love, the answer

There’s a small journal in my purse most days.  I’ve been carrying it around with me now for the better part of 2014.  because I’m forgetful.  Friends tell me things, troubles and struggles and I want to sincerely pray for them.  Seriously, if I don’t write it down, I can’t remember.

I don’t tell you to puff myself up or anything.  No – I tell you because I took a long look at the list recently.  There are answered prayers – a lot of them, and for that I am so grateful to our Heavenly Father.  But then, there is a lot that remains –  brokenness, hopelessness, darkness.  Many sleepless nights and anxious days are represented in my little journal.  It is hard for me to read what I’ve written in my journal sometimes, let alone pray, without doubting.

just being honest here.

Last night I went to a concert where the artist, Andrew Peterson, finished with one last number.  And I wept thru the entire song.  Actually, I ugly cried.  Though I’ve heard the song many, many times, I realized something in my heart, not just my head.

Jesus, Himself – love embodied to the world – is the real and true response to every entry in my journal.  Sometimes it is easier to expect simple, physical or earthly comfort as the answer.  But really, at the end of every crushing blow and series of horrible events – there is Jesus.  He is love eternal.  And I don’t believe there is a more thorough or better answer that is promised to every prayer request ever uttered.

Friends, I give you these words.  May your heart be encouraged as mine was.

After the last tear falls…

After the last tear falls, after the last secret’s told
After the last bullet tears through flesh and bone
After the last child starves and the last girl walks the boulevard
After the last year that’s just too hard

There is love
Love, love, love
There is love
Love, love, love
There is love

After the last disgrace, after the last lie to save some face
After the last brutal jab from a poison tongue
After the last dirty politician, after the last meal down at the mission
After the last lonely night in prison

There is love
Love, love, love
There is love
Love, love, love
There is love

And in the end, the end is oceans and oceans of love and love again
We’ll see how the tears that have fallen
Were caught in the palms of the Giver of love and the Lover of all
And we’ll look back on these tears as old tales

‘Cause after the last plan fails, after the last siren wails
After the last young husband sails off to join the war
After the last, this marriage is over
After the last young girl’s innocence is stolen
After the last years of silence that won’t let a heart open

There is love
Love, love, love
There is love

And in the end, the end is oceans and oceans of love and love again
We’ll see how the tears that have fallen
Were caught in the palms of the Giver of love and the Lover of all
And we’ll look back on these tears as old tales

‘Cause after the last tear falls there is love

 

drive by affections

We noticed it again this morning when we drove by, Emily and I did.  And of course, we laughed.  We always do when we pass it.  What is it that brings on a full belly laugh?

There’s an on-ramp that we drive regularly to get onto highway 153 near our house.  The cement barrier that we face, as we come full circle, has a lot of spray painted messages.  Probably the most prominent, which we noticed more than a year ago, was a declaration of love:

I LOVE YOU STEPH!

That’s what it said.  It wasn’t until about six months ago, it became even more noticeable when it was changed to:
I LOVED YOU STEPH!

Oh the difference that one letter made.

Emily and I have a dramatic scene we’ve imagined many times over, where the young betrayed and distraught lover sneaks out under cover of night to change his message.

And we giggle about it every time we pass it.

In the back of my mind it resonates with me, though. When it comes to loving others the way the Heavenly Father loves me, I am not steadfast in heart or mind. I am completely fickle, unreliable, just like young love can be.    It is a part of the human condition, I suppose.  With one passing moment, deep, solid, eternal affections are swept away by earthly joys and sorrows. I am frivolous, hopelessly possessed it seems, by the here and now.

But, here is the truth. There is a recurring theme in the Old Testament : the people of Israel would sin against God – love Him one minute, reject Him the next.  And still, He loved them, faithfully reminding them of His promise : He would send an ultimate sacrifice that would show His love for them.

In Jeremiah 31, He reminds the Israelites of the steadfastness of His love again- and they are words that I too can rely on – words of His perfect, promised affection.  and they are no laughing matter.

I have loved you with an everlasting love;  therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.

Heavenly Father, I am barely able to comprehend this love you bestow.  May I learn to love others with this same love I’ve received : No drive by love.  No past-tense affection.  Only your love, fully mine to give away.

 

 

How to start the school year right…

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On Sunday night it hit me hard.  one more day.  Just one more day of summer. no more “freedom – sunshine and happiness – pool time – ice-cream – sleeping late” kinds of days.  They are over.  done.  Only “alarm clocks to set -schedules to follow -school work to complete – never-ending schedule- gotta keep moving” kinds of days instead.

It always feels to soon when we are getting ready for the academic year to begin- summer is never long enough. Not to mention – there are three children to teach this year – and three sets of curriculum to work thru, and three checklists to check off – which does seem VERY overwhelming.

But, there are no brakes on the calendar, time marches on and we had to carry on with it. So, school officially began at our house on Tuesday.

Here’s where I normally would post photos of our first day of school, complete with smiling faces, but my computer is giving me troubles – so, unfortunately, not too many photos.  I can tell you that our first day involved fresh pads of paper, newly sharpened pencils, unused erasers, shelves and shelves of books that were especially ordered for each child, and plenty of positive reinforcement. (otherwise known as : peanut butter M&M’s and starburst.)

And I had music playing: it keeps me calm+ in forward motion= two very important items for the teacher’s first day of school.

I listened to one of my favorites several times – and it was such a good reminder, keeping my emotions in check and feeling less helpless.  When I heard the lyrics, I became confident: everything was under control, specifically HIS control, and I could rest.   These are the best kinds of moments at the beginning of the school year – the ones where HE is at the center, my steadfast anchor.

Here are the words:

Come To Me

I am the Lord your God, I go before you now
I stand beside you, I’m all around you
Though you feel I’m far away, I’m closer than your breath
I am with you, more than you know

I am the Lord your peace, no evil will conquer you
Steady now your heart and mind, come into My rest
Oh, let your faith arise, lift up your weary head
I am with you wherever you go

Come to Me, I’m all you need.
Come to Me, I’m everything
Come to Me, I’m all you need.
Come to Me, I’m your everything

I am your anchor, in the wind and the waves
I am your steadfast, so don’t be afraid
Though your heart and flesh may fail you, I’m your faithful strength
I am with you wherever you go

Don’t look to the right or to the left but keep your eyes on Me
You will not be shaken, you will not be moved ooh
I am the hand to hold, I am the truth, I am the way
Just come to Me, come to Me, cause I’m all that you need

 

 

the girl with the vest

It wasn’t that long ago, (and I’ve been thinking about it ever since) that we saw a group of women at the park where my children play.  They were a group of women, brought to the park in a white van, who were fulfilling community service to the county. Wearing fluorescent vests while cleaning, picking up trash and the like.

One young woman, with her head hung low, walked past us and as she did, I caught a glimpse of writing that read:

I AM A DRUNK DRIVER.

Ah.

No longer does the brightly colored vest bring enough humiliation.  There must be more shame in big black letters.

And I’ve thought about her and how much we are a like.

Okay, I’m not a drunk driver.  But, I’ve got a long list of past sins and failures.  The only difference is that no one is expecting me to announce them, engraved on the back of a loudly colored vest.

greedy. dishonest. selfish. ungrateful. discontent. controlling. unloving. unkind. unjust.   oh, my list is long.

While I’m very familiar with my shortcomings, there’s one thing I’m acquainted with even more.   These words I do wear:

I AM FORGIVEN.

I don’t have to own that sinful pedigree which is rightfully mine.  Regardless of how often I come up short, no matter how unable I am to live a righteous and holy life in my own strength:  My Heavenly Father forgives.  And He gives to me the righteousness of His son, Jesus.   No humiliation or shaming required.

from Colossians 1:

18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.  21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,

 

Thank you, Jesus.  You are the giver of life, love and forgiveness. By your sacrifice You have set me free.  You have removed my vest of shame and clothed me in your righteousness.  I am grateful for such mercy.

amen.

 

high expectations

 

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Last weekend I spent time with my hubby.  On the roof of his workshop.  (almost 20 feet off the ground.  gulp.)  And on a ladder.  up high.  It wasn’t a bad thing, I suppose. But, I don’t like heights. I wasn’t expecting to conquer this particular fear,  not last Saturday anyway.

Life is full of expectations that are often compromised by surprises.

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What I’ve come to realize is that it is easier  when lofty expectations aren’t met, or when surprises happen if they are completely surrounded and cushioned by grace and trust -

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Grace to those who are full of surprises (like my sweet hubby). and trust in my Heavenly Father who is providential in every tiny detail of my life, regardless of my expectations.  These two gifts, grace and trust, allow me to climb higher, experience growth and live fuller, with new perspective.

Perspectives like this one: sunset from the rooftops, with my hubby:

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And these words in Ephesians 1 confirm, a life of trust in Him, in all things,  is a beautiful  thing:

11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

 

 

 

 

 

Strawberry Buttermilk Breakfast Bundt

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Last week I came across a really wonderful recipe for a Strawberry Cake.  Since I love to experiment in the kitchen, I decided to try it out on 20 people at the Prayer Shower for Patti, which I blogged about last week…

The cake turned out far better than I expected, even though I didn’t make it the way the recipe was written.  Nothing new here.  I have a hard time sticking to the recipe on most occasions.  But, you definitely need this recipe for your collection of strawberry recipes.     I took this recipe from  “TheKitchenthusiast” blog and sort of made it my own ; the biggest change is that I didn’t use the white chocolate ganache the recipe called for.  If you need white chocolate ganache in your life, you should definitely look that recipe up on pinterest.

What you really need to know is that it is not too sweet – and I really think it is perfect for breakfast time, with a glass of milk, a cup of tea or coffee.

Here it is:

Strawberry Buttermilk Breakfast Bundt

Ingredients

1 stick unsalted, softened butter
1/2 cup canola oil
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup strawberry jam
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and spray a bundt cake pan generously with cooking spray.

In a stand mixer, beat the butter, oil, sugar, eggs, sour cream, jam and vanilla until combined. Place flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a large bowl, mixing to combine. Alternate adding flour then buttermilk until well combined. (You can stir in a few drops of red food coloring to enhance pink color, if you’d like)
Transfer half of the batter to prepared bundt pan spreading evenly.
Bake for 65- 70 minutes until baked through. (watch carefully, your cake may be finished baking sooner.) Remove and let cool completely. Serve with more fresh strawberries and a sprinkle of confectioner’s sugar.

Hope you love it!

 

prayer, naturally

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Recently, my friend Patti and her husband found out their little family will be traveling to South Korea to officially adopt their second son.

The timeline is set at a rapid pace, so I wondered what we could do for them before their departure.  When I asked Patti about it, I said,  “What can we do for you, you know, besides praying?”   And the minute I said those words, I knew what we needed to do…

Dianne, a mutual friend of Patti’s, and I decided to give a prayer shower for Patti and her family.

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Truthfully, I’ve never been to a prayer shower before.  In fact, I’d never even heard of one before.  I think the Holy Spirit whispered the idea in my ear, because – it couldn’t have been more perfect.

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Dianne and I prepared goodies while Patti prepared prayer request lists for different rooms of the house.  We put those lists around Patti’s home – so when the guests arrived they could move room to room on a prayer walk and pray specifically for this sweet family and their needs.

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Although we had never experienced a prayer-walk-open-house-shower, many of us agreed it was as natural as if this is what should always happen at a baby shower, or wedding shower, or house warming.  Our focus on HIM at the center of our celebrations – why hasn’t this been obvious before?  It was such a wonderful event that it will be hard for me to imagine doing a shower without prayer next time…