After work today …

I stopped at Food City to pick up a few last minute items for Thanksgiving dinner.

It was pandemonium, with people in every isle, looking, seeking, picking through the sale items and bumping buggies with one another. 

A few people smiled back at me and I even saw a couple of people I knew.

It wasn’t the Food City experience, though, that made my day, it was the coming home to find a big white dog wagging his tail and making me feel loved that made my day.

He followed me as I backed into my driveway.

He watched me bring in my groceries and was riveted by the fact that the back of Serenity opened up giving enough room for him to jump inside.

He thought about it, but decided to wait for another time.

I invited him inside but he only put his front paws inside the front door.  Such a gentleman, that beautiful boy.

I haven’t been welcomed home that way in many years.

He was as happy to see me as I was him.

I brought my groceries inside then spent some time telling him what a sweet, good boy he is.

He sat when I commanded him to and I gave him a treat for being obedient.

This Thanksgiving, besides being thankful for my family and friends,  I’m thankful for a big white pup who will become a gigantic white dog that will greet me before I go to work and welcome me back when I come home.

It doesn’t really matter what his name is, he is precious to me and I think he knows it.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, your family, your friends and your pets.

Enjoy and be thankful for every moment.

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving …

is one of my favorite times of the year.

It is a time when my family gathers, as do so many others, to give thanks for the blessings we have been given and to engage in fellowship with one another.  This is a tradition my family has taken part in for as long as I remember.

But that isn’t all I remember.

I remember being told that Thanksgiving is a time to remember those who have nothing to be thankful for and inviting them to be part of of our celebration.

I remember having more food than the dozens of us could eat and fixing plates for neighbors and friends.

I remember hearing my Mamaw say she’d “rather have a truckload too much than a teaspoon too little”.

I remember Granny welcoming anyone who would come to her door and offering to feed, and if necessary, clothe them.

I remember praying together, thanking Jesus for our bounty before we ever placed a morsel of anything on our plates.

I remember the men eating first, the women fixing plates for the children in the next room and then the women eating together at the big table, sharing stories and laughing.

As a child, I wanted to be part of the women’s table, laughing and having fellowship with them as they enjoyed the fruits of their labor while the men congregated together and talked of all manner of things because the TV only got one channel and nobody wanted to watch it.

I remember my dad coming in before dinner, smelling of the woods he’d been hunting in and loving the way he smelled and knowing that, no matter what, He would protect us all.

These are memories from days gone by.  My dad doesn’t hunt anymore, my grandmothers have gone to be with Jesus and it would be easy to dismiss Thanksgiving altogether; but we don’t.

Come Thanksgiving Day, my Mom, my Sister, my Aunts, my Cousins and myself will be joyfully cooking to feed anyone who cares to join our table for dinner.  To us, Thanksgiving has just as much meaning today as it did four decades ago.  Little has changed, excepting the people that gather around our table.

We will still cook and fill the table with delicious things for those who chose to spend this special day with us.

We will still thank God for His bounty and Jesus for His salvation and protection to each and every one who comes to celebrate with us.

Our door will still be open to anyone needing a hot meal, a bit of companionship and a dose of encouragement.

We will worship Jesus and know that nothing we could ever hope to have would be possible without Him.

I hope everyone I’ve invited to join my family for Thanksgiving Dinner decides to come because this is a safe place, an encouraging place and place to find people who will love and cherish them.

I am blessed beyond measure and my hope is to extend that to those who feel alone.

Nobody should be alone on Thanksgiving.

Extend your invitation to someone, anyone, and find yourself blessed.

I don’t know if my invitation will be accepted, but I’ve already been blessed by extending it and I have every hope that there will be a new face at our Thanksgiving table this year.

If we think only of ourselves, we have very little to think about, but if we put others before ourselves, Jesus will take control and that is when the explosion of blessings will start.

Hoping to see some new faces at the Thanksgiving table next week.

Godspeed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gina’s Stuffed Mushrooms

      
        One garlic clove, minced
       1/2 yellow onion, minced
       4 ounces ground Italian                                                     sausage
       6 ounces water
       8-10 button mushrooms with insides scraped (I use a melon baller, but be gentle)
       Stems of mushrooms diced with scrapings
       1/2 Roma (or small) tomato, diced
       1/4 cup shredded mozzarella
       3 tbsp cilantro
       1/4 cup ricotta cheese
       2 tbsp Olive oil
       1/2 cup crushed pretzels
Preheat oven to 375°
Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in heavy saucepan
Sauteed onion and garlic until onion is clear (about 5 minutes), stirring frequently

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Add Italian sausage, stirring and chopping until fine and brown.

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Add water, cover, turn heat to medium high until mixture comes to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium low for 20 minutes.

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Chop mushroom stems and scrapings and add to bowl with tomato, ricotta cheese and half of mozzarella.

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Remove cover from sausage, increase heat to medium high and cook, stirring very frequently, until all water has evaporated.

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Add remaining ingredients save cilantro, pretzels and half of mozzarella.
Cook until cheese is melted and tomatoes soft (5-8 minutes).

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Add cilantro.  Cook an additional 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

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Transfer mixture to bowl and add crushed pretzels.  Mix thoroughly.

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Fill hollowed out mushroom with mixture, pressing firmly and exceeding top of cap.

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Sprinkle remaining cheese over stuffed mushrooms.

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Bake, uncovered, in preheated oven for 20 minutes or until cheese is Brown.

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Enjoy!

These freeze beautifully, so pack your lunch and freeze remaining mushrooms, once cool, in freezer safe container.

Freeze remaining stuffing mixture to us in lasagna, spaghetti or manicotti.

Impress your friends with this easy recipe from A Photographer’s Heart, aka Gina’s Culinary Adventures.

It’s been a while …

since my last blog post. 

Since last time, satan has reared his ugly head and life has given me a bonified black eye, busted lip, bruised rib, and all around beating.

My mom, who I depend on way more than a nearly 50-year old (ok, 47 in two weeks, but still) woman should, has been ill.

In the hospital, taken by an ambulance, ill.

My dad, who leans heavily on my mom, has been beside himself.

My dearest friend has been given (by mere mortals) six months to live.

It has been a trying month.

First off, my mom is home, well and feeling quite herself. 

My dad, an Air Force Veteran (whom we should all be applauding today for his service to the USAF) is better because my mom is feeling better.

It brings a surprising revelation to light.

While this would distress and hurt me beyond comprehension, I have this hope they would die, in their sleep, at the same time.

As awful as this may sound to some, I’d rather mourn them both at the same time than try to handle one without the other.

I can’t frankly speak for my sister, but wonder if she wouldn’t agree.

If that isn’t possible, I hope my dad, my hero and advocate goes first, because I cannot fathom him without my mom.

Mom would miss dad terribly, but she’s strong, and would survive.

Maybe I’m more crazy than I imagined, but I can handle Mom’s tears more easily than Dad’s.

I honestly don’t know how I would deal with him if he had to live without her.

As for my dearest friend, who is battling cancer, I advised her, as I do everyone, to live every day as if it’s the very last one.

Nobody, but nobody has the promise to live further than the moment they are in.

I know where I’m going when I’m gone from this world, so dying doesn’t scare me.

Living, however, without the people who love and understand me, gives me pause.

If that sounds selfish, it’s because it is. 

I thought I’d grow old and watch, with my husband I dearly loved, grandchildren playing in the yard.

Then, I came home one day, and out of the clear, blue sky, found him as dead as Moses.

No warning. No goodbye.  Just gone.

There’s no promise of life, to any of us, past the single moment we find ourselves living in.

If one doesn’t intend to live life as it happens, they forfeit their right to complain when it’s over, or nearly over.

You can quote me on that.

Right now, in this moment, is all I am certain of.

It is all any of us can be certain of.

This moment.

This breath.

This heartbeat.

Each day, if it doesn’t mean something, is wasted.

I say this to family, friends, former friends that I miss with an intensity that embarassess me, and though I can’t think of any specifically, my enemies.

I don’t think I have any absolute enemies.  If I do, they’ve been mighty quiet about it, and I forgive them anyway, knocking out the one leg they, were they real, had to stand on.

That’s good, though, in my way of thinking.  Who, when they have life to contend with, need enemies to muddy up the mess further.

And yet, as I often do, digress.

Now is the only thing that matters.

Grab on or be left behind.

Those are, in actuality, the only two choices.

As Shakespeare said (though he may have meant it differently as words in his day were perplexing, they pretty much say the same thing). To be or not to be … that is the question.

I choose to be, even when it hurts, is painful, annoying, hurtful, betraying or joyous.

I choose to give it everything I have, be whatever I can be and love, even those who don’t love me, unconditionally. 

Be it joyous, angry, confused, happy, sad, contemplative or any number of emotionally relevant states, with bright lights, awesome auroras, sleepless nights and flying debris; I’m there, every day, all the way.

I know who I am and if I die before morning, I know where I’ll find myself.

I love you all, even when you’re unloveable, just as you do me.

We, though we are all in the image of God, are, intrinsically human.

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I was just on the verge …

of a meltdown.

I had already picked out the breakable missile to be thrown at, well, something breakable.

My inner voice was saying, rather loudly, that there was nothing to break that could be salvaged and that I should put down the weapon.

I’m not certain when my inner voice became a hostage negotiator, but she has, and with obvious authority, decided that she’s the boss of me.

My meltdown voice, not to be silenced by a newbie, was saying “I don’t care, something has to give.”

Then the inner voice then said, in a still, soft tone, “who are you mad at and why do you want to break things?”

I replied, in my loud, hateful voice,” what do you care?  Leave me alone”.

That soft voice spoke again and said, simply, “Why do you work so hard to destroy yourself?”

It stopped me in my tracks.

I realized at that moment that I was mad at someone.

I was furious that I was, once again, left feeling like I had done something wrong.

I was angry that I felt alone, insecure and abandoned by someone who would, if the world turned on its axis as it is supposed to, mean nothing to me.

I realized that I was disappointed in myself for being gullible, fallible, ignorant and needy and yes, I was intent on destroying myself because of it.

I was angry that I could put so much of my self-worth into someone  that found no worth in a friendship I was  willing to give.

I was angry because I felt I needed someone to find worth in me.

I was angry because, for a span of time, I could find no worth in myself.

That newbie voice just kept on jabbering until I was forced to either listen or throw myself into an active volcano.

Since burning every inch of skin off of my body was the lesser of the choices, I decided to stop being a self-centered, belligerent jerk and listen.

So I listened and in doing so, decided that the newbie voice was likely getting some coaching from a veteran.

I’m worthy without validation, for many reasons, the least not being that I am a child of Christ.

When I went down the reasons that I should feel OK about myself, that one reason, the most important one, didn’t immediately enter my mind.

Yes, there are people I want to like me.

They chip away at my self-esteem and make me feel that I will be less of a person if they don’t interact with me.

They, at some point, gained control over my self worth and whittled it down to next to nothing,

But if they don’t see it, my world will unfold just as it would have anyway.

There came the WOW moment that made me think twice about where I was, where I’d come from and to where I was going.

I found myself very disappointed in myself because I had, yet again, lost my way.

But, if the voice is accurate, which at this point, I’ve no reason to suspect otherwise, the way will be made clear if I stop feeling sorry for myself and ask for directions.

Yes,  folks have hurt me more than I ever knew I could be hurt, on a level that I didn’t even realize existed.

But they can continue to hurt me only if I continue to let them … if I give them the power to make me feel inadequate, insecure and unworthy.

There is only one person who dictates my worth and HE has found me worthy.

I question that.

Daily.

Hourly.

But HE is in a position of omnipotent power and if HE says HE likes being around me, then everything and everyone I have felt inferior to become irrelevant in my world.

I’ve cried way more tears over things I can’t change than over the blessings I had before I tried to change anything.

My meltdown lost merit after that.

I didn’t feel the need to shatter physical things.

Instead, I felt the desire to lift myself higher than I had deemed myself worthy to be because ONE well more worthy than myself found me worthy.

I felt compelled to love and to pray for the ones who challenged my worth.

I am thankful for a Saviour who sees the weapon in my hand and understands that I really want to throw it; who sees my tears and feels my pain, who knows my broken heart and comes running.

I have been looking in the wrong place for a long time.

It doesn’t mean that I won’t want to throw things again, as that is part of the imaginative nature I have been given; but I won’t want to throw them in hurtful indignation.

I will throw them simply for the fun of it.

And then I can sing joyously while I dance in the rain because I am worthy of the raindrops from Heaven.

Life isn’t easy, it’s not a cake-walk or a bed of roses, at least not all the time.

At other times, it is rainbows, daisies, trees in winter and fairies in springtime.

It is, essentially, what it is, and I’m worthy, so says my Lord, to enjoy the best and endure the worst and still be who I was destined to me.

Myself.

In His image and under the magnificent umbrella of His faith in me.

I am, in this moment, OK with that.

http://www.gcuniverse.com/throughtheeyesofthespirit

 

Being just on the cusp …

of sanity is a truly difficult place to be.

Reality is real.  That’s factual.

Yet fantasy can justifiably be just as indisputable.

That sound ridiculous, but in my  world, it is how it goes.

I spend as much time daydreaming as I do actually living the life in front of me.

I think about all sorts of things, rearranging them from time to time so that I have no doubts or regrets.

That, in itself, is lame.

Time can’t be altered.

There are no “do-overs” in life.

It is what it appears to be.

I would, if I could, change some things, but wouldn’t go back and do it all again for all the blue in an October sky.

I have to find a place of contentment in my chaotic world, otherwise, I couldn’t survive.

If I dwell on what didn’t go my way, there’s a better than average chance I will lose focus on my blessings.

And they are many.

My blessings.

While it is true that I took some blessings for granted and, in doing so, lost them …

I’ve only myself to blame.

Each day is an opportunity for me to rectify that which was irresponsibly lost.

What I do with that opportunity is solely on me.

I wish many things, but at the end of the day, I am where I am because of the choices I’ve made.

But then, aren’t we all?

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Ernest Hemingway said …

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.”

I believe this to be true. 

I’ve been broken so many times that I’ve lost count.

A couple of times, the brokenness nearly won, but for the most part, I came up with my head above water.

What breaks us doesn’t define us, but  having the desire to put the shattered pieces back together does.

I was many times, in the broken places, at my strongest.

I can’t begin to explain the transformation; but there was one.

I’m still looking for lost pieces, but I have faith that if they are meant to be found, they will be.

I do believe Hemingway was spot on when he, a very broken man, said that string of words.

If one hasn’t been broken, they’ve yet to be born and can’t possibly understand the beautiful array of colors that a skewed, broken and pixillated life has to offer.

Until you break it, you can’t begin to know what is inside.

A bit like a Sand Dollar.

Once you’re broken, you can’t stop looking at all the intricate shapes, shards and pieces.

I’m not much on working puzzles, but the pieces and parts of life fascinate me.

I don’t start at the corners.

Instead, I start in the center and build outward because the corners will always be corners.

Those broken already know where the corners are; it is the center that perplexes us and makes us stronger than we would have been were we not broken.

I, as we all do, struggle sometimes.

It’s part of the journey.

If we don’t struggle, we lack understanding and in doing so, give up.

If we give up, the broken places win and the corners cease to matter.

I’m not a poor loser but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t prefer to win.

Romans chapter Twelve is my favorite place in the bible. Each verse speaks to me directly …

But this one, in particular, (Romans 12:12) speaks louder each time I read it …

It says “Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instantly in prayer.”

There are times I’m certain God doesn’t hear me. I know, as any believer does, when these dark, silent times come.

The silence is deafening.

Unnerving.

Unwavering.

But at others, when the silence is broken and I know He hears me, I’m mesmerized.

Goosebumps threaten to overtake me and nearly make me forget what I was praying about to begin with.

Life is hard.

It’s hard for everyone.

None of us have the franchise of a life unriddled with trials and hardships.

But it’s also, if you pay attention, riddled with joy.

To give up or give in is a selfish act that says we weren’t willing to fight; to survive.

A coward’s way.

I was a coward for much of my life.

I refuse to be one through the rest of it.

I’ll look for those missing pieces, lost friends, severed relationships, missed opportunities.

I haven’t always, but I do now; but, if I don’t find them, so be it.

I’ll find them somewhere along the way or understand they weren’t for me to begin with.

I’m OK where, often alone, I find myself.

I always have been.

Whom shall I fear?

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