if at first you don’t succeed

It happened, all in about week’s time, it did.  Over and over again.

My daughter, after a season of giving up, retrieved her bow and arrow from the garage and set up her target. I found her in the woods, happily searching for a wayward arrow.

In my kitchen, where sometimes I believe (falsely) that I’m a master of all things baking, there was a beautiful knot of dough with the wrong amount of yeast in the trash can.  There I stood at my baker’s counter kneading another boule.

Husband, in a white hazmat suit, began installing insulation in his shop after being in a holding pattern of “not yet” and “can’t” for what seemed like possibly forever.

I crossed the finish line with frozen toes and my breath in view.  Two years ago I began a similar journey, but only with mild success.   This time,  joy, tears and a medal…

At church, my bow pulled across the strings of my violin, after quite a lengthy period of silence. Oh the pure happiness of calloused fingertips…

All of us giving it another go.

Sometimes the trial of errors and the horror of failure can be weighty on my heart and soul.  So much so, that is hard to pick up and give it another go.  The old saying alone, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” is lack-luster in it’s inspiration.

Why in the world would I try again to be something I thought I was, in order to find (again) that I’m not good enough, or capable enough?

Typically I think of myself as part wife, mom, musician, baker, runner.  And while those pieces of me are at different stages of development, I am not equal to the sum of those parts.  I am more.

When I acknowledge that my actual whole self’s worth is found in who I am in Christ, I realize I am exponentially myself.  All of the truth of who He is, becomes mine.  whoa.  Who I am does not rely on how hard I try.  

This is good news, friends!  It frees me to give, again and again, without suffering the shame of mistakes.  I don’t have to believe the lie that I’m not who I thought I was.  In my best reality I’m fully loved as a daughter of the King, capable of being exactly who He made me to be.  By His strength, by His wisdom, by His gifts – a wife, mom, musician, baker, runner – and so, so, so much more.

I can try, try again.

I am believing these words today from Ephesians 1:  “I am accepted in the Beloved.”

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

 

 

 

 

November Tune-up

DSC_0381DSC_0295DSC_0331DSC_0325We just passed the first weekend of November and my mind is swirling, trying to catch up – I’m not sure where 2014 has gone.  At any rate, we took it easy the past few days and spent some family time together.   And it is just what my heart and soul needed.

November, sometimes, ends up being a countdown to the end of the year. Worst case scenario : it is a fast-paced exhausting race to Christmas.  And I just don’t want to be a part of that marathon this year.  My heart longs to savor this season of Thanksgiving.  I want to take my time and soak in all of the goodness that God has given to us.   Like my favorite hymn, I’m asking the Heavenly Father to “Tune my heart to sing thy grace.”    When I focus on all of the craziness this season often brings, my heart gets out of tune pretty quickly.  

Here are a few of my “thankfulnesses.”  Nothing fantastic by most’s standards, I suppose.  Yet, they are God’s grace – specifically for me.   And I am truly grateful!

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what you need for running a race.

I’m training for another 5-k.

I know, I know – you’ve been down this road with me before.  But, after a year and a half of succumbing to inactivity, I knew it was time.  Time to get moving again.  The only problem is:  it is terribly uncomfortable.

I knew this about running from the last 5-k.  But, still I’m running.

After seeing a nutritionist at my doctor’s office, who is also a runner, I’ve been able to glean some exceptional bit of advice. Here are two of the best things I’ve learned during my visits with him:   First, becoming a runner has everything to do with how okay you are with being uncomfortable.  And second, even in your best, most tip-top shape, it is never a good idea to attempt the hard stuff alone.

He couldn’t be more right…

So, I’m hoping to run the upcoming race with a friend.  It seems we may be able to run and keep the same pace, so hopefully we’ll be able to be uncomfortable together all the way to the finish line.

He’s not just speaking truth when it comes to athletics.  He’s right about the Christian life – and I’m not even sure if he’s a believer.   The reality is, this is how we’re made.   God created us for companionship ; for survival through friendship and encouragement from the body of Christ.

Life is hard and becoming a believer isn’t a bed of roses.  In fact, it is referred to to in Scripture as denying oneself and taking up the cross.  The marathon of the Christian Life requires a unique willingness to move thru or surrender to trials that are painful.  It is an impossible journey without the gifts of perseverance and faith.

But, there is the promise of help.  The fellowship of the Spirit brings strength by supernatural means, but also embodied in other believers.  When I feel like I just can’t take another step, it sure is easier if someone is standing on the sidelines saying, “Let’s go!  You can do this, I know you can!  Let’s keep doing this hard stuff together!”

Paul talks about sharing in this life together, being like minded – looking out for each other:

Philippians 2:

Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy,  fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.  Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

Heavenly Father,  Thank you for making a way – for the gift of faith and the power of the Holy Spirit that keeps me in constant motion towards the call you’ve given me.  and for the means of grace you provide in friendships that encourage and strengthen me daily.   Let me set aside my own selfish ambitions in order to bring mercy to others in need, cheering them on in their own race, for your name’s sake.  amen. 

 

 

Over the Top…

It’s Thursday, the day after I became a 37 yr old.  Now, I know, I know.  Some of you are a little upset because you thought I was closer to 40 than that.  In an effort to make it up to you, who have this grievance, I am giving you a favorite recipe.

Thirty Seven, after being thirty five and thirty six for so long felt, well, over the top.  So,  I thought it was appropriate to share a recipe for these cookies that I made for an event recently.  They are called “Over the Top Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Cookies.”  Proportionally they are about as over the top as it felt to turn 37, which was a lot.

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Yesterday someone mentioned to me that, “It’s all down hill from here…”  Oh yes, thank you ever so much for that encouragement.  I guess it was more over the top than I knew…Once you’re up and over there’s not anywhere else to go than down.  oh dear.

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These cookies seem to feel right for the Fall season, too.  Although, truthfully when does chocolate and peanut butter not feel right?   I wouldn’t know – I have an unconditional love for Reese’s cups or anything of the sort.  YUM!

So, here is the recipe for you.  If you felt deceived about my age, please accept this as a token of my sincere apology. And, I hope this makes things okay between us now.

Over the Top Reese’s Peanut Butter Cookies

3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup peanut butter
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips
32 mini Reese’s peanut butter cups, each cut into 4 pieces

1. Mix the ingredients down to the vanilla.  Add soda, salt & flour. Fold in chocolate chips.

2. Using an ice cream scoop, scoop dough (these are big cookies!). place 6 scoops of dough on ungreased cookie sheets.  use you hand & slightly flatten each scoop of dough.  Cook for 12 minutes at 350.

3.  Remove cookies from oven & lightly press 8 cut up pieces of the Reese’s peanut butter cups over the top of each cookie. Return to the oven for 2 more minutes.  Cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes before placing on cooling rack.

Makes 18 cookies

Notes: I’ve used semi sweet chocolate chips or dark chocolate chunks.  In place of the Reese’s pb cups, you could also use mini or regular M & M’s or Reese’s pieces.  The photos here show my cookies with a combo of the mini cups and Reese’s pieces.

Also, I do make smaller cookies – using a scant 1/4 cup scoop.  and by scant I mean I only fill the scoop about 2/3 full. – just be sure to watch the baking time if you make the smaller cookie – takes about 12 minutes, add the toppers, then bake another 3 or so…

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Enjoy!  This recipe was given to me by my lovely and talented sister, Marilyn.  :)

Originally posted October 4, 2012.

at work

On Friday morning when my kiddos and I were picking up breakfast at Chick fil a, I happened to see something in the drive-thru line that took me back in my memory probably 23 years.   What was it?   It was a Honda Odyssey, with a really large extension ladder strapped to the roof.  In the back we could see tools and supplies.  The man driving was clearly planning to do some construction work.

With one glance at that van, I was 16 again, standing in the driveway with my dad.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  I didn’t have my orange  ’69 pinto yet, and so I depended on my parents’ vehicles to get me where I needed to go.  At the time, my dad was self employed doing a wide variety of small construction projects for people.

Unfortunately, at 16 I did not care one iota that my dad was working hard to provide for us.   In my tiny, selfish teenager world, all I cared about was, well, me.   And so, there in the driveway, I was begging my dad to please unload the back of his station wagon of all of his tools and supplies so that I didn’t have to carry them around town with me.  Obviously, driving a car with tools in the back was humiliating.  But, my dad didn’t unload the car.  He said to me with a bit of frustration, “Melody, It’s my work car!”  and he went inside.

That was it.  He offered no explanation, and I didn’t deserve one.  That day I had to drive my dad’s work car in all of it’s glory.  But, I wasn’t nice about it.  My focus was on me and my reputation instead of the bigger picture.

That year when my dad had found himself between pastoral positions, he worked so hard to provide for us.  Long, grueling hours of back-breaking work.  He was helping people, sometimes senior citizens, or others who might not be able to afford a “big-time” contractor to do the work.  What he was doing was good.  What he was doing was very valuable.  It was my expectation that was inappropriate  in the situation.

As an adult, I find myself  still living life this way.  I let His world and His will shrink to insignificant status, and I let my own desires get enormous.  Simply – when the Heavenly Father doesn’t answer a request the way I think He should, I question His goodness.  If He is not doing things my way, I question: Is He still good?  What if I’m embarrassed by His response to my request?

Sometimes I’m not privy to His entire big picture.  But that doesn’t matter – and He isn’t obligated to me.  What is required is my faith in Him.   I can be absolutely confident, my Heavenly Father is always doing good, bringing His Great Story to pass in the World.  That may not be the same as me getting my way. But He is always at work, and it is always right, just and perfect.

 

 

 

Twelve things you need to know about Ebola (and other scary things)

Can you feel it?

Tensions are mounting. All reasonable or rational perspective is disappearing.  Panic mode is breaking out everywhere, much faster than the virus we’re afraid of,  and I can’t sleep this evening because I tried to watch the news before bed.

Flipping thru a few pins on Pinterest (trying to induce myself into a sleepy state), I saw a pin about self talk and “being the best calm and focused version of yourself possible.”  Truthfully, it was a bunch of narcissistic nonsense.  As I read the ten things I needed to tell myself I realized that I needed to start telling myself something completely other than that; I needed to remind myself, in these moments of news induced panic, what’s truly important.   I needed to call to mind and remember what God says.

And what He says applies in every situation. Always.
Here are the 12 thoughts about the Ebola “crisis” that He reminded me of tonight:

I’m in control. The Lord has established His throne in heaven,  And His kingdom rules over all.Psalm 103 :19
I’m victorious over death.  For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.  1John 5:4
I’m singing over you, because  I’m delighted with youThe Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”  Zephaniah 3:17
I’m listening to you. Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know. Jeremiah 33:3
I’ve forgiven you. As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12
I’m preparing you.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.  Matthew 28:19-20
I’m holding you.  And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.                 John 10:28-29
I’m with you.  Fear not, for I am with you;  Be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you,  Yes, I will help you,  I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’  Isaiah 41:10
I already know the outcome. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11
I will keep my promises. For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.  Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God,  who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. 2Corinthians 1:20-22
I love you. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,  nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:38-39
You are mine for eternity.  Fear not, for I have redeemed you;  I have called you by your name;  You are Mine.  Isaiah 43:1

There’s more hope here, in His promises, than I can ever muster in my own inward-focused self talk. I, in my own strength, will never be the solution to the hope and calm I need.  And I’m so thankful I don’t have to be!

rolling pins

It is Canadian Thanksgiving Eve.  Here, in my kitchen, that means one thing and one thing only.  It is time to bake my Grandma Brubacher’s Pumpkin Pie.   I just finished baking the pie and my house is filled with the aroma and my mind with happy memories.

Isaac begged to eat the pie now.  But I declined with every ounce of self-control I have.

As I worked on the pie crust earlier this afternoon, I pulled out a few very important tools.  I have two rolling pins that I love to use.  I know, I know, it is a little unorthodox to use two pins for one pie crust, but I do it.  You see my rolling pins are very special and fulfill very specific rolls in my baking world.

The first rolling pin was a Christmas gift from the hubs a few Christmases ago.  It is a Vic Firth rolling pin.  If you know anything from the percussionists’ world, you know that Vic Firth primarily makes maple drum sticks.  But, they also make maple, heavy as lead rolling pins.  I use it first on my pie crust, especially if the dough is chilled, to wear the dough out with minimal effort and bring it into submission.

The second is a hand-me-down.  And I’m not talking about a Goodwill find. This one was given to me by my mum, who received it a long time ago from her mum.  How I scored it for my kitchen, I’m not sure, but I love it.  It is a lovely pin, and rolls very lightly and gently.  I use this rolling pin to coax my crust into the desired shape and thickness.

My pie duties and these utensils reminded me of God’s Word, and how it works on my own heart.  There are all kinds of Scripture verses that the Holy Spirit uses for my benefit, kinda like a rolling pin, in order for me to become what He chooses.

Sometimes (actually often) my heart is cold and indifferent to my sin, or full of pride. But He consistently uses His word to penetrate deeply, bringing the warmth and shape He desires.  Often it is difficult work and my heart requires many many passes before the work is accomplished. I am a very slow learner.

Sometimes my heart is full of hurt, fear or maybe even shame.  In these times, when I feel bruised and painful to the touch, He offers gentleness and compassion with words that forgive, heal and restore me.    How beautiful those times are when He tends to my soul the way no one else can.

As the Thanksgiving season begins tomorrow, I’m thankful for many things.  But I’m especially grateful for a Heavenly Father who has given His Word, and His Holy Spirit in order to shape my life, and transform me.  It may be more than uncomfortable at times, but there is nothing more wonderful than realizing My Heavenly Father has a plan and He loves me enough to be at work in my heart.

And I am thankful for these words from Ephesians 2:

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.