It’s The Ending That Counts


So the next generation would know, and all the generations to come—
Know the truth and tell the stories, so their children can trust in God

Psalm 78:6-7

Did you know there’s a book named after you?

It’s kind of a hoot, isn’t it, to imagine the pastor starting his sermon with “Please turn to the book of Jennifer and let’s look at chapter 3, verse 5″.

Or “Today brothers and sisters we’ll, be reading from the Book of Jim Bob.”

But still.

Your story, rife with fault or full of faith, will live on forever in the hearts and souls of your children, your grandchildren and countless others who learn the ins and outs of how you’ve navigated this earthly journey.

And quite frankly, your little story, as opposed to the more familiar ones of Noah, Saul or Moses, may more likely be the one that guides someone else to discover the treasures in the divinely inspired stories of the Bible. Just imagine a group of 6 yr. olds in Sunday School hearing not about the story of Ruth, but the story of Rhonda.

Or Bob, Kevin, or MaryJo.

And while admittedly, I’m taking a bit of creative license here, let’s go ahead and glance at our legacy in just that way.

Will yours be one of drama, intrigue and betrayal like Saul and David? Or more of a suspenseful thriller like Rahab’s? Will your tale be full of sibling rivalry, romance and deception like Joseph’s, or more of a strong female lead production like Deborah’s?

Whether yours includes colossal failure, frequent relapses, or is just chock full of mess-ups, make no mistake- your story matters.

Despite the flawed characters, the plot twists or the years you’d rather erase, nothing about your story will ever dilute the beauty of the gospel if it ends with Jesus.

May all our stories end with Him.

Lu

Chili Lime Pork with Corn Salad

Sometimes making dinner is hard.

I’ll just throw this out there – sometimes I decide what to cook based almost solely on the number of dishes/utensils/cutting boards/etc that I will have to clean up when it’s all over.

There. I said it.

Never mind what my people want to eat, sometimes my tired self just thinks: “But will it make a mess??”

Someone tell me I’m not alone.

Last night I pulled out this recipe (originally from a Pampered Chef cookbook) for Chili Lime Pork, and while it looks and tastes great, the greatest blessing from above is that clean-up is a breeze- all done in one pan.

All the praise hands.

Try it if you, like me, have ever considered feigning an illness when it’s time to do the dishes.

The truth shall set you free.

Lu

Chili Lime Pork with Corn Salad

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 4   boneless pork chops
  • 1 tbsp plus 2 tsp Chili Lime seasoning, divided
  • 2   ears corn, husks removed
  • 1 medium red bell pepper
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1 cup  grape tomatoes
  • 2   garlic cloves
  • ½ cup  queso fresco, crumbled (see cook’s tip)
  • ½ cup  fresh cilantro leaves

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat for 6 minutes.
  2. Season the pork with 1 tbsp of the rub. Remove the kernels from the cob. Chop the pepper and onion in a medium dice.
  3. Place the pork in the skillet. Sear the pork, undisturbed, for 4 minutes. Flip and cook for about 4–6 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 140°F (60°C) for medium doneness. Remove the pork from the skillet.
  4. Add the corn and cook, undisturbed, for 4 minutes.
  5. Slice the zucchini into half-moons with the and halve the tomatoes with the.
  6. Add the onion and bell pepper to the skillet and cook 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. Add the zucchini and finely diced garlic to the skillet; cook for an additional 2 minutes.
  8. Remove the skillet from the heat. Stir in the remaining rub, tomatoes, queso fresco, and chopped cilantro. Serve with the pork chops.

On Waiting

Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.   James 4:14

We spend a lot of time waiting.

Waiting on babies to be born and Amazon packages to be delivered. We wait for lab results and we wait in line at the grocery store. We wait to get in some places and to get out of others. We wait at traffic lights, at sporting events, and we wait on hold… a lot.

We wait for colder weather to arrive and for our hair to grow out from a bad cut. We wait for our kids to be potty-trained, then for them to get a job. We wait for Pumpkin Spice whatever to come out at Starbucks and we wait for the election to finally be over.

Much of our waiting is necessary and simply a consequence of being human and wanting and needing the same things that a bunch of other humans want or need at the same time.

But wait a minute. 😉

What about all our self-imposed waiting? The waiting that we choose?

The waiting until we get our swimsuit body to hop in the pool? The waiting until we get a bigger, nicer house to invite friends over for dinner. We leave our good dishes in the hutch, waiting until we have “people” over while we serve our families on paper plates. We wait to remodel our homes until we’re ready to sell them, and we turn down that dinner invitation from the new people at church because we’re waiting for someone “more like us” to become friends with.

We wait until we’re older, until the kids have graduated, until we have more money or a better house, then we wait until we retire.

So much waiting.

And day by day and moment by moment in all the waiting, our earthly stories are still be written. The stories that for some of us are deep into the storyline and maybe even close to the conclusion. Entire chapters hollow with nothing but waiting.

And while we’ll always wait on the UPS guy or for our self-cut bangs to grow out, let’s fill the chapters we can with living and doing and loving and celebrating!

Let’s feed our family hotdogs on the best china we have and rip out that gray carpet in the master bathroom so we can relish the feel of new tile on our bare feet instead of saving that pleasure for the buyers. Let’s squeeze our permanently non-summer bodies into the cutest swimsuit we can find and challenge the grandkids to a race across the pool. Let’s invite the neighbors over and entertain them on the patio furniture we’ve had for 27 years and laugh about the two cushions that the dog chewed up.

We have but one opportunity to co-author our earthly story- let’s give it all we’ve got.

Yours might just be a real page-turner.

Happy Food

I’ll say up front that I was never a huge fan of cherry flavor. Perhaps it’s because I never tasted fresh cherries growing up, and for most of my life I associated the taste with the cloying smell of cherry flavored Kool-Aid that seemed to be the drink of choice at every kid birthday party, Vacation Bible School, and school lunch thermos bottle.

Eewwww.

Granted I also put potato chips and Cheetos on my ham sandwiches and liked twinkies a lot, so you probably wouldn’t have called my palate particularly sophisticated at the time.

Anyway, things change (twinkies excluded according to research) and I became a fan of fresh cherries and can even appreciate the value of strategically used canned Cherry Pie Filling.

Please don’t alert the Hip Foodie Police.

These Cherry Pie bars are just the thing to brighten up any rather gloomy day- no mixes involved, just simple pound cake-type ingredients and a super fast and easy preparation.

And to top it off they taste great!

Cherry Pie Bars

(From Rustic Joyful Food)

Ingredients

(Makes one 9-by 13-inch pan -about 18 servings)

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

2 cups granulated sugar

4 large eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

One 21-ounce can cherry pie filling

Confectioners’ sugar, for glazing (optional; see note)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9-by-13-inch pan with parchment paper.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until just combined. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt, and mix to combine. Spread a little over half the cake batter into the pan. Evenly spread the cherries over top, then spoon the rest of the cake batter over the cherries. (It’s fine if the cherries show through.)

3. Bake until the top has turned slightly golden, 30 to 35 minutes. (Do not overbake.) Cool before slicing into squares.

Chop Chop Slaw

Do you ever need something green super fast to round out a decidedly not-green meal? This slaw requires no other skills but chopping and a keen eye for what to pull out of the fridge to go in it!

We were having a quick lunch of Trader Joe’s Potstickers (oh my goodness, so good) and I was looking for a quick side.

I dug deep in the produce drawer and found bok choy, celery, carrots, cauliflower and broccoli- chopped them all fairly small and poured on some of this versatile stuff!

It’s just the perfect topping for so many things (hello lettuce wraps!) and it worked so well as a dressing for this easy slaw. Just a bit sweet, a bit tangy, and totally perfect.

I added a few sesame sticks (also a Trader Joe fav) and that was that!

Rustic (Ha!) Apple Tart

Have you ever just needed a dessert? Really needed it?

Me too.

And yesterday I needed this Rustic Apple Tart.

You do know, don’t you, that anytime your desserts come out looking less than perfect, you just put “Rustic” in front of the name and you’re covered.

Just like when you run to the store hoping not to see anyone and you’re wearing something that really needed to stay home, you’re automatically, (and quite fashionably!) dressed in your “Boho” style.

It’s a thing, really.

Here’s how to make this SUPER simple and really delicious tart:

Rustic Apple Tart

Ingredients

1 frozen puff pastry sheet

1 Really Huge Honeycrisp Apple (or 2 small) (or substitute your favorite cooking apple)

2 T. flour

6T. Butter

3/4 cup brown sugar

pinch of salt

About 1/3 cup orange juice (I used the juice from 1/2 very large and juicy Mandarin)

Cinnamon

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400.

Remove the puff pastry sheet from the freezer and when slightly thawed, unfold it onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Roll the pastry out just a bit to thin it.

Peel and slice the apple and toss the sliced with the flour to coat. Arrange the apples on the pastry (be creative!) and then fold the edges of the pastry up about an inch all around.

In a small saucepan melt the butter on medium heat, then add the brown sugar and cook for about 5 minutes til thickened and a little bubbly. I suggest you stir frequently. Remove from heat and stir in the OJ and salt, then cook about 1-2 more minutes. Remember, stir! You want all the sugar crystals to disappear. Using a pastry brush (or a spoon) brush the crust with some of the syrup, then pour the remainder over the apples to coat. Sprinkle with cinnamon and a little coarse sugar for pizazz!

Bake at 400 for about 20-25 minutes or until crust is browned and puffed.

Serve, naturally, with Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla.

Enjoy!

The Wild Bunch

God made us for community.

In Galatians 6:2 we are encouraged to “carry each other’s burdens”, and Romans 12:15 tells us to “rejoice and mourn with each other”.

We are to “meet each other’s practical needs” (Romans 12:13 and Hebrews 13:16)  and in Acts 2:42-47 the writer, Luke, urges us to “spur one another on and meet together”.

Clearly, we are better together.

The crudely painted Wild Bunch sign now hangs proudly above the kitchen table at the farm.  Rescued from a box of junk, it’s a wonder it didn’t disappear with the trash when we cleaned out my parents’ home after Mom died in 2014.

My Mom and Daddy, along with 5 other couples, comprised The Wild Bunch. This sign, handmade by my Mom, was a marker of sorts- displayed at one of their get-togethers in a park. Mom didn’t want the other Wild Bunch members to waste any time milling about other areas of the park looking for the group – after all there were hot casseroles to set out, sweet tea to pour, and old friends to enjoy.

The group existed for a good 25 years or more, brought together by age, retirement, church membership, or neighborhood. They met about once a month for dinner, mostly at one of their homes, but occasionally they’d venture out to a restaurant- usually Dairy Queen, because let’s face it, dining choices are limited in a small town. And Daddy loved a soft-serve cone.

I’ve never known exactly how the name came about, but the only thing really Wild about this bunch was that it was happily comprised of an equal number of Baptists and Methodists. There was no drinking, no cussing, no staying out late. The men wore high-waisted khakis and short-sleeved dress shirts, while the women favored double-knit pantsuits.

For goodness sake, the Methodist minister and his wife were members.

The Wild Bunch was community. They were there for each other in good times and bad. Whether it be financial woes, illness, or death- The WB always showed up.

Sometimes, just at the wrong time.

One afternoon my Mom was working in the front flower bed when a familiar car raced down her street and screeched to an abrupt halt in her driveway. She was a little surprised to see how quickly Mr. and Mrs. WB jumped out of their car and ran to where she was working. She was equally surprised to see that Mr. WB was carrying a store-bought pie.

Typically, the Wild Bunch didn’t run.

And typically, people wouldn’t show up at Mom’s (who was the best baker in town) with a store-bought pie.

It’s just not something one would do.

Mrs. WB: “Sarah, what on earth are you doing out here?”

Mom: “Well, I’m working in the flower bed.”

(Odd, somewhat sad, glances between Mr. and Mrs.)

Mrs. WB: “Now Sarah, do you think this is the right time for that?”

Mom: “Well, Alton (my Daddy) is certainly not going to do it.”

(Gasps from both Mr. and Mrs.)

A long, weird silence…

Mr. WB: “Sarah, where is Alton?”

Mom: “He’s inside in the bed.”

(More gasps, and then slowly, some realization…)

Mr. WB: “Sarah, is Alton OK?”

Mom: “Well yes, he’s OK, just kind of lazy.”

At this point they collectively began to put two and two together.

And get something akin to four.

A poor telephone connection, a faulty hearing-aid, and a lot of people in town with the last name of Sims, had led Mr. and Mrs. WB to believe that my Daddy had gone to his reward in heaven earlier that morning. He was, in fact, just inside in the air-conditioning, taking his daily nap with the Groesbeck Journal open across his face.

It turns out they showed up about 15 years early.

But they showed.

And while Mom was appropriately appreciative of the gesture, she was also fine with the fact that Mr. WB took his store-bought pie back home.

“After all,” Mr. WildBunch said as he shuffled back to his car with the pie, “Alton’s just taking a nap.”

If you’ve found your people, cherish them.

If not, don’t stop looking.

We all need a Wild Bunch.

Are you Savory or Sweet?

I’d like to say I’m a salad girl or that I’d choose a bowl of yogurt and berries every time over a gooey pastry in the morning. I’d like to say that I crave veggies and lean protein and fruit – and honestly sometimes I do.

But the truth is, I’m not a salad girl. And while I can’t imagine enjoying a leisurely breakfast at our favorite hotel in Santa Fe without a bowl of yogurt and berries, it’s not what I typically want when I wake up here at home. It’s just a tradition in Santa Fe, and the crisp, cool, air along with all the adventure and fun in store for us that day just makes it taste different in Santa Fe than it does anywhere else.

Food is important, and the way food makes us feel is important. And while I understand and acknowledge that there are those for whom food is much more complicated because of obesity or other food-related issues, for the most part the way we feel about the food we eat makes a big difference in how we live our lives

My favorite breakfasts include both a savory and sweet element. For me, nothing will ever top bacon, salty, crisp and hot. But to add some soft-scrambled eggs and a sweet muffin or pastry?

Perfection.

These French Breakfast Puffs are my all time number one muffin, and just the anticipation (I know, it will be a while) of cooler weather made me start craving these last night.

I was first given the recipe when I was in college (so eons ago) and have made them ever since. When my boys were little I called them Cinnamon Muffins for fear the French part would make them run screaming. Now I could call them anything and they would get gobbled up in seconds. The key is the freshly grated nutmeg.

And the love.

French Breakfast Puffs

Ingredients

3 c. Flour

3 tsp. Baking Powder

1 tsp. Salt

1/2 tsp. Ground Nutmeg (freshly ground is best)

1 c. Sugar

2/3 c. Shortening (Crisco)- don’t try to substitute oil or butter, trust me, I know.

2 whole Eggs

1 c. Milk

1 1/2 c. Sugar

2 tsp. Cinnamon

2 sticks Butter

Directions

In a large bowl stir together flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Set aside.

In a different bowl, cream together 1 cup sugar and shortening. Then add eggs and mix again. Add flour mixture and milk alternately to creamed mixture, beating well after each addition.

Fill prepared muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden.

In a bowl, melt 2 sticks butter. In a separate bowl combine remaining sugar and cinnamon. Dip baked muffins in butter, coating thoroughly, then coat with cinnamon-sugar mixture.


Ask Again

David went in prayer to God: “Should I go after these Philistines and teach them a lesson?”

God said, “Go. Attack the Philistines and save Keilah.”

But David’s men said, “We live in fear of our lives right here in Judah. How can you think of going to Keilah in the thick of the Philistines?”

So David went back to God in prayer. God said, “Get going. Head for Keilah. I’m placing the Philistines in your hands.”

5-6 David and his men went to Keilah and fought the Philistines. He scattered their cattle, beat them decisively, and saved the people of Keilah. 

It was a typical summer day at the farm. It was HOT (not to belabor the point, but it was 104 degrees) and there was work.

There is always work.

Jim Thomas (for those of you who don’t know- I call my husband by both his first and last names always- granted you may consider this weird, and I support you in those feelings) anyhow…Jim Thomas was in the very large bright orange Kubota tractor and I was behind the tractor using very professional-type hand motions to help him back the auger directly over the orange spray-painted dot marking where we wanted to dig the next fence post hole.

I should probably say that if you don’t know what an auger is 1) we likely could never be friends (I kid!) and 2) google it.

This is not the hand-held auger that you can rent, or the old manual two-handled post hole digger (also known as “hardest work ever”) that I grew up with- this is the big behemoth that you attach to the back of the tractor with much groaning, bleeding, and the occasional use of words that Jesus does not much appreciate.

The ground at the farm is equal parts rock, red clay and frustration. It basically takes a miracle each time a hole is actually completed without something breaking or someone threatening to sell the farm THAT VERY DAY.

Anyway, as work on the farm always goes, there was a problem. Some latch thingie that somehow holds the auger onto the PTO thingie (don’t get overwhelmed with my techno talk) broke off and the auger was completely stuck down in the ground, the PTO was in a bind (if there’s anything I’ve learned about farm/ranch equipment it’s that something is always and forever in a bind) and nothing would budge.

So.

You stare at it. You walk around it a few times. You cuss it.

These are the necessary first steps.

I mouthed/motioned to Jim Thomas to ask (did I mention that the tractor is air-conditioned? I don’t think I did- the tractor is air-conditioned…) if I could try to shove the auger over a little to the right to release the bind.

He mouthed back “yes”.

Or so I thought.

When I reached for the auger to push on it, Jim Thomas BOUNDED out of that tractor like a tri-athlete, his muscle-y (sorry) arms flailing wildly like one of those wacky inflatable advertising guys while his wild eyes practically rolled back in his head. All the while he was shouting a jumble of mostly unintelligible words, but I could decipher a lot of NO’s and NEVER’s.

And also DON’T.

What’s the point, you say?

I probably should have double-checked.

In Samuel 23, David asked God twice if he should take his men and attack the Philistines. God responded yes the first time, but David’s men were so afraid that David decided to go back to ask God again. And again God said yes. David wanted to be absolutely sure that he understood and that he was doing the right thing.

God wasn’t disappointed that he asked a second time for confirmation. He knew that David loved his men and would not want to put them in harm’s way due to any misunderstanding.

Sometimes it can be very clear what God wants us to do, and in those cases we can move forward in confidence, but it’s not always a lack of faith that makes us to go back to God a second time for that confirmation when we need it.

And while it’s probably not particularly accurate to imagine God bounding out of a Kubota, robes flying with the crazy eye, I can certainly imagine some times in my life that He probably tried to get my attention in a similarly frantic way when I should have asked a second time.

And after all the flailing and muttering, Jim Thomas explained how much he loves me and how he would just never get over it if something happened to me. He would be heartbroken.

God loves us. That much.

So David went back to God in prayer. God said, “Get going. Head for Keilah. I’m placing the Philistines in your hands.”

There’s a Man in My Kitchen

It’s interesting, isn’t it, to have people working in your home? Not like people installing a beautiful new brick and wood floor in your living area (sorry, my mind wanders) or the appliance repair guy, but people who actually live in your home, but normally don’t work there. People who, on a more typical day would not have set up a workstation at your kitchen table with all the requisite computers and blueprints and surveys the size of large tablecloths, miscellaneous papers and 10 pairs of reading glasses. People who are typically on their speaker phones in nice large office buildings with other people in the same types of places doing the same kind of things.

But now those people are in my kitchen.

As blessed as I feel and happy as I am that this ‘people’ has a job and is able to keep working through all of this in a safe, frequently Lysol-ed environment, the whole situation does present some unique challenges. And while I certainly don’t have the overwhelming task of crisis-schooling multiple children or the stressful worry of potential job loss, I did realize today that flexibility is key for everyone in these unusual times.

I quickly became aware of how noisy some of my daily tasks are. Washing dishes, doing the laundry, or running the vacuum cleaner all seemed to sound much like a freight train might if it rolled through the the living area and exited through the side door by the garage.

So. When I had a chance this afternoon to bake a little something sweet (but not too terribly sweet), I decided it needed to be something quiet. Something that did not require the banging of too many pans or heaven forbid, running the Kitchenaid. Something that would satisfy our “self-isolating sweet tooth” and yet not be over the top sweet.

These Cinnamon Chip Scones were just the thing to quietly stir together while business went on as usual here at Thomas Land Surveying and Pastry.

You’ve likely had something similar at Starbucks, but I promise these are ever so much better- especially while hot from the oven! You should try them in your own kitchen office.

Cinnamon Chip Scones

(Original recipe from Hershey’s)

Ingredients:

3 ¼ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup granulated sugar

1 T. plus one 1 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 2/3 cup (10 oz. pkg.) Cinnamon Chips

½ chopped, toasted walnuts (I substituted pecans)

2 cup (1 pt.) chilled whipping cream

2 T. melted butter

Additional sugar for sprinkling on top before baking (I used coarse Demarara sugar)

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 375. Lightly grease 2 baking sheets.
  2. Stir together flour, ½ cup granulated sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Add cinnamon chips and nuts and stir well.
  3. Stir whipping cream into flour mixture, stirring until dry ingredients are just moistened.
  4. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead gently until soft dough forms. (just about 1-2 minutes) Divide dough into 3 balls. One ball at a time, flatten dough into circle (about 7 in.) and cut into equal triangles (about 6). Transfer triangles onto a baking sheet and brush with melted butter and sprinkle with additional sugar.
  5. Bake 15-20 minutes, until lightly browned on top.