Friday, March 20, 2020

FREE E-Book!

Life has been a bit crazy and unpredictable lately...hasn't it?

Because God is our constant when life is crazy, I've arranged through my publisher to allow free e-book downloads of Morning Meditations at Marina's Kitchen Table; A Devotional Memoir. The ebook will be available on the Kindle platform from March 20 - March 24, 2020. You can find the link to the book here.

My prayer is that this book will at least be a distraction, but at the most I pray that it draws you closer to Jesus and that you learn more about God who loves you so very much. May your relationship with Him be enriched and strengthened. May you laugh at my mistakes, relate to my sorrows, and get to know me a bit more through the sharing of my testimony. I pray that it's a blessing to you!

Monday, March 16, 2020

Praying Psalm 91 Against COVID19

During the Ebola outbreak, I attended a church who was deeply committed and involved in the Young Life Africa ministry. They were getting hit hard, and one of the core volunteers suggested we pray Psalm 91 for 91 days, praying them through this hard season of illness and inviting God into the situation over and over, while committing our minds and hearts to focus on His Word. 

Let’s do this again! Let’s join together with other believers globally, praying Psalm 91 for 91 days! 

Psalm 91
1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
    will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
    he is my God, and I trust him.
3 For he will rescue you from every trap
    and protect you from deadly disease.
4 He will cover you with his feathers.
    He will shelter you with his wings.
    His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
5 Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
    nor the arrow that flies in the day.
6 Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
    nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
7 Though a thousand fall at your side,
    though ten thousand are dying around you,
    these evils will not touch you.
8 Just open your eyes,
    and see how the wicked are punished.
9 If you make the Lord your refuge,
    if you make the Most High your shelter,
10 no evil will conquer you;
    no plague will come near your home.
11 For he will order his angels
    to protect you wherever you go.
12 They will hold you up with their hands
    so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.
13 You will trample upon lions and cobras;
    you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!
14 The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
    I will protect those who trust in my name.
15 When they call on me, I will answer;
    I will be with them in trouble.
    I will rescue and honor them.
16 I will reward them with a long life
    and give them my salvation.”
Follow along and join us in prayer over on the Facebook page or Instagram, for a new graphic daily! Feel free to share them and encourage others to pray! 

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Not Yet Spring...

It's not quite Meteorological Spring (I've been told it will take place on March 1st) and the rain stopped long enough for us to be able to walk around at the Huntsville Botanical Gardens today. It was overcast and high 50's, which was perfect for me. No puddles, and no mosquitoes, so what else could I ask for?

My husband (the Workaholic in my articles on "The Workaholic's Wife") has been burning the candle at both ends. Project seasons are like that, and he's got to take them on when they come up, so I try not to complain too much. Still, it was really nice to have him awake for a few hours today. He really was the one pushing to get out to the gardens, and I think he sensed my need to get my camera in my hands and use it, no matter what we found there.

So below are a smattering of photos taken today. I love the shapes, colors, fragrances of everything God is pushing up from the ground this time of year. So much of it reminds me of His Resurrection. If Winter is our season of burial, then Spring is the season of renewal. YES Lord Jesus! I hope that you'll enjoy the photos and that they will resurrect your heart a bit today.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Spiritual Winter

This was from a few years ago, but I’m grateful it came up in my memories. Although I’m looking forward to the Spring, there’s still some elements that are happening this Winter. Maybe you need a gentle reminder too? 

I glance at the weather forecast on my phone weather app. I can deal with the threat of icy stuff on Sunday and Monday, because I'm looking ahead past the bad stuff, to the really good stuff at the end of the week! Yay for the 60's and 70's in the forecast!

It's like that in life too... well, normally, but not this year for me. I have used the excuse that this is a new house, a new neighborhood, a new rhythm in life with a new job for my husband... but the truth is, there are some things that are always just the same. 
History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. Ecclesiastes 1:9 NLT

This winter has felt REALLY long. Technically it's been mild in comparison, and only since December, but my soul - and my hands and feet and heart - grew cold when leaves fell and branches grew bare last fall. Even though I've known all along "it's just a season" I've hunkered down in my cocoon and watched the world go by. I've not been living life in my normal winter ways. Being sick didn't help, and I'll be the first to admit that I've not felt good physically... but it's just compounded my need to hibernate.

I'm at odds with myself over seasonal markers and I don't want to plan for spring - it may as well not be coming. I'm having a pity party in the dead of winter instead of looking ahead, or even around, to the obvious signs that spring is coming in ALL areas of life! The evidence is out there, yet I've got a touch of Frozen that blinds me from the truth, despite the weather forecast.

Bulbs are beginning to push green from the barely thawed edges of the yard. Trees are pushing out buds at the end of their bare branches. Birds are getting brighter in their plumage. The sun is rising and setting higher on the horizon, and the light of day lasts just a few minutes longer each day. 
Sometimes winter is just a season to kill the bugs, a necessary part of life.

Sometimes winter comes like chemotherapy, trying to bring me as close to death as possible so only the very best can come back to full life in spring. 

This has been a spiritual chemo winter, and I've had a hard time remembering that it serves a purpose. As much as I've felt alone, I've not been left truly alone, and there is a Great Physician tending to me, watching over me and monitoring me every moment of every day. He knows how much winter I can handle, and places appointments on my barely-there calendar to insure I get the things I need, just in the nick of time; a sunny window here, a life-sustaining hug there, a baby's smile to inject joy into my own laughter-less spirit, all administered by His loving hand.

I haven't wanted to look at the calendar, and the things I would normally look forward to, I've dreaded. I have believed it is just my age setting in, but I see now that it's more a symptom of my seasonal spiritual illness than the terminal physical aging. It's ok for me to not want to drive half-way across the country, but it's not ok for me to think I'll never want to do it again. I will. In the Spring.
How can I remember this? How can I hold on to the Truth of the season of Resurrection instead of choosing to live in the season in the tomb?

For me, I need to surround myself with all the joys of God. Since I spend my days physically alone, I'm reminding myself to invite Him into this place with me. Practically, it means turning off the electronic distractions and worshiping Him in song, in Word. I will pray out loud to keep His nearness real. He IS here, tending to me. He IS alive and aware of my dark moments and my joyful ones.

It also means remembering, obedience is better than sacrifice, but His grace covers all.
I need to believe this not only in MY life, but to put into practice towards others too. I can not keep records of wrong, or intercept where God is working. I need to let them grow in their faith on their own, and let God do His part, with me stepping aside willingly, not helping by telling God where His next great work needs to be.

I have often prayed "Change me. Change them. Change the circumstances." Lately I've realized that I can stop after the first part. Change me. Change me. Change me. If I let Him do that, the outcome will be better, no matter if anyone else is changed, no matter if the circumstances are changed at all. If I am truly changed, it WILL change them, and change whatever comes next, and that will be a breath of fresh air, no matter what season it is on the calendar, or in life.

Friday, February 7, 2020

An Apology

In preparation for whatever God has "next" for me (another book? a booklet? a podcast?) I'm trying to clean up my blog. It's been poorly ignored (well, technically, it's been ignored really well!) and there are things from the beginning that are more like diary entries than blog posts. I'm cleaning things up and throwing things away and taking things off-line and allowing them to sit on the side in a file for a rainy day.

So, I didn't realize it, but as I'm reading things, correcting spelling errors and updating posts and putting them back's sending them back out to y'all. I'm so sorry. Please accept my humble apology. I'll try to find a way I can do the things I need to do without it regenerating emails to you each time.

Blessings to you and have an amazing weekend!


Friday, January 10, 2020

He is Faithful, Guest Post from Roy Lessin, Meeting in the Meadow

This is the post for Meeting in the Meadow today, but it was so timely as I read it in my memories from several years ago, that I felt I would share it here too. 
This post, originally from 2009, came up in my memories. I couldn’t help but think how perfect these words are for 2020 too!

It’s my prayer that as you read them you will be reminded of the assuredness of God’s faithfulness throughout the coming year.

God Is Faithful
-Roy Lessin, Meeting in the Meadow

Often, as the New Year approaches, I quiet myself before the Lord and listen to hear if He may have something to say to me about the coming year. This year, as we approached 2020, I sensed God speaking something specific to me through various sources. The words were simple and clear and straight from Scripture, “God is faithful.”

God did not give me a list of Bible prophecies that would be fulfilled in 2020. He did not tell what was going to happen in the stock market, in Israel, or in world events. I have no idea what things will unfold over the next twelve months, however, I am certain of one thing, “God is faithful.”

God does not want me to place my focus on my needs, but on His faithfulness; not on world problems, but on His faithfulness; not on circumstances, but on His faithfulness; not on my feelings or opinions, but on His faithfulness; not on political change, but on His faithfulness.

The truth of God’s faithfulness is something each of us will need to be reminded of many times throughout this year. Our faith needs to rest in His faithfulness; our feet need to stand upon His faithfulness; our heart needs to trust in His faithfulness; our emotions need to celebrate His faithfulness; our mouths need to proclaim His faithfulness.

Here is a little poem that may be a helpful reminder for you in 2020…
I’ve a word that is clear
It is for the New Year
God is faithful, God is faithful.

Its meaning is dear
It will bring you a tear
God is faithful, God is faithful.

God is faithful it’s true
He will make all things new,
Just trust Him to do
All He’s promised to you.
God is faithful.

It’s a word that brings cheer
It will break every fear
God is faithful, God is faithful.

It will help you draw near
It will bless you to hear
God is faithful, God is faithful.

God is faithful it’s true
He will make all things new,
Just trust Him to do
All He’s promised to you.
God is faithful.
Know, recognize, and understand therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, Who keeps covenant and steadfast love and mercy with those who love Him and keep His commandments, to a thousand generations, Deuteronomy 7:9 AMPC

God is faithful (reliable, trustworthy, and therefore ever true to His promise, and He can be depended on); by Him you were called into companionship and participation with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 
1 Corinthians 1:9 AMPC

God is trustworthy and faithful and means what He says, 
2 Corinthians 1:18 AMPC 

O LORD God of Heaven’s Armies! Where is there anyone as mighty as you, O LORD? You are entirely faithful. 
Psalm 89:8 NLT


©2009, 2020 Roy Lessin, Meeting in the Meadow, all rights reserved. This post originally appeared online in 2009.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Gratitude and a Thankful Heart

Happy New Year!
I’m starting my gratitude journal again, and counting #1000gifts in 2020! I still love Ann Voskamps' old calendar list of prompts, but I’m going to go beyond her suggestions and use photos too.
Will you count along with me? Please share your own 1000 Gifts this year and let’s be purposeful in changing our minds from wherever we feel stuck to thankfulness.
It only takes 3 things a day, and it will change your mind and focus. I love doing it in the evening, to clear my mind and set me to thankful before closing my eyes. I won’t stick to the calendar of listed things but may use it if I get stuck. I’ll use my camera to help me remember things through the day, and post in the evenings. You can put yours below in comments, or tag your posts with: 

Joy Dare Collection ©2020 Ann Voskamp, used with permission. 

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Merry Christmas

I've been really busy, and not busy enough. My heart has been breaking in unexpected places the past few months...friends passing away unexpectedly, illnesses attacking loved ones, me missing kids and grandkids, and not wanting to feel nostalgic for all the sadness around my heart right now. I feel tender and raw...vulnerable. I cry at the drop of a hat, even over silly things, like TALKING about not watching a movie that would make me cry...not even watching that movie. Just talking about it. Oh dear!

I did want to touch base though as we approach Christmas...all the sadness is making me draw even nearer to Jesus, because He is my hope (and the hope of the world). I've enjoyed my time of Advent, singing in the choir at church, baking cookies for friends and neighbors.

It helps me to shift gears emotionally and mentally when I can change it up a bit and do something new. And in God's goodness, He is allowing us to do something new for Christmas! I'll share the details on the other side of the experience, but for now just know that if you'd have told me this 5 years ago I wouldn't of believed it. He is amazing in ways like that.

Are you facing sadness this Christmas? Do you get winter blues, or are other circumstances making it difficult to cope? Please take time to be good to you. Take a warm bath. Sit in a sunny window. Breathe deep and read scripture...promises from God's heart to ours. Share with a friend. Share with me if you don't think you have a friend who will understand. I will pray with you and for you. I am praying for the sad hearted friends right now...may you feel His peace near to you.

Take time to gaze up at the winter's sky and marvel at His creation. He is so good to us, for us. He loves us so much, no matter how things are going on around us. He is in the midst of it with us. He feels our pain, our heartache, our sadness. He understands. He wants us to invite Him into those seasons, to walk with us.

Walk with me, God. Walk closely to me.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Feeding the College Ministry: Mom’s Mac ‘n Cheese

Marina’s Kitchen Table, Feeding the College Ministry
Mom’s Mac ‘n Cheese

Last night I cooked for our College Ministry from church, at the 316 building (a local car lot that’s opened their spare converted space - made to be like a coffee house - doors after-hours for us to meet in). I always try to make it a home-made meal, warm and yummy and stick-to-your-ribs good. It happens that most of these kids are college athletes at our local state college, so they’re not afraid to eat.

We have a lot of people at our church who recognize how pivotal these college years can be to a young adults faith, so we are blessed to have a great group of volunteers!

One dish that I’ve always had success with feeding people of any age is an adaptation of my mom’s macaroni and cheese, with ham in it. I’ve cooked it at camp, for missions training sessions of adults, and raised my kids on it. It’s a favorite! Last night we served it up with a salad, and one of the other volunteers brought a pot of home canned green beans with new potatoes in them. With a white Bundt cake (from another volunteer!) and a pan of brownies with walnuts in them, it made for a very home-y meal!

This is one meal I don’t use a recipe for, so the estimates are in the recipe below.  As with anything homemade, you’re free to adjust this to your taste, but trust me on this, and don’t leave out the tomato sauce!

Roaster-sized Recipe
Marina’s Mac ‘n Cheese
(Family sized recipe follows)

5 boxes of large elbow macaroni
about 2/3 of the ham off a spiral sliced ham (cut in cubes and trimmed of the fatty edges)
2 sticks butter
nearly a whole 30 Oz (?) can of tomato sauce
4 lbs shredded Colby jack cheese

I boiled the macaroni and cut up ham into cubes ahead of time.

In a very large pot, melt the butter and heat up the ham in it until it’s heated through. It will make the ham release a lot of it’s water, but don’t pour it out. Pour the tomato sauce into the ham mixture. Add pepper (maybe a half teaspoon, but if you’re serving little kids you could leave it out).

Grease the bottom of the roasting pan, with butter or whatever you prefer (spray?).

Pour about a third of the elbow macaroni into the roaster pan. Add 1/3 of the ham mixture, stir to combine and coat the macaroni. Cover with 1/3 of the cheese.

Then pour the rest of the macaroni into the HAM POT, stirring to coat. Put 1/2 of the mixture over the cheese in roaster, layer cheese on top, and repeat with the last of the macaroni/ham mixture and grated cheese.

I put the roasting pan in a 325 oven for 1 hour to bake thoroughly, because of time restraints, but you could just use the roaster base to bake if you had more time. I don’t think the roaster would make it crispy on top(?).

After baking I placed in the roaster base on lowest temp to keep it warm while transporting and serving.

Family sized recipe

1 box large elbow macaroni
2 cups ham, cubed
1 small can tomato sauce (3 or 4 Oz?)
1/2 - 1 stick butter (to taste)
Pepper to taste
About 2 cups grated Colby jack cheese (or more if you like it super cheesy)

Boil macaroni, drain into colander.
Use same pot to melt butter, heat ham, add sauce and pepper.

Add macaroni back to pot and mix to distribute ingredients evenly.

I then add the cheese, reserving some for the top of pan (my cookware can go into a low temp oven), but my mom would layer in a buttered 9x13 pan, making 2 layers and ending with cheese. Bake at 325 until cheese is melt or crispy on top.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

My No-Go Missions Story

Random picture...we kicked off our College and Career group tonight, and I got to provide dinner for them... baked potato bar! Since I was making so many potatoes I used a camp kitchen trick and ran them through the rinse cycle of the dishwasher. I still rinsed and used a vegetable brush on them, but so much less work than if I’d only done them in the sink!
I had an important reminder tonight that came to me over and over... definitely God whispering (no, shouting!) in my ear. I’ll sum it up like this...

Sometimes God plants a vision, an idea, a dream...and He only wants us to be obedient in taking the first step. He MAY bring the whole plan into fruition, but that may not be His long-term goal. He really just wants us to listen to His voice, remain disciplined, and trust Him in that first step.

I shared my missions story tonight, the time I fell in love with deaf children in northern Mexico. Back then all I could dream of was being a dorm mom for the girls that lived there and leaving behind all the comforts of life in Southern California. But it wasn’t to be.

After it was all said and done, I couldn’t pass the physical, as my bloodwork showed signs of what they eventually found to be an autoimmune disorder. It took about 4 months to diagnose it and about 6 months to force it into remission. It was a really hard season.

When I was first sick, when I realized I couldn’t go to Mexico, lots of people had questions about whether or not I heard God right about going in the first place. I never doubt that I did, very clearly. I had nothing to gain by going, only knowing I was being obedient to His call. But as I was recovering I realized that His will was for me to take the first step, to be obedient to be WILLING to leave this all behind. I was also called to walk with Him through the months of testing, pain, medications and side effects. Just one foot in front of the other, day by day.

I got to walk with Him through disappointment and fear, through heartbreak and joy. That season was one of the hardest for me, yet its’ roots continue to grow fruit from deep within. It’s still a part of my HIStory, and it’s still relevant to be told as others are led by Him, called to just take that first step in obedience.

Deuteronomy 33:3
Indeed, he loves his people; all his holy ones are in his hands. They follow in his steps and accept his teaching.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Cold Weather Recipe: Potato Corn Cheese Chowder

Last week our church hosted a Trunk or Treat, which got moved indoors because of the cold weather and rain that came upon us. Since it was going to be inside, they decided it would be nice to have a soup supper for everyone to enjoy.

For years I have made this soup, Potato Corn Cheese Chowder, at home, for church potlucks, youth activities, and even served it at summer camp! Everyone likes it! I've never had anyone turn up their nose at it once they tasted it!

I don't really use a recipe when I make it, but isn't that how the tastiest things go? I'm trying hard to estimate my measurements! I'm also going to keep it my original sized recipe, but it makes a LARGE pot of soup. If you're needing it for your family, please cut it in half, and if you are making it for just yourself and your roomie, or spouse, either third or quarter it!

I hope that you'll enjoy it, and that it will "stick to your ribs" during the coldest of weather yet to come!

Marina's Potato Corn Cheese Chowder

1- 5lb bag red potatoes, rinsed and cubed (I keep skins on, but that's personal preference)
4 - 12 oz frozen sweet corn
8 cups chicken broth
15 shakes of Tobasco sauce
1/2 teaspoon garlic pepper
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 cup milk
40 slices American cheese
Place cubed potatoes in a large stock pot, and cover with water. Over high heat, bring to a boil, and allow to cook until potatoes are tender, but not falling apart. Turn off heat, and add frozen corn, allowing to barely cook in hot water.

Drain potatoes and corn mixture, return to the pot, and pour in chicken broth, Tobasco, and spices. Heat over medium heat until it barely begins to boil, then reduce heat to low and add milk. It should barely cover the vegetable mixture. Add cheese slices a few at a time, and stir often, to distribute and melt cheese into the broth.


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Life has been a bit crazy and unpredictable lately...hasn't it? Because God is our constant when life is crazy, I've arranged thro...