Sixty-two Trips Around the Sun!

Today is my 62nd birthday and I am so grateful for this beautiful life God has given me. Lots of folks don’t make it to this sweet age. My husband Gary conducted a funeral this week of a woman only 46 years old. My own sister Jean died at age 25. Gary and I support St. Jude’s Hospital for Children and the pictures and cards of the sick children there make us weep. Life is a precious gift from Almighty God.

The book of James in the New Testament says in verse 14 of chapter 4, “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.” Some translations use the word for vapor as morning fog, mist, or puff of smoke. The word references the vapor your breath makes on a cold morning. It’s not visible very long. Life really is a vapor. I can’t believe I’m already 62! One of my favorite verses in the book of Psalms is in chapter 139, verse 16: “And in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.” God knew all the days of my life before there was even a me! That makes me feel so very loved and so very special.

One of the things I want to do this next year is be more active here on my blog. Slow down a little bit and write more here. Us retired folks are busy…who knew? Gran Jan’s JOYS remain rooted deeply in faith and family. I love the Lord more today than I did yesterday. My grandchildren are growing up way too fast for my heart. They are now 11, 9, 9, 7 and 6 years old. Let me tell you they are fun and keep my heart young. My sons and daughters-in-love bring me peace of heart as I see them parenting intentionally and loving each other well. My husband of 42 years is still the great joy of my heart. He is way too good to me. He is the epitome of a “long walk of obedience in the same direction.” Truly. My parents are 81 and 85 and live next door to me. I cherish that. My two sisters are my best friends and we communicate daily – I treasure them.

So as I’ve pondered my 62nd trip around the sun on this birthday…this I know, this I confirm. God is faithful and my life is evidence of His love, mercy, and amazing grace. Truthfully, it’s all grace. Grace upon grace upon grace.

I am one blessed woman…and I’m so grateful for this life.

Jan

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Retirement Year 1 – Done!

June 1, 2019 – I am most grateful to say that today marks one full year of retirement for me. I honestly had no idea what retirement would “be” for me. I totally expected to walk out of my office last year on May 31, 2018, skip to my car, and never look back. Well…

Houston County Board of Education. I love this old building and spent 20 years working here!

That didn’t happen. I reflected often those first few months and discovered quickly that the “work me” had way more of a hold on me than even I realized! I loved my job responsibilities, and I cared about the people I worked with for so many years. It took me a few months to unwind, sort out my new season, and to finally give myself some grace. I took on too much in the early months because I mistakenly believed retired people had time to do everything! They don’t. They do have more time than working folks for sure…but they have the blessing of choosing the things that will occupy their time. I had to learn that and it just takes time to sort out!

So here I am today, reflecting on my first year of retirement. I’ve always been a “dates person.” Sometimes that’s good, sometimes it’s not! In this instance, it has been very good for my soul to look back and see all the ways God has blessed me this first year of retirement! He is so faithful.

The pictures below are highlights from each month, June 2018-May 2019. (I decided not to add all the pictures of my garden, the books I read, and the quilts I made…although those are a “few of my favorite things.“) These last few months I have looked at retirement through a different filter. After time in prayer, and conversations with my husband and friends, I have been reminded again of the reasons I retired in the first place (besides just being old enough), and that is for time with my family and time for me. And it’s okay to slow down. I’m learning that every day that passes.

My friend of 30 years, Lanie Nash and I went to Hamilton, MO the first week I was retired, June 2018. We attended the “Missouri Star Quilt Company Academy.” It was a wonderful trip in every way.
My sisters and I took our mother on a weekend cruise to celebrate her 80th birthday! It was so much fun. This was June 22-25, 2018, so I enjoyed two trips in June!
Gran Jan Camp! July 1-3, 2018 with Zeke, Madie and Jackson. Our theme was “following God’s path for our lives.” I cherish spending time with my grandchildren like this, pouring into their lives and being intentional about family legacy.
The Mortons, July 2018, Cape San Blas, Family Vacation
I spoke at “Go Georgia,” a training event sponsored by the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. I shared about Tasting Grace, the mentoring-in-the-kitchen ministry I love so much! This was August 17, 2018 at Mable White Church in Macon, GA. It was so much fun! My dear friend Joan Falldine accompanied me and helped me so much!
Our youngest grandson, Abe came to stay in early August 2018 for almost 2 weeks, because he didn’t have to start school until after Labor Day!
We LOVED having him with us!
My friend Patsy Randall and I went to Huntsville, Alabama, September 14-15, 2018, for the Beth Moore Simulcast.
It was a great trip with lots of good conversation.
This stop for “all things cast iron” was so much fun for me!
September 16, 2018, was a very big day in the life and ministry of our son Jeremy and his wife Carrie. Jeremy preached at First Baptist Woodstock. This picture was made after church with Dr. Johnny Hunt and his dear wife, Janet. Jeremy is now Co-Pastoring there with Dr. Hunt as Pastor Johnny transitions to the North American Mission Board full time in January 2020. He is a wonderful man and has been a great mentor to our son.
This picture was made from one of my favorite places – on the big back porch at the wonderful Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC.
We took a group of Senior Adults there in September 2018.
September was a BUSY month for this retiree and I loved every single event!
Second Baptist Women’s Ministry hosted a Liz Curtis Higgs event on October 25, 2018. This was my last official event as Women’s Ministry Director. I served at Second Baptist for over 20 years. A new team has formed and they are fabulous!
I am now helping my husband in our church’s senior adult ministry.
We are loving this new season in our ministry!
October 29, 2018 we added a new family member. This was taken right after we got home with her. “Her” is Queen Esther Rose, “Rosie.”
We love this sweet German Shepherd puppy.
Thanksgiving Day, November 22, 2018.
My parents celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary on November 23.
I am so thankful for them and so blessed to be retired
and enjoy having them in my life!
Christmas 2018! Being retired brought more joy to Christmas for me.
I didn’t feel rushed and had time to enjoy all the music, lights,
and celebrations in a deeper way. I love my family!
I welcomed January 2019 by keeping these 3 grandchildren while my son Jeremy and his wife began their move from Cartersville to Cherokee County! It rained non-stop and one day after a spell
of cabin fever, we got outside and enjoyed the puddles!
We celebrated my husband’s birthday in beautiful North Georgia
in February 2019 at Big Bear Lodge! FAMILY TIME IS THE BEST!
It was a joy and privilege for me to be part of the Selah Retreat in Clayton, GA for women’s ministry leaders across the state of Georgia. I enjoyed teaching several sessions and spending time with these amazing women’s ministry leaders.
This was the first weekend of March 2019!
My sisters and mom and I got together in March 2019 for shopping and lunch to celebrate our mother’s 81st birthday. We laugh with and at each other – always!
The last week of March, 2019 included a trip with my friend Lanie to Washington DC for a 4 day visit with our dear friend, Mrs. Mary Perdue. This was my first trip to DC and it was wonderful!
It was hard to just choose one picture, but I loved these cherry blossoms blooming. My favorite thing was the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider at Arlington National Cemetery.
Second Family Senior Adults went to Kentucky in April 2019 to visit the Ark replica (and also the Creation Museum). We had a wonderful trip.
These folks are amazing and it is a joy to serve the Lord with them!
We celebrated my Dad’s 85th birthday on April 29 in Macon with a meal of his choosing at Texas Roadhouse. Retirement has brought more time with my parents.
At my age, I don’t take that for granted and thank the Lord for His grace.
Front porch coffee time with Zeke & Madie (May 2019).
Abe and his siblings came for 10 days (May 2019) while their parents were in Israel. He is sitting on a rock that my 85 year old dad
sat on when he was also 5 years old.
We brought that rock from Henry County
here to the Morton Farm 12 years ago.
May 2019 – these two sleepy-eyed grandchildren came to the Morton Farm to stay with Pop & Gran Jan while their mom finished up her post-planning day at work.
They are full of energy and fun! I love them so much!

What a great first year for me! As I reflected back over all my pictures (both the ones here and the ones on my iPhone), I see the joys of family, faith, and fun in every picture. Thank you Lord for giving me this year. May my life continue to be a blessing to others in all I do. I am so grateful.

Gran Jan

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Hello Jackson!

You know it’s been way too long when your almost 9-year-old grandson asks you when you’re going to update your blog! Thank you Jackson. I had no idea you were reading my blog. That makes Gran Jan so happy! By the way, I have loved watching you play baseball this year. You are a really great shortstop and hit the ball really well too. Gran Jan thinks you are a great athlete, but more than that, you are kind and polite, and a great team player.

Some fun family news is our new puppy, a German Shepherd we call Rosie. Her full name is “Queen Esther Rose.” We got her back in late Fall, she is now almost 8 months old.

Thank you Jackson for encouraging me to write again. This blog is called “Gran Jan’s JOY,” because that’s what you 5 grandchildren are to me, my joy. I look forward to some family time this summer at Gran Jan Camp and at the beach. I sure love you…what do you want for your birthday? See you soon!

Gran Jan

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Homemade Apple Butter

Well, I’ve been retired 5 1/2 months and for the first time in my blog’s 10 year duration, I missed posting for 2 months. “They” say you are busier than ever in this season of life, and I’m beginning to believe that! But I am making plans to slow down a bit and I’m not sad about that at all. I think it takes a while to figure out how to “be retired.”

So this morning I got in the kitchen, and that is one of my favorite places to be. I made homemade apple butter using the crockpot. It turned out so well, so I wanted to share exactly what I did here on my blog. First the recipe, then the pictures! I enjoyed some already on an English muffin!

CROCK POT APPLE BUTTER (This made 5 pints and a little jar for my fridge!)
*5 1/2 lbs. of apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
(1 pound of apples is approximately 4 small, or 3 medium, or 2 large apples. I used about 25 small-medium apples of mixed varieties: Golden Delicious, Pink Lady, and Gala).
*4 cups of sugar
*1 Tablespoon of cinnamon
*1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves
*1/4 teaspoon of salt

  1. Peel, core and slice the apples. I used an apple corer and then I pulsed the cored pieces in my food processor just enough so they appeared chopped.
  2. Spray your crockpot with some Pam and then place the chopped apples in the crockpot.
  3. Whisk together the sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and salt in a bowl and pour over the apples, stirring well.
  4. Put the lid on the crock pot and cook on high for one hour.
  5. After an hour, reduce the heat to low and cook for 10 hours. I put the apples in the crockpot before I went to bed and even got up once to stir them. The apple butter will turn a dark brown, thicken and smell wonderful!
  6. This morning (after 10 hours), I took a small emulsion blender and mixed the apple butter right in the crockpot to smooth it all out. The texture was perfect!
  7. Then I put the apple butter in hot clean pint-sized mason jars (with a canning seal/lid on top) and processed the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes to can them. See the pictures below or research canning if you aren’t familiar with the process. Canning the apple butter just allows you to keep it longer; otherwise, you’d have to eat it up or give it all away within a couple of weeks (or you may freeze it in freezer containers). I prefer to can the apple butter because I just love doing so!

Happy Thanksgiving week to all of you from the Morton Family Farm!

Gran Jan

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Cream Cheese Pumpkin Bread

Tomorrow is September 1st and as my friend Kim Safina in California says, we begin the wonderful, amazing “ber” months: SeptemBER, OctoBER, NovemBER, and DecemBER! They include wonderful fall (my favorite season), my sweet granddaughter Emery’s birthday, my youngest son Jonathan’s birthday, my birthday, and the beautiful Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, also my favorites. 

I made cream cheese pumpkin bread today (my pictures below) and wanted to share this delicious recipe. I have tried many recipes for pumpkin bread, but my search is now over! This one is a keeper. It had me at CREAM CHEESE! It makes 2 loaves. My husband and I had a piece with coffee this morning. I took 2 pieces next door to my parents and I took the second loaf to my friend Lanie this afternoon. 

I found this recipe while looking at one of my favorite Instagram accounts “Eunamae’s,” named after the grandmother of the IG account owner. Her name is really Amy Hannon, she is a pastor’s wife from Arkansas and the founder of Love, Welcome, Serve. She has a fabulous cookbook by the same name. I love her heart for faith-filled hospitality. It reminds me of the heart of my church’s Tasting Grace Mentoring-in-the-Kitchen ministry! Go follow her on Instagram. I really believe she and I would be fast friends. 

CREAM CHEESE PUMPKIN BREAD

For the pumpkin bread:
3 cups all purpose flour

1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 cup oil
1 15oz can cooked pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
2/3 cup water

For the cream cheese swirl
8 oz cream cheese, softened well at room temperature

¼ cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 egg yolk

  1. In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients together, breaking up any clumps of brown sugar. Stir it all together well. 
  2. Add the wet ingredients and mix well.
  3. Divide into two prepared loaf pans.
    (Amy suggests using a glass loaf pan, so I did and loved the results.)
  4. Mix together the cream cheese swirl ingredients until smooth.
  5. Equally spoon dollops of cream cheese mixture over the pumpkin batter. Then use a long toothpick or skewer to drag and swirl the cream cheese around the top of the batter. Just swirl it around, do not stir it into the batter.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 55-60 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Cool 10 minutes in the pans then invert and cool completely.  Here is my “cream cheese swirling” picture prior to baking.

Fall – I can’t wait for you to get here in 3 weeks but until then, I will be making this wonderful bread to share and serve!

Happy Almost Fall Y’all!

Gran Jan

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TEN YEAR BLOGIVERSARY GIVEAWAY!

Happy Ten-Year Blogging Anniversary to me! TEN YEARS! A decade of blogging! I’ve never kept up with stats for my blog, and I don’t even know how many people actually read these posts. But this I do know…it has been my great joy to share my JOY here the last 10 years. Ten years ago when I began this blog, my purpose was to journal my journey in becoming a grandmother. I absolutely love going back and reading and counting God’s blessings to our family.

My first post was July 24, 2008 entitled The Waiting Room and can be found below. I was waiting for my first grandchild to be born. He is now waiting on his 10th birthday next month. Gran Jan’s JOY for sure! I am now Gran Jan to FIVE amazing grandchildren!

Waiting Room

I am going to give away a $25.00 gift card to celebrate! Please leave a comment by Wednesday August 1st telling me something amazing that has happened in your own life the last 10 years. I will randomly draw a winner and we will both celebrate!

Happy 10 Year Blogiversary to me!

Gran Jan

Update – Cheryl won the blogiversary giveaway! Thank you all for your support and kindness! 

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Gran Jan’s Chicken Pie Recipe

I was home last week as my office (our local school system) was shut down for Spring Break. It was a marvelous week.  I am fully convinced (as if there were any doubt) that I am going to be a fan of retirement. I worked harder than ever in my gardens, but it was great. I spent one day visiting two different women in very different seasons of life. One is a brand new mother with a 1 month old son, the other is a beautiful wife and grandmother who recently had surgery. I loved visiting with them and also shared a pound cake with them. The Retirement Countdown is officially at 40 DAYS! FORTY! FOUR-OH! FOR-TY! The slower pace will be so welcomed. Was I busy? Absolutely! But I picked my own pace – therein is the JOY!

Today I am sharing this wonderful chicken pie recipe again. I’ve made it twice recently and it is a keeper. It makes such a nice meal and the crust on top rises up in perfection. This recipe is one that I had published in a Gooseberry Patch cookbook several years ago, entitled Slow Cookers, Casseroles & Skillets I also made it for another friend who recently had some surgery and she and her husband both said it was pure comfort food. I like that.

I also like that it is simply a chicken pie with simple vegetables. You may keep it plain or add peas/carrots or even a can (drained) of mixed veggies. I like to have a big salad as a side dish, or sometimes another hearty vegetable like black-eyed peas or corn on the cob.

Pick up a rotisserie chicken from your local deli grocery store and you’re halfway through with the preparation!

Ingredients:

1 rotisserie chicken, meat pulled from bone and cut into bite-sized pieces 
1 can of drained peas/carrots or mixed vegetables
1 can cream of chicken soup (10 3/4 oz size can)
2 cups of chicken broth
2 tablespoons of cornstarch
1 1/2 cups of self-rising flour (White Lily preferred)
1 cup of buttermilk (maybe a splash more if it seems too thick)
1 stick of melted butter

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Lightly spray a 9 x 13 casserole or a large round casserole dish with non-stick spray.
  3. Spread cut up chicken over the bottom of your casserole dish. (Lightly salt/pepper the chicken.)
  4. Evenly spread the can of drained vegetables over the chicken. 
  5. Whisk together until smooth the cream of chicken soup, broth, and cornstarch and pour this over the chicken.
  6. Now whisk the flour, buttermilk and melted butter together and pour/spread evenly over the soup/broth mix.
  7. Bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 45 minutes or until golden brown.
  8. Serve with a side of your favorite vegetable or a big green salad!

This recipe is simple comfort food.  Love your family, make a chicken pie tonight. Sit around the table and linger for a while in conversation. These are the best times.

~Gran Jan

        

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