Impact

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Wrapping my mind around the past 2 1/2 months is a difficult thing to do.  The depths of pain and intercession, which had before been untapped have become springs of maturity and understanding for me.  On January 11th, my friend Joanne fell from her treadmill due to a massive stroke–her description of the event reminds me of fire and ice, but I will leave it for her to tell someday. I sank into a desperate place of prayer.

Without thought, I began to act, to pray, to be bold and to hold fast to some rope that seemed to be attached to God in a way I had yet to experience.  I felt distinctly that I was a player in a battle, a battle that I will never comprehend this side of Heaven.  I battled in prayer day and night–petitioning God for the life of my friend.  Deep down, I knew my place…to pray and to tell. I did both.

A deep sleeper, I was awakened through the watches of the night for weeks on end.  I woke and prayed–tarried in prayer until released.  It was as if I was connected to a place of action being carried out on Joanne’s behalf.  The exhaustion I felt is nothing–nothing–compared to Joanne’s close family and friends. I knew that I was at the bottom of the symbolic mountain, praying, as they battled at the precipice.  I also knew that my connecting point at the base of that mountain was to tell others within my sphere the story and to rally them in prayer for Joanne–and ultimately, I believe prayer for themselves.  That is not to say there were not others at the base of the mountain with me.  Oh, God set up connecting points with others, too.  He has the best system!

Two and a half months later and with much of the story in-between left unspoken, I sit today with pen and journal in hand to let this portion of the story be told for this time.  It is the right time.  There is much of the battle for Joanne’s fullness of life still to be fought and forged.  I ask you to pray for her and her family.  Pray that she will take back every inch of ground she lost–to regain everything.  Pray also for her family and friends, who daily minister to her and urge her on. Finally, pray for her story to be a tidal wave around the globe. Many, maybe including you, need to know that God is at work on behalf of all people, that He hears us, that He answers and that He invites our participation in the unfolding story all around us.

We can choose to believe Him on the darkest of days. We can trust that He can hold our weighty worries.  We can embrace Him, knowing that He is for us and loves us unconditionally. We can relate with Him, for He knows how to speak our language.  And if we get really still and listen, we can hear His voice speaking love and truth over our day-in, day-out lives.  He speaks over us saying, “You matter. You are significant.”  Whether at the top of the mountain, the base or somewhere in the desert perimeter, we have a place of great significance in the story God is writing–planned before the foundation of time.  We have a part to play and a choice to carry it out or not.

Joanne and I have shared many texts over the past weeks (so much so that I had to increase my plan!  And that with JOY!!!).  In every one I receive from her, I thank God for her ability to remember, to relate, to connect and to feel.  She is dreaming wide awake!  Now she is even dreaming in her sleep, which is a miracle. Most of all, Joanne is humble, a fighter, discerning, poetic, fun and able to do everything that is placed before her.  She is able to do, because she holds tightly to the Hand of her God.  She said herself in one of the texts, “When I am afraid, I will trust in Jesus.”  And later, “On the way in a couple of hours, anxious, scared, but choosing to trust Jesus, who loves me.”  Oh indeed He does, dear Joanne!

Friend?  He loves you, too.  He is worthy of your trust.  Just today, I read this from Streams in the Desert by Mrs. C.E. Cowman, “Jesus Christ is no security against storms, but He is perfect security in storms. He has never promised you an easy passage, only a safe landing.”

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It’s not about you.

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Dear 16 year-old, 18 yearold, 21 year-old, 23 year old Heather -

You worry too much.  You worry too much about what people think about you.  You worry that they think you are fat or ugly or stupid.  You worry that even your friends don’t like you.  You worry so much about what others think that it paralyzes you with fear and keeps you from trying new things or making a goal towards an accomplishment because what if you fail, and then people will see, and know, and laugh and you just can’t risk that.  For example, I know you are thinking about running for student council, but what if you lose and everyone will know that you lost and they’ll think you’re a loser…right????  Or you want to ask to lead a Bible Study, but what if you don’t know what to say and they all think you are stupid and should have never thought in a million years that you could lead a Bible study?  Or that bad haircut, and every time you walk into church, everybody is thinking , “Wow – what bad hair Heather has!  It’s quite distracting.  I hope it grows out soon.”

Well, guess what.

All those people…they aren’t thinking about you.

No, really…I mean it.  Do you know how I know?

Because they are thinking about themselves.

No, I’m serious.  You aren’t the center of their world, they are.  They have the same problem you do – they think too much of themselves as do you.  You are self-centered – even in your pity-parties, even in your fear of failure, even in your fear of rejection.

I came across this quote recently from C.S. Lewis – you are going to love this man in later years!-but back to the quote….It slapped me upside the head…

The real test of being in the presence of God is that you either forget about yourself altogether or see yourself as a small, dirty object. It is better to forget about yourself altogether” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity).

I know, it’s a bit harsh, but it put me in my place – my right place before God.  You see, I was, and still do, spend so much time thinking about myself, that there is no room in my feeble little brain to think about God. But God…

I love that transition that is used so often in Scripture.  But God, saved me from myself through the life and work of His Son Jesus Christ.  Now I am free to not think about myself.  Don’t get me wrong, I still do- it’s a struggle.  But I have found that when life feels chaotic and I feel stressed, I am probably thinking too much of myself and not about Christ – who loves me and saved me for Himself.

Heather, it’s like this…

You don’t have to be consumed and stressed out and worried about yourself.  Christ took you to Himself – He thinks about you so you don’t have to (Psalm 139) and He thinks you were lovely enough and worthy enough to die for.  He is your life. That is all that matters.

So dear Heather, beloved in and by Christ the Lord,

Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face.  And the things of earth (and self) will grow strangly dim, in the light of His glory and grace.

As you do, you will find freedom from that harsh slave-master, yourself.

Grace and peace,

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Bitterness

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Bitterness: a feeling of anger and resentment, caused particularly by perceived unfairness in suffering or by adverse circumstances.

Grace (in human relationships): undeserved favor or kindness, mercy, compassion and generosity. Strongly encouraged in Scripture. See examples: Ru 2:10; 2Sa 9:1-7; Acts 28:2; Gen 33:8-11; Jos 2:12; 1Sa 15:6, 24:18; 1Ki 2:7; Ps 37:25-26; Ac 4:8-10; 1Co 4:13

It seems so easy for us to become bitter. At times we don’t even know it’s happening. We just keep stuffing those unwanted feelings (that we may believe are inappropriate) way down deep inside, burying them where we hope they’ll stay in darkness and never resurface. At other times we feed our bitterness as though it were a plant or a pet. We knowingly, even purposefully, bring to mind some perceived slight, or an event that upset us or made us angry. We rerun that tape in our head, over and over again ~ and the hurt, the anger, the bitterness, grows larger and larger, until our heart begins to harden. The worst part is that whether we consciously feed the bitterness or not, it is still there, growing ~ and we run the risk of being consumed by it.

When bitterness threatens to overtake me, I must remember that I have a Lord and Savior who understands. Would it not have been exceedingly easy for Jesus to feel bitterness toward those whose desire was to harm him? And those who crucified him? And what about Peter, who, in just a matter of hours after telling Jesus, “I will lay down my life for you” (John 13:37) denied and disowned Jesus three times ~ on the day of Jesus’ death by crucifixion, no less!?

Jesus was not bitter ~ after His resurrection from the grave He even restored Peter and commanded Peter to feed His sheep (teach about Jesus).

God’s Word tells us,

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. ~ Ephesians 4: 31-32

 

Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. ~ Hebrews 12: 14-15

Extending grace to someone who has hurt me is not easy. At times it seems a difficult and almost impossible task. It’s work. Too often it’s work I don’t want to do. But it is necessary. That root of bitterness will never be dug up, eradicated, killed, and not allowed to grow or possibly even consume me unless I willingly do the work.

Jesus already did the most difficult work of all ~ He died, and rose again, that I, that we, may have eternal life with and in Him!

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins……But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. ~ Ephesians 2:1, 4-7 (emphasis mine)

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The Cake Story

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Truer words were never spoken than when Stasi Eldredge penned in her book Captivating the feeling with which we women most struggle—we feel like we’re “too much” and “not enough.”

We feel torn to bits among perfection, failure and just plain giving up.  We cannot decide if Martha Stewart is attainable, because every time we try to make the perfect meal and keep the perfect home with a perfect centerpiece on the table, it would seem, we fail. 

There’s nothing to see here—no pictures of perfection.  I’m just a woman, who wants to be more like Martha in the Bible, when she understood that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life.

Such was my struggle on that week, when not only my husband’s parents were coming to Colorado, but also his aunt and uncle. I was pregnant with our fourth child and felt inadequate to say the least.  You could say my reality show would be called, “Woman Falls Short–in Everything.”

They all decided one day to take an excursion up the mountain through a bumpy road that I knew I could not, should not and would not take.  I stayed at home alone and decided to impress my guests with a fabulous meal. Soon they would taste and see my mad cooking skillz.

First I started boiling the chicken for the main course of Chicken Pot Pie.  Then, as it cooked, I pulled out my friend Holly’s grandmother’s recipe for Five Flavor Cake.  I had prepared it quite a few times before, so I felt confident.

As the cake was slowly baking in the oven, I prepared the chicken pot pie, feeling like I was the time-management, cooking, queen-of-the-world.  All of a sudden, as I was stirring the filling, I began to smell something burning. 

“Hmm,” I thought, “the cake is almost done, but surely it couldn’t be burning, yet.”  The burning began to smell electrical, then as I glanced at the oven—it was aflame!

I quickly turned off the oven, and grabbed pot holders.  The flames had died down and the charred remains of cake sizzled (at this point I thought my oven had sizzled and died, too).  I pulled the cake out and saw that nearly 1/3 of the cake had cooked over onto the element below.  The cake was not ruined, but it also wasn’t very pretty.

When I turned it over on the cake plate, I realized how despicably ugly it was.  But I decided that it was still tasty enough to eat. At this point I angrily and with vigor threw the pan in the outside waste receptacle.

That evening around the table, I served chicken pot pie, which was a hit by the way, and cake.  I, myself, ate some humble pie—as my tube pan became fodder for the trash man and my oven smelled every time I used it for awhile, as a reminder.  But at least the oven worked, praise God! 

Looking back, I see several aspects of my attitude that could have prevented that whole incident.

First of all, the recipe came from my friend in Arkansas, when we lived there.  I had also prepared it in Texas a few times, when we lived there.  But Colorado, 7000 feet altitude and cakes can be tricky.  I have since learned that the recipe need not be altered for high altitude, just fill the pan less full. 

Also, I was full up with pride.  I wanted to impress everyone.  But that left nothing for me but a frustrating snare. I didn’t have to earn their love or acceptance.  I already was (and am) loved and accepted by them.

Looking back I should have driven to the store for some take out and watched “Pride and Prejudice” again. It would have been received just as well, and my spirit would have been less frazzled.

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Mamma Jean’s Five Flavor Cake

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Oh this cake comes with a really good story. I posted it here for your amusement and laughter. It is a treasure of a recipe, though. It comes from my friend Holly S.’s grandmother. You WILL want to try this. It is delicious and rich. A sure hit…unless made at high altitude (and without adjusting for high altitude).

2 sticks butter
1/2 c. shortening
3 c. sugar, plus 1 c. sugar for glaze
5 eggs, well beaten
3 c. flour
1/2 t. baking powder
1 c. milk
1 t. coconut extract, plus 1 t. for glaze
1 t. rum extract, plus 1 t. for glaze
1 t. butter extract, plus 1 t. for glaze
1 t. lemon extract, plus 1 t. for glaze
1 t. vanilla extract, plus 1 t. for glaze
1/2 c. water for glaze

Cream butter, shortening and 3 c. sugar ’til light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time. Alternate adding dry ingredients and milk. Stir in flavorings (1 t. of each kind)–mixing all together thoroughly.

Pour into greased 10″ tube pan (make sure filling is no more than 3/4 full in the pan). Bake at 325 degrees for 1 1/2 hours. Cool 10 minutes and pour glaze evenly over the top.

Glaze: In a small sauce pan blend together 1 c. sugar, 1/2 c. water and 1 t. each of the flavorings. Boil until sugar is melted and pour over hot cake in pan. Cool in pan for 30 minutes. Turn onto your favorite cake plate and serve.

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Letter to Teenaged Me

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Photo by Rowdy Kittens on Flickr

I am a complete sap for tear jerker country music songs. One of my current favourites is Brad Paisley’s “Letter to Me”, where he writes a letter to himself at seventeen, with all the things he wishes he could have known back then.

Thinking back on my 17-year-old days, I’ve come up with several things that could have helped me along the way, too. Here they are:

I know your biggest fear right now is being alone. You’ve been without a boyfriend for two years now and I know you feel desperate. You’re not going to believe what I’m about to say, but it’s actually better to be alone at this stage of your life, because you can concentrate on who you want to be without a guy getting in the middle of it. So take this time to read, to work, to make friendships, talk to interesting people, and figure out what you like. You don’t need a guy to do that. Looking back, that hiatus was one of the best times of growth for you. So don’t cry. Your day will come.

But I don’t mean to be so callous. I know you feel lonely right now, and worry that your friends don’t understand you. Most of them don’t! But one day you’ll be in a position to find friends that are more like you. You’ll be able to choose your university, choose your workplace, choose your church. You’ll find great people there, I promise. Right now you’re stuck in a school you can’t get out of. That’s okay. It won’t last forever. Just try to be a blessing to those with you now and make the best of it.

And when you do get to university and you do make great friends, keep in touch. Don’t let distance and busyness come between you. You’re going to miss them later on, and wish you’d written more letters.

You’ve got seasons tickets to the ballet right now, and you love all the restaurants in Toronto. Careful that you don’t become a snob. In about a decade you’re going to realize how awful the city really is, and you’re going to run as fast as you can to a small town. So get ready now! Learn to play cards. Learn to like barbecue. And learn to drive! Not every place has a subway, you know.

You’ve already been overseas once on a mission trip, but more are coming. Make the most of them. Take tons of pictures of kids’ faces. And don’t turn away because the poverty makes you uncomfortable. Look at it. Breathe it. Remember that most of the world lives like that, and you’re getting the chance to see it. Sear it into your memory, so that you never let your life become about money.

Sometimes family relationships get awkward and we don’t know what to say, so we don’t say anything. Open your mouth, especially to your uncle. You’ll find out why later. And your mother understands you more than you think she does. Give her a break. She’s done a great job raising you, so try to look at things from her point of view. One day you’re going to be great friends!

You know those kids with Down Syndrome at the camp you counsel at? Don’t ignore them. I know they make you feel awkward, but you’re looking in the face of your future son. Love them and have fun with them, and it will be easier for you when you hear the news in a few years.

You’re going to cry more tears over the next ten years than you will imagine. But one day, you will see how those tears were used to build you into a strong person. So at your lowest points, believe that God isn’t going to leave you.

You’re going to fall in love in a few years with a man you will think is perfect. Take a step back. Does he let you be yourself? Does he ask you about you? Relationships can’t be based on hero worship. Run away fast. You’ll save yourself a lot of heartache.

And by the way, while you’re running away from your boyfriend, take another look at your best friend. Sometimes best friends really do make the best husbands!

Sheila is the author of four books, including the upcoming “The Good Girl’s Guide to Sex” with Zondervan. She blogs everyday at To Love, Honor and Vacuum.

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Seafood Lasagna

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This recipe has become a family favorite.  Since we cannot afford eating seafood out very often, as a family of six, we still love seafood!  So I prepare it at home, as often as I can (meaning as often as I find it on sale!). Given to me from Yolanda R., who found it in Taste of Home magazine–a good buy, by the way!

1 green onion, finely chopped
2 T. vegetable oil
2 T. plus 1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. chicken broth (canned or fresh)
1-8 oz. bottle clam juice
1 lb. bay scallops
1 lb. uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
1-8oz. pkg. imitation crabmeat, chopped
1/4 t. white pepper, divided
1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 c. milk
1/2 t. salt
1 c. whipping cream,
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese, divided
9 lasagna noodles, cooked and drained

In a large skillet, saute onion in oil and 2 T. butter until tender. Stir in broth and clam juice; bring to a boil. Add the scallops, shrimp, crab and 1/8 t. pepper, return to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer uncovered for 4-5 min. or until shrimp turn pink and scallops are firm and opaque, stirring gently. Drain, reserving cooking liquid; set seafood mixture aside.

In a saucepan, melt remaining butter, stir in flour until smooth. Combine milk and reserved cooking liquid; gradually add to the saucepan. Add salt and remaining pepper. Bring to a boil; cook and stir constantly for 2 min. or until thickened. Remove from heat, stir in cream and 1/4 c. Parmesan. Stir in 3/4 c. white sauce into seafood mixture.

Spread 1/2 c. white sauce into 9 x 13″ baking pan. Top with 3 noodles; spread half of seafood on top with 1 1/4 c. white sauce. Repeat layers. Top with remaining noodles and sauce; sprinkle with remaining Parmesan.

Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 min. or until golden brown. Let stand 15 min. before serving.

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The Best Advice I Could Ever Give…Myself

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  In general, I think most people learn best from their mistakes, but it is always nice when I don’t have to learn lessons the hard way.  This month at the “AMH” website the contributors were asked to write a letter to their “past” or “future” self.  It didn’t take me long to figure out what I would write to my “past” self.  

 Dear Kim,

    This letter is a gift and will probably change your life and save you a lot of pain if you let it.  I know right now you are struggling with your relationship with the Lord, and because of that fact you are not in a great place in your marriage.   Just know that things will get better as the Lord is for you and He will never leave you.   However, before I close this letter I want to share some words of wisdom that the Lord has taught me over the past 17 years.  If you really take them to heart, it will change your life.

  Right now, I know that married life is hard and at times all you can see is what is wrong with “Aaron” (hubby).  Aaron is a flawed man, as you are a very flawed woman (that might be a shock to you at this stage).  Very soon you will come to a place of desperation and you will cry out to God and beg for His help.  He will answer you and you will begin a new journey with Him.  During this time, God will speak to your heart and tell you that you need to stop worrying about trying to change Aaron and to work on changing yourself.   It is time for you to take a look in the mirror and allow God to show you the truth about yourself, even when the truth is hard and ugly.  It will change your life in the best way possible.

  God is the only one that can truly change your heart, and know that He  will also change the heart of Aaron, but for now take your focus off Aaron and put it on God.  He will do amazing things in your heart and in the heart of your future family.   Remember these words from the Bible…

                                                                                      Matthew 6:33

   But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

 

  PS.  Enjoy your Disney Princess Days as you will become very familiar with Hot Wheels in the future :)

 Love,

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Veal Scaloppine with Prosciutto and Sage

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I remember when my Chris and I were young marrieds at Texas A&M.  I worked at a cooking store, which at the time was ironic, since I could only cook spaghetti, ramen noodles and oatmeal. Even so, I learned much while there–even took a food handlers’ class and got certified! Chris saw these cookbooks called “Look and Cook.”  They were richly illustrated step-by-step, which really made Chris want to cook.  So this recipe from the Look and Cook Meat Cookbook became a “special occasion” recipe he would make for us over the years. It is so good!

4 boneless veal scaloppine (1 lb.)
4 thin slices prosciutto (2 1/2 oz.)
14 fresh sage leaves
1/4 c. butter
1/3 c. white wine
salt and pepper to taste

Using parchment paper, pound veal to a thickness of about 1/8″ with a rolling pin. Peel the parchment away and slice each veal into 3 pieces. Cut each slice of prosciutto into three pieces. Lay a sage leaf on each piece of veal and top with prosciutto.

Using the parchment paper, pound each combination to press together the meats. Peel off paper. You should end up with 12 combinations/ pieces of meat.

Heat butter in frying pan over medium heat. Cook each side of the meat-combo for 1-2 minutes. Transfer to casserole dish when done. When the meat is done, continue to keep the pan heated and add the white white. Stir to dissolve the pan juices for 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Pour this over the meat-combo. Garnish with a couple more sage leaves.

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