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 –  Straight from the Better Homes and Garden Cookbook

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.

Holiday Memories + A Recipe (Shelli Jarvis)

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

One of my favorite holiday memories actually comes from my first year of marriage.  Lyle and I were living in Budapest, Hungary. As missionaries, we were keenly aware of the generosity of believers stateside who made our life possible, and so it was important to spend that money wisely. We wanted what little Christmas budget we had to give gifts to our families stateside (and the postage to get the gifts there!).  We debated over purchasing a tree, but real trees were relatively cheap, and since we were spending Christmas without family, we splurged for the tree, hauled it up the five flights of stairs (no elevator!) and set it up.

Then came the dilemma: what to put on it?  Some generous Hungarian church members had given us a few Christmas ornaments they’d decorated themselves. I think we had 5 of those. Our tree, though green and fragrant, looked slightly bare with only 5 ornaments. But we got creative.  Some thoughtful American soul had sent us popcorn. Now this wasn’t the Orville Redenbacher pop-in-the-microwave kind, and we didn’t have a microwave anyway. This was your 1960’s Jiffy Pop over-the-stove-flame popcorn, the kind with the metal handle that forms a ring around the pan (Some of you are too young to know what this is but Google it. It’s still available at Walmart, even).

So we strung that popcorn, and Lyle, his creative juices REALLY flowing, took the metal ring/handle and fashioned it into a star. We covered it in aluminum foil and voila! We had a beautiful topper for our tree. We were pretty proud of our work, but the best part came on Christmas morning.  We had each budgeted $5 to spend on the other, which was a lot of money for us back in 1992 (Now, if you know the story The Gift of the Magi, ours may sound vaguely familiar, but there were no pocketwatch chains or hair combs involved)! He got me a beautiful pair of blue enameled earrings, and I found him a novel in English (a rare treasure in those days).

We have spent 24 Christmases together since then, all with a larger budget. We’ve accumulated many ornaments and decorations and had beautiful trees, presents piled high underneath many years. But when I think of a Christmas where we truly experienced “peace on earth,” I think of that year when Jesus had blessed us through the sacrifices of others first so we, too, could give.

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Pumpkin Dump Cake

1 15 oz. can pure pumpkin
1 10 oz. can evaporated milk
1 cup light brown sugar
3 eggs
3 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 box yellow cake mix
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
1 cup coarsely crushed graham crackers and/or pecans

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9×13 baking pan with nonstick spray and set aside. In a large bowl combine the pumpkin, evaporated milk, sugar, eggs, and pumpkin pie spice. Stir to combine and pour into pan. Sprinkle cake mix over pumpkin mixture, followed by graham crackers and/or nuts. Pour melted butter evenly on top. Bake for 45-50 minutes until center is set and edges are lightly browned. Serve warm.

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Shelli Jarvis is wife to Life Group Pastor Lyle and a willing volunteer at the HCF Amarillo Campus.

Holiday Memories + A Recipe (Jill Moudy)

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

One of my favorite holiday memories is of our family loading up with my aunt, uncle, cousins and sometimes even grandparents every November to trek into the forest to cut down our Christmas tree. We lived in Grants, New Mexico, and the beautiful Cibola National Forest was practically in our backyard.

Usually there was snow on the ground, and we’d take a metal thermos of hot chocolate with styrofoam cups and bundle in our winter clothes to find that perfect Christmas tree. Although the tree looked glorious in the mountains, usually when we got it home, it was actually much bigger than we thought–one side was flat, and the limbs and needles were so fresh and soft that the ornaments would slide right off. But it was beautiful, it was ours, and we had picked it out together.

Now that I’m a “grown-up,” I realize it would have been much easier to go buy a pre-lit artificial tree with a snap-in stand, bendable branches–without the never-ending-dead-pine-needle-clean-up.  Instead, my parents valued doing something together in nature, as a family, and it stands out in this little girl’s mind 30+ years later. Although there are no mountains in our backyard in Plainview, our family still enjoys buying a live tree to keep the tradition alive! 😉

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Christmas Morning Casserole

1- 24 oz package frozen shredded hashbrowns, thawed

Press thawed hashbrowns into a 9 x 13 baking dish. Pour 1/3 cup melted butter over potatoes. Bake at 425° for 25 minutes or until brown.

When cool, add to dish:
4 oz shredded  Monterey Jack cheese
4 oz shredded hot pepper jack cheese
One cup cubed ham
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms – optional
(I usually make the recipe to this point and put in the refrigerator overnight, then add the egg topping on Christmas morning and bake to save time)

Blend in blender:
3/4 cups half and half
3 eggs (you can add more eggs)
3/4 t. Seasoning salt

Bake at 350° for 30 minutes.

Goes great with a cinnamon roll and coffee on Christmas morning!

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Jill Moudy is the Women’s Ministry Coordinator for the Plainview Campus and wife of Gabe, who is the Executive Administrative Pastor for HCF.

Holiday Memories + A Recipe (Brooke Kellum)

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

The holiday season.  It’s a season full of activities, family, friends and memories.  And, of course, yummy food. 🙂 While I have many wonderful memories from growing up, one Christmas stands out above the others.  When I was in college, my family decided to go on a ski trip together instead of doing gifts.  Now, it should be said that I LOVE to ski.  I’m there early, and time it appropriately so that I can catch the last lift up to the longest run in order to maximize my time.  On top of that, lunch is normally a protein bar, because I don’t even have time to waste eating.

My family made many memories on the ski slopes that year, but some of the even more precious memories that we made were off the ski slopes.  We didn’t know anyone in the area, so we were just with each other for days on end.  We played Rock Band, watched movies and plenty of football, cooked all of our meals together, and even went sledding together on a small hill outside of the home we were staying in. Then, on the way home, there was a massive snow storm that had all kinds of roads closed, so we had to backtrack, and traveling home took an extra day.

Needless to say all this time in the car afforded us more time to make even more memories—although at the time, we didn’t feel like they were happy memories. This also happened to be the last Christmas we had together before fiancés and husbands were added to the family.  It was the last Christmas that was just myself, my parents and my sisters.  I will remember this Christmas trip forever, and I will always treasure the bonds that we built as adults and friends on this trip.  The memories will last much longer than any gift that could have been given that year. Now that I have children of my own, I try to remember that during the holiday season.

We do gifts for our small children, but we also have traditions, and we try to give them experiences, so that long after the toy breaks, or the book is torn up, or the movie is no longer interesting, they have the memories of growing up and enjoying Christmas with their siblings.  I want my kids to have something to hold on to, something to remember when the holiday seasons aren’t easy, or when they are grown with families of their own.

One thing that we like to do together is to make gifts for our friends at Christmas time.  This also happens to be one of my favorite recipes—because it is so easy and absolutely delicious.  Make memories with your family this Christmas. You won’t regret it.

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Crockpot Christmas Candy

1 lb. dry roasted salted peanuts
1 lb. dry roasted unsalted peanuts
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 oz. German’s sweet chocolate
2.5 lbs. white chocolate almond bark

*I like to add one bag of Reese’s peanut butter chips, but this is completely optional*

Layer all ingredients in the crock pot with the peanuts on the bottom.  Cook on low for 1 hour and then stir.  Continue cooking until completely melted.  When the mixture is completely melted, stir and then spoon onto a cookie sheet (covered in parchment paper), or into mini muffin cups.  You can leave them out to harden at room temperature, or freeze them.  Either way is delicious!

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Brooke Kellum is the Director of Special Events (Kid City Summer Camp, Catalyst Camp, Men’s Retreat, Women’s Conference, etc.) for Central Ministries.  She also volunteers in Kid City and with the Catalyst youth ministry in Plainview.

Connecting with God in the Midst of Every Day

Hi Ladies,

Contrary to popular belief, not all pastors’ wives rise before dawn and roll out of bed into the Holy of Holies when they give the first of their day to the Lord. Frankly, I’m in a stupor when I get up and I quite agree with the Folger’s commercial, “The best part of waking up, is [coffee] in your cup.” Many times I leave my morning “quiet time” feeling like that time wasn’t what it was meant to be, which is time actually spent with the Lord. I may have read the Word, but did it penetrate my heart? Did I actually have heart to heart conversation with the Lord? Thankfully, our time with Jesus doesn’t have to look like the pastor’s or a serious Bible scholar’s.

I have a few favorite ways to connect with God. The first is playing a worship song and turning it into a prayer. Holy Spirit by Brian and Katie Torwalt is fantastic. “Holy Spirit you are welcome here. .. I’ve tasted and seen of the sweetest of loves, where my heart becomes free and my shame is undone….” Another favorite is David Crowder’s, Here’s My Heart. I concentrate on His presence and the meaning of the worship/prayer. Often I try to extend my quiet time into my “exercise” time by walking in front of the house while the kids sleep, worship music blaring from my phone. This wakes up my mind, and works great for praying over personal concerns and for others.

A simple thing that I sometimes do in a brief moment is to just stop and say, “Thank you, Holy Spirit.” I acknowledge His presence and it is powerful.

I hesitate to share this next thing because it is very personal and precious to me. However, I’m probably not the only one who struggles with a wandering mind and this helps me to just be with God. I have a picture in my mind as I rest in Him. In my mind’s eye, I am perched on a rock on a high place. God is a huge bird: warm, comforting, protective, strong. His wing is around me and I lean against his chest. We are looking out over a valley together. I think about this image and stay in His presence. In His presence is peace. Psalm 91 (KJV) says,

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty….He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust.

The Scriptures are full of imagery revealing God’s nature. I’m not a very visual person, so if God can give me this image, I know that He will give you a picture of your own if you ask Him.

Finally, sometimes I just spend time meditating on a scripture God has highlighted for the season I’m in. Doing that gives me confidence in Him and peace.

May your times spent with Jesus be precious,

Erin Smart

This post was written by Erin Smart. To read more about her, click here

Grief and the New Normal

You’ve lost a parent. The funeral services are over and family and friends have returned to their lives and normal activities, and you realize that the normal you once knew no longer exists. You are faced with a new normal, one you didn’t want and didn’t ask for. There are no more Tuesday doctor appointments or Friday lunch dates. You pick up the phone to call your loved one to only realize that no one is there to answer. A hollow emptiness follows and you feel that you are all alone.

Everyone has moved on and seems to wonder why you haven’t, too. They don’t realize their normal still exists so they have the same platform to operate from, where your normal is gone and your very foundation has been shaken. The solid footing you have known your whole life has crumbled and changed.

You have stepped into a new reality with a new foundation of normal. It is similar to the end of other phases in your life. You graduate high school and can never go back to childhood. You get married and no longer identify with the single crowd. You have children and life is forever changed. A big difference between these situations and the one you are facing now is that you looked forward to those changes. You were happy about them, dreamed about them, planned for them. You shared your joy and excitement with your family and friends. But this is something different. The joy and excitement is missing, and you don’t jump in with both feet ready to get this new life started. You stand on the edge of your new normal looking back at what you no longer have, remembering, wanting.

You feel lost and alone. Your emotions are all over the place, and sometimes you question your sanity. “Is this normal? Do other people feel this way?”

You are not alone. It is like an elite club whose membership requirement is to have experienced the loss of a parent and faced the transition into a new normal. We see you and feel your hurt. Even if we know nothing else about you except that you have lost your parent, we feel a bond with you. It is like a secret handshake in the brotherhood. We identify with you.

You may not hear us or see us, but we are thinking of you and praying for you. We think of you in the days and weeks following the services, when all of your family and friends have gone home. We think of you each time we think of our lost loved ones: on holidays; in the grocery store seeing the cherries that Daddy always bought; sitting and watching the grandkids and remembering the patience Mother had, sitting for hours watching us; seeing you praise and worship in church, and knowing that the Lord is meeting you in a special way and touching you deep in your spirit.

I just wanted you to know. You are not alone.

This post was written by Darla Carthel. To read more about her, click here.