices, unexpected ingredients, and personalized culinary methods usually leave our mouths gaping open and our taste buds longing to sample a bite or two.  Realizing that there are several of these diners, drive-ins and dives within a few hours from our home, we began to dream of the various possibilities of actually getting to taste some of those menu items.  With the help of the internet, our itinerary evolved as we made our way toward the City of Brotherly Love.

Memphis Taproom

Over the course of the next 30 hours, we visited 2 corner dives, 1 diner, and 1 pub, of which was our least favorite of the four places.  Fried kosher dill pickles and a delicious pulled pork sandwich, accessorized by garlic mayo, was our first shared meal (brunch) at the Memphis Taproom.  Then a scrumptious flatbread appetizer at Silk City Diner before dinner, to later return back to Memphis Taproom for a Smoked Coconut Club, which was featured on their evening menu, with a side of onion rings for our final entrée of the day.  We saw a plate of these amazingly yummy looking onion rings on a table nearby, so we spontaneously asked to substitute the usual fries with this favorite of mine.   After thanking the Lord for our food, I scooped up a big handful of thinly sliced, crunchy rings and stuffed them in my mouth – and in the next breath asked the Lord to please extinguish the fire inside.  When our waitress came by to refill our water glasses, I mentioned the extreme spiciness of the onions and she smiled as she explained that this is why they call them Suicide Rings.  Lesson learned – ALWAYS check the menu and read the fine print.

Honey Cristo

There’s something to be said for having to wait in line in order to be seated  – which we did for breakfast the following morning.  We were fascinated as we were offered a couple stools at the front counter of this bright and cheery corner dive called Honey’s Sit and Eat.   Bacon, coffee, the sweet scent of pancakes, french toast, and syrup,  — all those comfy aromas filled the air as we placed our orders to start off another day of adventure.  Once again, we were not at all disappointed in the recommendation of this local fare, apparently agreeing with the continuing arrival of guests, that the food was delicious.

Here’s an interesting twist to my story ~ Tim and I joined Gold’s Gym a couple weeks ago.  Since Tim’s hospitalization in November and the insertion of another stent, he decided that after the holidays he needed to begin a healthy routine of exercise and better diet.  Having lost over 10 pounds myself in the past year, due to a change in eating habits and consistent exercise, I was in full support and agreed to meet him most evenings on his way home from work so we could exercise together.  After 10 days of membership and a great start toward his goal, yes … we went to Philly to eat!  We shared most everything we ordered, drank only water (except morning coffee and juice) and we walked.  Between our late breakfast and our late lunch on Sunday, we walked through the historic district of the city, catching sites of old monuments, buildings, and streets that help document our country’s freedoms and history.  With the help of my cell phone’s mapping software, we were able to track our course of tourism as it also calculated the miles of exercise…a total of 5 miles to be exact.  Needless to say, the calories burned paved the way to our last stop on our ‘Triple D’ tour … Good Dog Bar.  The items ordered here were not anything to brag about, so we were glad we had the added bonus of redeeming a Restaurant.com gift certificate to offset the cost of the meal.

Work, gym, household chores, and eating at home have all resumed again.  That’s ok … it’s all called life.  Just as the chef will crush fresh spices and herbs to obtain the fullest and richest flavors available, and then mix with specific ingredients to create a delectable and unique tasting dish ~ this is all done in order to attract those who have such a wide array of choices of places to go eat, satisfying the pallet of those who visit their establishment. The great Culinary Expert of our lives does the same.  He takes the various facets of our existence, separating and crushing where necessary, sifting, stirring, and combining at just the right moments ~ all aspects of the process playing a huge role in the Purpose of God’s great plan for our lives.  Won’t you join me in allowing Him to prepare us from scratch, so we will be attractive and of good flavor … bringing glory and honor to Him with our lives?

Until next time,
Debbie

Prepare it with oil on a griddle;
bring it well-mixed and present the grain offering
broken in pieces as an aroma pleasing to the LORD.
Leviticus 6:21

For we are to God the aroma of Christ
among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.
   2 Corinthians 2:15

For my friends who subscribe to Morsels of Mercy and automatically get a copy sent to your email, check out the blog on my website to see additional photos of my family         https://morselsofmercy.wordpress.com

**  Blog photo of my Valentine’s Day decor  –  February 2012

Diet Update

3 Jun

 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed,
do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God
the Father through him.
Colossians 3:17

I wish I could invite you all to come for a visit. We would sit out here on my back screened-in porch and enjoy the sights and sounds of the season while catching up on each other’s lives. I would make some fresh lemonade or peach iced tea and bring out some yummy snacks to munch on.  Healthy snacks, that is …

It has been nearly 50 days now since I began my Flat Belly Diet, and the results continue to make noticeable changes. The suggested length is a 32 day plan, but that day came and went without notice. This past holiday weekend allowed me some extra moments first thing in the morning, so I measured, weighed, and jotted down my findings. On day 41, the official stats revealed the loss of 7 pounds and 7 ½ inches!! Now unfortunately, all of those 7 ½ inches did not come from my belly … in fact, a very small percentage of them melted from my middle. But I’m happy with the results at this stage of my diet. My summer wardrobe fits better, I have more energy and motivation to match the length of daylight hours, and I know my body is healthier with the improved routine of eating.

Along with counting calories, I make sure that I eat a serving of a MUFA (monounsaturated fat) with each meal, and I exercise faithfully. Since moving to PA and becoming a Direct TV customer, we get Fit TV, where I have found my all-time favorite work-out guru, Gilad Janklowicz. 30 minutes, at least 5 days a week with Gilad in Hawaii has complimented my diet and has helped reduce weight and inches. I drink a lot of water, order very carefully when eating out, and for the most part, have not cheated extensively by sneaking potato chips, ice cream, or french fries.

Wouldn’t it be fun if you could come and visit?   I would prepare and serve you food that would be tasty, enjoyable to eat, and most satisfying. We would need to stop at a road side stand in Lancaster Amish country and pick up some fresh veggies and fruit … and then buy some antioxidant laden dark chocolate following our Hershey Chocolate World tour. On another day and in the other direction, we would head an hour south to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor where we would enjoy a heart healthy meal of seafood. We would still keep it healthy in the midst of our fun time together!

So, when are you coming?

Until next time,
Debbie

I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink.
Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face,
so that our joy may be complete.

II John 1:12

Flat Belly Diet

21 Apr

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy,
to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God —
this is your spiritual act of worship.
Romans 12:1

 

Mimi and Cole ~ April 2011

I have never been overweight.  I’ve often classified myself as petite instead of the usual adjectives that people come up with, such as skinny, little, tiny, and of course, I can’t leave out short.  My height and my weight have always gone hand in hand.  Petite.  That’s me, that is, until I began to reach the underlying shadows of turning 50 years old.  I began to notice that I couldn’t eat just anything (and everything) I wanted and still remain in the same vicinity on the scales.   Portion control became my new rule as I filled my plate with delicious meals during our former life at Higher Ground.  Thinking the slight chub around the middle would immediately disappear once we moved away from all the tasty temptations, I found it to only increase.  Tim and I now have time to spend together in the kitchen preparing new recipes and enjoying them.  We decide to go out to eat more often now, looking for hole-in-the-wall places that usually serve exceptional food.  We snack in the evenings as we watch TV … and we gifted ourselves with a meat smoker for Christmas, so we frequently enjoy scrumptious pulled pork and cornbread.  As the scales continue to tip past the point where the needle stood underneath my pregnant form so many years ago, it’s time to call HALT!!   When the day comes that our Kim is once again with child and her bulging baby tummy is the topic of her young toddler, I’m afraid that Cole will look over at his grandma and pat MY tummy and say “Mimi’s Baby?”   

So, for the first time in my life, I am on a diet.  I don’t need to lose a lot of weight.  Only 10 -15 pounds.  Inches are more of my target, knowing that clothing will fit better, and I will be healthier.   To keep from sounding like I’m whining, I will simply say that I have felt miserable, extremely unhealthy, and even concerned that my middle girth was getting the best of me.  I know it is time to become mature, responsible, and loving toward my own body and health. 

Having an excellent recommendation from my daughter who found this diet plan to be a great success, I officially began on Monday.  I am currently on Day 4 out of 32.  I spent several days reading through the book, however, before implementing its plan.  Two gals from Prevention Magazine are the minds behind this concept, explaining the health concerns of having too much fat around our bellies and offering great encouragement and hands-on tools to get our bodies back under control.  As I read through the book, I jotted down a few notes that I felt were important to cheer me on my new adventure. . .

Diet is a contract between me and myself.

I am special.  I deserve the time, the energy, and the effort that’s equal to
everything else in my life.

 

So, here I am.  Embracing special me … muffin top and all.  Excited to be nearly finished with the 4 day Anti-Bloat Jumpstart and to go forward for the next 28 days, anticipating better health, better habits, and hopefully, better fit.  In exchange for unhealthy, I’m learning about MUFAs, Sassy Water, Visceral Fat, Waist to Hip Ratio and BMI.

 As Easter Sunday approaches and we gather in worship to celebrate our risen Savior, let us also keep in mind that true disciples of Christ worship Him every day.  We worship Him in all that we do…our relationships, our work, our playtime, our activities, and even our eating.  Jesus gave His life for me … the least I can do is to give Him all of me in return, and that includes my best at giving Him a healthy me.  A special and healthy me.  Won’t you join me in giving our best to Jesus?

Until next time,
Debbie

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Romans 12:1-2  (The Message)

If you would like more information about the Flat Belly Diet, you may buy the book on line as cheap as $5.00 (including shipping) from Alibris.com, at your local bookstore, or you may actually sign up for a free 30 day on-line trial at flatbellydiet.com

Merry Christmas from the Van Hooks!

21 Dec

Our beautiful children!

Once again, we are in awe of God’s blessings, His great mercy, and His precious gift of His son Jesus as we celebrate this Christmas season and enter into the New Year.  As the song writer penned … “Many things about tomorrow, I don’t seem to understand, but I know Who holds tomorrow, and I know Who holds my hand.”

 

Bahama Cruise

This year has been eventful!  Our grandson, Cole Michael, celebrated his first birthday in March.  How quickly that year seemed to fly by, and how quickly this little guy is growing and changing!  Following our trip out to PA for his birthday party, we headed on down to Florida for our vacation.  In celebration of our 30th wedding anniversary (July 11th) we enjoyed a 4 day cruise to the Bahamas, then soaked up some Florida sunshine for several more days before heading back to reality.  Reality consisted of the normal things of life, like home and work, but it also suddenly included helping to take care of my mother who fell and shattered her elbow while we were away on vacation.  After surgery, months of physical therapy, doctor visits, and lots of help from us kids and her church family, Mom is continuing to gain use and strength of her right arm and hand. We are so grateful for the Lord’s touch on her as she has slowly healed!

Our son-in-law, Troy, graduated from Penn State University this past May.  With his degree in Security and Risk Analysis, his new career as a consultant relocated this little family to Glen Burnie, MD, located on the south side of Baltimore.  Up until their move, Kim worked at the Courtyard by Marriott where she was the Assistant General Manager.  Now she is blessed by being able to stay home with Cole full time, employed by the cutest little toddler around!   Kim enjoys working out at their local gym where she takes Zumba and other exercise classes.  She is also involved in the Mom’s group at Grace Pointe Church of the Nazarene.

As the busy days of spring collided into the even busier days of summer, Tim was offered and he accepted a new job in the state of Pennsylvania.   September 1, just two weeks short of beginning our 5th year at Higher Ground Conference and Retreat Center, we relocated to Red Lion, PA.  He is now employed by K/S Remodeling Systems, where his talent for detail and craftsmanship is utilized on a daily basis to refurbish and remodel kitchens.   This is very similar to what Tim did when we lived in PA back in the 90s.   We are renting a very nice home that is very roomy and spacious for when our family gathers in, which happens quite frequently since we moved.  Kim and her family only live an hour away, so we are overwhelmed with the blessing of being able to watch Cole grow and become his own little person.  His favorite things in the whole world are tractors, and Dora the Explorer, fire trucks, cars, animal crackers, puzzles, and his dog all coming in tied for second place!   He is so much fun and has brought such joy to Grami and Grampi’s life!

Not wanting to miss out on the excitement of our move, Ryan flew in for a visit and spent a week with us.  Since it was his first time out to see his sister’s new home as well, we all took the time to relax and enjoy some of the favorite sites of Baltimore for a few days.  The highlight was our trip to the beach and to play in the sand and ocean with Cole.  Once we got back to our house, there were boxes to unpack, and furniture to arrange, all the while we had lots of fun and cooked lots of yummy food in our big kitchen!  Family time is such a blessing!!

Regis Philbin, Mom, myself, and Kim

Christmas began early in December at our house this year.  Kim and I surprised my mom with a trip to New York City and tickets to be on LIVE with Regis and Kelly!  What a fun time we had!!  The following day, Ryan and his girlfriend Brittany flew in from Seattle to join the festivities that had already started a few days prior.  We enjoyed lots of family fun playing Wii, going bowling, watching movies, and enjoying a houseful of good cooks.  “Fake Christmas” was celebrated as gifts were exchanged, stuffed stockings were emptied, and Cole rode around on his new tractor. 

Cole and his new TRACTOR!

As many of you already know, I love to write and started a blog back in February.  Morsels of Mercy is just that ~ short stories inspired by God’s mercies through my journey of life!   https://morselsofmercy.wordpress.com     Many of the details of this past year that I skipped over here in my Christmas letter you can read about in my blog.  Enjoy reading!!

Christmas week is now upon us, and we will be back in Indiana for the holiday.  As we travel the many miles and gather with our families, my heart and thoughts will be turning toward many of you who are hurting this Christmas season.  I will be praying that you will find Jesus to be so much more than a baby in the manger, but that He will be your Healer, your Comforter, your Strength, your Everything. 

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the LORD’s great mercies
we are not consumed,

for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning:
great is your faithfulness.

I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.
Lamentations 3:21-26

Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!!
The Van Hooks

 

Tim & Debbie
Troy, Kim, Cole & Tadpole
Ryan & Brittany
My mom, Wilma

Our family

Jesus Loves Me

29 Sep

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son
 into the world that we might live through him. This is love:
not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son
as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends,
since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another,
 God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 
1 John 4:9-12

 

In previous years of experience, after having just moved to a new location … new job, different house, an unfamiliar area, and still undecided on which church to regularly attend, Sundays were usually a difficult day for me.  This past weekend, however, was not that way at all.  Please allow me to take you on a journey  …

When our family lived in the state of Pennsylvania back in the ’90s, I baked homemade cinnamon rolls quite frequently on Sunday mornings.  They were tasty and quick to devour just moments before heading out the door to Sunday School and church.  Knowing that we were driving down to Baltimore to attend church with our daughter and her little family this past Sunday, I was inspired to bake these decadent treats once again and take them with us to share.  With a slight chill in the air as it was raining outside, the sweet aroma of the rolls baking put a warmth in the heart from the memories of when we were much younger with much smaller children…and this put a smile on my face. 

Reminders of ‘home’ greeted us on our hour drive to the Arndts as I received texts from a couple Higher Ground friends, checking on us and sending their love.  Rolls and coffee were enjoyed in the usual fashion, just moments before going to church.  Grace Pointe Community Church of the Nazarene is currently gathering its congregation in a really nice school building as new construction is taking place nearby.  A quick glance in the bulletin advertised Caravans, creating a smile of joy as I imagined my grandchildren earning badges while they learned the Articles of Faith and other core values in this Christian scouting program.  As I stood there in the auditorium sharing in the worship experience with my family, I took notice of the pulpit bearing the Nazarene logo “Holiness Unto the Lord”.  A heart full of gratitude for a prayer answered, knowing that a heritage of holiness upbringing will continue another generation in this Arndt/VanHook home.  The music filled the hall, nothing elaborate with a full orchestra or 50 person choir, but a simple platform of instruments and singers that lifted their talents and hearts in worship as they led us to the Father.  There were songs I didn’t know, but the message of these words spoke to me …

“All that is within me cries.
For You alone be glorified Emmanuel, God with us.
My heart sings a brand new song.
The debt is paid these chains are gone.
Emmanuel, God with us.

Such a tiny offering, compared to Calvary, nevertheless we lay it at your feet.
Such a tiny offering, compared to Calvary, nevertheless we lay this at your feet.”

 

Then there were songs I did know, songs that continued to draw me into His presence …

“Blessed be your name, In the land that is plentiful
Where the streams of abundance flow, Blessed be your name
Blessed be your name, When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness, Blessed be your name

Blessed be your name, When the sun’s shining down on me
When the world’s all as it should be, Blessed be your name
Blessed be your name, On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering, Blessed be your name

Every blessing you pour out, I turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord, Still I will say…
Blessed be the name of the Lord, Blessed be your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord, Blessed be your glorious name

You give and take away, You give and take away
My heart will choose to say , Lord, Blessed be your name”

Pastor Bolerjack began to relate a story concerning his son who is an avid OU fan and attended the OU vs UC game the night before.  I sat there and had to sort of shake my brain loose and think “Where am I?”  I now live in Pennsylvania, but at this moment am hearing this story in Maryland.  Pastor’s son lives in Oklahoma and attended the game, which was in Cincinnati.  Wow!  A connection … a real BIG connection to our hearts!  I know Tim was anxious to chat with the pastor following the service to tell him that we just left the Cincinnati area and Higher Ground, which is where the University of Cincinnati Bearcats annually hold their pre-season football training camp.  Having just watched the exciting game ourselves, it was quite fun to share this connection with him.  We also inquired of his relationship to R.T. and Pat Bolerjack, who we found out to be his uncle and aunt. More connections were made as we shared of our friendship with them from our days at Nazarene Indian Bible College in Albuquerque. 

Moments before at the end of the sermon, as the piano began to play a very familiar song, my heart was moved to tears. A few months ago while working in the kitchen at Higher Ground and it was an extremely busy and tough day, I suggested to my friend that when we felt frustrated and and worn out, we should start singing Sunday School songs to help us through our shift.  Just the day before, this friend had texted me that her work day had been very rough, and at one point she began to sing her Sunday School songs.  I then told her that I’m so glad that she could sing Jesus Loves Me. As I stood there the next morning at the close of the service, the melody of that childhood tune began to fill that church auditorium.  Once again, I felt the extreme love of Jesus, His approval of me, my walk, and my relationship with Him. 

I knew right then that I would write about all of this … a personal, very intimate connection with God Himself, knowing that He hand-picked details of this day, at this time in my life, just for me!  Somehow, I need to express that just believing there is a God, religion, and all the churchy stuff of life is not what it’s all about.  It’s even so much more than a daily routine of Bible reading and prayer time.  It’s a relationship with God, communication with One Another, and as I read this morning in Streams in the Desert, it’s a ‘Peace that breathes music in my breast.’  Do you hear the music? … “Jesus Loves Me!”

Till next time,
Debbie