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. 

Holiday Memories + A Recipe (Erin Smart)

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

Growing up, I promised myself that I would always be excited about Christmas and never be grumpy about it, like some adults I knew (Inner vows never work out!). Now, I find myself being Scrooge-ish, wishing Christmas only came every other year so I’d have time to miss it. While I’ll probably never miss the gift and budget dilemmas, I do treasure the little things we do as a family to make the season meaningful—our family traditions.

Christmas traditions are the stuff of which life-long memories are made. And they are what help center me on what matters most during the hub-bub: Jesus and my family.

Every year, I surprise the kids with a new ornament just for them on the day we decorate the tree together. If possible, I try to coordinate the ornament with something that was going on in their lives that year, such as Garrett shooting his first deer, or the girls starting ballet. Sometimes it can feel like a chore to figure out what the right ornament should be, but it makes the kids feel special and they still get excited each year. Heaven only knows what will happen to these ornaments. One year I told the kids they could have their ornaments when they were adults, and Sonny said, “No way. We’re keeping them” (He’s the sentimental one, if you can’t tell).

Another yearly tradition is to take one night to drive around and look at lights and, of course, to drink hot chocolate.

But my favorite, most meaningful tradition starts about two weeks before Christmas. (We have to start this early because so many things can interrupt the evenings). Every year I pick out a new book or movie to add to our collection of Christmas stories. And every possible night we set aside time to read or watch one or two of them with cookies and milk or hot chocolate. In my perfect world, the cookies would all be homemade, but that’s just not realistic these days. The kids are happy with store-bought, as long as they each get to help make our annual batch of sugar cookies. I wouldn’t trade anything for these times together.

My oldest is 12 and growing out of the precious picture books we’ve treasured over the years. It happened so fast! This year we will probably do less of them and read Man of the Family by Ralph Moody, just to enjoy story time together.

I have included pictures of some of our favorite stories for the younger years, in case you’d like to add one to your traditions, as well as our sugar cookie recipe.

Wishing you a joyful and meaningful Christmas,

Erin Smart

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Erin Smart is wife to Sonny, the campus pastor for HCF Lubbock. Erin has a heart for each person in our church to know they are noticed and valued, and for them to be equipped to live a victorious life in Christ.

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Holiday Memories + A Recipe (Allison House)

The other morning, I was driving through one of the neighborhoods in Canyon. It was a perfect fall morning. The colors on the trees just about took my breath away. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen colors like that before. Has anyone else noticed how rich the colors are on the leaves this year?

It made me think about my childhood and my family’s Thanksgiving meal. The formal dining room table would be decorated, the fine china, crystal, and silver would be perfectly placed, and the smells of the best food I’ve ever had would fill my grandparent’s house. My mom’s mother, “Mama,” would be wearing her apron, her pearls, red lipstick, and heels. This was her day. She was the best cook. Her rolls were famous at every family meal. They were the most perfect things I’ve ever put in my mouth. We all hoped there would be some left over so that we could eat them for breakfast the next morning.

As I thought about how gorgeous the leaves on the trees were, it occurred to me that they are most beautiful when (in actuality) they are dying. However they MUST go through this dying process so that there will be new life in the spring. I thought about the Apostle Paul saying, “To live is Christ, but to die is gain.” I thought about Jesus explaining to His disciples that if we do not die to ourselves (our sinful nature), then we will not experience the abundant and glorious new life that He intends for each of us. I thought about the beauty of the Cross, and what it represents: freedom, forgiveness, righteousness, grace, mercy, eternal life.

Death is not something we would normally define as “beautiful.” Our community has experienced four untimely deaths in the past four months. From my human heart’s perspective, there is nothing beautiful about that. However, I have watched as the Body of Christ has come together, prayed for, taken care of, and carried these families who are hurting. God has revealed His goodness in various ways, and that is beautiful.

All of us struggle with dying to our own sinful nature on a daily basis. But when we do, God is faithful to reproduce a harvest of good fruit so that His kingdom will be glorified. Sometimes the only way we can see the beauty in death is to see it from a Kingdom perspective.

I was by Mama’s side when she breathed her last breath here on earth. It might be one of the most spiritual moments I’ve ever experienced. It was the first time I witnessed someone go from glory to glory, from this earthly life to eternal life. She has a new body and is with her Father. That is beautiful.

This holiday season, I would encourage you to live fully in this amazing time we have here on earth. Love your family, thank God for all He has done, and die to the things that quench the Spirit in your life. Look ahead to the abundant life that is awaiting you!

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Mama’s Rolls

Ingredients:

1 ½ sticks of butter, plus another stick to brush over rolls
¾ c. sugar
2 dry yeast packets (Fleischmann’s), dissolved in 1 C. lukewarm water
3 eggs-beaten
1 c. boiling water
1 tsp. salt
5 c. flour

Dissolve yeast and set aside. Beat eggs and set aside.

Using a large glass mixing bowl, almost melt butter in the microwave, then add sugar and mix. Pour 1 c. of boiling water over butter and sugar. Set this aside until cooled, then add eggs, yeast mixture, and salt. Add flour last, 1 c. at a time. Cover with wax paper that has Crisco on it, and seal around the edges of the bowl. Refrigerate for 24 hours so it can rise.

When ready to roll out, take part of the dough, roll out on a floured surface and use a round biscuit cutter to cut into circles. Fold over each roll and put in a glass pyrex sprayed with cooking spray. (They should all be touching.) Brush all with melted butter. Let them rise in a warm place for 2-3 hours. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

This makes enough for up to three 9X13 pyrex dishes, depending on the size you cut them. You can use only part of the dough and keep the rest refrigerated for up to a week before using the rest. Enjoy!

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Allison House is a passionate worship leader at the HCF Amarillo campus, wife to Curtis, and mom to four precious (and growing) kiddos.

Holiday Memories + A Recipe (Kendra Huckabee)

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

I love the holiday season! When September rolls around I am filled with great anticipation for fall weather, college football, and lots of food and family time. My family has never necessarily been traditional; I don’t think we’ve ever celebrated a holiday the same way twice, for that matter.

But I believe my love for this time of year stems from the heart of gratitude instilled in me by my parents from a young age. My parents always looked for ways to teach us the heart behind being thankful at Thanksgiving and remembering Jesus at Christmas time. So much so that we never believed in Santa!

That being said, one of my favorite holiday memories involved the entire family foregoing Christmas presents and simply writing each family member a letter. It gave us all a chance to express our love and gratitude for each person in such a special way. We were able to allow ourselves to be vulnerable and open to giving and receiving love in a way material possessions can’t convey. Even as a teenager, I knew that while presents were great, taking the time to value my parents and brothers through my thoughts and words was important.

To this day, I still have those letters and treasure being able to look back on those words of love and encouragement. I pray that now, as a parent myself, I can teach my own children the value of gratitude, and provide opportunities during these holiday seasons for them to learn to express that thankfulness to those around them.

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Crockpot Chicken and Dumplings

So easy and so delicious! A family favorite that even my two littles will eat!!

Ingredients:
1lb boneless/skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cans (10.5 oz) cream of chicken soup
1-2 cans chicken broth (depending on the consistency you like)
1 medium diced onion
1 large sliced carrot
3/4 bag frozen peas
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 can large flaky biscuits (or more if you prefer!)

Directions:
Place thawed chicken in crockpot and top with butter, cream of chicken soup, broth, onion, carrot and salt/pepper.
Cook on high for 4hrs or low for 6-8.
Remove chicken, shred and return to crockpot.
Cut each biscuit into 9 small pieces, place in crockpot along with frozen peas.
Stir and cook on high for about 30 more minutes.
Enjoy!!

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Kendra Huckabee attends the Lubbock campus and serves in the college and youth ministry.

Holiday Memories + A Recipe (Julie Snellgrove)

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

Like most children, my favorite childhood memories are those of Christmas.  It seems like the world slows down for a few days and family gathers, and memories are made.  My grandmother made the BEST divinity and fudge.  I don’t know how she did it, but it would melt in your mouth.  Old Grandma, (which became her beloved name after Joshua was born) went to her heavenly home this year, so hopefully my mom will perfect the divinity and fudge this Christmas. J

My prayer for each of us as the holidays approach is that we will love and embrace the season.  That we will enjoy the laughter in our homes, the memories being made, and the incredible Gift of Christ our Lord!

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Old Grandma’s Divinity

2 ½ cups sugar
½ cup light corn syrup
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 or 2 drops food coloring (optional)
½ cup chopped candied fruit or nuts (grandma always put in walnuts)

In a heavy 2-quart saucepan mix sugar, corn syrup, and ½ cup water. Cook and stir over medium-high heat to boiling. Clip candy thermometer to pan. Cook over medium heat, without stirring to 260 degrees, hard-ball stage (10 to 15 minutes). Remove from heat. Remove candy thermometer.

In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites with a sturdy, freestanding electric mixer on medium speed till stiff peaks form (tips stand straight). Gradually pour hot mixture in a thin stream over whites, beating on high about 3 minutes; scrape bowl. Add vanilla and, if desired, food coloring. Continue beating on high just till candy starts to lose its gloss. When beaters are lifted, mixture should fall in a ribbon that mounds on itself. This final beating should take 5 to 6 minutes.

Drop a spoonful of candy mixture onto waxed paper. If it stays mounded, the mixture has been beaten sufficiently. Immediately stir in fruit or nuts. Quickly drop remaining mixture from a teaspoon onto waxed paper. If mixture flattens out, beat ½ to 1 minute more; check again. If mixture is too stiff to spoon beat in a few drops hot water till candy is a softer consistency. Store tightly covered. Makes about 40 pieces.

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Julie Snellgrove is the Women’s Ministry Coordinator for the three campuses of Harvest Christian Fellowship and wife of Brad, who is the Executive Pastor for HCF. Julie is a gifted teacher of God’s Word and she loves that God is using her to minister to the hearts of women.

Holiday Memories + A Recipe (Jodi LaFrance)

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

Some of my favorite holiday memories are of my family going to my dad’s hometown of Montell, Texas, over Thanksgiving. I remember the smell of the perpetual campfire that burned under the ancient oaks whose limbs stretched long and high overhead. We’d wrap ourselves in blankets as we sat in metal chairs around the fire and stare up into the sky. Those huge ancient live oaks growing around the house my dad grew up in in south Texas always fascinated me. Dad said those oaks were already growing when Santa Ana was a private (That’s Texas-speak for “they’re really old”).

South Texas hardly ever sees snow, so during the fall and winter holidays my brother, sister, cousins and I would run down the hill behind my grandparents’ house and play by Montell Creek. We were free to roam just about anywhere. Countless hours were spent down there watching the clearest, cleanest water I’d ever seen run over fallen limbs and river rock. We were pirates, cops and robbers, river royalty, and a host of other amazing characters as we delved into the depths of our imaginations.

Our parents had a special yell to call us up to the house again. I remember big breakfasts, simple lunches and big family dinners. Neighbors forever stopped by to drink sweet tea with my grandparents. I don’t think I understood until much, much later how connected they were with their community. They loved their neighbors and their neighbors loved them. Holidays were full of feasting and friends.

My grandfather Papa Tom had cattle so we’d go check on the cows after breakfast. I never could understand how he didn’t get lost driving through the cedar-infested pastures of their part of Uvalde County. One cow path looked the same as the next, but not to Papa Tom. He knew that land like the back of his hand. My grandparents worked hard all their lives and I will be forever grateful for their influence on my life.

My grandfather passed away in 1992 and my grandmother’s health declined greatly over the years afterward. We lost her in 2012. But all throughout those years my aunts Liz, Rebecca and Alice did the lion’s share of meal planning for these big family gatherings. As my sister and I grew up, we were inducted into the rhythms of kitchen life. It was there that we really started to hear the details of what we’d been missing in each other’s lives. It was during one of these times that my aunt Rebecca Jane got me to help her make this crazy recipe for Jalapeño Sweet Potato Soup we were all quite unsure of.

Turns out it was a big hit and has since become one of my husband’s favorite fall/winter soups. The recipe credit goes to Cynthia Collins Pedregon and can be found in The Peach Tree Tea Room Cookbook. I’d like to share it with you.

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Jalapeño Sweet Potato Soup

3 slices bacon, finely chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
3 cloves garlic, sliced
4 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
8 cups chicken broth
¼ cup pickled jalapeños, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons jalapeño juice
1 teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup cilantro leaves
1-1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

  1. In large stock pot, sauté bacon and onion in butter until just tender. Add garlic and cook about two more minutes.
  2. Add sweet potatoes, chicken broth, pickled jalapeños, jalapeño juice and cumin. Cover and cook until potatoes are tender, about 20-30 minutes.
  3. When done, add soda, cilantro and milk. Coarsely mash potatoes with a potato masher.
  4. Stir well and taste for salt and pepper. Simmer for 15 minutes stirring frequently.

Makes 14 cups.

Garnish with sour cream and 3-4 jalapeños, cut in thin lengthwise strips-pepitas are good, too!

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Jodi LaFrance and her family came to Harvest in 2008 and says she’s “dug in like a turnip.” She currently serves as a worship leader and life group leader at the Plainview Campus.