Heart of a Mother

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The heart of a mother is one that, for some, is hard to explain and even talk about.  When I think of how to explain those words, I immediately get a picture of my own mom.  Growing up I felt very safe and secure. Both parents were and still are strong Christians. My brothers and I were loved and disciplined in a Biblical way and really never questioned our upbringing. It was good. My mother kept the home fires burning.  She did mom things: cooking, cleaning, carpooling, attending sports events, and church functions. She was a fantastic model for me. It wasn’t until I faced challenges of trying to become a mother myself that I began to realize there was more to a mother’s heart than meets the eye.

 

At the tender age of 38 I thought I was ready to attempt this “mom” thing. Little did I know that the road it would take me down would be one of great heartache. My journey to motherhood began with a miscarriage. A few months later, I gave birth to  a little girl only to be with her for an hour before she took an early flight from this earth and said goodbye. Later I carried a child for only 28 weeks and had to say goodbye yet again. Definitely not the journey I had pictured. My faith was challenged, but it kept me from spiraling into despair, and yet my heart still had to grieve the loss.  God never left; He just had a divine calling on my life called adoption. On June 14, 2006, a 7-pound, 14-ounce big blue-eyed little girl was laid in my arms! What else could I say, but, “WOW!” The heart of a mother began to swell within me.

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That little girl is now 11 years old.  Time flies! As I examine my road as a mother, I have begun to understand what was going on behind the scenes of things my mother would do. It’s all beginning to make sense. I’m blown away by how the heart of a mother reflects, in many ways, the heart of God.  We read about His heart for us in His word.  He instructs us how to live, then commands us to instruct our children. He protects us and in the same way, instills in us the heart-felt need to protect our “littles”. Psalm 18 is a beautiful picture of how He fights for us. So we also are not afraid to fight on behalf of those in our care.

 

My mom-heart gets foggy at times on what’s a true reflection of His heart. Actions that seem unimportant to me speak volumes of love to my child: a dorky valentine card, conversational candy hearts, a miniature box of chocolates, things that are no big deal to me are huge love actions in my house right now. These are opportunities to reflect His love in ways that my child can understand.

 

I love that the mom-heart He placed in each of us reflects His heart. What else can we say but “WOW!”

Kori Covington wrote this post. To learn more about her, please follow this link.

Seen & Heard

This week we asked Kendra Huckabee of the Lubbock Campus to share a little bit of how she loves her family well during the Valentine’s Day holiday.

This past weekend we took a day trip to Clovis, NM, of all places, to take our boys to a traveling dinosaur event called Jurassic Quest. Think robotic dinosaur museum (or circus…whichever you prefer). Throughout the entire planning process, buying the overpriced tickets, and honestly, even on the drive there I kept thinking:

“Why in the world are we doing this?”
“This better be worth it!”
“The things we do for our kids…”.
But seeing my 3 ½-year-old dinosaur fanatic’s face light up at every turn immediately made me glad that we chose to take the time to do something he loves. Loving my family is one of the most important jobs I have. Although it has taken me some time, learning to show love to each member of my family in a way that speaks to them individually and makes them feel seen and known is the best way to do it.
John 13:34 says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”
Jesus gave us the perfect example of how to love people. It’s so cool to me how when Jesus healed people, had an encounter with someone, or spoke into someone’s life it was different every time. He didn’t have a “How to Love People” checklist that he followed. He simply knew them and loved them in a way that was specifically meant for them.

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He doesn’t care the cost, time, or distance it takes to show his love towards us.
I would have much rather stayed home this weekend in my pajamas drinking endless cups of coffee than standing in the cold watching my son move dirt around with a paintbrush to uncover a “fossil”, but I would have robbed myself of a chance to show love and my son of a chance to receive it.
I’m so thankful that I chose to move my SELF out of the way this weekend so that we could shower our son with love in a way that spoke to his little dino-loving heart.
When it comes to Valentine’s Day, chocolate and teddy bears have never really been my thing, but loving my people is! My goal this Valentines, and every day, is to take the opportunity to speak my family’s love language. I pray that you, too, will take the time to love your family in ways that make them feel seen and known. Whether it’s something simple like their favorite candy, or a random trip to another state to see robotic dinosaurs, learn what and how they love and show them love in that way.

Some things that have helped me learn how to love my family:

The 5 Love Languages books by Gary Chapman
DISC personality test
Simply spending time with them

 

This post was written by Kendra Huckabee from our Lubbock Campus. To learn more about her, follow this link.

Boiling Over

Titus 2:11-14 says that the grace of God has appeared in Jesus to redeem us to be a people for His own special possession who are zealous for good deeds.

Zealous for good deeds.

Ugh.

My tendency is to feel guilt thinking about what “good deeds” I need to be doing that I haven’t already done. But, I’m a Bible word study nerd and, as I was digging into this passage, I found freedom. First, here was a definition of grace that I’d never seen before. It’s used in this context because we are defined as His prized treasure, chosen by Him. Grace is God leaning toward us because He is disposed to bless us. And what does His leaning toward us do? Makes us zealous for good deeds. Here’s another cool/Bible-nerdy definition that I found: zealous means to boil over with passion. In other words, when we trust in Jesus, we get God leaning toward us, blessing us which causes us to boil over with passion to do good things.

In a class I took recently, my instructor asked me to recall an experience from my childhood where time melted away. I remembered being at my great aunt’s house (We called her Auntie) one Sunday evening when I was eight years old. The grownups were all in the family room watching Columbo or some other 70’s drama and I, having no interest in said drama, had forgotten to bring a book to read. Auntie was an avid reader and, sympathetic to my plight, offered me a choice from her vast library: To Kill a Mockingbird. I gladly accepted the book and was deeply grateful to Auntie for her ability to swiftly size up my reading skills and interest level. That experience began to unlock a realization for me about Auntie: she carried a fondness for me that was magnetic. I found myself wanting to go spend time with her, write her notes of encouragement, and bring her gifts—all because of the way she seemed to know me and speak into my life with comments like, “You’ve never known a stranger” and “You’ve got the same determination your grandmother had”.

When we catch a sense of God knowing us, leaning toward us to offer His good gifts to us, we don’t have to work hard to do good things; it’s natural for us to give back in the way we were created. However, sometimes the “shoulds” in our heads trump our would-be passions (“I should serve in X ministry because they need me,” or, “I should go feed the homeless.”) and we cool off instead of finding our boiling point! So, I want to offer some questions to discover how you can “boil over with passion”:

  • What is something you do that is easy for you but seems hard to others?
  • What is something you do that you lie awake thinking about how you can do it better? That you would do for free if no one ever paid you?
  • What was the last experience you had “doing” for the Lord in which time melted away for you?

My prayer is that you sense Him leaning toward you to bless you and that you find your boiling point!

This post was written by Shelli Jarvis from our Amarillo campus. To learn more about Shelli, please follow this link.

Loving Your Husband

Titus 2:3-4 says that older women are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands.

The word love in that verse (philandros) is only used once in scripture, and is an affection shown specifically by a wife for her husband. This leads me to believe that a wife has the unique ability to show unconditional love to her husband in a way that nobody else on earth can. Wow – what a privilege!

Through living out this gift of marriage and walking with many wise women, the Lord has taught me a few very practical ways to love Kirby that have helped us cultivate a rich, life-giving marriage.

Pray for Him

Pray that the Word of God would dwell richly in your husband. Pray that he would prosper in all he does. Pray for him as you fold his laundry. Find specific passages of scripture to speak over your husband. Our prayers are powerful and life-changing.

Serve Him

In the middle of writing this, I asked Kirby to share some practical things that I do that communicate love to him. To no surprise, dinner made the list. If you know Kirby, that statement won’t surprise you either. The man can eat! But through his sort-of comical response, he reminded me that service doesn’t always have to be extravagant. It’s the everyday. He serves me in more ways than I could number, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to love him through serving him right back.

Protect and Build his Reputation

Proverbs 31:23 is a statement that, at first glance, seems a little out of place. The whole passage describes a woman that we all desire to be, and simultaneously get frustrated with because she sometimes seems out of reach. In verse 23, it states, “her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders.” I believe that his wife had a role to play in building her husband’s reputation and in his being known and respected. Ladies, we’ve been given a true privilege in being able to know our husband so intimately. Let’s use that privilege in a way that highlights his strengths, builds his reputation, and sets him up for success in life. We really do have more power in this area than we usually give ourselves credit for.

Get to Know Him

I know this one sounds redundant, considering we’re talking about the man we married. But I didn’t realize when I first married Kirby that he doesn’t express or receive love in the same ways I do AT ALL. We’re polar opposites. I feel loved most through quality time, physical touch, and acts of service. Coming into marriage, I thought that that was how to make anyone feel loved. However, I learned that Kirby feels loved the most through words of affirmation and gifts. Get to know how your husband receives love best. Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages can help get you started in discovering your spouse’s love language, as well as your own. It’s well worth the investment.

God gave us a true gift in our husbands. I pray that as women we would make the most of every opportunity to show love, honor, and respect to our men. As we do, may our homes and our marriages be blessed beyond measure.

This post was written by Catherine Dunn. To learn more about her, click here.

True Confessions of a Pastor’s Wife

 

Sometimes I don’t feel very spiritual…there, I said it. It’s true…off and on throughout our marriage, I’ve questioned whether what I’m doing is actually “advancing God’s Kingdom.”  Is it profitable, or should I do something else?

This week, June 29, Brad and I will celebrate 21 years of marriage. That number is CRAZY to me. We have served in every area imaginable at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Plainview, Texas.  I always knew I’d marry a pastor and that we would serve in a local church…but throughout the span of 21 years, I never imagined how my life would be challenged, how much I’d grow in my love for Christ and my love for others. Or that we’d find ourselves where we are today, leading and loving the most humble and giving people I’ve ever met.  And yet, in the middle of such a great life, I’ve continually found myself questioning my role.  Does what I’m doing matter?  Is it really enough for me to love Brad and serve him and our family?  Is it enough that I show up on Sundays and hug those I run into and pray for people God puts on my heart?  Too often I’ve felt like I could be doing more, and I’ve questioned whether I’m making a difference.  

God so graciously spoke His truth to my heart a few weeks ago concerning this issue. I was once again in my cycle of feeling unimportant and useless. I was reading in Malachi, and I came across the verses in 3:13-15:

‘Your words have been arrogant against Me,’ says the Lord. ‘Yet you say, “What have we spoken against You?” You have said, “It is vain to serve God; and what profit is it that we have kept His charge, and that we have walked in mourning before the Lord of hosts? So now we call the arrogant blessed; not only are the doers of wickedness built up but they also test God and escape.’

You see, after reading that I realized my words have been arrogant against God. Who am I to say my work isn’t enough, to question if what I’m doing is vain or profiting God’s Kingdom?  Brad and I, to the best of our ability, have prayed and listened to God’s direction. We’ve lived in such a way that our family is surrendered to Christ. And in this obedience life is found.  In this obedience God produces abundance.   I quickly repented for my arrogant words toward God and asked Him to renew my mind. 

I write this post not to get any accolades or reassurance to my place in the church, but to encourage you, the reader. 

I can’t help believing more people than just me have ever felt this way. I think in general women question their place and whether what they’re doing is making a difference, and what I want to say to you is yes!  Yes, it is!  When we are listening to the Holy Spirit and following His lead, what He’s asking us to do is not in vain. It is for a purpose. It’s to advance His Kingdom. 

Each diaper you change, each paper you grade, each dinner you make, each hug you give, each prayer you pray, each text of encouragement that you send, each word of affirmation you give to your husband or your child or your friend. It matters, it’s changing lives, it’s impacting this world for Christ, and it’s not in vain. 

And our service at church…wow, what an impact it’s making in our community.  Over 80% of our members serve in our church. That number is unheard of. I promise you, God sees where you’re giving, and He says it is not in vain.  

So let’s keep being women who hear the voice of God and obey His calling, and let’s stay in a place of humility where we don’t question our calling, where we agree with God’s word, that what we’re doing is making a difference. It is changing this world for Christ. We all look different; our callings and careers are different. It’s the beauty of Christ. What a gift we are to this world.  

Lovingly,

Julie

This post was written by Julie Snellgrove. To read more about her, click here. 

Preparing for Marriage

As I’ve prayed and prepared for this blog, all I can think of is how blessed I am by my sweet husband. I know that most women think their husbands are the best, but seriously, I win. I’ll explain why.

Before I met Will, all of my previous relationships had pulled me down into emotional destruction, and I was done with that. I knew that it was so important to pray for your future spouse and to guard your heart with your relationships. I chose to be single until the Lord placed my husband in my life, fully expecting it to be years before that actually happened. I asked the Lord for complete clarity on who that would be.

Literally weeks after we met, Will started asking me on dates (to which I was completely oblivious for the most part—for real). I would unintentionally blow him off or decline. Looking back, I can see that he was trying to pursue me, but I was so focused on ‘waiting’ to only date my ‘husband,’ that I didn’t even realize what Will was doing until later, after we had started dating.

Once he finally decided to directly ask me on a date, I said yes and then immediately went to the Lord about it. I wanted to, again, have clarity about this. I didn’t want to date AT ALL unless Will was the husband God had for me. Getting the answer ‘YES’ from the Lord was the clearest, scariest, most amazing thing. I knew—without a shadow of a doubt—that Will would be the man I would marry. And soon after that, he knew the same.

Will is the absolute best, because the Lord gave him to me. Not anyone else. Him. God knew that Will would be my husband, that he would pursue me, and that I would (eventually!) say yes.

 I am his Beloved and he is mine.

Songs of Solomon 6:3

That, to me, was so, so sweet. The meaning of the word ‘Beloved’ is so vital to a relationship. To my relationship with the Lord, and my husband. Beloved means exactly that:

  • To be dearly loved by your husband.
  • To dearly love him.
  • To honor and respect him
  • To cherish and submit to him
  • To treasure and admire him.

And he does the same for me. Just as WE are God’s beloved and He is ours. I am so thankful for my sweet husband, for how he loves me. I am so thankful that I am his beloved and he is mine.

As you prepare for marriage or even if you’re already married, I urge you to press into the Lord. Allow Him to lead you, to minister to you, and to always put the Lord first. It is so worth it.

This post was written by Alyssa Brown. To read more about her, click here

My Struggle with Depression–And My Healing

God has done so many wonderful things in my life, giving me many stories to tell of His goodness.  One story involves a battle that I have fought three different times in my life—chemical depression.  I have often had background skirmishes, but three times the battle has been more intense.

When I say they were major battles, I am not saying that flippantly.  Each episode had different degrees of symptoms but some overall themes were:  great anxiety, strange physical symptoms, total lack of hunger, inability to sleep, feeling hopeless (and you sure need hope in this!), and inability to concentrate.  My whole body would feel weird, and it seemed like I couldn’t remember feeling normal.

This particular story was during the worst episode which occurred after the birth of my first daughter in the form of post-partum depression.  I hardly even want to go there to explain how dark a time period that was, but that’s also when I saw God’s hand move in a miraculous way. When you have endured several months without sleeping, without much eating, and with no peace whatsoever it can wear on you in a big way, especially when caring for a baby.  We lived in Houston at the time, and my mom came to help me.

I remember crying out to God out of total desperation in my closet one day (yes, I sometimes pray in my actual closet).  The next Sunday at church I met someone during the greeting time named Sandy.  Our church was fairly large (a few thousand people), so I didn’t know everyone and I hadn’t remembered seeing her before.  I had to leave to go to the nursery to tend to my daughter which happened so often that everyone knew my number on the screen—0012 (which I still remember 20 years later).

While I was gone Sandy came to my mom and asked her if I was going through a hard time, and my mother briefly explained the situation.  Sandy replied that God had put it on her heart for several days to pray for a person named Karen who was going through great difficulty.  When we had met, she was very intrigued that my name was Karen and asked the Lord if I was the one she had been praying for which the Lord confirmed.  Through that encounter we talked more, and she relayed to me that the battle would end and it helped me get started on a different path.  It sure wasn’t immediate by any means, and many dark days were still ahead.

Yet, I cannot describe what comfort it was to me for the Lord to reach out to me in that way to let me know that He saw my pain, that He sent someone to pray for me, and He gave me hope that I would get past this battle.  He met me where I was!

God is so great and loves us so much.  God not only helped me in this supernatural way, but He revealed to me some ways in the natural to combat the depression as well.  When I say depression, that can mean anxiety or depression or a combination.  I learned that they are two sides of one coin.  They both are the result of a serotonin deficiency, and your body and personality may just manifest them in different ways.

As for supernatural means to fight it, obviously, we should first seek God to show us what we in particular need to do.  Due to your brain feeling so muddled when chemically depressed, that may require the help of Godly friends (or a counselor) who will seek God with you.  Here are some supernatural weapons that I found to be effective for me:

  • Praying God’s Word over myself, declaring that I have the mind of Christ (I Corinthians 2:16), that no weapon formed against me will prosper (Isaiah 54:17), that great is my peace (Psalm 119:165), and that God’s peace would guard my mind (Philipians 4:7).
  • Praying in tongues, especially when I didn’t know what else to pray.
  • Praising God! The Word says that you put on (like clothing) the garment of praise in exchange for the garment of heaviness (Isaiah 61:3). This could be through music or by pouring out the praise in your heart to Him in plain words.
  • Keep standing! Sometimes existing for another day is a victory and one step closer to complete victory.

As for natural weapons, medical research is making great strides in this area. (I grew up wanting to be a doctor, and I read these types of things because they are so interesting to me.)  Recently, research has pointed to inflammation in the body (or even an allergy to inflammation) as being a cause of depression, but there are many, many causes, and there are many effective natural ways to battle it:

  • In terms of drugs, in my three battles, one time I used a natural herb (St John’s Wort), once I stuck it out long enough that the depression eased on its own, and once I took a prescription anti-depressant. You have to do what’s right for YOU, receiving no condemnation for what path you feel is best in this area.
  • Cardiovascular exercise has been shown to be as effective as a prescription anti-depressant if done regularly.  (The scientist in me wants to give references for this but it is pretty prevalent anywhere you want to look this stuff up.)
  • Taking an Omega-3 oil supplement (or flaxseed or walnuts) is great for the brain.
  • Finding out what is a trigger for you can help. In the most recent battle, my doctor and I realized that the three times that have been true battles for me were all associated with a major drop in hormones.
  • Seeing a medical doctor to be tested for things like low thyroid or even food allergies/sensitivities.
  • Making sure to do everything in your power to be thinking right thoughts.
  • Having a good, loving circle of friends standing with you (or God can even provide a stranger like how He did for me in Houston—He’s limitless!).
  • Talking to a counselor. I do think that if there are any underlying physical causes then addressing those first helps the therapy to be even more effective.

One more word to the wise:  I found that everyone has an opinion about depression and anxiety.  Some will say it is only caused by hormones out of whack because that is what their experience has been.  Some will tell you that you are just not thinking right, and you just need to start thinking right.  Others may say that prescription medicine is the only way to go.

I think of it as how different blind-folded people see an elephant—the one holding the trunk think it’s hard, the one holding the tail think it is feathery, the one holding the legs think it is like a tree.  Our understanding of depression is so limited at this time and can have so many DIFFERENT causes and cures.  The good news is that God can see “the whole elephant” and knows how to deliver you!  Our victory is assured as we follow His pathway to deliverance!

This post was written by Karen Earhart. To read more about her, click here.

**Note: This is one person’s story, and not advice from a professional doctor. If you are in a place of depression, please contact the HCF offices for a list of trusted counseling resources (click here for Campus contact numbers).

Holiday Memories + A Recipe (Becca Wilhite)

During this season, we are featuring holiday memories from some of our staff women and pastor’s wives, along with their favorite recipes. Enjoy!

Christmastime is full of surprises.  Usually they’re in the form of excited children opening long-awaited gifts, or a visit from a far-away loved one. Almost exactly 10 years ago, my husband James and I got a not-so-great surprise, but it led to one of the most memorable Christmases we’ve had together as a couple.

To make a very long story short, a trip to the local doctor led to a transfer to the Lubbock emergency room.  Things quickly became more serious and resulted in emergency open-heart surgery for my then-28-year-old husband.  All went well with the surgery.  I can remember going to Wal-Mart for some necessity and wanting to tell everyone I saw how good God was, and that my husband was going to be ok! But a hiccup with our insurance company left us stuck in the hospital.  For Christmas.

So what do you do?  We had no choice but to make the most of it!  I had my guitar, and James was really feeling pretty good, considering all he had just been through.  We went to visit an older gentleman on a different floor whom we had befriended.  He was stuck for Christmas as well, so we thought maybe he could use some company.  We ended up spending the evening singing Christmas carols and worship songs that we knew—and surprisingly to us, he knew all the same songs we did!  It was simple.  There were no gifts exchanged.  And yet somehow, the true spirit of Christmas was very much alive and well in that hospital room.

My prayer for all of us is that the peace and love of Emmanuel—God with us—would be evident in our hearts this Christmas, no matter where we spend it.  Merry Christmas!

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Easy Pecan Pie (and yummy!)

1 Pillsbury roll-out crust
1 cup pecans
1 cup light Karo syrup
½ cup sugar
½ stick butter
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix all ingredients together, pour into crust.  Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour.

For a perfect crust, cover the edges with foil until the last 10 minutes.

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Becca Wilhite is a worship leader at the HCF Plainview campus, and coordinates many of the Guest Experience teams at Harvest. She is the wife of James and mom to Chord, Paisley, and Sam.

Holiday Memories + A Recipe (Amber Curry)

During this season, we are featuring holiday memories from some of our staff women and pastor’s wives, along with their favorite recipes. Enjoy!

November and December are my favorite months of the year. They bring so many things our way…the end of our harvest season and with that, gratefulness for God’s provision. Cooler weather and hot chai tea from the Broadway Brew. Pulling out the Christmas decorations and sitting by a crackling fire. Celebrating the birth of our Savior.

One other thing I LOVE about this season is getting to spend lots of time in my kitchen. My happy place. It brings me so much joy to cook for my precious family. I come from and now belong to a family full of incredible cooks. When I think back on my holiday memories, these women come to mind. And in those memories are the dishes they are known for. Granny Smith’s AMAZING buttermilk chess pie. Grandmommy’s famous chicken goulash and dressing. (Don’t let “goulash” keep you away, that dish is heaven!) California Grammy’s rich and creamy chocolate delight. Granny Curry’s buttery pound cake. My mom’s stacked beef enchiladas with a fried egg on top. My mother-in-law’s “to die for” scalloped potatoes. Oh my, this is making me hungry!

These women and these dishes are part of my most cherished holiday memories, and since I’ve been married, I’ve been searching for the recipe that one day I might be known for. The recipe everyone secretly hopes I bring to all the family gatherings. The recipe that my grandchildren will one day pass down to their children and be a part of Curry holidays long after I’m gone.

And y’all, six years of searching and I’m pretty sure I’ve found it! The BEST homemade rolls you’ll ever eat and they are surprisingly easy to make. They are heavenly and Melt. In. Your. Mouth. I’ve made them for three holiday events now and everyone loves them. My nephew Brett eats at least 10, no joke.

Do your taste buds a favor and make these rolls! Your family will thank you, I promise. Blessings from my table to yours, and I hope that you create many fun and lasting memories this holiday season.

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The BEST Potato Rolls

INGREDIENTS:
3/4 Cup Sugar
1 1/2 Sticks (3/4 Cup) Land O’Lakes Unsalted Butter
3 Cups Scalded Milk* instructions below
1 Cup Potato Flakes
1 Tablespoon Salt
4 Eggs
1 Tablespoon Instant Yeast or 2 Tablespoons Regular Yeast (I use instant)
6 1/2 Cups Flour
*1/3 cup additional butter, softened

DIRECTIONS:
Heat a medium sauce pan over medium heat and add the milk. Cook until the edges begin to foam and froth, but do not allow it to boil. There will be a little layer of the milk “skin” on top. Remove from heat and add the sugar, butter, potato flakes and salt. Stir thoroughly and allow to cool to lukewarm.

Add the yeast, stir and then add the eggs, stirring until they are mixed in.
Place the flour in a large bowl. Pour the milk mixture in and stir until the dough has come together, but is still soft. This is not like a bread dough. It is a slightly sticky dough.

Cover the bowl with a towel or saran wrap. Let dough rise for one hour. Push down and divide dough into 2 parts.

Roll out one portion at a time to 1/2″ thick and butter 1/2 of dough with a few pats of butter. Fold the unbuttered dough over the buttered dough and press to seal. Cut into 1″ wide strips. Pick up one strip at a time and tie into knots. Place on lightly greased cookie sheet and cover with a towel. Let rise for 1-2 hours more or until doubled in size.

Bake at 350 until golden brown (14-20 min)

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Amber Curry is the Administrative Assistant to the Executive Pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship. She’s married to her favorite farmer, Bryan, and they have adorable twin boys, Elliott and Samuel.

Holiday Memories + A Recipe (Jill Brown)

During this season, we are featuring holiday memories from some of our staff women and pastor’s wives, along with their favorite recipes. Enjoy!

Deep, dark, frozen Alaskan winters huddled around the kitchen table. Only the light of Advent candles flickering while we sang Christmas carols before bed. Knowing every verse of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” by heart by the time I was nine or ten. These images flood my mind when I think of holiday memories that are special to me. Though all of my family members were just baby Christians at that time, I know now my mom was doing her best to help us prepare our hearts for the truest meaning of Christmas.

Fast-forward 20 years or so to cozy nights in Plainview as a young mother myself. Two precious, expectant little boy-faces bathed in candlelight, mostly excited to practice lighting the matches by themselves, of course! Also bathed in candlelight: one older, wiser, more hairy face which was probably just a little less expectant to go along with all my annual attempts to create these beautiful nightly Christmas rituals!! I have to laugh at myself because I was a classic at dreaming up all kinds of great family-enrichment activities and then pressuring Greg to lead them all!

I’m pretty sure our whole family’s very favorite years were the ones when we read a nightly Christmas family devotion called Jotham’s Journey. A young Jewish boy at the time Jesus was born gets caught up in suspenseful and meaningful encounters near Bethlehem. Each day’s story incorporates a Scripture and a spiritual truth to discuss. Plus, if I remember right, the author, Arnold Ytreeide, does a great job of leaving you on a cliff-hanger from day to day so your kids (and may I add, your husband) begs for the next night. That did not happen with all of my motherly schemes, trust me. But that one worked out pretty well (and subsequent books were later added to the series!). You could still bring up Jotham to this day with my grown sons Levi and Luke, and they will know exactly what you’re talking about.

One way or another—over years of burning candles and Advent prayers and mugs of hot cocoa with extra marshmallows and twinkly lights and Christmas carols and late bedtimes and reading stories and footie pajamas—we carved the holy meaning of Jesus’ birth and God’s heart for redeeming the world into the hearts and minds of another generation of merrymakers. I’m forever grateful.

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Cranberry Nut Bread
Out of Alaska’s Kitchens, 1961

2 cups wild Alaskan cranberries, picked in empty coffee cans with your family while one of you watches frantically for bears
OR, alternately, Walmart cranberries, cut in half

1 egg, unbeaten
⅓ cup orange juice
¼ cup water
2 Tbsp. melted butter
2 cups flour
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar
1 ¾ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. grated orange rind
¾ cups nuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine egg, orange juice, and water. Stir in melted butter. Sift together all dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and soda). Make a well in center and add liquid mixture all at once. Stir only enough to moisten all. Add cranberries, orange rind, and nuts. Pour into large greased bread pan and bake for 70 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan.

My mom likes to use 3 smaller loaf pans or a 13×9 baking dish, which turns out more like a coffee cake. Adjust baking time shorter.

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Jill Brown has a high value for imparting the values of the Kingdom to the next generation. She is mom to Levi and Luke, and the wife of Greg, one of the elders of Harvest Christian Fellowship.