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Then Sings My Soul Saturday ~ Selah

It's Then Sings My Soul Saturday when I link up with Amy of Signs, Miracles and Wonders. You will find other participating bloggers there.

Today I chose another song by Selah. I love their voices; so pure and clear.

Several years ago, the group Selah visited my church in Phoenix. Pastor Dan shared some special things about their missionary upbringing and after the service I purchased my first CD of their music. I enjoyed it so much and now own several.

This song is called "Wonderful, Merciful Savior". Enjoy!


Fitness Friday ~ Gazpacho

It's Fitness Friday and I'm linking to Sandy from God Speaks Today.

You may remember that last week Sandy attended SheSpeaks Conference with her book manuscript in hand. If you missed that post and want to catch up, you can read about it here. She's still waiting for word but had great interest from editors and publishers. So, keep the prayers coming for Sandy.

Today, I'm going to share a recipe that's perfect for hot summer days. Now living in Phoenix, I could probably eat this one all year round. LOL.

I always try to keep a batch of Ina Garten's Gazpacho in my refrigerator during the summer. It stays for a good while and you eat it cold. I often prepare it once a week.

Ina is the Barefoot Contessa and is the BEST cook on the Food Network, in my opinion. Did I tell you that I visited her shop in East Hampton years ago when it was still open? Let me just say, you don't want to go there if you're watching your weight.

East Hampton is ...another one of my favorite places to be.

Do you remember that I love the ocean and yet live in the desert? You can read about that here. But I also love mountains and ...Phoenix has plenty of those.

Another reason I love East Hampton is that some of my favorite people live there. Now, I'm not talking about the rich and famous who summer there. But Michael, who is one of my godchildren lives there with his wife and little girl and so does his brother Christopher. They're both grown up but I held them in my arms when they were babies being christened.

OK, I think I'm starting to adopt the Sandy style of writing. Love you Sandy!

Now to the fabulous summer recipe to make ... gazpacho.

(photo credit: Food Network)

Ina Garten is not known as a low fat, healthy cook. Her recipes are amazingly good but she tends to use lots of real butter, sugar and all those ingredients that I love ...but make me fat.

BUT thank you Ina for a recipe that I can share as a healthy low calorie one; your fabulous Gazpacho.

(Serves 8-10)
2 hothouse cucumbers halved and seeded but not peeled
3 red bell peppers, cored and seeded
8 plum tomatoes
2 red onions
6 garlic cloves, minced
46 ounces tomato juice (6 cups)
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup good olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black

Roughly chop the cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, and red onions into 1-inch cubes. Put each vegetable separately into a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until it is coursely chopped. Do not overprocess!

After each vegetable is processed, combine them in a large bowl and add the garlic, tomato juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix well and chill before serving. The longer gazpacho sits, the more the flavors develop.

This is a soup I always keep on hand during the summer. Since it's only my husband and me, I half the recipe and usually add less of the olive oil. And it still tastes great.

OK guys, go and make that gazpacho and ...you'll be glad you did.

Now don't forget to visit Sandy. She has a post on free and cheap ways to exercise. So, there's absolutely no excuses to not exercise and eat healthy.

Caring for our bodies properly is not about being vain. It's remembering that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. And we want to have the energy to do what He's called us to do, right?


Thankful Thursday ~ Joy

I love Thankful Thursdays! Since I know I will participate each week, I'm more aware of what I can be thankful for all week.

It's a matter of perspective. You can make the choice to focus on what's wrong in life ...or you can be on the lookout for what's right and good. We can't expect perfection in this life but we can be grateful when we get glimpses of the good.

Philippians 4:8-9 says, "Finally , brothers, whatever is true, whatever is
noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is
admirable -- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy -- think about such

Happiness focuses on the momentary. I enjoy a good book, a vacation, getting my toes wet in the ocean, hiking in the mountains. I look in my closet and see a dress that I just HAD to have and at the time I was so happy. But the moment passes and the emotion doesn't last ...as time goes on.

In contrast, joy is an emotion that can persist regardless of the circumstances. And this is why:

  • I am a child of God
  • I've received His free gift of salvation through Jesus
  • I have peace with God
  • My sins have been forgiven past, present and future
  • My name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life
  • When I die, I know where I'm going
  • This isn't my real home; I'm just passing through.
  • I will see my loved ones again in Heaven.
  • I will live with Jesus forever.

So, when I remember and focus on these things, I can't help but ...be joyful.

I still may struggle with certain issues in this life but I don't have to get all upset about it. I pray and submit to Him and then live in obedience to what He would have me to do.

Now don't forget to visit Iris at Grace Alone. She's back to hosting Thankful Thursday and you'll find other participating blogs to visit. Let's focus on being thankful and remembering the joy of our salvation.


Getting To Know You

I decided to link up with Lynnette of Dancing Barefoot ...on Weathered Ground in a meme about getting to know you. Since I missed Wednesday's Walk down Memory Lane, I figured this one would be fun. If you know Lynnette (and I only recently started getting to know her) she is funny, quirky and ...totally open and honest.

She thought it would be fun to pretend we're sitting on her front porch and sharing and encouraging one another. Our lives get so busy and so for many of us, our social interaction tends to be online. It would be nice to sit in a comfortable porch chair, sip a cold iced tea and engage in ...some girl talk.

(Photo credit: House Beautiful)

Lynnette asked us to share 10 things about you that are charming, interesting, and fun.

Here's my list:

  1. I love the thought of simple living and watch the Waltons Thanksgiving movie every year. I also love Jan Karon's Mitford Series and have read every one of them.
  2. I'm a city girl but I often ...crave the country. Growing up in New York and now living in the heart of Phoenix, it's not country but maybe I could just visit?
  3. I've always daydreamed a lot! When I was a kid, I imagined my future life filled with my loving husband, a houseful of children, a white picket fence, a dog ...you get the picture. At least I have a loving husband, right?
  4. I am such a romantic. My mom always told me I was in love with love. I love candles, soft music, Sense and Sensibility, Michael Buble, fireplaces, beautiful table settings, bubble baths.
  5. I love people but I always need alone time. I'm equally outgoing and yet ...introspective.
  6. I've grown to love being organized. My house is organized except for my home office, which is where I spend most of my day. Go figure!
  7. I love to read several books at once. It depends on my mood.
  8. I absolutely LOVE the ocean but live in a desert. I LOVE the sound of rain and live in a dry desert. But I do have CD's with the sounds on them. I know it's not the same.
  9. I've kept journals for years and blogging has become an extension of that.
  10. I LOVE "So You Think You Can Dance" TV show. I'm amazed at how the contestants grow so quickly with the discipline and training of great choreographers.

Now, don't forget to stop by Lynnette's blog. You can join in too and link up with us. It's been fun.


My Blog Makeover

Notice anything different on Heart Choices? I'm sure you see my new blog makeover and I want to share all the details with you.

First of all, let me say ...I LOVE IT!

Let me tell you how it came about. For some time now, I wanted a new design for Heart Choices. I even picked out the person I would contact to do the blog makeover when I was ready. I had seen much of her work and felt she had such a sense of each individual's personality and she actually prayed about the design. This was a gal I would love to work with ...eventually.

Well, along comes my good friend Lisa Shaw. Anyone who knows Lisa loves Lisa! She is filled to the rim with love for others. She can't help herself. I had often seen her smiling photo along with her comments on other's blogs. We seemed to follow many of the same people. But I follow so many blogs and didn't think I could keep up with one more.I can't remember the exact time but I realized I HAD to get to know Lisa. So, I began to follow her blog Sharing Life With Lisa. Every time I left a comment, she responded to me personally. And she was so thoughtful in each and every response. I was drawn to her. We became Facebook and Twitter friends too. The more I knew her ... the more I loved her.

We were convinced we must be related! And do you know what? We are! We are sisters in the Lord and that's good enough for me.

Well, one day Lisa wrote to me that she really felt that the Lord wanted her to give me a gift of a blog makeover! And the person she wanted to use was Edie of Rich Gifts, Graphics and Blog Designs.

First of all, I was overwhelmed. I'd rather be the giver than the receiver. But Edie was the person I had identified as the one I wanted to use for my blog when I was ready. How amazing is that?

Well, all I can say is that Edie was so easy to work with. She is creative and talented and prays about each design. When I showed my husband the header, he immediately said "it's just like you".

On Tuesday morning, I couldn't wait to check Heart Choices to see the finished project. I have to say I was so overjoyed with the result. Now, I just need to finish my About Page.

I don't know how to thank both Lisa and Edie for this amazing gift. Words cannot express my sincere gratitude.

You must check out Edie's work for yourself and of course, visit Lisa too. I know that you will love both of these women of God.


Welcome to Heart Choices

Thank you for taking the time to visit Heart Choices.

My name is Debbie Sumstad Petras.  I'm a wife, daughter, sister, aunt, cousin, niece and friend.
I'm a cross between an outgoing sanguine and a peaceful phlegmatic personality. Does that make sense? I like to say I enjoy people but need my space and alone time too. I call it BALANCE!

It's funny because my mom used to say ..."everything in moderation".

I love social media and how it's enabled me to connect with so many people.  I've been blogging since 2007.  I love to make new friends whether in "real life" or on my blog. If you have a few moments, I'd love to share a bit about myself with you. So, grab a cup of java or tea or whatever your preference and ...let's chat, OK?

If you're wondering what Heart Choices is all about, this category cloud may give you a quick idea. My husband put it together and he was so proud when he emailed it to me so I could use it on my blog. I love it Greg and ...thank you.
The focus of Heart Choices is ...your day to day choices determine what your tomorrows will become. These choices impact your body, soul (mind, will and emotions) and your spirit.

I have a background in nursing as I worked as a cardiovascular nurse specialist for 25 years. Although I'm not currently working in this field, I have a hard time keeping silent about the importance of taking good care of your health. There are so many choices you can make each day that will impact your body. And I'm not talking about vanity but having the health and energy to do what you've been called to do. I'm a life long learner. I hope I never get to the point of believing I'm too old to learn something new. I love to read and I believe I'm growing in my writing. I kept a journal for years and continue to do so but I've also come to enjoy blogging. I believe what we put into our mind is so important.
  • Messages we say to ourselves in our heads
  • What we believe about ourselves
  • Books and magazines we read
  • Movies and entertainment we view
My life has turned upside down the past few years.  After retiring from my nursing career for many years, I returned to the work force full time.  I am working with Pre-K 3 children at a private school and ...loving it.

Since I dealt with infertility for so many years and couldn't conceive, I believe this is God's gift to me for this season of my life.  I am richly blessed by these sweet children that I get to love each day.

The last aspect is spirit. As far as I'm concerned, this is the most important. I am a follower and disciple of Jesus Christ. I am on a life long journey of learning and growing in my daily walk with Him. I've not always been so faithful and was a bit of a prodigal for many years. But I'm so thankful for God's grace.
However, I want ALL to feel welcome at Heart Choices. You don't have to be a Christian to be welcome here. I can't help but be who I am, but I always try to listen. I don't mind different opinions ...as long as they are respectful.

Gosh, I've got so much more to share but I'll save it for another time. Feel free to subscribe or follow Heart Choices. Edie of Rich Gifts Graphics and Blog Designs did a fabulous job on my blog makeover. Lisa Shaw provided it as a gift. Can you believe it? I told you I have good friends. So, feel free to grab my Heart Choices logo if you like.

Please come back to visit. So glad to meet you!

Blessings and love,


In Other Words Tuesdays ~ Relying on God

It's "In Other Words Tuesday" and Kathryn of Expectant Hearts is our host. She chose the following quote for this week:

Each day is new day. I love that because I get another opportunity to make the choice to rely on myself or to rely on God.

And I can tell you that it's always better ...to rely on God.

Each new day, I come before Him and pray Romans 12:1-2 (my own paraphrase):

"I offer my body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to
You. This is my spiritual act of worship. I do not want to conform
to the pattern of this world but instead to be transformed by the renewing of my mind according to the Truth of Your Word. Then I will be able to test and know Your will; your good, pleasing and perfect will. Amen"

When Moses was leading the Israelites out of Egypt, God told him that He would provide enough manna for each day. He was testing them to see if they would obey His instructions. Well, it figures that a few people decided to take a little extra and you know what happened. In the morning, it turned to gross maggots and smelled really bad. Again, a few descritives from yours truly. But God was teaching them an important lesson. They had to learn to rely on His provision each day.

It's the same way with us. We need to come before Him each day and start again. Pray each morning for His provision, confess any sins in your life so you will have that close intimacy with Him, and ...begin a new day.

Each day we are given is a gift from God. Thank Him for that.

Encouragement Blog Hop

I receive so much encouragement from this Bible verse. Even though I'm a Christian, I still mess up and sin. But when I do, I know what to do. I confess my sin and agree with God. He who knows my heart is faithful and just and ...forgives me.

And then once again, I have that unbroken fellowship with Him through Jesus. Only He can purify me and cleanse me.

I once had a Bible teacher who taught our class that 1 John 1:9 is our "spiritual bar of soap". It helped me to always remember this. I hope this will help and encourage you too.

Happy Encouragement Blog Hop!

MckLinky Blog Hop


Being Authentic and Real

Last week I wrote a post entitled "Are You Authentic?". If you missed it, you can link there to read it first.

At the end of the post I asked questions to stimulate a discussion on this topic. I was thrilled to read so many different comments. I always enjoy a good discussion and don't mind reading viewpoints that may be different from my own ...as long as they are respectful.

I recently came across a blog called Imparting Grace. Richella's "Defining Moment" was definitely written from her heart.

The topic of authenticity and being real has been brewing inside of me for a long time. My prayer partner Helen and I have discussed this much over the years.

But I think Richella's blog post was the catalyst ....that got me writing about this now.

(Photo credit: Richella's husband)

I'm sure you'll agree that Richella is a beautiful woman. Her husband took this photo of her on Kiawah Island, where they honeymooned and have since returned with their children. It's one of their favorite places to visit.

But Richella shared that this photo is very selective, showing only the parts of her that she likes. She continued as she explained that she has a large birthmark that covers most of the right side of her body.

Read Richella's own words:

"And over the years I have lied about my birthmark. Many times, people have asked me, "Does it hurt?" Invariably, I say, "No; it doesn't hurt."

That's not true. It does hurt. It doesn't hurt much physically; it's a little uncomfortable sometimes. But emotionally it does hurt. It hurts to look funny; it hurts to have people stare at you; it hurts to have people exclaim, "Oh my gosh! What happened to you?"

But the fact is that I've let it define me. In spite of having a husband who loves me and who thinks I'm beautiful, I've thought of myself as someone who could look okay but could never be beautiful."

As I read her words, my heart was touched. This beautiful sensitive Christian woman didn't feel beautiful because of her birthmark. As I read the comments at the end of her post, they only contained words of love and encouragement. I believe that as Richella was open and vulnerable, we grew to love her even more.

After all, how many of us have our own birthmarks? They may not all be physical. But maybe you've defined yourself by:
  • Past hurts in your life
  • Childhood abuse from someone you thought you could trust
  • A sin you committed and thought God could never forgive you
  • Overwhelming shyness
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Intimacy issues

You see, not all of our issues can be seen from the outside. But remember that God not only sees our outside; He sees into our hearts and knows the cause of those issues. He sees the motives and understands.

I left a comment on Richella's post expressing my opinion and asking her permission to link to her story. She graciously agreed and emailed me this beautiful response:

"You know, protecting privacy is a good thing. But I think maybe we can all protect our families' privacy and be authentic about the way we present ourselves. It's so easy to fall into the trap of editing everything we say about ourselves, admitting only the part that we think will be pleasing to our audiences. It's kind of funny that we would do this online, just like we sometimes do in "real" life! Maybe we should all try to be authentic in our writing and kind and gracious in our reading and commenting. I say bravo to you for promoting this idea."

That's the kind of person Richella is; beautiful on the outside but more importantly ...beautiful on the inside.

As you can see, I can really get into this topic so I think I'll continue next Monday.

I encourage you to visit Richella and read her first hand account on her "Defining Moment" post. And tell her how you came to find her. Let's share our love with others.

Can you identify with Richella? Are there areas in your life that you've allowed to define you and hold you back?
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