Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Rescue Begins


     Drowning. Engulfed in flames. Enemies rapidly overtaking. In this type of situation you are consumed by one thought: rescue. And the sooner the better. Dramatic events like these demand a swift, certain, absolute rescue. A hero, a savior, brave, bold, a true knight in shining armor is the only one who will do.

   Flooded by doubt. Burning with guilt. Continual attacks by the enemy. Do these demand a rescue, too? Even more so.
"“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him."" Luke 12:4-5 NIV
Tales of climatic escapes thrill us. But the greatest one ever began on Christmas night. Every good rescue needs a hero, and the greatest One ever to grace the printed page had a very humble beginning.

 We don't like to admit that we need rescuing at times. We want to prove our self-sufficiency. Earn our way to salvation. But we need a hero. No, we need a Savior.

  And on Christmas we got a brave, bold, humble, honorable, King. No mere knight would do-not even one from the mythical Round Table. No, this one came straight from heaven.

  His mission: to save us. He never wavered from the goal-to give His very life to rescue mine. A fate far worse than a burning building threatened, the very fires of hell cast shadows on my soul. And if that doesn't seem very Christmas-y to you, then you don't really understand what Christmas means.

"Since by the one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive the overflow of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ." Romans 5:17 CSB

    Death was winning. Sin was overcoming. Hell was literally about to break loose.

But Jesus.


  Christmas is so much more than we have allowed it to be. Christmas is the beginning of the most dramatic rescue ever told-yours! Through the gift of Christ we are SAVED.

"Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!" 2 Corinthians 9:15 CSB 

  Are you on the edge of your seat yet? Are you biting your nails? Is your heart beating out of your chest? Are there tears in your eyes? This is the time-you have heard this story before, but this time do you see it? There He is-center stage, everything is falling in to place.

"Rise up and help us;    rescue us because of your unfailing love." Psalm 44:25 NIV

He came to save...

 "He sent out His [W]ord and healed them; He rescued them from the grave." Psalm 107:20 NIV
Salvation is near...

"...[G]iving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of His holy people in the kingdom of light.
 For He has rescued us
 from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." Colossians 1:12-14 NIV 
This Christmas don't be distracted. Don't look away. Don't miss it. It's the most important opening to any story, ever.

The Rescue Begins...

for you.


Saturday, November 24, 2018

To Jocelyn, On Your 13th Birthday

Dear Jocelyn,
                  I think you pretty much know my viewpoint on the "teenage years". They aren't magical or exceptional, other than in the sense that they are a continuation on growing and maturing that you've been doing all along. Each year is a milestone, with it's own highlights and challenges. Adding "teen" to your age doesn't change that.

    And it doesn't have to turn you into someone you don't recognize. More than ever the world will demand that you turn your back on what you know is true. It will lie and tell you this is the time to "try new things", code for rebel against, mock and twist the truth. It will tell you that you need to "find yourself". Don't listen, you know the Truth. His name is Jesus. You are *so* faithful to Him, and focusing on Him will never be a bad choice. It will always lead to real, abundant, life. These things have been true all your life and they won't change now. We have always encouraged you to learn all you can about Him, to listen to His leading, to believe that the Holy Spirit teaches you and guides you. Don't follow your heart, or your dreams! Those selfish desires will only lead you astray. Follow Him, follow His vision for you. Follow His heart. 

    You have amazed me your whole life with your passion for Christ. As you become more and more autonomous, gaining new abilities and responsibilities you will be able to do a wider variety of things for the Kingdom. You are already gearing up for some big opportunities, deciding to do hard things, trusting that He will go before and behind you. Keep saying "yes!" to Him.

    Your challenge is the same as it has always been: fighting the fear that everyone seems to think is necessary. That is the biggest lie you will hear. Fear is absolutely in contradiction to everything the Word teaches. Over and over we are told, "DO NOT BE AFRAID!" You do NOT have to fear-He is with you. I am learning this, too, but I am here to encourage you. I am here to remind you. I am here to stand beside you. I can't do if for you, but if I can, I'll go with you. If I can't, I will be waiting to hear your stories of victory through Christ, to cheer you on, and to bring the ice cream. 

    And never, ever forget how much your Dad and I love you. The hard things we make you do are to help you to continue to mature in who Christ wants you to be. Our chief desire for you is to grow in the love of the Lord and walk in His ways. Your education, your extracurricular activities, your free time, those are all tools to reach the goal: loving the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength. I have no expectations for you other than to follow His leading. 

   Make the most of Jesus. Leave the things of the world behind. I've said these things to you since you were born. These years ahead, they are just about continuing that journey. My fervent prayer for you is that in every way you will far surpass the faith that I have. I am always here to encourage you in that. I love you, my sweet, bright, lovable, Christ-like girl. That is never going to change.


Friday, October 26, 2018

Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Truffles


      I did not fall off the face of the earth. I have spent a long time thinking about my blog, and whether or not I wanted to continue blogging. I finally decided that I think I will most likely let my custom domain go (meaning it will go back to being and quit trying to "make" something of this little corner of the internet and just continue as a hobby. If someone ever comes along and wants to lift me out of obscurity, terrific. If not, I'm pretty sure my mom still reads this so that's someone!

   Now that I've gotten that out of the way, I tinkered with this recipe that I put together last year. I made a few changes and I'm really happy with how it turned out. I'm not in any way implying this is an original idea, I love the classic Oreo truffle and this is just a riff on that. However, I did not base this particular recipe on anything else besides the inspiration that struck standing in the aisle of Trader Joe's staring at the Pumpkin Spice Joe-Joe's!

   I am *basic* when it comes to pumpkin spice-I really do look forward to the first pumpkin spice latte of the year. The smell of those seasonings really conjures up images of fall. I wanted a little bit of that-in truffle form. I made these last year and dipped them in white chocolate, because I felt like it went better with the flavors and was more aesthetically pleasing (I'm just being honest!) but it was widely panned by my family and friends. I ran out of white chocolate and dipped the remainder in dark chocolate. Now those were a hit!

   So, I decided to go with the crowd-pleasing dark chocolate and make a few slight adjustments and I think these are worth trying! They're simple, but elegant and tasty! They are pretty quick to make, and they keep well in the refrigerator. (They last for at least a week if kept in the fridge, I don't know if they last longer than that, as they are always gone by then!)

   You only need four ingredients for these. So. Easy.

1 box of Trader Joe's Pumpkin Joe-Joe's
4 oz. softened cream cheese
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
10 oz. chopped dark chocolate (I used Ghiradelli melting wafers)

Optional: sprinkles for the top.

   First, you need to crush all the cookies into a fine crumb. I use my Ninja food processor, you don't want any big pieces or they won't have that creamy truffle consistency.  Next, you will want to add the cream cheese and mix thoroughly. I switch to the mixing blade on my food processor, it blends the filling nicely. You can also use a mixer, but be warned, the dough is very thick!

   Once everything is all blended, you will need to refrigerate the filling for an hour. This will make it easier to handle when you are shaping the truffles.

    After the filling is chilled, roll the mixture into 1 inch balls. I used a scantily filled small cookie scoop. Place the rolled balls onto parchment or waxed paper to keep them from sticking.

  Melt the chocolate in a small bowl. Working quickly, dip the truffles into the chocolate. Place immediately onto waxed paper. If you are using sprinkles, add immediately after dipping so they will "stick". The chocolate should set fairly quickly but don't move the truffles until it has firmed up. I usually place the chocolates in the fridge to harden for at least a half-hour or so before I try to put them in mini cupcake liners or stack them. Keep refrigerated!

   This recipe will make 24-28 truffles, depending on the size. These are perfect for holiday parties or for gifting. They would make a great addition to a Thanksgiving dessert spread, too!

   Don't be fooled: they look like peanut butter but it is just the color of the cookie. See how uniform the filling looks? No one will be able to tell you took a cookie shortcut!

   Hopefully, you agree with me, that there is still plenty of "fall" left to make pumpkin spiced things in, as Halloween is only next week and we have a month until Thanksgiving. I love Christmas but I try not to rush it! How about you, are you still in fall mode? Or are you team Christmas?

Friday, May 11, 2018

To A Homeschool Mom, for Teacher Appreciation Week

Dear Homeschool Mom,
                It's Teacher Appreciation Week. Yes, that is a thing. You probably don't know it, because rarely does anyone appreciate you, much less acknowledge that you are actually a "teacher". But you are. Even if you don't see it.

   No one appreciates a mom less than the mom herself. No one is harder on you than you. You find yourself self-flagellating on a constant basis. Did I do enough? Did I give enough? What is enough? There is always something undone. You know. You have a list longer than you are tall. Because not only are you the mom, you are "The Teacher".

   You are always wondering if you've been successful. Are you covering the basics? Are you overlooking the electives? Do you need to change curriculums? Do you need to add a subject? Take one away? Test more? Test less? Test at all? Are they retaining? Responding? Reacting?


Just stop.

   I wish that I could give you some chocolate. We all need a little bit. I have Dove Promises, both milk and dark. They're pretty hard to resist. And you certainly deserve one. Probably you deserve a whole bag. And a vacation. And a pony if you want one. Unfortunately, all I can offer you is this:

   I'm not here to tell you you are enough. The matter is simple: you're not. You already know that. I am here to tell you this: He is.

  And HE SEES YOU. He sees you struggle, but more than that He sees your faithfulness. To get back up. Every. Single. Time. doubt knocks you down. He sees your heart: full of love for your children and a desire to cherish and serve them by teaching that at home. He sees your willingness to forgive. He sees your perseverance, how you get up and try again over and over. He knows your desire to do His will at the cost of ever being acknowledged, trusting that if the only "well done" you ever hear is from Him it will be enough.

   He keeps all His promises. And trust me, they are so much better than little chocolate squares. He promises to finish the good work He started in you. You can see this through because He will see you through.

"I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6 HCSB

  You can finish your good work because He will always finish His. And you, my sweet friend, are most definitely doing the Lord's work.

  So if no one ever tells you, " thank you" I will.

   Thank you for carrying on. Thank you for pushing through the swamping fear and doubt. Thank you for the cool science projects and the dramatic art failures. Thank you for the hours spent reading out loud, for the careful explanation of grammar terms. Thank you for spelling the same word 6,000 times. Thank you for grading endless multiplication facts.Thank you for carefully choosing curriculum. Thank you for constantly evaluating, tweaking, changing, always striving for perfection. Thank you for loving your family well. Thank you for listening to His voice even when the world tries its hardest to drown Him out. Thank you for praying, for seeking, for loving selflessly. Thank you for your humility, and for leading, for showing strength even when you can't see it yourself.

  Thank you being "mom" but also for being "Teacher". Thank you. I don't have to know you to know that you are amazing. Continue in faithfulness. And that, echoing the Apostle Paul, this is the cry of my heart for you:

 "I pray that He may grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power in the inner man through His Spirit, and that the Messiah may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know the Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge, so you may be filled with all the fullness of God.Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us— to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen." Ephesians 3:16-21 HCSB

Thank you. From the bottom of my heart. 
                                                                           Your fellow homeschool mom,

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

To Carson, On Your 10th Birthday

Dear Carson,
         So, I really had to force myself to write this tonight so that it would post on your actual birthday. Life right now is...crazy, to say the least. Your dad and I took a big leap of faith and we finally bought a house. One in which, after seven years, you should *finally* have your own bedroom. You've kind of been a champ about the whole room-sharing thing, I think you know there are things you will miss about sharing with your sister, even if you will never admit it. You don't really remember what it was like to have a room of your own-the last time was before you turned three!

   But I think you're up for the challenge. You are so excited to have a place of your own to invite your friends to-you definitely have the gift of hospitality. Your greatest pleasure is to make plans and have people over. You have this really great group of boys that you are friends with, and it never ceases to amaze me how popular you are. You demonstrate traits of a good leader, and you are always thoughtful about other people and what they may want or need. Your sensitive heart is one of my favorite things about you.

   Nine was a good year for you, I think. You took recorder in co-op and really enjoyed it, so much so that you are considering band. (We'll see, I'm not sure about adding anything else to the schedule!) You really developed your friendships-spending so many Thursday afternoons at other people's houses I've lost track. You've worked hard in school and Awana. You keep me on track with my verses, and I love sharing the goal of finishing this year's T&T book. You make it look easy!

  You've continued to love soccer, and I really appreciate the team that you are on, you put in a lot of effort, but you have a good time. I'm glad that you are starting to figure out what you want, and going for it, even if it is out of your comfort zone. I try really hard to encourage you to do things that you're afraid of-we're a lot alike and I don't want you to be trapped by silly fears. That isn't what the Lord wants for us, and you help me to be brave so I want to do the same for you.

    I'm looking forward to this year. Ten is kind of a big deal, you're not a "little kid" anymore. I'm thankful for those sweet days, but I'm eager to see where this new phase takes us. I really like you, and I think it's just going to get better. I'm so thankful God put you in my life. I love you.


Friday, March 30, 2018

Wounds We Cannot See

    The intricacies of Christ's death and resurrection are something that I am certain I will study all my life and never tire of. The saying goes, "the devil is in the details" but I wholeheartedly and vehemently attest that *God* is in the details. He can speak more meaning into a single sentence than I will ever utter in my entire life.

   This Easter I have been contemplating the wounds of the Savior. He was beaten without mercy, tortured by whips and thorns, He was pierced by nails and swords. He endured hideous physical pain and that swamps me with grief because I know He was pierced for my transgressions.

   And that would have been too much. Those wrenching, life-stealing bodily wounds would have been more than I deserved. But He went a step further. The worst torture He endured was something we could not see.

"About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli,ema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)" Matthew 27:46 NIV

The Father turned away from His only Son.

"But your iniquities have separated    you from your God;your sins have hidden His face from you,    so that He will not hear." Isaiah 59:2 NIV

He was there because of us.

“He Himself bore our sins” in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by His wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24 NIV

When He was bearing the weight of ALL of our sins, His Father had to hide His face. The Son was separated from the Father. That was the greatest wound of all. We could never be with God because of our sin. That was the punishment that Jesus bore on the cross. The perfect Son, who is One with the Father, and our sin tore that bond asunder.

 Peter was quoting this passage from Isaiah:

"Surely He took up our pain    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered Him punished by God, stricken by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressionsHe was crushed for our iniquities;the punishment that brought us peace was on Him,    and by His wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray,    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on Him    the iniquity of us all." Isaiah 53:4-6 NIV (emphasis mine)

   The wound that we could not see is the one that caused our Christ the greatest grief. That was the cup He begged to pass from Him. He knew that separation from God was the absolute worst punishment imaginable. And He took that upon Himself so that we could be freed.

   He gave Himself to save us so that we would never have to bear that unfathomable pain. That anguish, that horror, didn't show on His skin but it was etched on His heart.

He took that on Himself because He loved us.

He bore that for me. For you.

He took that so that we could say:

"What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us,who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  As it is written:“For your sake we face death all day long;    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 
neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:31-39 NIV (emphasis mine)

  Nothing can separate us. He took that separation on Himself so that we will never have to endure it once we are in Him. He was wounded with the greatest wound, the wound we could not see, so that we could be healed.

How deep the Father's love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure
How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory
Behold the man upon a cross
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished
I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

-Stuart Townend

HE IS RISEN! By His wounds we are healed... Thank You, Jesus.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Super Simple Pan Roasted Bacon Brussel Sprouts

     Making Brussel sprouts always seems to upgrade a meal. I'm not sure if it is just that I don't throw them in the microwave like so many vegetables, or if they're cooked rather than just tossing a salad,  but they feel "fancy".

   And my family loves them! Thankfully, they are ridiculously easy to make. So many of my recipes have "Super Simple" in the title, because to me, that is their chief attribute. Of course, they're delicious, but let's be honest: I'm not making anything on a regular basis that isn't stupidly easy. But that doesn't have quite as nice of a ring to it. ;)

 These take maybe 10 minutes from start to finish, and serve 2-4, depending on portion sizes.

You'll need:
-four strips of heat and serve bacon (you can use raw bacon, but it will take a bit more time)
- 1/2 to 1 tbsp. butter
-a cup of onion, sliced (I cut the onion in half, then slice it, then I cut the slices in half again)
-fresh Brussel sprouts, 8-10 oz.

    First, you will want to slightly steam your brussel sprouts to make sure you end up with a tender final product. I bought a heat-in-the-bag type from Trader Joe's and I popped it in the microwave for two minutes. If you prefer, you can also bring an inch or so of water to a boil in a saucepan and steam the brussel sprouts covered for two minutes until they are bright green. Cut sprouts in half.

 Since I don't prefer to cook raw bacon, I use the pre-cooked kind. It is easy to cut the slices into strip with my kitchen shears. I cut them right over my skillet. Cook the bacon until it begins to crisp-you don't need to cook it to done, as it will continue to cook with the sprouts and onions.

  Depending on how fatty your bacon is, you will want to add 1/2 to 1 tbsp. of butter. Immediately add the onions. Saute briefly, about one minute. Add the sprouts.

 Cook until the bacon is crispy, the onions are translucent and the sprouts are nicely browned, stirring occassionally. You can add salt and pepper, as you cook, or after. Sometimes I add a little garlic salt.

   Serve immediately! I find these to be preferable to pan roasting, as I can more easily control the tenderness of the sprouts, and I don't have to heat up my oven when it is warmer. These are so quick and easy, and honestly, even with the butter and bacon, they are still a great way to get your veggies in. Even my kids love them! I think it's the bacon. :)

  That's it! A super simple, healthy, "fancy" side? That's a big "yes" for me! We love to eat these with roasted pork tenderloin, steak, or grilled chicken. They're pretty good with almost anything. So, go! Eat brussel sprouts and feel fancy! 


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