Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend

I'm out of commission today with a cough, body aches, and general "I-don't-feel-good" -itis, so I thought I might as well use this time to my advantage and post about Memorial Day. Our weekend was pretty packed. Saturday I went for an 8-mile walk with a friend from workout class, then John and I ate lunch on our front patio: fresh fruit, slices of summer sausage, and pieces of homemade cinnamon raisin bread. 

After a nice little nap, we decided to saunter down to Mama Carmen's and drink hot chocolate (John) and a nonfat latte (me) whilst playing around on our laptops. Mama Carmen's makes the best lattes of anywhere I've been. The frothy steamed milk melts into the coffee with an unparalleled creaminess. It's delightful. 

On Sunday, after a great service at church, we went to Wilson Park and had a picnic lunch. The weather was perfect, and it was great to see so many families taking advantage of the warm weather, sunshine, and cool breeze.

Our big outing was Monday. We had planned to go hiking and caving at Lost Valley near Ponca, but after driving 1.5 hours to the trailhead, we found a sign saying the recent weather had closed the roads to the trail. We couldn't even drive down to the site. Luckily, a friend had mentioned a trail only a few miles down the road called Center Point Trail, so we headed down that way. We hiked for a couple of hours, took in the amazing views, and even saw a grass snake. Then we ate a picnic lunch, stopped at a flea market called "Grandpa's" in Kingston, and went home. It was a fantastic day!

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Next Year

Why wait until New Year's to make plans for the year? Why travel around the world when so much is right at my backdoor? Here is my list of....

Local Things I'd Like to Do in the Next Year

I'm sure I'll add more to this as the year goes on, but I'm pretty pleased with the start of it. Any other suggestions? I am totally open to ideas!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Strong Enough

I heard this song while driving in my car this morning, and started crying. It's called "Strong Enough," by Matthew West (I apologize for the cheesy lyrics-only version, but there's no official video). The lyrics say:

You must, you must think I'm strong.
To give me what I'm going through.
Well forgive me, forgive me if I'm wrong,
But this looks like more than I can do....on my own. 

I know I'm not strong enough to be
everything that I'm supposed to be.
I give up.
I'm not strong enough. 

Hands of mercy won't you cover me,
Lord, right now I'm asking you to be strong enough, 
strong enough for the both of us.

I need this song, not because I'm going through something traumatic or overwhelming, but because I need to realize that, despite the old adage that "God never gives us more than we can handle," He actually does. God consistently and purposely gives us more than we can handle so we'll consistently and purposely draw closer to Him.

I didn't realize this fact for a long time. I thought that if I behaved like a good little girl, God would always treat me like His precious princess, hovering over me and shielding me from all the bad in the world. So when bad things happened to me or someone I loved, I thought it was because I wasn't living up to my end of the bargain - I wasn't being the "good girl" I promised I would be. 

But Hebrews 12:6 says "the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives." Trials come our way because God loves us, not because He forgot us or wants to punish us for our bad behavior. He wants us to draw closer to Him, to understand how much we truly need Him and how utterly beautiful He is. C.S. Lewis put it this way: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world."

So Matthew West's song is right: we're not strong enough. We aren't supposed to be, we don't have to be, and, in fact, God didn't create us to be.

There are several people in my life who are going through trials right now, and I hope they know how much God loves them. We don't have to be strong enough, because God is with us. He fights for us. He loves us. He gives us family and friends to fight for us and love us. It will be okay.

Well maybe, maybe that's the point:
to reach the point of giving up.
Cause when I'm finally, finally at rock bottom,
well that's when I start looking up
and reaching out.

I know I'm not strong enough to be
everything that I'm supposed to be.
I give up.
I'm not strong enough. 

You don't choose your family.  They are God's gift to you, as you are to them. 
~Desmond Tutu

Friday, May 13, 2011



As a child, I didn't really get it (and to be quite honest, as an adult I don't know that I understand it). There are so many elements that seem important:

  • your head must be bowed, 
  • your eyes must be closed,
  • your palms should be touching,
  • your brow should be slightly furrowed,
  • you must say "in Jesus' name" before closing,
  • you must not be overly casual, nor should you be too formal in your speech,
  • you must pray to God, through Jesus, with the help of the Holy Spirit.
With all these rules I never felt as though "I" was praying; rather, the uber-Christian version of myself from Bible camp took over, wearing the WWJD bracelet and promise ring, holding my Teen Study Bible and highlighter. Prayer felt more like a checklist than a conversation, and I felt more like a robot than a daughter of Christ.

Now, there are many times when I felt like my prayers came from my heart: when I prayed for discernment upon my engagement to John, when a friend asked me to pray for her anxiety, when I felt broken and ashamed. But in those moments, I didn't bow my head, I didn't close my eyes, and I didn't follow the order of "to God, through Jesus, by the Holy Spirit." I just wanted to talk to my Father.

Though I've slowly been learning more and more about the power of prayer, this morning I read a section in Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology that really struck me at the heart of my concern and helped me understand the power of the words I speak to my Father, no matter when, where, or how I speak them.

He addressed the issue of claiming each prayer "in Jesus' name," an item I have wondered about for years. If I pray without using the phrase "in Jesus' name," is my prayer invalid? Is that phrase the Holy password, without which my prayers fail to reach God? For years, I thought so, citing John 12:13-14 as evidence: "Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it." However, Grudem disagrees: "Jesus did not say, 'If you ask anything and add the words "in Jesus' name" after your prayer, I will do it.' Jesus is not merely speaking about adding certain words as if these were a kind of magical formula that would give power to our prayers" (Pg. 379).

When I read that, I felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. Jesus trusts us enough to use His name to authorize our requests. I've always known that He died because He loves us, but to think that he trusts us is unfathomable to me. I don't deserve His trust. I haven't earned His trust, yet He gave it to me. His death is the authorization, not three words tacked on to the end of a prayer. How amazing is that? Jesus has authorized us to come on His authority. When we pray, we represent Him and His will. Thus, the words we use to speak on Jesus' authority are not secret passwords to grant us audience with the King; rather, they are a reminder to us that we should be extremely careful about our petition to God. Is it truly in His will? Is it glorifying to God? Does it follow Scripture? Then ask Him for it.

The posture of my heart is more important that the posture of my body. A humbled heart is more important than a furrowed brow or gently-clasped palms. I love that.

These are the moments I pray for:

Seeing my dad smile.
"Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that your God is giving you." Exodus 20:12

Spending time with my husband.
"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word." Ephesians 5:22

Spending time with friends.
"And day by day...breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all people." Acts 2:46-47

Pouring into the life of someone else.
"I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ." Philemon 6:6

Accomplishing things I didn't think were possible.
"I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13

Experiencing how beautiful His creation truly is.
"Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these." Luke 12:27

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Coconut Peeps Layer Cake

Here lately, with the onslaught of community groups and potluck Bible studies, I've really had an opportunity to try out some unusual and slightly time-consuming recipes. My favorite over the last month is a recipe called Peepza Rustica, found at the Serious Eats website. I decided it was too awesome not  to try, so I chronicled the process just for you. Here we go....

1. The ingredients. Because the dinner was set for the Monday after Easter, I got all the Peeps for 50% off! It's important to get multiple colors, and I found that putting them in the freezer for 30 minutes or so makes chopping them a lot easier. Also, it's important to get white cake mix, not yellow, so the colors stand out.

2. Chop the Peeps. Yes, this felt creepy. I confess, a couple of times I purposely turned the Peeps over so their tiny, beady little eyes weren't staring back at me. I guess years of being vegetarian will do that to a person.

3. Once I'd chopped them up and repented of my crime against Peeps-manity, I put the plate in the freezer so the marshmallowy goodness didn't stick together as badly.

4. I made the white cake mix as directed, and spread 1/3 on the bottom of a greased, floured 9x13" pan. Then, I spread 1/2 of the Peeps on top.

5. I added another layer of batter, the other 1/2 of the Peeps, and the final 1/3 of the batter on top, making sure it was nice and smooth.

6. I baked it as directed on the cake mix box, then let it cool. The funny part is, our community group was canceled that night due to rain, so I actually cut the cake in half, wrapped it in Saran wrap and aluminum foil, and put it in the freezer.

7. When I found out we were going to serve dessert for another group the following Sunday, I got the cake out, spread a layer of strawberry jam between the two layers, covered it in yellow frosting and coconut, and voila!!! Peepza Rustica! And, to boot, my first layer cake ever!!!

It was scrumptious, by the way. The Peeps gave it a nice texture, the extra sugar was divine, and the icing was incredibly thick. I am pleased.