Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Magnitude of the Request

When I was in school, I loved studying Napoleon.  Call me weird, but I thought he was a fascinating character in history.  Legends and stories surround his existence, and tales grow taller (heh, heh-couldn't help it...) with the telling.  One story in particular has always stood out to me, and I've heard varied versions of the same story, so I have to believe that it originally stemmed from witnessed fact.

The story goes, that Napoleon was visiting his men, attempting to boost morale and the like.  As he was introduced to a few of them, a lowly cavalry officer approached him, and humbly asked for something astronomical in size.  The commanding officer was aghast with shame and apprehension for Napoleon's response.  Imagine his shock when Napoleon drew himself up, looked the young officer in the eye, and graciously proclaimed, "Granted."  No questions asked, no lecturing on protocol, just a simple, "Yes." 


As he calmly strolled away, the commanding officer followed after him, sputtering apologies, and then questions.  One in particular.  He asked why Napoleon had granted such a huge request to such a lowly man.  Napoleon's matter-of-fact reply?  "He honored me with the magnitude of his request."  


I have loved this story for years, because that's often representative of how I view my relationship with God, in that I'm much like the lowly officer, making ridiculously huge requests to a powerful ruler, who is honored by the sheer magnitude of them.

I've been standing at the edge of myself for a while now, holding fast to an unbroken hope.  It's easy for people to unknowingly trample all over that hope and caution you that what you're asking for is nearly impossible.  But I say, don't listen to them.  God is honored by the magnitude of what we ask for.  So ask big!  And though ultimately, He may not give you what you want, don't lose your hope in the sight of impossible, while you wait for His answer.  Look past that, and up to a God who can.  




To read the continuing journey, where I talk about facts vs. feelings... click here.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Restoration plus interest.

Do y'all remember the other day when I told you about a biblical woman that I'd come to adore, and then I proceeded to share with you, in full LMM detail, the comings and goings of her faith journey?  Yeah.  Guess what?  She came back.  I wasn't even looking for her, but she dropped right in front of me in six more verses (2 Kings 8) and we get to see the "conclusion" of her story!  I was so excited!!  I mean, I love it when you're reading a book that spans generations, and then you get to the fourth book in the series and the original characters are referenced somehow, and you get to see that they actually lived long and prospered.  (Er, something like that.)

 The Shunammite woman did just that!  Well, actually, she had to experience a little life-garbage first.  (And for some reason this makes me love her even more.) Like, seven years of garbage to be exact.  That's a lot of garbage.  Anyway, it all began when her old son-healing-prophet-buddy Elisha, told her about a famine that was coming to her land, and told her to skeedadle out of town for the next seven years until it passed.  I bet those two were Facebook friends by now.  She's referred to as a widow in my commentary, so obviously, the rich old geezer she was married to had passed on.  She came back after the seven years had passed and low and behold, her abandoned land had all been claimed either by squatters or the king. (It doesn't say which, but my money's on the king.  Woman's intuition.)

Anyway, Elisha's servant Gehazi (the dude that Elisha had sent to cure the Shunammite's son back when he died, but she wouldn't trust anyone but Elisha to help) was talking to the king about Elisha and all he had done.  In fact, he just so happened to be explaining how Elisha had brought back a woman's son from the dead when in she walks!  That "just so happened" situation is so God.  He's always doing that sort of thing.  It's like his signature move or something.  The king was standing there with raised eyebrows while he listened to this crazy sounding Gehazi dude.  I mean the story was rather extreme, so he was dubious at best.  Then the Shunammite saunters in, all sweetness and feminine charm on a mission, and happily assures him that all the rumors were indeed true, and now, "could he please restore her land back?"  She must have made an impression, because get this.  The king gave her back all of her land, plus all the interest from the day she left, until when she walked in to visit the king. My commentary says that, "...the widow and her son were living examples of the Lord's provision and blessing for those who were obedient..."   This one just gets my whole heart.  I mean, she got the land plus the interest!!  That is so God for you.  (Make that two signature God moves.)

Obedience=Blessings.  And when in doubt on that obedience part, just follow the words of Proverbs 3:5- "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."  ...and chances are, you'll get the land back, plus interest. (I added that part.) 



Continue reading this crazy journey of faith, here.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Life Cycle of a Salted Caramel Cupcake.

Admit it.  I totally sucked you in, with this photo, didn't I? (And see?  I told y'all I was on a "Life Cycle of the __________" kick this week.  I blame homeschooling.  I'm just getting warmed up!)
I feel kind of ashamed, showing you this.  It proves many things about me.  First, it proves that I'm a slob in the kitchen.  Second, it proves that I really have the ugliest muffin pan ever.  (You may remember my previous shame, in this post.) Third, it proves that I still feel compelled to take a million photographs and share nearly all of them with you.  Regardless of the consequences.  I'm sort of a devil-may-care girl. 
Okay, I'm actually not, it just sounded really tough in the moment.  I get caught up in moments.  Like when I just made these cupcakes and discovered that I don't currently own will-power.  None.  Zip. Zilch. Nada.  Zeroooooo. 
I want to suck you in too, so I don't feel so bad about my non-existent will-power.  Please join me.  Let's make this "National Cupcake Eating Day."  All in favor say "aye." 
I didn't wait for the votes to come in.  Sorry.  First, go and bake yourself a batch of chocolate cupcakes.  I used a boxed mix (shhhh.) because my house is for sale and I don't care about cooking/baking/cleaning/impressing anymore.  (Pictured, first bite.)  You could be really daring and plop an unwrapped caramel into the batter.  (Dang. Why didn't I think of that last night?)  Incidentally, this glaze works nicely on ice cream.  Or the back of a spoon, at ten o'clock at night.  What?  I admitted that will-power ceases once you make this.  Also, on a side note, my pastor is preaching about self-discipline this weekend.  So I'd better hurry up and eat these before he blasts me.  Heh, heh.
Last bite.  Now you want to know how to make the Salted Caramel Glaze, don't you?  I'm going to post the recipe in full at the bottom.  And you've been warned.  Go for a run or something, before making this.
And then you too, can own a slice of the zero will-power pie. 
This is the point when I shoved the camera into Ava's face and said, "Smile if you love the cupcake."  And she looked at me like, "Mama, get that camera out of my face... I love the cupcake, yada, yada, yada.  Happy now?"  My answer to that, was snapping seven more photos.  Don't mess with the Mama! (Apparently, cupcakes make me feisty.  Or perhaps it's just the sugar high...)
JJ said, "You can take one of me, Mama!"  Such precious enthusiasm...
Two children.
Two completely opposite personalities.
But one cupcake to bind them all.  (I'm sorry, I just finished watching a Lord of the Rings movie the other day and it sticks with you for a few, ya know?)
Gulp!

Salted Caramel Cupcake Glaze: (makes one delicious, irresistible cup)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 tsp sea salt

*Melt butter in saucepan.  Add sugars and bring to boiling, stirring constantly.  Stir in whipping cream and bring back to a boil.  Boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and stir in salt.  Cool completely, otherwise it will run all over your cupcake, down your arm, and your dog won't leave you alone all night. Plus, you'll just feel sticky and nobody likes that.  Slather on top of your cooled cupcakes and EAT!  

And if you want a thicker consistency, rather than a glaze, pop it into the fridge and it will harden slightly.  Then you can dig your spoon into it.  Which may or may not be a good thing.   


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

For purple mountain's majesty...

Our family loves to hike, and we recently went on the prettiest hike I've ever been on.  I had to share it with y'all, because we had a blast and got some really fun photos.  Of course, I might have a photo snapping obsession.  (I said, "might."  I'm not quite ready to own that...)
I love hanging back and watching my man lead us on a trail.  I love how he helps us all cross slippery rocks, and how he swings me down off small cliffs and sneaks in a kiss. 
Sigh. I love this man.
And yes, he does eat mountains for breakfast, thankyouverymuch.  Doesn't this look like a fake background?  We howled with laughter as we tried to get this shot just right.  I never would have thought of it, but Adrain's fun like that. 
This is more my type of photo.  I like the symbolism of a trail that leads to somewhere, but you can't see the destination just yet.  I love how you get a glimpse of the goodness along the sides, but you have to press on to the end for the full picture.  Hmm.  Kinda like life...
It's tiny moments like this, that make the entire hike memorable.  It's so easy to get caught up putting one foot in front of the other, that we forget to stop and smell the wild mountain  flowers. 
Not a bad place to stop and eat lunch if you ask me... And listen for marmots.  I love watching them scamper around.  Sadly, we didn't see any on this hike.  But we did hear them whistle. 
Next time, we're bringing our sleds.  There were so many people sledding down this hill,  and we were so hot and sweaty after our hike we just wanted to lay down and make snow angels.  In August!  Instead, my crazy crew decided to throw snowballs at me. 
Bunch of weirdos.
But I sure love them.  And they didn't hit me.  (Or my camera.) 
And this... well, this just made. my. day.  I wanted a photo of this sweet woman in her sari, all alone in the snow, but I didn't have the guts to ask her.  So I just snuck a photo.

Because you just don't see a woman in a beautiful sari, on a snow capped mountain, in August, every day now, do ya? 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Leaping.

Sometimes in life, you have to make a leap of faith.  You work up the courage, a little bit at a time.  You practice on smaller jumps, gaining confidence and building faith momentum as you go along. When you first began, you could never have imagined making the big jump. But then, one day, it's time.  The leap of your life awaits.  You aren't fully sure you've got it in you, yet.  You have no idea if you'll actually make it out okay.  Only one way to find out, so you wiggle your toes up close to the edge.  You peer out into the distance and wonder for a split second, "What if I fail?"  You quickly squash that thought as the wind whips around you.  You're already here, and it's too late to back down now.  People are watching, crowds are gathering.  Cheering.  Laughing.  Wondering if you're crazy.  Heck, you've wondered that for years... You take a deep breath, mumble a quick prayer and squeeze your eyes shut.
You bend your knees a little and with one big swing that fully engages every muscle in your body, you push yourself up, over, and out.  For one brief, glorious second, you're free falling.  The air hits your face, and the smell of victory wraps around you like a living, breathing thing for that moment.  All sounds are muted, and you can only hear the beating of your own heart.


And that's when it hits you.  There is no safety net with a leap of this magnitude.  And you know what? There never was. 

Panic.  Then faith.  Sheer panic.  Faith.  Which one will win out, the panic or the faith?

Will you survive? Can you swim?

But... what if none of that really matters, because someone catches you, mid-fall?

"Though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand." Psalm 37:24

Read the continuing story of my journey, here.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Princess Buttercup made my life meaningful.

It seems like I've been doing a ton of gift-making and gift-wrapping,  because everyone I know seems to be getting married this Summer.  I found this darling paper with "Mr. and Mrs."  all over it, and I went a little crazy cutting out many labels and gift tags.
I think I'm finally finished.  I love weddings.  I love mawwage too.  "Mawwage is what bwings us togevuh today."  (Have I ever mentioned how much I love The Princess Bride.)
I'm actually here for a reason.  "Wuv.  Twoo wuv."  (Oops sorry.  I'll be doing that all. day. long.  Ahem.)  Labels make the gift.  That's what I always say.  "Always" as in... just now.  I printed a few words and phrases on the computer for a housewarming gift, but I wanted to cut them out into a tag shape and I want them centered.  Problem.
Ah.  Solution. I found a clear stationary box lid, and traced the outline of my tag onto it.  "Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."  Again, I apologize.  It just slips out...
Once it was cut out, I could lay it onto the card stock and see through it, in order to trace a centered word!
Then, I used a glue stick to adhere the word piece and the phrase piece, "togevuh today..."  (I've decided I'm not going to apologize for myself anymore.  What's the point?)
And now I just need to put the housewarming gift together. I think I've given this gift to almost every person that's moved in the past year. "Inconceivable!"
I'm keeping that clear label forever.  Because love it! "This label and I are joined by the bonds of love. And you cannot track that, not with a thousand bloodhounds, and you cannot break it, not with a thousand swords."

I hope it helps you, if you're making labels today. 

Just on the off chance that you are...



And because one of you will ask...

Fonts used for labels: printed, "Century Schoolbook" and written, "Vladimir Script"

Housewarming Labels:
Bread- that this house may never know hunger
Salt- that life may always have flavor. 
Wine- may joy and prosperity reside here. 
Dash of crazy- just keep reading my blog.  

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Is there a cloud hanging over you?

Lately, we have had rain in our neck of the woods.  And gray.  And drizzle.  And cold.  And mist.  And haze.  And dark.  And slanted rain, which is actually a different kind of rain altogether, but still not very pleasant, because it's August and I'm in a sweater as I type this.  I want warmth and sunshine because the cloud of despair that used to be hanging over our household has finally lifted, and I want the weather to mirror that!  I had really struggled over the past month, being stuck in a place of waiting with no end in sight.  And though this post isn't about that, you need to know where I'm coming from so you can see where I'm headed.  

I want to share a story about a biblical woman that I have absolutely come to adore.  In 2 Kings, chapter 4, her story is laid out in exactly 29 verses. (I counted.)  I hate such condensed stories but I've been studying this woman a little bit and here's what I've realized.  Reading between the lines is a lot easier when you're experiencing something yourself, even if it's nothing like what you're reading.  Because experiencing stuff is experiencing stuff.  This woman is called the Shunammite woman, and go with me on this; 

She appeared to be a darling young woman, married to a rich old geezer.  She was well established within her community, and lacked nothing save a child to care for her once her husband was gone.  She was sweet, and hospitality was her specialty.  Plush bath towels and high thread count sheets awaited each of her guests. One of her favorite visitors, was a prophet named Elisha.  She sweet-talked her man into building a special room for him and it so blessed Elisha's heart that he asked if there was something special he could do for her in return.  She didn't need one earthly thing, but Elisha saw beneath that, and recognized her lack of children.  He  promised her a son within the year.  Her reaction tells us that she probably had wanted one desperately at one time or another, but had been disappointed in this area so many times before, that she had just resigned herself to a life without hope.  (Anyone else been there too?) She protests and says, "No, my lord,... don't mislead your servant, O man of God!"  (v.16) But she winds up pregnant and has a son.  A few years pass and her son gets sick and dies in her lap.  Can you imagine what must have been going through her mind? Imagine her holding him, smoothing his hair back, rocking him gently, and praying he would get well.  And then despite all of her best efforts, he dies.  After all she'd been through to get him in the first place!  My commentary says that this child was given as evidence of God's grace and the reliability of his word.  The fact that he was suddenly taken from her was a severe test of her faith.  And what she was about to do, demonstrated the strength of her faith in the face of great calamity.  (I tend to shy away from that sort of faith.  It terrifies me.  I usually mumble something about "being able to do without that sort of faith." Yeah... God's working on me...)

 So she calmly carries him up to Elisha's bed, lays him down and closes the door firmly behind her.  She doesn't tell a soul.  Instead, she gets on a donkey and heads out looking for Elisha as fast as she can.  I bet by the time she found him, she was good and upset, trying to tamp her grief and loss down with outward calm and clinging to the scraps of faith she knew were in there somewhere.  Hoping upon hope, that when she reached Elisha, he would come running to her, fully aware of the situation, and ready to depart to fix it.  Only he didn't have a clue what had happened, because God had kept it from him.  That seemed to be the straw that broke the donkey's back (heh, heh.) She explodes on him.  (Ever been mad at God?) She sputters, "Did I ask you for a son?  Didn't I tell you not to raise my hopes?"  (I can just hear her tone of voice too.  I think I've used it a lot over the past month myself...) Elisha sends his sidekick with instructions, but the woman wasn't convinced that would do her son any good.  In fact, she wouldn't leave Elisha until he agreed to go and help her precious son personally.  I think it's interesting that even moments of huge faith and calm, carry moments of doubt for each of us.  Elisha did go, and he prayed his heart out in earnest prayers to God. The boy reawakened and the woman gratefully rushed in.  I can only imagine what she must have been feeling as she clasped him to her and cupped his little head against her cheek.  The cloud of emotions, despair, and doubt... had finally lifted because of her steadfast faith.

So often over the past month, I've thought, "God don't you dare raise my hopes right now if you're only going to leave me hanging!"  What I've come to realize is that faith in the circumstance-not after-is the most important kind of faith.  You may have a cloud of grief, despair, anger, or bitterness hanging over your head right now as you sift through a crisis... but it's not doing you, or anyone around you any favors.  Holding on to that cloud above your head only hurts you.  Trust me.  I don't have any glorious ending of my story to share with you yet.  (Notice I said, "yet?")  I'm in the dead center of my journey.  But I do not (thank you Lord!) have a nasty cloud hanging over my head anymore.  I'm praying earnest prayers and holding on to faith.  I know that our God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.  (Eph 3:20)

So whatever you're dealing with, grab a hold of faith with two hands, and give that cloud the boot!

...Continue reading what comes next...
 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

When I was a kid we had metal slides...

I have a new obsession.  (Because apparently I don't have enough of them to date.)  My newest obsession is sign-making.  I feel like all the cool kids are doing it, and apparently I'm a joiner.  Or a shameless copycat.   I'm here to give you a tip if you want to make one for yourself because it's oh-so-easy.  (But don't tell anyone that.  If you make one and someone comments, tell them that it was excruciating, back-breaking, hard work and took you months to complete.)  I love the old hymn, "Great is thy Faithfulness" and it seems like everywhere I turn, I come across the words, the song, or the verse from Lamentations.  It seems to be our verse for this journey that Adrain and I are on.  So I created a sign for our new house. (Because I'm convinced that at some point, our house really is going to sell and we really are going to move into a different house. Convinced, I tell you!)
I had three signs I needed to make, for various situations, so I hit our local Re-Store for boards.  I found this slab of bead board that was long and narrow.  Perfect for my sign.  I also found two other really old, beat-up boards.  I think I have a love affair with every single old and beat up item I come across.
So the first thing you'll want to do, is print your words onto paper.  Get them the size you want on your board.
Lay out your board, pull out any rusty nails, and throw them away!  I emphasize this last step, because I stepped on a rusty nail, from a board in our backyard, when I was in the 4th grade.  That was also back when we had merry-go-rounds, metal slides, and teeter-totters that knocked your adult teeth out.  Dangerous times for children.... Anyway, I remember panicking and thinking I was going to die.  I ran screaming into the house, and my Mama calmly got the band-aid box out, and then took me for a tetanus shot.  Good times. 
Okay, now color the backside of your printed image with a pencil.
Then when you lay the paper on your board (minus rusty nails) you'll be able to simply trace the outline of your image, and a transfer will occur on your board.  Pencil lead.  Such a beautiful thing.  Of course, when I was a kid, we actually had real lead in our pencils.  It's a wonder we all lived...
Now just paint your image with a really fine tipped brush.  If you can color inside the lines, you can do this.  My hoodlums kept asking if they could help.  I told them to, "Go outside and play on their child-safe plastic toys.  Enjoy their lead-free childhood while they still had one for heaven's sake!!"  They just stood there, blinking.  I don't think I made much of an impact. 
And if you want to, sand it all up like crazy once it's dry.  I wanted to.  Very badly.  Because in case you didn't know this, sanded and aged =  beautiful.

Happy sign-making.