Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Heart Hold

"Mommy, can I hold Levi?"

"Sure Sweetie," I replied as I placed him on her lap like usual.

"No Mommy, can I hold him on my heart?"

I am not sure how much more love, joy, and gratitude this Mama's heart can hold....

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Easy Healthy Granola Bars

I had been on the hunt for a healthy granola bar recipe for awhile.  Recently I came across The Sneaky Chef's "Grab 'n' Go Crispy Granola Bars" recipe.  I made the bars once and we all loved them (including my picky 2 year old)!

I knew I could make them even healthier.  For instance, the recipe calls for 1/2 cup canola oil.  I made them again using 1/4 cup oil and 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce.  They tasted even better and the consistency was less crumbly and more chewy once baked!  Next time I plan to make them without the oil altogether and replace it with 1/2 cup of applesauce.  I also made a few other slight changes....enjoy!!

Easy Healthy Granola Bars
(recipe adapted from The Sneaky Chef's "Grab 'n' Go Crispy Granola Bars" recipe)

2/3 cup rolled oats, ground in a food processor to about 1/2 cup
1/2 cup blanched, slivered almonds, ground in a food processor to about 1/3 cup
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup whole ground flaxseed meal
1 cup crispy brown rice cereal (I found Erewhon's Cocoa Crispy Brown Rice cereal in the natural foods section of the grocery store)
1 cup nonfat dry milk
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup dried fruit (optional)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Line a 13-by-9 inch baking pan completely with parchment paper and butter or spray the paper.

In a medium bowl, combine oats, almonds, wheat germ, flax, cereal, dry milk, cinnamon, and salt.  Mix in the canola oil, applesauce, honey, vanilla, and chocolate chips (and/or dried fruit).  Mix well, then pour into the prepared baking pan.  Press down with palm of hand, evenly distributing the mixture into the corners of the dish and bake for about 20-25 minutes.  Check occasionally to prevent burning.

Remove from the oven and using the parchment paper to help you, lift the giant bar out of the pan.  Place on a flat surface and while still warm, cut into small bars.

Store in an airtight container for up to a week, or freeze.  (I like to put them in the refrigerator and eat them cold!)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Lessons from a Black Pup

I headed out for an early morning walk this past week with my sweet 4-week old little boy.  Addison was still sound asleep so My Hero stayed home and waited for her to wake up.  The extreme heat has kept us indoors most days, but this particular cloudy morning greeted me with an unexpected cool breeze.  Perfect walking weather.  Unlike my usual walks with my daughter who talks so much she hardly takes a breath, Levi didn't utter a peep and I was able to think and pray as we strolled around the neighborhood.  The only sounds I heard were the morning songs of the birds, the rolling stroller wheels, and an occasional woof in the distance.  If possible I would start every morning exactly this way.

We rounded a corner about 5 minutes into our walk, and I noticed a black, shaggy dog on the sidewalk up ahead.  As a child I prided myself on knowing dog breeds, but this pup's breeds were unrecognizable and he was your classic mutt...jet black, medium-sized, and as happy as could be.  We got closer to him.  He wagged his tail and trotted joyfully over to us.  I said a brief "good morning" as I continued on my way.  A few steps later I noticed that he started to follow us.  A few steps more and he still followed us.  I thought that he would turn around before he got too far away from home.  Not so.  I kept walking and he kept following, and following, and following.  At this point I started to get a little worried that he'd be lost, but he had a collar and tags on so I knew he could easily be found and returned home.  We continued on our way and he kept up the pace.  Occasionally he'd catch a scent and wander into a yard, but he would come running once he realized that I was a little ways ahead.  I passed another woman taking a walk and she asked if he was mine.  "No," I replied.  But I thought, "It sure does look like it!"

The cool breeze, my peacefully awake baby, and my new furry companion spurred my thoughts to dive deeper.  I first thought about our dog, Ellie.  If I took her on a walk in the neighborhood off-leash, without a doubt she'd be gone as soon as she spotted a cat, another dog, squirrel, etc.  I would like to think she'd turn around at some point, but probably not until she got hungry.  "Why," I thought, "does this black mutt who has never met me before proudly walk beside me for 45 minutes while I know Ellie wouldn't stay by my side for more than a minute?"  I've fed, loved, and taken great care of Ellie for 4'd think she wouldn't want me out of her sight!

Then my mind rested on Jesus.  When he called his disciples, they left their families to follow Him even though He was a stranger.  Without reservation, joyfully, and expectantly they began to follow Jesus.  This reminded me of the black dog.  Not knowing me, he eagerly began following me.  Ellie, on the other hand, knows me intimately just as a believer knows Christ.  Yet at the first distraction she would be gone.

How often do Christians get distracted and leave Jesus behind, chasing only momentary pleasures?

Sadly, the truth is often.  He loves us so dearly and wants what is best for us....why would we stray from Him for a second?

I thought about my own life.  What am I chasing that draws me away from Him?

My answer is usually an attitude of the heart versus a tangible object.  I act as though I can do everything on my own.  I let worry replace peace and joy.  I feel jealous, am quick to become angry, and lose my patience. 

Thankfully, God never walks away.  He never leaves me.  He loves us too much.  He waits patiently for me and embraces my return with grace and mercy.  Grace and mercy.  I wish I knew 100% that I'd treat Ellie that way if she returned home after wandering off.

These verses came to mind...

Jeremiah 29:12-14 - "Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you."

Luke 15:3-7 - "Then Jesus told them this parable:  'Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?  And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’  I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent."

Luke 15:20-24 - "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.  The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate."

Joshua 1:9b -  "...the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”


Counting this early morning gift...

754. Unexpectedly learning more about Christ and how I should follow him closely each step of the way.