Mama’s K.I.S.S. #43–Cooking Times Four

Portrait of happy mother and her daughter cooking in the kitchen

As you know, if you’ve been reading, for quite some time, I’ve occasionally been running little installments called “Mama’s K.I.S.S.” I know that lots of readers could give many more and far more creative ideas than I can offer, but these installments are just a few tried and true and mostly old-fashioned ideas for putting service hearts in our kids.  This is number 43 of a list of one hundred ways we train our kids to serve. K.I.S.S. is an acronym for “Kids In Service Suggestions”.

I’m sure you’ve thought of doing this with your kids, but it’s been a real benefit to ministry on several occasions for this family. Every time I make a casserole, a cobbler or a soup of any kind, I multiply all ingredient amounts by four, prepare the ingredients, and then spoon them out into 4-6 casserole dishes (depending on dish sizes), cover them well with heavy-duty foil, and freeze all of them except the one we are having for supper. I usually place the wrapped dishes in individual giant zippy bags to help guard them from freezer burn. I also label the bags with the name of the dish and the instructions for cooking or re-heating the dish. The casseroles and pies are almost always placed in the freezer before the baking, so you can just grab them from the freezer, thaw them and bake according to directions. Soups only need reheating. This is great math for upper-elementary kids, as they multiply the fractions of cups and teaspoons, and it’s great hospitality and benevolence planning for kids (especially daughters) of any age.

I know I don’t need to explain the benefits of this, but here goes. It’s cheaper to buy ingredients in bulk.  It greatly reduces cooking time because it only takes a few more minutes to make four casseroles than it takes to make one. When you do four meals at the time, you have one mess to clean up instead of four. 

But the biggest plus for me is being able to take a dish to a grieving family on the spur of the moment or to enjoy time with visiting family or friends instead of spending all my time cooking and cleaning the kitchen. It’s great to be able to have food on hand for Sunday dinners or fellowship meals. It’s great to be able to take a meal to someone who has just gotten home from the hospital or to someone who has a sick child. Best of all, your kids are watching and absorbing this active freezer ministry which just becomes a part of your family’s routine. It would be worth the price of my deep freezer many times over just for the consistency of hospitality and benevolence that it afforded our family. Of course we were still not even close to thorough or perfect as we took advantage of having a deep freezer. But still, it was/is a very helpful tool. 

Here are some dishes that work particularly well in the freezer. I’ve included the most recent recipe that I prepared and froze as well. It was very good! Thanks to Diana Shafer in Collierville, TN for sharing! It has already gone to a couple of octogenarians in their home in Tennessee and  to a visiting preacher-student family around our table.

These work well: 

Any kind of soup

Chili

Lasagne

Poppy seed chicken casseroles

Chicken, broccoli and rice casseroles

Most pasta dishes (especially if they are creamy)

Ground beef and vegetable casseroles

Dumpling dishes

Cobblers of any kind 

Dump cakes

Enchilada casseroles

Casseroles with crescent roll type crusts/toppings

Homemade Bread (Wrap well in a couple of layers of heavy duty foil or plastic wrap.)

(If a casserole calls for a cracker or potato chip or corn chip topping, add this after you remove it from the freezer.) 

                                                                                  Creamy Chicken

Ingredients:

4-8 chicken breasts or 1 chicken

1 pt. sour cream

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 8 oz. package Pepperidge Farm dressing mix (may use more)… (Also, I think I used a store brand and it was yum.)

1/4 c.milk

1 can cream of mushroom soup

Directions:

Cook chicken (boil or cook in microwave). Cool. Remove skin and cut into bite-size pieces. Line 9×13 dish with chicken. (But you can really use any size dishes. cc) Sprinkle with salt. Combine soups, sour cream and milk. Spread this over chicken.Prepare dressing mix according to directions on package. Margarine may be omitted if you do not like rich dressing. Use broth from chicken or chicken bouillon for liquid required in dressing mix. Spread dressing on top of soup mixture. Cover with foil. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 45 minutes. May be frozen before baking.  (This is easy and so very good!)

 

Sister to Sister: Don’t Take This for Granted.

10007327_10152819889601062_7042397935088924019_oToday is surely a day when I should just go back to the archived files and throw something in here from an old manuscript or article. Tonight is Ladies Night Out at my house for the women at West Huntsville and the hymn “There is much to do. There’s work on every hand. Hark the cry for help comes ringing through the land…” keeps coming to mind. But the sweetness of fellowship and family in Him also comes to mind.

As I anticipate a time tonight with my sisters, I remember yesterday. As I was traveling to worship yesterday morning, my sister (in the flesh and in the Lord), Celine, called me and asked me to meet up with her to do some swap-offs (She had clothes for Ezra and I had Enoch’s birthday present), so we arranged to meet up at the Mexican restaurant for lunch. When I arrived at the church building, David Freeman hugged me and whispered in my ear the pew location of a sweet family from Missouri that I should go meet. I did. We’d never met, but we had so much to talk about that I had to hurry to find a pew for the opening announcements. When it was singing time, sweet five-year-old Amber, whose Mom, Nuris, comes alone with two small children, came stealing down the aisle to sit with me. She always brings a big hug and she busied herself doing her WINGS sheet, so she could stand in line and hug the preacher and get her sticker for “listening” during the sermon. (I do use the term “listening” very loosely!)

As soon as worship had concluded, the college kids behind me helped me pick up the crayons and Marie rushed up to me to talk about her planned devotional for ladies night out. This is Marie’s very first time to speak in front of her sisters and she has written out her manuscript about Dorcas. I am so proud of her. Then, hurrying to Bible class, I sat down next to Jan. We studied, among other passages, First John one, verse seven:

If we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another; and the blood of Jesus Christ His son cleanses us from all sin. 

The two great blessings of that verse are fellowship and cleansing. The blessings do not come independently of each other. They come in a pair—a set—of blessings.

Class was over and Jan and I visited a bit about the joys and challenges of helping parents who are growing older. She encouraged me. I talked with Betty about her grandson, Liam, and how he’s soaking up Hannah’s Hundred verses. I talked to Holly about new clothes and Hannah’s Hundred (again).  I talked to Maury about a Bible he couldn’t find and to Jennifer about a water bottle she was missing. I got the meat I’d purchased from Carter’s softball team from his mom, Kristi, who had meticulously wrapped it and wrapped it some more, so it would not mess up my car. I talked to Lindsay and Mrs. Glenna and then I bumped into my husband, Glenn, who told me that he’d invited people to lunch, too.

“Great!” I said…”We’ll need a big table, because I’m meeting the Sparkses, too.” Our table was for 17, in the end, and these sweet people, who were traveling through between the great Diana Singing and a visit with my dear friends, the Bakers, in Montgomery, were all mixed up with the Sparkses and it was a great time of fellowship.

It was the kind of fellowship that I take for granted. There were at least 43 people from our assembly in that restaurant. That is nothing unusual. Unless we are having a fellowship meal at the building, we pack that restaurant (and others) with groups of Christians. We are so busy enjoying it that we don’t even stop to think what a HUGE blessing fellowship is.

And then, sweet little Emily and Eva, who were born in Wisconsin (I think) and now live in Chicago, who were also sitting across the table from me, just looked around the room, got VERY wide-eyed and began pointing out all the children in that big room at the Mexican restaurant who were in their Bible classes. They could not believe they were just bumping into kids all around that they’d just met in Sunday School! Their mom said to me, “They have never known what it’s like to have Christians all around. We hope they can know that blessing one day.”

Today I am thanking God for that blessing that I, far too often, take for granted. It is huge. It is life-enriching. It is, most importantly, God’s way of keeping me accountable. I am so thankful for fellowship that comes with walking in the light. I never want to be without fellowship (II Thess. 3:6,7). (Our church family had to experience the pain of withdrawing that fellowship yesterday, as well. But it would not hurt so deeply to do that if fellowship was not so sweet to us. I am very much in prayer for the restoration of that sweet fellowship lost.)

I could go on, but I’ll stop there. The conversations with two women at our lunch table who had worked for the Lord in China, largely without this great blessing of fellowship…the baby shower preparation…all the ladies who came to encourage Tiffany and Curtis and little Raylee, before she’s even been born..the new college student and his mom (who is coming to ladies night out tonight!)…etc…etc…would take too much space. I just want to say that being a part of a family in Him is a huge blessing that I do not want to ever be without.

At the very end of the day, I was in a conversation with the wife of the great preacher we had for evening services. He is a student at Memphis School of Preaching and our congregation is helping with his support while he trains. His sweet wife, Erica, and I began to talk about sisters we both knew from different places in our big family. Then she made this comment that made me thankful for a whole new and relatively recent dimension of fellowship:

“There are so many women here  that I’ve never met, but still I know them because I have studied with them on the Digging Deep podcast.” Don’t you love that?! There is no reason to be a spiritual hermit in 2015. God has opened doors of fellowship that were totally unavailable for John when he wrote those words about walking in the light and having fellowship.

So today. let’s bask in the blessing. And let ME get busy getting ready for another helping of the wholesome blessing of fellowship!

Sister to Sister: Too Big for Tree-Hugging!

10422956_10153120542101322_775683428250343547_n-1A few days ago, due to the giant hospitality of some family members in California, my husband and I walked through a forest where the trees made our Alabama trees look like saplings. They immediately dwarfed even the largest of the men among us and made me feel like I was in an epic  movie about elves or small trolls. It was an exercise in humility before the One who created, replanted and nourished these senior trees for centuries. I stood literally amazed in His presence.

Upon asking a few questions about the root systems, I understood that, contrary to what I would have assumed, the roots of Sequoia trees go only about ten feet under the earth’s surface. So how, one would ask, do these trees stand for centuries towering to heights of near 400 feet? (That’s about 34 stories or so!) It seems to be an impossible feat of engineering.

The answer is that the shallow root system of a Sequoia tree travels outwardly for an entire acre or more, drinking up the rain that falls onto a large area of the ground and becoming entwined with the roots of other giant Sequoia trees in that large vicinity. Thus, the nutrition supply is greater because of these outwardly “traveling” roots and the physics problem of heavenward trees with no depth is solved by the stability  gained by getting all “tangled-up” in the root systems of other trees. The trees actually hold each other up!

This made me think about people, especially God’s people. We, as God’s people, need the same two things to be his heavenward people. We need nutrition and each other. We need “traveling roots,”  if you will, to grow toward our God. When I try to isolate myself, keeping my Christianity to myself, remaining uninvolved with fellow Christians, I cannot grow heavenward. The stability that I need to reach spiritual heights is only available when I’m all “tangled up” with the people of God. It is, in fact, in involvement with His people—in ministering to them—that I minister to the Lord, Himself (Matthew 25:31-46).

Trees need water. The Psalmist said this eloquently in the very first psalm:

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper (vs.1-3).

But trees, especially the giant Sequoias, of northern California, also need each other. They could not survive without the strength they derive from their roots growing around each other. I love Jeremiah 17:7,8:

Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is.For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.

I want to be the tree whose roots are both near to the water of Life, for nurture, and outwardly spreading, for stability. God is the original planter, environmentalist and ecologist. Best of all, there are eternal truths hidden in all his workings.

The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord (Psalm 33:5).

Sister to Sister: A Warm Blanket

woman-prayingThe ladies at West Huntsville recently hosted a “Sweet Hour of Prayer” on a Friday night in September. We focused our prayers on specific souls we are trying to reach for Him and we offered suggestions to each other as to how to present the gospel, encourage faithfulness, and overcome the world in the lives of those we love and want for the Lord (Of course, we really want everyone for the Lord!) Because of the overwhelming enthusiasm and the open communication we shared that evening, we are considering repeating this prayer time; perhaps even twice a year. It was a strengthening time for so many and we all had a typed prayer list upon leaving, so that we could continue taking each other’s needs before His throne. Would you let us know by emailing byhcontest@gmail.com if you would like to see this happen again periodically and, if so, whether you would be close enough to attend?

I’m constantly amazed and humbled by the prayer efforts of my sweet sisterhood. Prayer IS an effort. It takes discipline to talk to the One who always hears, knows the recesses of our hearts, and answers, but does not speak back in 2013 in an audible voice. It takes faith, perseverance and time and it is rewarded a hundred fold by those who invest. It is also rewarded in the lives of those for whom we pray. I am blessed every day by sisters who are praying for me. Just today I got this note from a sister for whom I have great admiration:

“Love you Cindy! I am and have been praying about this. I trust they will change their minds.”

Who wrote it and what’s it about? It doesn’t matter. It’s just a sister letting me know that she’s praying for a needed change. That’s the essence of what we all constantly pray for each other. And change is God’s business. He can do anything and He WILL do anything that is within the realm of His will. And that, sister, is all the change we really want! We need to be on our knees for each other!

Tonight, as I write, our congregation has just enjoyed a big and fun time of fellowship. Speaking with a young mom, who brought her two little girls to this event, she began to describe how the older one likes to pretend that the younger one is a baby and she likes to coddle and pet her and “take care” of her. Now, mind you, the oldest one is only five. This mom said, “It’s pretty sweet to watch one of them taking care of the other.” Don’t you think God thinks that it’s pretty sweet when we, as His children, take one another’s needs to him–when we “take care” of each other in His presence? I do.

And speaking of sisters stepping to the plate for each other…I have been so blessed by some sisters in the past few days. Last Monday I came to notice, through a blessed set of circumstances that I was booked for two ladies days on November 2nd. Talk about a panic! I went into a nail-biting frenzy immediately when I realized that I had been corresponding with two different churches about the same day, all the while thinking that all the correspondence was from only one church. Somehow, one of the churches, having been scheduled for the first Saturday in November of 2014, had accidentally jumped tracks to planning for THIS November 2nd…and I failed to notice! When a friend of mine in Missouri wanted to attend, she began noticing that my website was saying a different congregation than was my facebook page. I am very grateful for this sister, who started asking questions on facebook that alerted me to this. (You know I could have been up somewhere speaking when my cell phone started ringing from the other location!)

So I began to call my sisters. I wanted to at least offer this lady in Tennessee an alternative speaker when I called to tell her I could not come. Celine Sparks (bless her!) said “Well, it’s our ladies retreat, but since I’m not speaking, I will do it, if you can’t find someone else. But I do really hope you can, because I want to go be with our own Mastin Lake ladies. What about Hannah?”

Hannah Giselbach (bless her, too!) said “Oh, I wish I could, Mom, but I am already speaking in Kentucky that weekend. What about Sami?”

And sweet Sami Nicholas (bless her most of all!), who was already in Jacksonville helping with our Dad at the time, said “Well, they will likely have an alternate plan themselves, but if they want me to come do it, then I can cancel my other plans and I will do it. I really am passionate about that topic and it will be good for me.”

It’s just an over-the-top blessing that I have such encouragers in my physical family, who are also my sisters in the Lord. But the woman who encouraged me the most is my sister in the Lord that I have never met. Lori Backer, who had planned this ladies day for these many months, responded this way when she learned that I would not be coming to her congregation until next year:

“Cindy, I love you. I look forward to you coming, so very much! Many times I’ve wished I could attend Polishing the Pulpit just to hear all of you, wonderful women of God that not only assist your husbands in the ministry, but shine so strongly Jesus Christ in YOU. What ever is decided there is never any regret, only love. I apologize for the confusion- it is my error, and I pray you don’t fret over it any longer. I’m so sorry for your fathers health problems and will keep him in my prayers as well as the family.”

She could have been livid with me for not catching this error that was as much mine as hers. She could have canceled the whole thing and walked away from a difficult job that doesn’t pay any dividends in dollars. She could have. But she responded with encouragement, kindness, and love. Over and over again, I am blessed by the warm blanket of fellowship that God has given us for our comfort on this often cold and unfeeling sojourn toward heaven. My sisters are the refuge that people outside of Him simply do not have. I praise Him for all of you.

If you are in the Maury City, Tennessee area this coming Saturday, November 1st, we will be studying “Let the Beauty of Jesus be Seen in Me” at the Maury City Church of Christ. But, especially, if you are in the Paris, Tennessee area this Saturday, hear Sami Nicholas speak about “Jumping In With Both Feet” at the Eastwood Church of Christ. You will hear God speak through a passionate and good heart.

The Best Thing About PTP

The best thing about PTP? We’re supposed to sum that up on the evaluation sheet for this huge event that Glenn and I just finished in Sevierville, Tennessee. The retreat center’s halls are empty now, the tabernacle has been dismantled, our legs feel kind of like noodles, and the Bible Plinko is in the back of our SUV.  Polishing the Pulpit is finished for 2012 and we are in reflection mode. Conversations, friendships, counseling sessions and worship scenes swirl in our minds. It’s really been an internal blessing with eternal benefits.

PTP began several years ago in a home in Jacksonville, Alabama when three preachers met for a weekend to exchange sermon ideas. The largest venue that they can find in the area now has challenges accommodating the crowd which, for the last few years has been growing by about 500 people per year. This year’s count was just over 2500. But the crowd isn’t the best thing about PTP for the Colleys.

It’s incredible that an event-turned-phenomenon like this can start with a few exchanged sermons and morph (in just a few short years) into a multi-tracked convention with tracks for elders, preachers, wives of elders, deacons, wives of deacons, wives of preachers, children, teens, members and more. The great thing about these tracks is that you don’t have to declare. You can jump tracks all you want. I love that part since I am a preacher’s wife, an elder’s wife, a parent, a member and a speaker. I am easily overwhelmed, but this is a really good kind of overwhelming event. But that’s not the best thing about PTP this year.

I have been incredibly blessed (so much so that when I pray, I ask God consistently, “Why me, Lord? How is it that I get to do this?”) to have been privileged to speak to the ladies at PTP for all of the years that a ladies program has existed. The ladies class began in Pigeon Forge several years back with a core of about 12 women in a one-class-a-day format. As it has simply exploded since that time, I’ve been so blessed to watch. We are filling up rooms and ballrooms simultaneously and the families we represent are benefitting in ways that will never be publicized, but will populate heaven. This is one of the best things about PTP this and every year.

Kids just get VERY excited about the program. “Kids” and “excitement” and “program” are hardly ever in the same context. But here, the concepts co-exist. As one of my friends’ five-year-old son recently said, “I cannot wait to go to ‘Polishing the Pit-bull!” Service projects, the bigger than life apologetics mole, “Digger Doug”, Bible games, Nerf Wars, a historically accurate reproduction of the tabernacle, youth singings, and speakers that are passionate and interesting will make your kids beg to come back again and again. But that’s not the best thing about PTP, for me.

Four hundred women committing to a deep Bible study on the topic of “sanctification” for the next year was definitely a highlight for me. I cannot wait to see the fruits of this study. Be sure to check out the podcast on www.thecolleyhouse.org this Tuesday night at 7:00 CST for details. Lots of personal studies are currently occurring as a result of last year’s Digging Deep study. Pray about these. Enroll in the study you can read about on Monday’s blog post.This is over-the-top exciting for me, but not the best thing about PTP.

The speakers. Being blessed to hear Alan Highers on doctrinal issues or B.J. Clarke on the Passover Lamb or Eric Lyons talking to teens on the age of the earth or Tom Holland talking to 2000 people about heaven is just about as close as you get to the actual place. The messages are just about the very best parts of PTP.

Resolve. That’s got to be just about the best thing about PTP. I have seen teens turn the corner from selfishness to caring at PTP. I have seen parents learn the secrets of discipline that very well may make the difference in eternity for their children. I have seen men take home the key to successfully overcoming pornography and I have seen mothers understand for the first time what it means to be a keeper at home and then leave determined to fulfill that sacred charge. I have seen couples on the fast track to divorce resolve to make a sanctified home for the Lord. And years later, I am witnessing the fruits of these changes that began at a PTP counseling session or in a class tailored for folks in their situations. That is one of the very best things about PTP.

But for Glenn and me, selfishly, the very best thing about PTP is the Clarkes, the Sippers, the Andersons, the Benavideses, the Thompsons, James Weaver, the Owens and ourselves. These are OUR families. They are the ones in our congregation. They are the ones who worship with our family at West Huntsville who were feasting at the spiritual table. They are the ones who are coming home with the renewed zeal, the fresh ideas, the determined fortitude, the increased knowledge. They are the ones who will be using the resources for the kingdom in Huntsville, Alabama. For Glenn and Cindy Colley, in a spiritually selfish (is that an oxymoron?) way, we are most thankful for and blessed by God’s Providence in bringing these precious souls to PTP. Among these families, there are 22 children (three sets of twins, no less…I think that’s a record for one church at PTP). Just start thinking about the children of these children who will one day benefit from their coming and you begin to see the potential for our family at West Huntsville. We are just so rich at the gracious hand of our powerful God! Our church will be strengthened, our outreach magnified, our children’s classes enriched, our families fortified, and (Praise God!) our evangelism empowered as a result of these eight families having attended. I hope we can have sixteen families in 2013. We love every family at West Huntsville and would love for every family to get to enjoy and grow from this feast.

If you’ve never been, may I challenge you to put it on your calendar for 2013? It will be well worth a couple of school and work days missed. It could be financially feasible if you start that little savings account for PTP now. If you are really wanting to go and simply are unable to swing it all by yourself financially, check out the website at www.polishingthepulpit.com. If you are an elder’s wife, the idea of an eldership helping a family go to PTP may be something you can “help” your husband think about. Whatever the contribution you can make to your congregation’s participation, you will be blessed. I can hardly see how eight families can attend without ultimate enrollment additions in the Lamb’s Book of Life. For the Colleys, that’s the best thing about PTP.

Tips for Growing Closer as Sisters

  1. Bake 24 cupcakes to take to Wednesday night services. Put them in separate baggies and attach a Bible verse that contains the word sweet. Then have your kids pass them out to the widows, single moms and/or lonely sisters. If you don’t have kids, do it with another sister.
  2. Purchase a poster board and write a cheery message in large letters to a sister who is sick at home, hospitalized or in the nursing home. Then bring the poster to worship with you and have all the sisters sign their names and little cheer notes. Then take a sister along to visit and hang the poster for your convalescing sister.
  3. Find an elderly sister who needs a cheer-visit. Then go find a young sister who would be happy to get her toddler out from under foot for an hour. Take the toddler to visit the elderly sister. Bring along a little gift for the toddler to give the older woman.
  4. Go to the thrift store and buy three pretty plates. Wash them and fill them with homemade muffins, cookies or candy. Then bring them to services to three college-aged sisters. Attach a note that says, “Please recycle this plate…bake a roll of Nestle’s Toll House, refill the plate and bring it back to pass along to an aged sister.” You can even give the college student the cookie dough when you give her the plate, if you want.
  5. Bake sourdough bread. Find recipe and instructions at TheColleyHouse. You can bake it all up if you want and not worry about keeping it going. Bring your foil-wrapped, ribbon tied loaves to worship with you and just randomly pass them out to sisters who look like they’ve had a rough day or morning. (You don’t have to tell them they look rough!)
  6. Bring six stamped, addressed notes to worship. Leave the cards inside blank and have them pre-addressed to an unfaithful sister. Pass out the cards to six sisters at worship and have them write a Gal.6:1 kind of note to encourage the erring sister and mail from home. Choose stationery for all six cards of different shapes, sizes and designs.
  7. Make a bulletin board that highlights ladies activities. Just get permission from your elders and go at it. Try to include happy photos and lots of joy!
  8. Take note of the good things that are being done by your ministers’ wives and your elders’ wives, church secretary or “janitoress.” You might want to do your children’s Bible class teachers, instead.  Have your children go and give them a sweet coffee mug with a bag of tea and a note that says. “You deserve a break for tea! Thanks for all you do!” Tie a ribbon on the handle of the mug! If you don’t have children, go at this yourself.
  9. For Halloween, instead of trick or treating the whole evening, set aside a time to let your kids take fruit treats to elderly sisters. Let them wear their cute costumes to give instead of just taking! This is a great thing for college sisters to pair up and do with the kids of the congregation.
  10. Have a “sister sing” at somebody’s house. Record the singing. This is usually some of the prettiest a cappella music you will hear. Then listen to your sisters praise God together when you are riding in your car.