Pumpkin Pie Bars

Here’s a new recipe I created since it was my turn to bring treats for our Sunday school class last week. The entire pan was eaten, and several people asked me for the recipe, so here it is:

Pumpkin Pie Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

Pumpkin Pie Bars
(Makes 40 medium-small servings)

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

In a mixer, add:
1 yellow cake mix (any regular size; I used Duncan Hines, but suit yourself)
2 eggs
1 twelve-ounce can evaporated milk
1 fifteen-ounce can pureed pumpkin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon allspice

Spread evenly onto a large cookie sheet pan (mine is 17″ by 11″) and bake at 350°F. for 20 minutes (or until the cake springs back when touched lightly).

Cool and frost with:

Frosted Pumpkin Pie Bars

Cream Cheese Frosting

In a large mixer, add:
8 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup softened butter
8 oz. softened cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla
5/8 cup milk

Beat until smooth. Spoon gently into middle of the pan and spread from the middle out toward the edges, making sure not to lift your spatula so that it lifts the frosting off the cake.

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations” (Psalm 100).

Savory Beef Stew

One of the true comfort foods on chilly nights is a good, hearty stew, and I think our family’s favorite it probably beef stew. Most everybody makes it, but just in case you haven’t “discovered” this tasty dish yet, here’s our family recipe:

Savory Beef Stew

In a large skillet, saute together until tender (about 5-7 minutes):
1 small onion
3 small potatoes cubed
1/2 cup carrots, chopped
2 tablespoons butter (or other oil)
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
1 teaspoon Montreal Steak seasoning
1/2 teaspoon Lawry’s Seasoning salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

When the root veggies are tender, add:
4 oz mushrooms chopped (about 1 chop)
1/2 red pepper
, chopped, and continue frying until tender (about 4 minutes)

Finally, add:
8-12 oz. cubed steak
1/4 cup flour
1 cup milk
1 cup water
1/2 cup peas

Simmer covered until heated through and the flour thickens (about 5-10 minutes). Stir occasionally to keep the bottom from sticking.

Savory Beef Stew Simmering on the Stove

If you need to wait long before serving it, turn off the heat and keep it covered, but reheat at the last minute, and you may want to add a little more water to keep the consistency from becoming too thick. Salt to taste!

Serve with fresh bread or rolls and fruit.

These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season.”
(Psalm 104:27)


Chand Baori and the Stepwells of India

Ever hear of Chand Baori? It’s in Abhaneri, which is near Bandikui, Rajasthan. Does that help? I didn’t think so! Ever hear of stepwells? If you have, you’re a step well ahead of me! 🙂 (Was that a groan I heard?)

Plaque Explaining Some Details of the Chand Baori Stepwell

Before we visited Chand Baori in India, I didn’t have a clue what stepwells are, and I was unfamiliar with any of the names above!

Chand Baori Stepwell Surrounding and Protecting a Pond

However, just because I haven’t heard of something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, or that it’s insignificant! In fact, the word “stepwell” isn’t even in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary (considered the “gold standard” for many American publishers), but thankfully, it’s in Wikipedia, which explains that stepwells are ponds or wells dug deep into the earth and surrounded by series of steps that descend to the bottom. Stepwells are the brainchild of India and developed as early as the 8th-9th century AD.

Dozens of recessed rooms provide shade from the intense summer heat
at Chand Baori Stepwell

The utilitarian purpose was to provide a water supply even during the hot months of summer drought, although many of the remaining stepwells had shaded rooms that were also a bit cooler, where women (particularly royalty) could rest and socialize.

Harshat Mata Temple Adjacent to Chand Baori Stepwell

Because water is so essential to life, many of the stepwells also provided adjacent temples, where people could worship various gods and thank them for providing water. Over the centuries, some of the more prominent stepwells were elaborately ornamented, and now they are considered national monuments.

Alan and I visited Chand Baori, which is one of the largest, deepest, and most stunning stepwells in India. It has a beautifully symmetrical system of staircases running down 13 stories to about 100 ft. below ground. In all, there are 3,500 stone steps. Chand Baori is truly a work of art and beauty!

Tour guide explaining the significance of various pieces of artwork at Chand Baori

Today Chand Baori also houses various archeological treasures, so it’s a living historical museum as well!

Closeup of the pond at the bottom of the Chand Baori Stepwell

It all looked so beautiful, except the gorgeous green pond was covered with a thick layer of algae and had all sorts of debris floating in it.

I said to myself, “Well, of course they don’t use the water from stepwells any more!”

But, I was mistaken!

Just a few days later, I observed a man collecting water from a stepwell in Durbar Square, Kathmandu, Nepal.

He patiently cleared a space in the algae before gathering his water, but I wasn’t convinced that the water would be very clean, even so!

Since returning home, I’ve thought often about stepwells . . . the fact that I’d never heard of them, but they do exist.

The fact that they are still being used today, even though they probably aren’t very sanitary. How do people survive?

I know everybody thinks their way of doing things is best, and that their gods are the best, but I want to offer Jesus as an alternative to the millions of fearsome gods that are worshiped in India. If you live in India, you may never have heard about Jesus before, but just like I didn’t know about stepwells—and even if Jesus isn’t in your list of gods—that does not mean that Jesus doesn’t exist! Jesus is the “God of gods and a Lord of kings” (Daniel 2:47)—everything wonderful wrapped up in one God— and he offers spiritual water that is pure and holy. He is the Lord, “the fountain of living waters” (see Jeremiah 17:13 and Revelation 7:17) who can quench our spiritual thirst: “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38).

Tourists and Worshipers Visiting Harshat Mata Temple,
dedicated to the goddess of Joy and Happiness

He is also the author of true joy and happiness: “And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).

Chand Baori Stepwell in Abanderi, India

Can you imagine the joy of worshiping the one true God, who is a Spirit and calls for all of us to worship him in spirit and in truth? (John 4:24). This God can provide spiritual water for your soul that will spring up into eternal life. He can protect you from evil. He loves you with an everlasting love and gave Himself so that you can become One with him. His name is Jesus, and He is “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Revelation 19:6).

Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God,
and there is none else” (Isaiah 45:22).

Glorious Super Hero Muffins (Gluten-Free but Super Cool!)

Would you like a recipe for super yummy, super healthy muffins . . .so good that even if you don’t need to be gluten-free you’ll still enjoy them?

Recently my Chicago kids visited, and Linda helped her oldest (aged 7) make us “Super Hero Muffins,” which were so moist and delicious that it was hard to believe they could also be good for you, but I think they are! 🙂 Want to know how? Here is Linda’s recipe (inspired by but considerably changed from what she could find online):

Super Hero Muffins
(Makes one dozen)

Start by preheating your oven to 350°F. and then grate:
1 cup± carrots (about 2 medium carrots; you can give or take a little on the one cup)
1 cup± zucchini (about one large zucchini)

Place in a large mixing bowl, and then add:
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 tablespoons melted butter (can replace with 3/4 cup coconut oil if you want your muffins to be dairy-free as well)
1/2 cup sugar (can also use maple syrup if you want)
2 cups almond meal (if you don’t need to be gluten free, you can use regular flour)
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (use gluten-free if sensitive)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup dark chocolate chips (or 1/2 cup raisins or currants if you prefer)
Optional:
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (or other favorite nuts)
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Mix in the blender just enough to make sure all the ingredients are well mixed, then scoop out and divide the mix evenly into twelve cupcake liners in a baking tin.

Colorful and flavorful “Super Hero” Muffins!

Bake at 350°F. for about 30 minutes±, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

A Plate of Warm Super Hero Muffins!

Enjoy for breakfast, lunch, tea time, dinner, or midnight snack . . . anytime you need to be a super hero!! 🙂

Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord.” (Psalm 31:24)

Until Forever

“Live Until You Die!”

That’s the message of this incredibly inspiring true love story called Until Forever (2016 version), which is based on the lives of Michael and Michelle Boyum and their enduring love as teenagers and young adults dealing with Michael’s diagnosis of leukemia.

If I didn’t know someone with a similarly buoyant spirit, it would be hard to imagine anybody as sweet, faith-filled, and steady as this young man, but in reality, I know Tom F., who has also been through the wringer with leukemia and is every bit as kind and outreaching, so I know a few of these treasures exist!

Like my friend Tom, Michael always had the needs of others at the forefront of his thinking, and even during his hospital stays, he was busy reaching out to others with encouragement and the love of Jesus!

Jamie Anderson as Matt Boyum

Until Forever doesn’t shy away from the painful realities of how a cancer diagnosis effects everyone who loves the patient. In Michael’s case, his younger brother was severely effected,

Joel Jacobsen as Ben

as were many friends from his church family. (I loved the inclusion of this sweet young man!)

Madison Lawlor as Michelle Larson

Equally miraculous to Michael’s radiant spirit was the response of Michael’s girlfriend, Michelle, who refused to give up and stood by his side despite all the pain, insecurities, and sufferings that Michael endured. (Tom’s wife, Lynnie, is actually just as beautiful and wonderful as Michelle is, as depicted in the movie, so I have no trouble believing such devotion and faith exist!)

Here is a photo of the “real” Michael and Michelle (shown in the final credits of the movie). I truly believe only God can produce a love like theirs!

Well, I don’t want to ruin the story by telling you everything, but it’s one of the most moving movies I’ve seen in a long time, full of faith in the midst of fear

and triumph in the midst of tragedy.

If you are struggling with fear and tragedy, please take the time to watch this movie! It is possible to experience hope and peace in the midst of any illness.

For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4).

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:1-5, ESV).

unPlanned

Two days ago I had the pleasure of an unplanned visit with the gaffer for the newly released movie, Unplanned. (John is my son Dan’s brother-in-law.) Have you seen it?

It’s the gripping true story of the experience of Abby Johnson, who personally had two abortions and then became an activist for Planned Parenthood . . . until she actually witnessed an abortion. Until. What about you? Do you have any opinion about whether or not abortion is a reasonably good option for ending an unwanted pregnancy? If you think abortion might be the best and easiest option, please PLEASE watch Unplanned.

It’s rated R, probably for blood visuals related to some abortion problems, but I think it is valuable for anyone who is exposed to sexual contact . . . or for sure by high school age. Does it make sense that any girl—who is under 18 can have sex, get pregnant, and have an abortion without parental consent—should be restricted from seeing a movie that discusses the issues surrounding abortion? I’d say “NO!”

I grew up in a liberal home and didn’t blink an eye at over the issue. I figured that if anybody ever raped me, I’d have an abortion. However, my husband, Alan (who was usually more liberal than I was on “political issues”), said he thought it was wrong and that if I was ever raped and impregnated, he would prefer that I kept the baby rather than getting an abortion. I was totally shocked, but it also made me rethink my position. During medical school, as part of his training, Alan observed an abortion. His response was similar to that of Abby Johnson’s. He was horrified and sickened. He never wanted to be witness to an abortion again, and he felt that he had watched the undeniable killing of a helpless infant that resisted with all its tiny being having its life snuffed out.

After Alan began practice, he discovered that he had patients who even into their eighties were still haunted by their experience of having aborted a baby early in life. The regret and shame seemed never ending. He has been a strong proponent for being pro-life ever since, and so am I.

But, what about the millions of women who have aborted babies? Is there no relief for them from having an aching heart and a bad conscience?

Yes! There is no sin outside the grace of God, nor are any of us without sin, we just sin in different ways. In fact, the Bible is clear that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). That’s why Jesus died: to provide a way to be forgiven for our sins: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16-17, ESV).

If you have had an abortion, are considering having an abortion, or know someone who is struggling with abortion issues, please consider watching Unplanned. It will make you sad, but it also offers hope and healing! God is here, and He loves us!

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11 ESV). “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand” (Proverbs 19:21 ESV).

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

“At least I can’t die young anymore! Guess I can scratch that off my bucket list,” Brian grinned just before blowing out the candles on his birthday cake. Not that he really had dying young ON his bucket list, but he IS the oldest known survivor of his type of treatment for his particular type of cancer, which he was diagnosed with when he was only 27. (Very scary to me personally, because my youngest son was 27 yesterday.)

Brian never dreamed he’d make it to his 60th birthday (and frankly, I wasn’t so sure either), so it was with a sense of grateful joy and awe that our Birthday Club treated Brian to a very special birthday party yesterday!

Where to take him? That was easy! The day before he was born, his mother and father were at the John Ball Zoo, and his mom started having contractions, so Brian says he was “almost born at the zoo!”

Brian only visited the zoo once in his life, on his 10th birthday, and he remembered being fascinated by the antics of the otters. Since he hasn’t been back in 50 years, he thought visiting the zoo would be the perfect way to spend his day!

Of course, we wanted to see everything (and pretty much did), but—you know—like everybody, we wanted to make sure we saw “the lions,

the (sleeping? oh, no!) tigers
and (SLEEPING!! 😦 ) bears. Oh, no!”

But, there was no shortage of excitement and fun, including a few “firsts” for Brian, such as petting a goat

and taking a ride on a funicular. (Not sure they were on his bucket list as such, but he thoroughly enjoyed the new experiences!)

We also made a new friend: Herbie! Herbie is 34 and one of the oldest Magellanic penguins in captivity in the world. Herbie’s fur is almost all grey, and he seemed content to swim on the surface, but he was still swimming! It was a little hard not to miss some of the similarities between our new and old friends. Very touching.

Oh, but I wanted to tell you about how teamwork makes the dream work! In this photo, you see Susan in a wheel chair! She turned her ankle helping one of her daughters the day before our outing. Thankfully, her beloved husband took a day off work to help us get the dream team around!

An aphorism of their son-in-law, Seth’s (so we call it a Sethism), is that “teamwork makes the dream work.” I don’t know who said it first, so if you know, please let us know, but . . .isn’t this a clever truism?

And, isn’t God good!? Brian was never able to marry or have a family. His father died several years ago, and his mother passed away 23 weeks ago to the day. But, he has us. He has a family of brothers and sisters in Christ to love him and appreciate him. Brian is a real prayer warrior! He can’t travel much, but he never misses a prayer meeting via telephone for the church on Sunday morning, and he’s never missed a single Monday night prayer meeting for my son Jonathan’s ministry.

He’s knitted booties for all our grand kids, always smiles, and always says it’s too early to start complaining (although he could well have started 33 years ago).

I hope his story brightens your day. It certainly brightened ours!

God setteth the solitary in families: he bringeth out those which are bound with chains: but the rebellious dwell in a dry land” (Psalm 68:6).