Monthly Archives: October 2011

Meditation Mondays – Fear Not

As difficult as it’s been for me to choose just one passage for this week, because of the overwhelming number of verses that have challenged and blessed my heart in the past three days, I was drawn back to the powerful words found in Isaiah 41:9-10. Take a minute to block out the background noise in your life at this particular instant and pray that God will speak to you personally through His promises and commands found below. Wait a second! Make sure you really get rid of the distractions! Ready? Go ahead then; these are God’s words to YOU.

I took you from the ends of the earth,
   from its farthest corners I called you.
I said, ‘You are my servant’;
   I have chosen you and have not rejected you.
So do not fear, for I am with you;
   do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
   I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

This past weekend, my husband and I had the opportunity to take some of the teenagers from our church to a youth conference. The preacher who spoke on these verses spent a long time on the beginning of verse ten: “So do not fear,” a phrase enveloped between so many great promises. What’s different about this phrase is that it’s not an encouragement, it is a command. His challenge was to obey God’s command to fear not, no matter how dire our circumstances. Fear is something that God has taught me so much about, and I guarantee if you continue to read what I have to say over the time I write on this blog, you will see me approach the topic again.

I love this verse that so clearly addresses what every human being neglects to do over at least some issues in his or her life at some point in time. Fear not when you face the unknown. Fear not when you consider what others may think of you. Fear not when your health is failing. Fear not when you’re out of money. Fear not when someone you love is removed from your life. Fear not when you don’t have a job. Fear not when your spouse has wounded or abandoned you. Fear not when you still haven’t found the man of your dreams. Fear not.

There is no option; it is a command – a command that is impossible to accomplish on our own strength. Thankfully, though, a command that is surrounded by promises that God has called you to it and that He is with you.

The Gift of Life

I’m honored to be guest posting over at LIFE by Ashley Pichea today. Here’s the link if you’d like to read my two cents on spiritual warfare.

It’s funny how different a childhood perception of being a grown-up is from the real deal. In my childhood opinion, I would arrive at the pinnacle of success when I was a wife and mother. Why else would I spend so many hours mothering my dolls as a little girl? As a teenager, I babysat so many kids that surely I had gained all the necessary tools to be a good mom. Well, since I didn’t exactly have a husband or even a potential husband when I reached the college years, I ended up pursuing a degree in education while holding jobs that involved working with kids.

After I had the husband and the career, I naively I felt it was my right to be a mother. Why shouldn’t I raise children of my own when I’d spent the majority of my life caring for or educating others’? But it just didn’t happen right away. Or for quite a while. That was a difficult season for me, but one for which I’m incredibly grateful now. The selfish, arrogant outlook I had was one that I now see for the ugly thing that it was, but at that time I couldn’t comprehend that it’s not a right to be a mother. It’s a gift.

I will never know how much different my view would have been had I not gone through the waiting process I did to finally have a positive pregnancy test. As I walked through the hallways of the high school where I taught and looked at girls who didn’t even want to be mothers pass by with the swell of motherhood for all to see, I asked, “Why them and not me?” When I discovered that so many beautiful, Godly women I knew and respected had waited for years to have their chance at mothering only to be unable to make it so, I had a difficult time accepting the way things are.

I’m ashamed to admit that these were my feelings, but I’m grateful for a God who loves me enough to help me accept His sovereignty. He gave me knowledge of the life growing inside me just when I needed to learn a bit more about who is really in charge of life and its length.

My first child’s life was incredibly short. After about seven weeks of life, around the time that her sweet little eyes and ears would be forming, I learned that she lacked a heartbeat and that she was lodged in my Fallopian tube instead of my womb. That day changed my life. I grasped for the first time that every life is fragile, including mine. I realized that I was going to really need God to help me accept this loss. And I began to learn that I was far from alone in this world of mothers of miscarried babies. Most of all, I began to comprehend grace for what it truly is.

I began looking at expectant moms in a way that was much more healthy. God gave life to the child inside for a specific reason, and it was not up to me to question why. He is the giver of life, and He has determined that “to everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven:” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

In the years that have followed that difficult season, I’ve grown to love and appreciate my first child’s sweet life. It, too, had a purpose. Not one that included the two of us snuggling this side of heaven, but something of so much worth that I cannot begin to express it in words.

I now know with such a sense of urgency and power that each life is a gift. When God blessed me with my sweet little boy a year later (a gift I humbly realize was truly from God), I know that I held him tighter than I would have had I not first gone through loss. When his teething cries and clingyness prevented me from sleeping or accomplishing my to-do list, I could not allow frustration to settle in for long. When he now wears me out with his boyish antics and his battles of the will, I can still look at him and know. He is God’s gift to me, placed in my life at the absolute perfect time, and not because of anything that I did to earn it.

When I get hung up on God’s grace and how unworthy I am of it, I see the face of my boy, whom I can hug, kiss, and tickle all day long, and remember that I am indeed so unworthy, yet I have been blessed with grace beyond comprehension.

I also think of the precious child that paved the way to giving me an outlook that goes beyond me. The one who is resting in the arms of my Father as I accept that it’s best to relinquish my agenda and desire for control and just let God do His thing in His time.

My child in heaven has helped me accept that it will be okay when illness plagues us, bills are due before we have a paycheck, and people intentionally or unintentionally hurt me or my family. God continues to pour grace upon me to accept the sovereignty of His mighty hand while He gently holds that little life that lived inside me for such a short time.

 

 

Mac and Cheese

I’m a big fan of lots of food, but in my opinion, few things are better than pasta and cheese in the same dish. Our church does a weekly potluck dinner, so finding something to take that would satisfy many people without breaking my budget has been a challenge I’ve worked hard to conquer. One day, in my search for such a recipe, I came across this amazing homemade macaroni and cheese recipe.

I kind of have a complex about making homemade macaroni and cheese for other people because it’s the first dish I made my husband when we were dating. And he hated it. It’s actually a really humorous story, but that’s for another time. The moral of the story is, I’ve learned that not everybody likes every kind of mac and cheese like I do.

That’s why I’m happy to share this recipe with you. It’s something my husband will eat, and every single time I make it for our church potluck, I have people hunt me down and ask me for the recipe. I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy it, too, if you’re into this sort of a thing.

Ingredients:

1 2/3 cups dry, small elbow macaroni,                            1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
cooked and drained                                                         1 cup water
2 tablespoons cornstarch                                                2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 teaspoon salt                                                                 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese,
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard                                                divided
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease 2-quart casserole dish.

2. Combine cornstarch, salt, mustard, and pepper in medium saucepan. Stir in evaporated milk, water, and butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in 1 1/2 cups cheese (I’ve been known to add up to an additional cup of cheese at this point) until melted. Add macaroni; mix well. Pour into prepared casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.

3. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until cheese is melted and slightly brown.

Because I Haven’t Done One of These Since High School…

1. What time did you get up this morning? 7:50 (I kind of slept through my husband’s alarm and him getting ready for work. Oops!)

2. How do you like your steak? Not that crazy about steak, but well or medium-well.

3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema: X-Men: First Class

4. What is your favorite TV show? Hmm…Not faithfully following any currently, but I love What Not to Wear, Food Network, and most of the Thursday night line-up on NBC.

5. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be? I love where I live, so I’d probably stay here.

6. What did you have for breakfast? Grape Nuts with Raisins

7. What is your favorite food? My favorite comfort meals all include potatoes and gravy as a heaping side. I also love all things dark chocolate! Ice cream rocks my world, and putting strawberries on top makes me do a happy dance inside.

8. Foods you dislike? Condiments such as mustard and Miracle Whip. Ranch dressing, and cottage cheese.

9. Favorite place to eat? Hu Hot, Qdoba, and Red Robin

10. Favorite dressing? Italian

11. What kind of vehicle do you drive? A Chevy Imapla – along with half of the other motorists I meet

12. What are your favorite clothes? Cute ones?

13. Where would you visit if you had the chance? New Zealand or Switzerland/Germany

14. Cup 1/2 empty or 1/2 full? usually half full

15. Where would you want to retire? Wherever my family is.

16. Favorite time of day? I like all parts of the day. I’m more of a morning person by nature, but have turned into a night owl.

17. Where were you born? Less than five miles from where I currently live.

18. What is your favorite sport to watch? Football

19. What is your favorite fragrance? I’m really bad about remembering to wear perfume, but I love Country Chic and Carried Away from Bath & Body Works. And I love candles!

20. What is your favorite face cream? Whichever one is on sale.

21. Favorite baby/kids products? Well, I’m out of the baby mindset now, so I guess Hot Wheels?

22. People watcher? yes

23. Are you a morning or night person? Whichever I need to be. Just give me an acclamation period.

24. Do you have any pets? No. As much as my husband would love a snake, tarantula, or scorpion, I have kept our home pet-free. Someday I would like a dog when we have room outside for him.

25. Any new and exciting news you’d like to share? Hmm…nope!

26. What did you want to be when you were little? A figure skater. Unfortunately, I could only practice on our living room floor in a silky bathrobe my grandma got for me at a garage sale, so I didn’t get enough experience to qualify.

27. What is your favorite memory? Could we pick a more vague question? As a child, teenager, adult, parent…how do I pick?

28. Are you a cat or dog person? dog person

29. Are you married? Yes!

30. Always wear your seat belt? of course

31. Been in a car accident? yes

32. Any pet peeves? Arrogance

33. Favorite pizza toppings? cheese and pepperoni or pork sausage

34. Favorite flower? Hydrangeas or roses

35. Favorite ice cream? It depends. I do love the Apple Pie Jackhammer that comes to Andy’s Frozen Custard every holiday season. Otherwise, some form of chocolate.

36. Favorite fast food restaurant? I don’t really love any of them. Does Quizno’s count?

37. How many times did you fail your driver’s test? none

38. From whom did you get your last email? My husband’s Grandma. I love her!

39. Which store would you choose to max out your credit card? Hobby Lobby

40. Do anything spontaneous lately? Decided to fill out this survey!

41. Like your job? love it

42. Broccoli? Yep.

43. What was your favorite vacation? Cruise of the Eastern Caribbean with my hubby, best friend, and her hubby.

44. Last person you went out to dinner with? My husband, Little Man, and my mother-in-law

45. What are you listening to right now? Sheer silence

46. What is your favorite color? Green or any non-gawdy form of purple

47. How many tattoos do you have? zilch

48. coffee drinker? Nope. I do love a cup of Chai Tea or even better, a Chai Tea Latte from Starbucks, but I rarely indulge

49. how tall are you? 5 feet 8 inches

50. hobbies? blogging, scrapbook-type things, working on being more crafty. I’m currently loving yarn, felt, and old t-shirts like I never have before.

Meditation Mondays – Prove It!

“He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”
                                               ~John 14:21

This verse jumped out to me in a big way during this week’s Sunday evening service. It may have had something to do with the fact that my pastor read the first sentence several times for emphasis, but I know there was a deeper reason. I felt that stirring in my soul when I know the Spirit of God is speaking to me. Of all the scriptures I heard in church over the course of the day, this one screamed, “Make this verse the focus of you week!”

I say I love God. I know I love Him, yet I must examine whether or not I prove it. No one really loves flattery once he or she has tasted genuine praise. So I look at this verse and ask, how else am I to know Christ’s commandments if I’m not reading His Word? Not listening to this God I love’s message to me is not convincing anyone that I love Him. What makes things even worse is ignoring what I hear Him say to me.

Think about those relationship sinto which you’ve invested so much of your heart. You become vulnerable to the individuals. You trust them. You give them aid when they face a difficult time. When they need encouragement, you pour words of truth into their lives. After all of this investing, there’s really only one thing you want in return. Love. Knowing that your words have been taken to heart and applied to their lives.

This is God’s view of us. He dispels all of the lies we work so hard to believe about ourselves in His Word and yet we don’t acknowledge them as truth. In doing so we slap His face. He commands us to make disciples, yet we say we’re too timid or busy to minister or witness.

In doing this heinous act of disrespect to the God we say we love, we are not only proving ourselves liars, we miss out on an incredible gift. The end of the verse says that those of us who love God will not only be loved in return, but God will manifest (make Himself known/understood) Himself to us.

It’s time to prove that I love God more than sleep in the morning or the Internet during nap time. It’s time to believe His Word is truth when He says that I am fearfully and wonderfully made and that His grace is sufficient to cover my sin. It’s time to keep my love for Him real.

 

 

Scattered Thoughts from a Fried Brain

I have so many thoughts going through this head of mine that I just don’t know where to start. I’m learning a lot in life right now. Not in an especially fun way, but I know it’s all part of the growing process. I also have a million plans and ideas brewing in my brain. Although I’m doing better about getting them written down or at least neatly listed in my mental organizer, but so few of them are currently coming to fruition. I’m still working so hard to focus on being grateful. I am annoyed at myself for the sheer fact that it’s a struggle right now. I. am. frustrated.

I am fully aware that trying to organize everything right this instant is going to lead to chaos because I’m tired and need sleep, so I’m just going to share some of the things I want to get in order as soon as possible, but not tomorrow…or this weekend…because I’ve already booked myself solid. Feel free (code for please do!) to jump in with any of your ideas on the topics discussed below.

Holiday Preparations
So, I think it’s a bit ridiculous to already have Christmas decor spread throughout the stores in the middle of October, but I have to admit that it’s gotten me excited. This Christmas will be such a fun one with a two-and-a-half-year-old. He’s so into the decorations we’ve seen when we’re out shopping, and I get all giddy when I think of all the fun traditions we can really begin enforcing this year because he’s old enough to get it more than ever before.

At the top of my list of priorities is creating an advent calendar & planning special activities in the days leading up to Christmas. If I do get to that as I hope to next week, I’ll share what I’m doing. If not, please forgive me. 🙂

Getty My Reading List Under Control
I have developed a problem with reading. I used to read all of the time. Then I began teaching and had a hard time reading without reading it like a teacher. I subconsciously started analyzing every word so that I could explain any obscure question a student might ask. I think I’m the only English teacher who ever developed this complex, but it’s just a fact about me.

I finally learned to let go of that, but then I began that pesky habit of not finishing a book once I started it. I have always been a firm believer in not reading ahead, but I’m starting to think that’s really hurt my chances of finishing a book. I get annoyed at a character or writing flaw by the writer, or worse yet, I start guilting myself into thinking I should be doing something more productive with my time, (Like getting on Pinterest! What’s wrong with me?!?) so I just give up on the book.

Well, that’s the short version of my problem. Then I’ll throw in the number of books I’ve started, received, or wanted to start reading in the past month. Here are the ones I can remember:

1. Five Little Questions That Reveal the Life God Designed for You by Dannah Gresh
2. Dancing on my Ashes by Heather Gilion & Holly Snell
3. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
4. Ministry of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson
5. A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink
6. The Saving Life of Christ by Ian Thomas

Yep. My nightstand is seriously cluttered with books, and I’ve probably even missed some of them. Must focus! I’m committing to The Help because I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews, and my absolute favorite classic novel is To Kill a Mockingbird, so hopefully it won’t disappoint!

Well, I must applaud you on your patience for making it this far into reading my post. Do you have a headache yet? I’m fighting one off by committing myself to reading a book before going to sleep.

 

Apple Coffee Cake

One of my favorite things about fall is the cooler temperatures. Now that it’s not a million degrees outside, I can once again fire up my oven and bake some yummy treats. I’m pretty sure that it’s required to bake and/or eat as many apple recipes as possible once September arrives. At least that’s what I decided when I found this apple coffee cake recipe by Emeril Lagasse on foodnetwork.com. I did the only logical thing; I pinned it on Pinterest and then continually drooled over the picture that accompanied the dessert until it was time to stop pining over it and do something about it.

Last week I finally found an excuse to make it, so I pulled out my mixing bowls and got to work. If you could have been a witness to the crazy mess that ensued in the process of making this cake, you’d appreciate it even more. Not that the recipe is a difficult one, but I was just having one of those days. Long story short, half of the dry ingredients ended up coating a good portion of my kitchen due to a clumsy moment. My sous chef, Little Man, and I got a good laugh out of it, and in spite of the extra mess, we recovered enough to forge on and get that batter finished and into the oven…after it met the sous chef and official taste tester’s approval.

For the record, the mess wasn’t even my helper’s fault. He was waiting patiently for me to tell him it was okay to turn the mixer back on. I love having him help me in the kitchen, even if it is often him who adds a crazy element of messiness to things (like an egg thrown on the floor or a toy train in the brownie batter as has happened on previous occasions).

Here’s what you need to do if you’d like to try it yourself. (I’m not trying to be pushy or anything, but you really do want to if you’re into moist, cinnamon-scented, apple-y goodness with just the right amount of sweetness.) It reminded me of that light feeling of zucchini bread only better because of the crumble and caramel-like glaze on top.

Cake:

  • 1 stick plus 2 teaspoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups peeled, cored and chopped apples

Crumble Topping:

  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Brown Sugar Glaze:
(I changed this slightly from the original recipe because some of the reviewers thought it might be better this way. The original recipe called for water instead of butter, but there were several complaints that it was too grainy with water. The butter idea turned out to be pretty awesome in my opinion, but if you’re wanting to be healthier, just mix the sugar, vanilla, and water in a bowl until smooth.)

  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 13 by 9-inch glass baking dish with 2 teaspoons of the butter.

In a large bowl, cream together the remaining stick of butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating after the addition of each. In a separate bowl or on a piece of parchment, sifttogether the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Add to the wet ingredients, alternating with the sour creamand vanilla. Fold in the apples. Pour into the prepared baking dish, spreading out to the edges.

To make the topping, in a bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and butter, and mix until it resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle the topping over the cake and bake until golden brown and set, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes.

To make the glaze, in a small sauce pan, melt the butter. Add the sugar and vanilla and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Drizzle the cake with the glaze and let harden slightly. Serve warm.


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