Advent Devotional Feeds the Souls and Inspires Book
His plans are not always our plans. His timing is not always our timing. Yet, His plans and His timing are always perfect.
Several years ago Anita McVey was asked to write an entry in a church’s annual Advent devotional. Church members shared a Christmas memory or wrote about what a particular passage meant to them, plus shared a recipe. She had no idea then a seed had been planted in her heart to write a 30-day devotional, “Because He First Fed Us: Ordinary Meals – Extraordinary Messages.” With artwork by her son Marcus, this light-hearted book highlights ordinary meals found in the Bible that reveal extraordinary messages.
“I believe food is a love language. It nourishes, heals, comforts and delights the body and soul,” says Anita, who began blogging in 2016. “When food is transformed into a meal, it becomes love in action. All the senses are engaged: sight, sound, taste, touch and smell. Memories are revived. Stories are told. Gratitude is expressed. Conversations flow and wisdom is gleaned.”
Shortly after starting her “Picnic Life Foodie” blog, Anita said she would read something or remember something in association with a Bible verse or story and think, “That would make a neat devotion.” After building a list of about 10 general topics, the idea for a book formed. She started saving more notes and phrases. Those pieces started turning into sentences and paragraphs and, eventually, devotions.
“Pairing my own memories about food and meals with Biblical truths has been a journey I never expected,” says Anita, who earned a master’s degree in Statistics from Iowa State University. “It is my hope and prayer that you will laugh and learn as you read and that your own memories of meals with family and friends will warm your heart and soul.”
Childhood memories Anita cherishes include growing up on her family’s farm in Northwest Iowa where she said she had a steady diet of faith, family and farming.
“We had pork and chicken directly from the farm, to the butcher, back to the farm and into the oven. We ate eggs from the hens in the coop and drank milk from my uncle’s dairy cows. The garden we planted and harvested was enormous, and we didn’t waste a thing. Canning and freezing were core classes,” says Anita. “Is it any wonder I am so obsessed with food?”
While cooking and baking about 10 years ago, Anita said she would reminisce about the person who gave her a recipe or the time she spent with her mom and grandmothers making a particular meal. Blogs were a new, but intriguing, concept to her at the time. Her oldest son helped her create a website for PicnicLifeFoodie.com, and she started writing! She also posts on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.
“The name ‘Picnic Life Foodie’ did not come to me easily. I knew I wanted something sentimental and nostalgic. I thought of the meals we would eat as a family in the field during planting and harvesting seasons or the days when Dad would take us to the nearest lake and Mom would pack a simple lunch for all of us. Church potlucks, family reunions, school field trips … so many of my best memories centered around simple food with wonderful people. I have always loved picnics, but I realized it didn’t matter if they happened outdoors on a perfectly sunny day or indoors around a traditional table. There was a feeling, a lifestyle, that I wanted to encourage others to embrace.”
Through the writing experience, Anita says she has found that God gives us our passions, so we can tell our story from a place of enthusiasm and truth.
“I can’t talk about my history with food, without talking about my family. I can’t talk about my family without talking about faith. They are all intertwined,” she says. “God has been leading me through and giving me the courage to try something out of my comfort zone.”
Anita hopes her experience encourages others to try something new and to overcome their fears.
“I never imagined I would share my faith in a written form!” writes Anita in the “Gratitude” section of her devotional book. “I am so grateful God presented this opportunity to me. By telling my stories, my hope is that I have created a memoir of my faith for my family, friends and anyone who picks up this book to read even a single page.”
Anita’s gratitude extends to some amazing people, who have helped her find her way through this book. She writes:
- “My mom: the most selfless, humble, and faithful person I know. Thank you for starting each day of my childhood with devotions, ending each day with prayers, placing an Advent wreath at the center of our Christmas decorations, teaching me how to cook and bake with love, and for always, always reminding me to Whom I belong.
- Marty: my husband. You crack me up, rein me in, lead ‘from the back,’ and never let me down. Thank you for standing with me in the hardest of times, sharing joy in the little things, and loving the imperfect me. It is because you encouraged me to take a different path that this book exists.
- Nick: my son, my social media guru, and the reason I officially started writing. Thank you for taking me over the hurdle of creating a blog and for answering a parade of questions with patience and humor. Your creativity and drive motivate me, and your ability to find the best of every situation is a true gift.
- Marcus: my son, my artist, and the one who has taught me all about perspective. Thank you for inspiring me to look more closely at nature, art, movies and to discover the beauty in the details. I am so grateful that you agreed to illustrate this book and share your talent here. The messages of this book are more inviting and intriguing because of your work.”CHRISTMAS IN THE KITCHEN
“Fudge served in a blue bowl” trigger so memories for Anita, who grew up baking batches of Christmas traditional German cookies with her mom and grandmothers. They would break out the third-generation cookie cutters to make sugar cookies. Every year her Grandma Glienke would serve fudge in a blue Depression-era glass bowl. Forty to 50 family members would cram into her grandmother’s living room on Christmas Eve, singing hymns and exchanging gifts. Today Anita is sharing her tried-and-true, family-favorite recipe for decadent, creamy, and easy-to-make fudge. May it create wonderful memories for your family, too!
Decadent Dark Chocolate Fudge
Recipe by Anita McVey
- 1½ Tablespoons butter, divided
- One 12-ounce can of evaporated milk
- One 7-ounce jar of marshmallow creme
- 4 cups sugar
- 24 ounces of dark chocolate chips or semi-sweet
- Line a 9x13-inch pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil, extending foil over edges of pan. Lightly coat foil with ½ tablespoon of butter; set aside.
- In a heavy 4-quart saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium-low heat. Add evaporated milk and marshmallow creme, stirring until marshmallow creme starts to dissolve.
- Add sugar and stir until well dissolved.
- Bring mixture to a slow boil over medium-low heat, stirring almost constantly. (A rubber scraper allows you to scrape the bottom and sides of the pan to avoid scorching). This will take 15-20 minutes, depending on the temperature of the burner. A "low boil" is when lots of small bubbles form, especially around the edges of the pan.
- Continue cooking and stirring over low heat for 5 minutes.
- Remove pan from heat and turn off burner. Stir in chocolate chips. Fold chips into hot sugar mixture until smooth.
- Pour into prepared pan. Tap pan on countertop a few times to evenly distribute the fudge and to draw any air bubbles to the surface.
- Allow to cool; cover and refrigerate.
- When completely chilled, remove fudge from pan using the edges of the foil. Pull back the sides and cut into one-inch cubes.
- Store in air-tight Ziploc bag or wrap in plastic wrap and keep in an air-tight container.
- Store in refrigerator.