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.

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.

Experiencing God’s Love During Singleness

Have you ever paused, reflected on your life and thought “How did I end up here?  This is not where I thought I would be.”  This is the very place I found myself last November, right before the holidays. It was a rough season to get through, but I also look back at that time with such joy and thankfulness.  I was in the beginning stages of learning how to become more intimate with my Lord and Savior.

At the beginning of this journey, Satan often reminded me of my track record. I’d had glorious moments with God since I became a Christian at the age of 13, but I had never been consistent.  But.  God had begun a work in me, and I final started having the faith that He would and could complete it (Philippians 1:6).  I begged God to show me how to have consistency and intimacy with Him.  He didn’t give me answers overnight, but He has taken me on a beautiful adventure that has required time, trust, and willingness.  I want to share with you a few things that I’ve learned so far on this road to being content in my singleness.

God’s love is unfailing, and unconditional. One night, my youngest son was sick, and I was getting some serious baby snuggles as a result.  The weight of how much I love him swept over me.  I touched his soft baby skin and held his tiny finger in adoration when my eyes were opened wide to the love the Father feels for the Son. I am one of His adopted daughters (Galatians 3:26) and He loves me with that love I feel for my children, multiplied by an amount unfathomable.

For the longest time, the way I thought about God’s love was twisted and conditional.  Over time, by meditating on the truth, I have come to realize that I am valuable to Him (Psalm 139:14; Matthew 10:31) and that His love and grace really can transform me into who He created me to be (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 5:16; 2 Corinthians 3:18).   If you are reading this and doubt in the least bit the love God has for you, ask Him to show you.  He will.

I gain more of God by letting go. Tragically, sin has been blocking intimacy with God since the very first sin recorded in Genesis.  Praise God that 1 John 1:9 states:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Letting go of my past and accepting His forgiveness was a process, but I’m finally starting to see myself the way He sees me, and it’s so freeing!  I am free to be close to Him and have joy.

Spending time with God is the best way to want more of Him and purify our desires in other areas.  Prayer journaling was a great start for me, because I had a hard time focusing on my prayers at first.  I still love to write my prayers, but I also tend to connect faster when I’m looking at His beautiful creation. If you are having a hard time feeling His presence, please try something new….be willing.

Whatever season God personally has you in today my friend, my prayer for you is that He will bless you with more of Himself.

This post was written by Korey Coffman. To read more about her, click here.

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My Favorite Christmas Memory (and Chicken Pot Pie)

christmas-1Christmas memories can be some of the best memories. This is the time of year to make those memories great. My favorite Christmas memory was the first year we celebrated Christmas with our children, Shelby and Paxton, in 2011. The entire Christmas season was special. As I look back at pictures from that year I think about all the fun activities we did as a family.  I remember it like it was yesterday; I can hear the Christmas music playing in the background as we decorated the Christmas tree the week of Thanksgiving. Shelby and Paxton adding to the tree their ornaments they chose that year. Shelby attaching the pink princess crown to the first branch she sees at eye level. Paxton on his tiptoes fastening his army tank to the highest branch he can grasp.

Later that season we are baking and decorating cookies with frosting and candy. Their faces light up as they realize they get to eat the sugary treats with their favorite winter drink. We snap pictures of our children in front of the Christmas tree and in front of the fireplace; all we see are grins from ear to ear. We are making memories that will forever stay with them.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and it is Christmas day!!!! We all anxiously awaited Christmas day and it was finally here. On Christmas morning, Shelby and Paxton wake up early. My husband and I head to living room first, camera in hand. Our children sprint into the living room, their facial expressions at that moment—priceless. I am overjoyed watching them and their little hearts full of anticipation. As I sit and watch the paper flying from presents being opened; I realize how good God is and how He has continually blessed us.

This Christmas season take time to make some unforgettable memories with your family.

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Deep-Dish Chicken Pot Pie—Kraft Recipe
One of my favorite recipes for this time of year is chicken pot pie. It is perfect for dinner during this cool fall weather.

Ingredients:
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into bite size pieces.
¼ cup Kraft Lite Zesty Italian Dressing
4oz. Philadelphia Neufchatel Cheese, cubed
2 Tbsp. flour
½ cup fat free reduced sodium chicken broth
3 cups frozen mixed vegetables (peas, carrots, corn, green beans), thawed, drained (I used can vegetables)
1 ready to use refrigerated pie crust (1/2 of 14.1 oz. pkg)

Directions:
Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Cook Chicken in dressing in large skillet on medium heat 2 minutes. Add Neufchatel (cream cheese); cook and stir 3 to 5 minutes or until melted. Stir in flour until blended. Add broth and vegetables, stir. Simmer 5 minutes.

Pour into 10 inch deep dish pie plate, cover with pie crust. Seal and flute edge. Cut slits in to permit steam to escape.

Bake 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Enjoy!!!

This post was written by Rachel Ramirez. To read more about her, click here

Simply Christmas

Family Christmas partyMy earliest memories of Christmas involve family and friends in fellowship around the holidays.  We made homemade candies, snacks, and goodies, and took them to family and friends who were celebrating Christmas. At my Gran’s house, we would set up the tree (originally the aluminum tree) and color wheel (it’s for the aluminum trees; you couldn’t put lights on it because it was metal). We shared a meal and sang Christmas carols and Gran’s favorite hymns.

Gran was no longer able to go to church in her wheelchair, but she loved the worship time shared in her home with my aunt and her sisters leading the singing, and playing the accordion and keyboard.  My childhood best friend’s Mom had an open house on Christmas Eve where we all brought snacks, and she always had the best decorated sugar cookies and an open heart to share God’s love with others.   We grew up going to church and Vacation Bible School together, then later taught in VBS.

It was a simpler time of unlocked doors and allowing us kids to play outside until dark…But I truly believe it was a time of learning how to share God’s love and blessings with others.  We give gifts to symbolize the gifts the 3 Wise Men took to Christ. But it has become so much more now—people take out loans to get the biggest and best gifts.  Nothing I remember that truly reminds me of Christmas shouts how much money someone spent on a gift to me or my family.  We learned how to share with others and God has blessed us in return.

As a matter of fact, my husband and I don’t usually exchange gifts anymore; we plan a trip together to make more memories and spend time with each other or our family.  We gave up on that crazy madness of trying to read each other’s minds, obtaining or giving the “perfect gift,” and now we enjoy the season of Christmas and celebrating Jesus with each other, family and friends.

Seek out time with God and bless others as you go about this crazy, busy season.  Jesus is truly the reason for the season.

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Mounds Bars by La Moine Schrib
This recipe was always at the Shipman Christmas on the dessert table when I was growing up, and now I am the one usually bringing it.  It’s a family favorite of mine.

Serves: 10-20

1 stick butter/margarine
1 pkg graham crackers plus 2 extra full crackers, crushed
¼ cup sugar
1 heaping cup coconut
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 pkg milk chocolate chips
1 tsp peanut butter

Melt stick of butter/margarine in 9×13” pan at 350 degrees.  After melted, sprinkle graham cracker crumbs over top.  Sprinkle with sugar.  Bake 10 minutes.  Sprinkle with coconut then drizzle sweetened condensed milk over top and bake until golden.  Allow to cool.  Melt chocolate chips in microwave (about 1 min) until wet looking.  Stir in peanut butter.  Ice bars with chocolate and cut into squares.

This post was written by Paula Gowman. To read more about her, click here

Surviving the Holidays with Family

family-holidays“Surviving” and “Holidays” seem like two words that do not belong together; however, the reality is that the holidays can be a very difficult time for a plethora of reasons. The holidays can be a not-so-gentle reminder of past hurts involving family members, an opportunity to grieve those that are no longer with us, and a platform to build up more resentment in struggling familial relationships. This season also lends itself to helping us lose focus on the most important parts of Thanksgiving and Christmas: We become inundated with school plays, holiday parties, and shopping. We are both so eager for the holidays to arrive and eager for them to be over.

I want to challenge each of us to approach this holiday season differently. I am such a visual and kinesthetic person. In an effort to shift my thinking and also the lenses through which I am viewing people, I often picture the following scenario: I picture different pairs of glasses. There are clear ones that are my correct prescription, sunglasses with orange tinted lenses, glasses with weird shapes in the lenses, and a pair with lenses that distort objects.

The reality is that the truth of what I am viewing doesn’t change when I use different lenses. Instead, it is my perspective that changes.

As I approach the holiday season, I am asking the Lord to provide me his lenses through which I can view his people. Using his lenses allows me to love those individuals that are difficult to be with during the holidays. His lenses also allow me to identify hurting people during this season and position myself to love and encourage them. I am so thankful that, this holiday season, we can be a church that chooses our lenses intentionally so that we can participate in what the Lord is doing in the most incredible of ways.

We have the ability to shift our thinking from a mode of “survival” to a position of opportunity this holiday season. I am excited and eager to see what the Lord reveals to me as I ask for his lenses.

This post was written by Lindsey Wesley. To read more about her, click here. 

Preparing for the Holidays

family-picThe leaves are changing, the air is turning cooler, and the expectancy of the holiday season is upon us!  My heart leaps when I think about the holidays!  I still feel the same expectancy that I did when I was a child, eager for Christmas morning!

However, I have found myself a little anxious about the holidays this year because of the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping, finding the right presents, scheduling family events, and already feeling behind in my normal holiday routine.

Recently, the Lord has been impressing on my heart a few things that have brought me a lot of peace and joy.  Instead of the focus and attention being on what gift we are going to receive, the perfect gift we are going to buy, the menu for Thanksgiving/Christmas dinner, the schedule of who goes where, when, the endless parties to attend, and let’s not forget about teacher gifts…let’s look for the “new” in our traditions and the people we enjoy!

Many of us have the same traditions year after year.  Looking back, as a child, some of the happiest memories I had were during this time of year.  Instead of taking for granted the “process” and people we love this year, how about we notice and really “see” them? Look for the amazing qualities that we may have missed over the past year (or years).  Let’s live our traditions out this year like it could be our last, really taking the time to enjoy the moments we get to spend with family and friends.

The years go by fast, and time is fleeting before us. Our children are getting older, our parents are getting older…our “normal” becomes just memories!

I don’t want to miss a thing this year!  I don’t want to take one thing for granted.  I want to go to every event with expectation in my heart for something new!  I want to buy something for someone that brings meaning to their life.

The Lord has brought forth blessings overflowing in my life.  This holiday season, I want to be grateful for every person, every gift, every smile, every endless side dish full of carbs, every Walmart line, every pile of leaves in my backyard, every cup of coffee filled with holiday creamer, and most of all Christ’s love and sacrifice for me!

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Colossians 2:6-7

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

Colossians 3:17

This post was written by Amy Meek. To read more about her, click here.