Monthly Archives: March 2014

Out of this World Lemon Cake

Spring is here. It really is, but I know that many of my friends and family out there have been plagued with one last (hopefully) round of sickness before we can officially look back on winter as a memory. We’ve been sick around our house as well, and yesterday when I was getting my groceries, which was only a possibility because of some powerful antibiotics, I decided that we needed an extra flavor of spring to cheer our sick selves up.

That’s how I ended up with the ingredients for lemon cake in my cart. I tweaked this recipe that I got from a friend several years ago, and it is a family favorite as well as a crowd pleaser. It’s also extremely easy. Who doesn’t love that?

Lemon Cake

Here’s what you’ll need to make your little taste of spring:

  • 1 small package of lemon gelatin
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 package lemon cake mix
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon extract
  1. Dissolve lemon gelatin in 1 cup boiling water. Cool completely. (Side note that will seem ridiculously obvious to everyone. Be sure to cool said concoction at room temperature. One time I thought I would be smart and cool it quickly by sticking it in the fridge. Thirty minutes later I had a cup of gelled jello, which was worthless to me. Haha!)
  2. Mix cake mix, eggs, oil, and lemon extract with electric mixer for 4 minutes.
  3. Add cooled gelatin. Mix together on low speed. Be careful! It will splash easily!
  4. Pour into greased 9×13 dish.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until baked through.
  6. While cake is baking, mix together glaze. (Ingredients listed below)
  7. Once cake is baked, poke holes all over the cake with a plastic fork. Plastic cutlery is the best at not sticking to baked items.
  8. Pour the glaze all over the cake. In a few minutes, it will all disappear into the deliciously lemony pours of the cake and make the final product even more moist and incredible. To make things extra pretty, sprinkle the top with powdered sugar. It will taste fantastic, but what’s great about this recipe is that it only gets better the longer it sits, so you can whip it up the day before you need it and be guaranteed that it will be wonderful.

Whisk together these 3 ingredients to make your glaze:

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon extract
  • 6 tablespoons milk

 

My Spring Bouquet

I’ve been looking forward to this day, March 20, for a long time.

Welcome first day of spring!

I believe you to be the most under-celebrated day because you symbolize so much that we all live for – hope, new beginnings, warmth, and refreshment.

Yet I think I like that it hasn’t become commercialized and over-done because as important as spring is to everyone’s morale, it is its natural beauty that makes it great. Rainy days and cool mornings make its promise sometimes subtle, but then there is that day when you walk outside and you see the way that the blooms have exploded and God has proclaimed that all that seemed dead is truly still alive.

I didn’t realize quite how much I had been talking about the coming of spring until I noticed the way Dash took time to find every bud in sight and exclaim, “Look Mom! Isn’t it beautiful? It means that spring is coming! Can we keep this forever?!?”

There have been days I needed that encouragement from his innocently profound four-year-old heart than he realized, and each time I saw his enthusiastic eyes find mine with a new bud in hand, I kissed his sweet head and said, “Yes buddy! Spring is coming! And of course we can hold onto this.”

Yesterday I had to chuckle because I heard him start his new ritual of bringing me a sign of spring, but then I looked up to see what he was holding.

In his hand was a withered hydrangea from a little brush pile. I’d just deposited it there the other day after pruning my bushes, but he didn’t see it as dead and worthless as I did. He still saw that it resembled a flower and pronounced it “beautiful.” We finished our ritual and I set down the flower to help Daisy with her outdoor explorations.

This morning, he found it again while I was in the house and he ceased all playing to hunt me down in the house and say, “Mom! You forgot this! It needs to be put in a vase, please.”

And again that boy taught me important life lessons.

Spring Bouquet

There are some seasons I’d rather discard all memories of. The remnants often look worn out and even ugly, but that doesn’t mean they no longer have value.

Even the parts of past seasons that are no longer living and thriving can still remind us of the hope that is to come in a new season. They give us a reason to keep going because the new flowers will need watering and new adventures need lived.

So that sweet, withered hydrangea will have a place in my windowsill for a while. It will be my spring bouquet – my beauty from ashes story – to celebrate this day in a new season, and I couldn’t have found a more perfect one anywhere.

A Letter to my Son About Rebuilding

Dear Son,

The LORD spoke to me this morning in the instant after your little sister accidentally wrecked your Lego creation. Her mere 13 months’ experience in life left her clueless to the magnitude of what she’d accidentally done, but the inspiration of your tears resonated far too closely to my own heart’s emotions.

Lego Building

The last several months of my life have been an undoing of many things I thought were good about our ordinary life. Many of our day-to-day leisures and familiarities have been squelched with misunderstanding, betrayal, near loss, and monumental loss.

There are many things missing from what I held dear in my heart of hearts a year ago, but it’s because of the circumstances that have brought about these changes that I now more truly and deeply love and value each thing and person that I do have.

I’ve been trying to put it all into words – the feelings that I’m working through as I rebuild the ruins into something new- but it didn’t all come together until I sat down beside you as you mourned the loss of your first big Lego project. I felt each tear that streamed down your face, I heard my own internal voice in your tear-shaken one,

“But I loved what I built!”

“It was awesome the way it was!”

“I don’t want to have to rebuild it.”

Yes, yes, yes! I know what you mean, dear one. Rebuilding seems completely unfair, especially when you’re not the one who caused the damage. You had worked hard and deserved the feeling of accomplishment.

Lego Creation

But you know what I’m learning as I wade through my own ruins and ask God to help me rebuild what’s left into something beautiful?

He is always there to help you. He is saddened by your broken heart, and He desires nothing more than to bind up your brokenheartedness.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
    he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
    and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

Mourning your loss is more than okay, but He does not intend for you to stay there forever. He has plans for your to move forward. And move forward you will when you choose to put on your garments of praise when you’re too weak to take the steps you need to get there. I’m not sure if there’s any higher honor than to be an oak of righteousness, and the only way you can become that is by going through the painful journey to grow into one.

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
    and the day of vengeance of our God;
    to comfort all who mourn;
to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
    to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
    the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
    the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.

One of the beautiful things about the loss of something in your life is the new perspective God gives you through it. What you had before may have been good, but perhaps God wants you to have something that is more than good. He wants to help you rebuild it into something great.

They shall build up the ancient ruins;
    they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
    the devastations of many generations.

                       ~Isaiah 61:1-4

Lego Rebuilding

I hurt for you as you worked through the rebuilding, but I also loved watching your tears transform into determination to find ways to make your artwork a new version of awesome. You made peace with your loss and found joy in what you rebuilt, and I pray that you will always remember the principles we both learned as we remade Lego structures together. God is always good, and He will always be faithful to help you rebuild a crushed dream into a new dream.

Linking up with Jen Ferguson & the SDG Party

What I Accomplished in February

As January came to a close, I decided to write a “Because of Grace List” where I shared some of my accomplishments from the past month. Because sometimes it’s easy to get so discouraged in what I didn’t do that I don’t celebrate all that God allowed me to do because of His overabundant grace.

This month’s post is much different, however, because my family’s life was forever changed on February 11, 2014 with the sudden passing of my wonderful father-in-law. The days that have sped by since then have been nothing less than a chaotic form of survival mode. Honestly, listing the things that I have had to do alongside my family are far too painful to write out, and they would only make you sad as well, which goes against my primary objectives in writing on this blog.

I was going to skip writing this post altogether, but God reminded me of one story I could share that could be encouragement to others, for it has been an incredible source of comfort and encouragement to me in recent days.

My greatest accomplishment of the month was on February 10th when I unknowingly listened to God’s voice.

My husband was working his 24-hour shift, so the kids and I were in our normal routine of being home all day without Daddy. Those nights are always louder, harder, and more trying than the ones where he is home…especially in the closing weeks of the longest, harshest winter of recent years.

That afternoon, the kids received their Valentine’s package from Grandma and Grandpa. Work has had them living 1,000 miles away since before the kids were born, so frequent packages have always been a special way that my husband’s parents have kept a special connection with the kids. They live and breathe making all of us feel loved and spoiled.

We always call to let them know we got the package and to say thanks, but that night I almost postponed making the call until the following night. I’d sent a thank you text earlier in the day, and it was fast-approaching Daisy’s bedtime, I had a monstrous pile of laundry on the couch, Dash was using the Hulk hands and mask he had received in said package to wreak havoc on what small portion of the house wasn’t already wrecked from a day with me alone with two small kids, and my patience was paper-thin.

I’ll just wait until tomorrow to call. That way, Tanner can be home to talk to them, too, and the kids and I will be in better form.”

I didn’t realize in that moment Whose voice said it, but the answer was clear.

“Call them now.”

“Okay. But I’ll at least put Daisy down for the night first. She’s fussy and will make it near impossible to have a conversation over FaceTime.”

“They won’t care if she’s a little fussy. Let them see her.”

So, we made the call to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Their home phone was acting up, so it was hard to hear them, but I persisted with a request to have a quick FaceTime session on our cell phones before they headed off to bed for the night. Of course, they happily obliged, and we had the most wonderful 10 minutes of communion.

Daisy blew kisses to Grandpa and Grandma, and Dash showed off his new Hulk look between “I love yous.”

We hung up, Grandma and Grandpa went to bed, and I got the kids tucked in as well. Twenty-two hours later, the same Grandpa who had laughed and smiled with us just like always was in the presence of Jesus. He woke up early that morning with difficulty breathing, so after a trip to the ER, they discovered he was having complications from pneumonia. He was sedated, put on a ventilator, and passed away from a massive heart attack that afternoon.

I almost didn’t do the one thing that has brought me the most comfort in the last few weeks. My reasons for putting off making that phone call were valid, but God knew I would regret that decision for the rest of my life, so He whispered into my heart to not wait for the perfect moment to have the best possible phone conversation.

Capitol Building

What a gift that grace-filled nudging is to my heart of mourning! One of that adoring Grandpa’s last memories on this earth is seeing the two little people he loved more than anything. And in return, we all have the gift of a sweet memory of him being his normal silly, sweet self.

I’m overwhelmed with this blessing, and I hope you are inspired to remember that God does speak to us, even when we don’t realize it’s Him. He wants nothing more than to bless us when we heed His voice.