I have really been wanting some of you older suziebeezielanders to get to know some of the newer suziebeezielanders, who are, for the most part, my real-life friends! So I have asked several of these friends to share about themselves over the next couple of months, and I hope you enjoy getting to know them better.
Today I thought we could get to know our Valeria. Valeria is married to our Mark (also known as "our Resident Dude") and they are a really fun, neat, talented couple.
I have to admit that I really look up to Valeria in a lot of ways. She is really fun to be around, and is also one of the smartest women I've ever known, but not at all in a "know it all" way. It's one of those things where the more you're around her, you realize she doesn't miss a thing, and has a whole lot more going on in her head than she actually talks about.
Valeria would not describe herself as a "girly-girl," and if you went to her house it's more likely that sports would be on the television than HGTV. (She's a huge fan of USC football and Dodger baseball.)
She would probably not mention that she is an awesome scrapbooker, but she is!
She's easy-going, she laughs easily, and she has this busy, boy-filled life, but she has this solid core of seriousness on the inside that I am really attracted to as a friend.
I think everybody at our church just feels blessed to know them.
Mark and Valeria live (literally) down the street from me, with their three boys – Josiah, Isaac, and Luke.
Valeria works part-time as a physical therapist, and teaches kinesiology at a community college in the area. Besides the aforementioned USC Football and Dodger baseball, she also likes baking (when she has the time) and helping others recover from physical ailments.
But her most precious treasures in life are God and her family.
Here's what she has to say about that, in her own words:
I grew up attending church and Sunday school, and don’t really remember a time without a sense of God in my life. As a young child (maybe 8 or 9 years old), I worried a lot about what would happen if I died. What would it be like? Would I ever see my family again? Would I go to heaven? I felt fearful and unsure during those years, and was always doubting whether I would be "good enough" to get into heaven.
I had a sense that God could be more than just “insurance”, but did not know how to find that peace. Even though I heard all the Bible stories and sang of how “Jesus Loves Me”, something was missing.
In seventh grade, my parents took me to a Billy Graham Crusade. Along with thousands of others, I heard Billy Graham give the clear message of hope that if I trusted in Jesus and gave my life to Him, I could have peace that passes all understanding, a life without fear, and eternal life.
That message hit home with me, and that night I walked down to accept Jesus as my personal savior for the LAST time.
I finally understood that it was not me who had to work to be good enough for heaven, but it was God’s free gift that He allowed me to have because of Jesus’ death and resurrection on the cross.
That night I really understood grace for the first time, and it has changed my life. After that day in seventh grade, I no longer live in fear of what will happen to me when I die. I am SURE that God has a place for me in heaven when that time comes, and that being there will be better than I can imagine.
Although I do my best to live a life of integrity, I am not strapped with guilt over my past wrongs because I know that God forgives me. And I know that it is what Christ did on the cross that ultimately saves me, not anything I can do or say.
That is freeing because I don’t need to worry about whether or not I’m good enough. Jesus is good enough… and he vouches for me.
I am so thankful for that!
This past year has been a rough one for my family and me. We had a son who was born six weeks premature, my younger brother had heart surgery, I went through a lay off from a good job, and my husband fell and suffered a pretty serious arm fracture, to name a few things.
I am not sure how I would have managed the stress of this year without God. Knowing that God is in control, that He has a plan and purpose that will work for my good and His glory, and that my hope does not rest on temporary things of this world, but in Him, has made all the difference. These truths gave me peace and hope even when life seemed dark and scary.
As the year comes to a close and I look back on a tumultuous twelve months, I can see God’s hand in all that has happened, and am beginning to see His plan for my life unfold just a little. Those hard times have drawn me closer to God, and God has also shown his goodness and faithfulness to me in this past year.
Things are not perfect by any means, but God gives me hope and has blessed my life in ways I would not have expected because of the circumstances of the past year. I am thankful for that, and continue to trust Him for the uncertain things that still remain.
Because of this past year, I can more honestly say with my whole heart, “for I am convinced, that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities; nor things present nor things to come, nor powers; nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing; shall be able to separate me from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, my Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39) Those are my favorite verses.
Valeria's Pumpkin Cheesecake Recipe
Valeria says, "I got this recipe, along with a spring form pan, from my very first mentor in physical therapy back when I was an aide at USC University Hospital. It kinda started my love for baking. I have been making this cheesecake since then (1996) and it’s always a hit. The actual recipe card is worn and taped together now, but the dessert is just as good! This recipe is best made the day before you want to eat it."
Graham Cracker Crust
* You need one large spring form pan *
1 ½ c graham cracker crumbs, finely ground (14-16 crackers)
¼ c sugar
6 T (3/8 c) butter, melted
½ t cinnamon
Combine crumbs, sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Add butter, stir. Empty mixture into spring form pan and press evenly around bottom and sides (approx 1 inch up on sides). Chill in refrigerator while making cheesecake filling.
** Preheat oven to 325 degrees**
I find it easiest to have three separate bowls ready for mixing.
1 ½ c cream cheese (room temp)
1 c sugar
1 ¼ c pumpkin puree
1 ½ t cinnamon
1 t ground ginger
¾ t nutmeg
¼ t ground cloves
¼ t allspice
2 T flour
½ t salt
3 t vanilla extract
6 eggs, separated (whites in one bowl…yolks in the other)
1 c sour cream
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until soft and fluffy. Add ¾ cup of sugar, pumpkin puree, spices, flour, salt and vanilla and mix well.
In a second bowl, combine egg whites and remaining sugar (1/4 cup). Beat until egg whites stand in soft white peaks.
In a third bowl, beat egg yolks then stir in sour cream. Gently fold both egg white and egg yolk mixtures into first large bowl of cream cheese mixture.
Pour completed cheesecake filling into chilled crust then bake 1 hour at 325 degrees, or until toothpick comes out clean.
Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes then place cheesecake in the refrigerator to chill for 3 to 4 hours.
1 8-oz tub of Cool Whip, softened at room temperature
Once cheesecake is fully chilled, top with Cool Whip. Enjoy!!