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…

 

 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

 

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I made cookies a few weeks ago – and they were okay. I didn’t say anything about it because they were just that.  okay.   Chocolate and peanut butter, but not quite peanut butter-y enough.   So I tried making them again.  This time I added more peanut butter.  As I was finishing up the batter, and preparing to bake I was unsure – afraid they wouldn’t be chocolate-y enough, so I tossed in some dark chocolate chips, just to be sure.

 

And this is what came out of my oven:  Heavenliness on a cookie sheet!

 

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I have to tell you, after changing up the recipe and making it my own – these are definitely worth heating up the oven for even though it is the end of July.  And if not now, save this one for later.  They are de-lish.

Now, here’s the recipe, just for you!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

Ingredients:

1/2 cup plus a tablespoon of unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup peanut butter chips
2 handfuls of dark chocolate chips

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (F). Cream the butter, peanut butter and the brown sugar. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth. In a separate mixing bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet, blending until mixed well. Toss in the chips.  Drop the dough in heaping tablespoons on the pan, I flattened mine just a little bit, and bake 10-12 minutes.

They are fabulous warm from the oven, but soft and chewy at room temperature too.  Perfect with a cold glass of milk.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

how July flew by…

Friends, my family is approaching the finish line of the Marathon known as July.  What an adventure, a busy, busy adventure its been!

It began with Isaac’s birthday, and continued with Michael and I making a trip to Denver.  There was time spent with our french family who were visiting the states, Vacation Bible School at our church, Michael’s gig in Columbus, and a new puppy…

Don’t be fooled, there is still laundry to deal with.  And suitcases to be put away and photos to go thru.  But, this week, as July comes to a close, we are celebrating by chilling out.

Here are a few (totally out of order) photos of all the fun…

 

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holding it together

This is how it came to be that I really and truly began to believe, in a deeper way, that He’s there.  You probably have a similar story of sorts, but this is mine:

In the spring of 2013 I was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma.  (read: “melody’s a complete weirdo to have this kind of illness”)  At one of the first appointments where I was told of the possible diagnosis, the Nurse Practitioner told me that the pathologist, who had caught the strange cell formations in my first biopsy and insisted that another be done and sent away to be reviewed by a specialist, claimed to know me.  Her name was Emmi.

I spent a great deal of time trying to figure out who this Emmi was, asking people if they knew who she was, or for help guessing how she knew me.  The only connection that she had mentioned  to my N.P. was the piano.  I finally gave up, and thought, “Someday I’ll know who it was that saved my life…”  I guess I figured I’d know in Heaven.

Not long ago, (more than a year later) I was at a group piano lesson with my daughter Emily.  When she finished playing and the other boy was to take a turn, he asked that we wait for his mom, she was running late, but she’d be here in a few minutes.  And Emily’s teacher said, “Oh of course, we can wait for Emmi…”

And at that moment, I realized this was the connection I’d been looking for.

Breathless, I sat there.  Two and two were coming together, and I could not believe what I was hearing.  I was completely startled by what I heard and I could barely think.  My heart and mind swirled together with emotions which eventually spilled down my cheeks on the drive home.

It was Emmi, a fellow “piano mom” who insisted to my physician that she knew who I was (even though I hadn’t remembered her name) and pushed them to have a second biopsy completed and evaluated by a leading pathologist in the field.   I have often wondered what would have happened if they hadn’t determined my diagnosis.

But, God didn’t wonder, He designed every nuance of my story, all of it, in advance.

I came to realize that, indeed, He isn’t just present, aloof, sitting by idly.  Through His providence and power, He is perfectly holding all of the pieces of His Great story in place.  His hands hold my world together.

When I read these words later, they seemed so new and real:

Colossians 1:17 He himself is before all things and all things are held together in him.

What comfort to know that every detail, no matter how far beyond my control, was planned and prepared by Him before the world began, even this small little thing of a woman who would help to save my life.

Thank you, Heavenly Father.