Thursday, May 31, 2012

Forget Not His Benefits

This morning, after I find myself elbow deep in a strawberry patch, I spend some time reading Psalm 103.  No matter how many times I read this Psalm, I'm struck by the simplicity, truth, and joy of it.  Other than Psalm 16, I can claim Psalm 103 as a favorite. 

Just the first five verses set my mind right:  "Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. . ." And what follows is that beautiful list of verbs:  He forgives, heals, redeems, crowns with love and compassion, and satisfies.

He satisfies!  The verse reads that God "satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's." 

He satisfies indeed.  I begin to consider how this happens.  I realize a pure truth that I've learned after all this time: He satisfies in the precise way that fits our needs.  He satisfies in creative, often unusual, unexpected, and unimagined ways. 

He invents these ways, and they almost never match my ideas of what will satisfy me.  Almost never.

I want glamorous living, but He gives me a strawberry patch to love.
I want an international bestseller, and He gives me a daily blog to keep.
I want fame, and He gives me friendship.
I want to collect extravagant works of art, and He gives me a camera to make my own art. 
I want global influence, and He gives me two little girls to raise quietly in a small community. 

It's like He knows the desire beneath the desire.  He knows what I really want.  

So today I make a list of all the good things He's given me that fulfill the desires beneath the desires. 

And off I rise like an eagle.

Have you found that He satisfies your deepest desires? 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Fresh From the Nest

On the walk home from dropping the children off at school, the neighbors and I see a baby robin leave the nest. He stands there ready to start really living.

Baby Robin, Fresh from the Nest

He tries his wings out, and the neighbors lean in and begin cheering for him.  "You can do it!  Fly little bird!  Fly!"

What a great day this one has ahead of him!  Flying!  Juicy worms!  Oh, what it must feel like to be fresh from the nest, exploring a new world!

I want to live this day as if I'm fresh from the nest.  Whatever I need to leave behind--whatever dependencies, spaces, and old, comfortable ideas of what life should be like--I do it, stretch out these wings, and go. 

Do you need to leave something behind to emerge fresh from a nest today? 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

All the Things You Didn't Even Know Were Here

The winning pie at the Boalsburg Memorial Day Fair is something I haven't even imagined in my mind before. 

Coconut Key Lime.

You know my problem with coconut. 

I didn't get the recipe or try this winning pie, but I immediately come home and proclaim, "I have to make that pie!" 

So I do. 

I use a recipe by Martha Stewart called Coconut Key Lime Pie.  I make three pies: one for a new neighbor, one for a fellow coconut lover, and one for my husband and daughters. 

Yesterday, I didn't know that Coconut Key Lime Pie existed.  Today, I do. 

All morning in my kitchen, I think about all the things I have yet to discover in this wonderful world. 

Did you discover a new thing today? 

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Smallest Things Pay Tribute

On Memorial Day, I pause with the kind of awareness that brings tears to my eyes.  I'm aware of my particular freedoms--the smallest ones that I always take for granted--that were secured for me by the sacrifice of others.

It's amazing. It's humbling.  It makes these little blueberries in the bowl, this warm cup of coffee, these sausages in the pan, these bathing suits ready for an afternoon at the pool, and this little sentence signify freedom and opportunity.  They signify safety.

I hardly think about this on most days.

Perhaps the fact that I don't often think about how free I am proves the extent of my freedom.  

It comes at a great cost, and I'm so thankful today. I know that some families think about this every day.  They've lost loved ones, and for them, this isn't a day they suddenly remember or pay tribute.  Every day is a sacrifice for them.  I'm thankful for them today, too. 

Thank you!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Our Sabbath Almond Kringle

Our is the word you should remember.  This isn't authentic Scandinavian pastry.  I'm not even Scandinavian (I don't think), but I did, as a little girl, have a Scandinavian neighbor who delivered Almond Kringle every Christmas.  For my wedding gift, this sweet neighbor sent me the ingredients, recipe, and tools needed to make her Almond Kringle.

And I lost her recipe.  And I lost track of her.

So our version isn't authentic.  But it's ours.  And it's absolutely delicious.

Late last night, I combine 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup softened butter, and 2 tablespoons water.  I take the mixture, and I make two long rectangles on my baking stone.  This is the "crust."

Then, I bring 1 cup water and 1/2 cup butter (I know, this recipe is all butter!) to a boil.  Pour this over 1 cup flour.  Combine with 1 tsp almond extract and 3 eggs.  Then, I smear this mixture over my crust.  Mine extended beyond the rectangles.  I didn't mind.

Bake this at 350 degrees for 50 minutes or until puffy and golden brown.

Frost with a mix of 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon almond extract, and 2 tablespoons milk.

You'll have a light almond pastry for your Sabbath morning.

I ate a slice with a cup of delicious coffee.  That's living with flair!

Do you have a better Kringle recipe to share? 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Well Worth the Waiting

Do you remember exactly two years ago my huge gardening mistake?  I put my strawberry plants in the ground, and I bragged about all the glorious berries I'd have that summer.  Remember how the older, wiser folks told me that I had to pinch off every blossom and not, under any circumstances, let that plant produce?

I had to do it.  I had to deliberately destroy even the possibility of fruit.

I wrote this:

This counter-intuitive and destructive move would make my plants thrive.  If I take away the fruit, the plant directs the energy and nutrients to the most important part of the plant: the root system.  A new berry plant needs a few years to make an indestructible foundation of roots.  Then, we can enjoy the fruit. 

Today, two years later , my youngest daughter rushes in from school, and the first thing she grabs is a bowl for harvesting berries.  We have so many that we can't eat them all.  We will begin storing them this weekend.  And they're huge

Don't ever let me complain about waiting again.  Don't ever let me tell you that unproductive seasons with no fruit in sight are wasted in God's economy.  Remind me that my roots are going deep, and I'm nourishing my system.  That's the way it has to be if we want any kind of harvest.

Here we go!  Strawberry pies, strawberry smoothies, strawberry sorbet.  What would you do with a bowl full of strawberries?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Finally Accepting God's Boundary Lines for Your Life

All week, I've considered how beautiful it is to finally surrender to the limits of your own life.  You stop resisting.  You stop wishing for a different life.  You stop living in an imaginary future.

Instead, you look at all the perfect boundary lines in your life.  You thank God for the places He never let you go and for the people He never let you marry.  You rejoice with every single rejection because time always shows you a Divine Hand of protection and guidance.  You giggle with joy over every thing you wanted that God withheld because you know by now that He sees what you don't see.  

You actually even come to the point of celebrating emotional, physical, intellectual, financial, and relational limits.  Why?  Why could you?

It's because you know God, and you know what He's up to. 

You begin to realize that limits breed innovation and creativity.  They usher in freedom and joy as you relax into the borders God places.  They are good!  They are perfect!

Most of all, limits protect and nurture you.  

You read Psalm 16 again and thank Him that "the boundary lines for [you] have fallen in pleasant places; surely [you] have a delightful inheritance!"  You finally understand that God has "hemmed [you] in, behind and before" (Psalm 139) because He knows exactly what He's doing for our good and His glory.

Living with flair means we thank God for all our limits.  We accept them and let Him work.

What personal limitation have you finally thanked God for?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

I Refuse

A stranger comments to me this morning at the gym that I'm just so positive.  After a few minutes of conversation, she couldn't believe that I would find good and hope and joy even in a hard day.  I just smiled and moved on, but I wanted to tell her this:

Complaining is easy.  It's boring and unoriginal.  Negativity is our default state as sinners in need of saving grace.  I refuse it by God's power.

I refuse. 

When you're someone like me--who has battled years of darkness and depression--you simply don't have the luxury of sitting around moping, criticizing, or insulting.

We can become addicted to how good it feels to complain, to sulk, and to be victims.  We begin to think that behavior and mindset is healthy and right and good.  It perhaps makes us feel important or worthwhile to complain.  It perhaps makes us feel self-righteous and good. 

It's the most toxic narrative that runs counter to God's story in our lives.  

What if we refused to complain?  What if, no matter what, we took God at His word in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 that we are to "give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for [us] in Christ Jesus"?  

I know at least one thing I'm called to do today:  Give thanks in all circumstances.  How could I not?  How could I, after all these years of seeing God's faithfulness and goodness, not?

Living with flair means giving thanks.  What can you choose to be thankful for that on the surface looks like a disaster?  

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Better Purpose

I notice that my glorious peonies no longer hold the same beauty today. They seem too big for themselves.  They collapse onto the grass and dirt.  Even when coaxed by a cage to stand tall and firm, they outgrow it and fall. 

I'm standing in front of this bush, and I think about the weight of self-focus and self-absorbing tendencies that make us collapse and suffer in the prison of our own egos.

"I have a better purpose for you," I say with garden shears in hand.  "You will make the world beautiful, so just stop thinking about yourself all day long."  I'm laughing at these fat peonies and taking a good long look at my own spiritual tendencies. 

Balancing introspection with the mission to love a hurting world challenges me some days.  God takes us in hand, prunes us, and uses us to showcase beauty to a hurting world. 

Otherwise, we just collapse under our own weight into the dirt.  God, prune me!  Lift me up from the dirt and use me!

Have you found a good balance between self-focus and focus on others?  

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

I'm Not Gonna Wait Around All Day For It

I place the fresh nectar in the feeder for my hummingbirds, and I decide to position myself in the backyard to take the perfect photo of a glorious hummingbird. 

I wait.  I wait some more.  Normally, the hummingbirds arrive immediately after I hang the feeder.   I wait.  I know they're coming. 

I wait.  I focus my camera.  I just know they're coming.  It will be so wonderful when they come!  I'll have a beautiful photograph!  It will be so great!

I wait. 

Then I begin to think about all the other fun things I could be doing.  I could be reading!  I could be baking!  I could be with friends!  I could even be folding fresh, warm laundry! 

As I sit there on my deck, waiting with camera in hand, I remember that dreams and hopes are like this.  I can wait and wait--frozen here--or I can go about the day, enjoying fully all the good gifts God has in store. 

A hummingbird may indeed come, but I'm not going to wait around all day when there's a life to live. 

Do you sometimes get frozen as you wait for a dream? 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Blogging as a Spiritual Discipline

As I read Peter Scazzero's Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, I begin to ask myself why blogging has been so very good for me emotionally and spiritually. 

Scazzero explains that in contemplative spirituality, folks develop a "balanced, harmonious rhythm of life that enables [them] to be aware of the sacred in all of life." 

Blogging every day--with the intent to notice God--offers a rhythm that indeed opens my awareness to sacred things.  When you set out to find what connects you to God each day, you realize that it all does. 

If you let it.  If you ask it to. 

Suddenly, you're worshiping a Mysterious Creator in everything from dirty kitchen floors to blooming flowers.  You see the hand of God in acorns and loose teeth and Christmas cookies.

You find yourself with God all day long.  Nothing's changed about this family, this house, this neighborhood, my income, or my unfulfilled dreams. My circumstances are exactly the same.  But I've changed.  I've let the presence of God infuse every corner of it.

Now, it all bursts at the seams with beauty, joy, and wonder.   

Blogging as a spiritual practice invites me to find God reflected in all of it.

Have you found blogging to be a spiritual practice?  

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Only on the Sabbath

After all these years, I'm still learning about Sabbath.  As I pray about ways to keep the Sabbath (especially with young children), I begin to consider special things I could do to set the day apart.  Sure, we attend church, go on family hikes, or spend the afternoon in the garden together.

I even practice different spiritual disciplines like more journaling or solitude.  I even take naps. 

But I realize what's missing:  Sabbath Delights in the form of very special food.   My Southern husband remembers the big Sunday dinner you have after church down South, but everybody knows I'm not great in the kitchen.

I'm learning. 

So last night, my youngest and I decide to make a pastry that I loved as a child (recipe and photos coming next week).  It's an Almond Kringle. It's possibly the most delicious treat I've ever tasted.  

We wake up this Sabbath Day, and we all eat pastries.  It feels so special and so set apart.

Can we make more?  They all ask, smiling and happy and feeling special.  

Only on the Sabbath, I tell them.  Wait till next week when we'll all enjoy Sabbath Delights together.

Do you enjoy special foods on Sunday?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Praising the One Who Passes the Ball: How Real Leaders Make Others Win

On the soccer field today, I'm amazed at my daughter's passing skills. She's been working so hard to pass the ball. 

The parents cheer from the sidelines not just for the one who makes the goal, but also for the one who passes to the shooter. 

I just love it!  

Last month, my husband told me about a basketball team who pointed and cheered and celebrated the one who passed to the shooter.  Once a basket was scored, the whole team pointed to the one who passed the ball, not the one who scored. 

And last night, as my husband leads a meeting, he tells the students that his job is "to make them a success."

There's something so right and good about being the one who makes others achieve success.  All year, I've been learning about my platform, my influence, and my marketing.  What if I stopped everything and asked myself who I could make a success instead?  What if I stopped trying to make a name for myself and helped others reach their goals?

I need a cultural correction;  real leaders make others look great, not themselves.  

I remember that the apostle Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 3:8 about his work the following mystery:  "Now we really live because you are standing firm in the Lord."

I want to be the kind of woman who gives her life away to make others stand firm.  I want to make others achieve success. 

Then, like Paul, I might say I really lived

Don't you just love a team when the players cheer for the one who passed? 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Let Me Make Myself Clear

Every year, our giant peony bush produces the most gorgeous bright pink blooms.  And every year, I wonder why in the world the woman who planted this garden--the homeowner--put a peony bush against the back of the house where not a single soul can see these blooms. 

The bush sits next to the garbage cans, the compost pile, and the back of the garage.  Nobody can see it. 

Nobody can see it, which is exactly why she put it there. This bush exists for the sole purpose of taking blooms inside the house.  It's for tearing apart and enjoying, indulging in the kind of luxurious bouquets one might feel guilty about. 

Do you leave a beautiful flower to blossom outside, or do you cut it to enjoy in your bedroom or on your kitchen table where you know it's going to die? 

The homeowner made the decision for me.  Let me make myself clear:  Go ahead.  Indulge in beauty.  These blooms are for you.  Living with flair means we make ourselves a fabulous bouquet when God offers us a hidden peony bush. 

Here, this is for you.

Do you have trouble enjoying God's gifts to you without feeling guilty? 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

You Shall Surely Wilt: The Dangers of Serving on Empty

I learn the hard way that I'm cutting lilac blooms all wrong. 

I look at my vase and frown.  What happened to my lilacs?  They wither within a few days when I bring them indoors.  

A lilac cutting, taken incorrectly, will last (at best) two days in a vase of water.  But if you know what you're doing, you can have a beautiful bouquet of glorious fragrance for much longer.

A lilac bloom isn't very good at absorbing moisture once separated from her tree.  You have to cut her when she's most hydrated in the early morning. Then, she has sucked in all the dew she needs for a long day. Next you cut her at a sharp angle so she can absorb the most water from the vase during the time she's separated from her tree.  You want to expose the most stem surface that you can.

If not, welcome wilt and wither.

As I go about various appointments with people today, I remember that loving folks has to happen when I'm most hydrated with the Lord.  All day, I keep myself sharply angled toward that Source. 

If I don't the wilt and wither makes me do crazy things. When you work on empty, you can suck the life out of people.  You can try to get needs met.  You can suffer from insecurity, sensitivity, entitlement, bitterness, and the need to control.  You lose that fragrance of life upon which all ministry depends.

I'm learning to say "no" to service until I'm hydrated.  I'm learning to say "yes" to love when it's the kind of love that flows from a fully hydrated soul.

If not, welcome wilt and wither.  

Have you wilted before?  

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What's the Last Thing You Learned from a Child?

The children find a sassafras tree and show me how to tear the leaves to experience the extraordinary smell of root beer.

I'm a city girl.  I don't even know what sassafras is.  "You're kidding," I say, doubting that I'll smell anything. 

"Here," one girl shows me.  "You look for a mitten shape, and then you know you have sassafras. Haven't you heard of sassafras?"   

Sassafras Leaves

Sassafras in the Sun

Suddenly, the morning walk to school becomes an education in sassafras. 

I turn to a group of children and ask, "Did you all know this about sassafras?"

"Yes!" they nod.  "Yes!

I love learning new things, especially from children.  I hold the sassafras leaf to my nose and smell lemon, root beer, and even something like mango. 

How wonderful that such things exist in nature!  "I have so much to learn," I announce. 

I really do.

And, on a side note, I'm currently learning how to keep this very chipmunk from eating my strawberries.

I'll keep you posted.

What's the last new thing you learned about nature from a child?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Every Competing Source of Noise: A Life Lesson from a Videographer

I'm talking to a videographer this morning before an interview about my life and ministry, and I find myself fascinated by the audio set up for a film shoot.  The lighting comes first, but then you spend a significant amount of time reducing ambient noise in a room.

But I hear nothing.  It seems perfectly quiet in here to me.

It's not.

It's extremely loud by filming standards.

It's so very loud, and I don't even realize it. 

If you spend time with a videographer, you begin to think about sound in a whole new way. You must eliminate every competing source of noise to get the audio input you want. 

I'm struck by how I might change my life's distractions and input to better approximate filming standards. I wonder what competing source of input I might silence today in order to hear the One Clear Voice directing my life.   

Of course it's hard to hear the Lord on some days.  I have noise everywhere--from a hundred sources (including my own voice)--that make hearing clearly impossible. 

So I attend to my audio set up and move on into the day. 

Have you found competing sources of input that make it hard to hear God? 

Monday, May 14, 2012

"God Fulfilled a Dream I Didn't Know I Had"

This morning, we eagerly approach the Robin's Nest to check on the eggs, and we find that the storm has cast the nest down to the ground.  We stand there shocked and sad and angry as we surmise the broken eggshells, a ruined mess of twigs, and an empty tree.

A mother says, "This happens."  

This happens.  It does.

The Mother Robin will build a new nest and lay new eggs.  We walk on in silence for a while, glancing back at a destroyed dream.

This happens.

But then I remember the early morning conversation I had with a dear friend just an hour before.  I ask her about her current career, and she says, "God fulfilled a dream I didn't even know I had."  

The comment arrests me, taking my breath away, because of the truth of it.  God does immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine.  He fulfills dreams we don't even know we have.

He crushes some dreams so completely that the yolk runs out and the thing we've built collapses. But what if, just maybe, there's a new dream in a different place and in a different way and at a different time?  What if God rebuilds a new thing that we can't even imagine with our minds? 

He fulfills dreams we don't even know we have.  I want to let Him. 

Did God ever fulfill a dream you didn't know you had? 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Even in the Not Yet

This morning, my youngest takes me to the garden to see the very first blush of red on the very first strawberry in the patch. 

Almost.  Soon.   In due time.  I nearly turn away because it's not ripe yet. 

But wait. 

I take a photo because I love this, right here, right now, at this stage. 

I spent so many years hurrying through the stages of motherhood.  I spent so many years hurrying through the stages of my own life.  I wanted the next thing.  I wanted to chase the next great dream. 

"It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live."  I hear the old words from Albus Dumbledore, and I realize that in all my hoping for the next thing, I often forget to live. 

I pray that we love each and every stage--wherever, however, and whenever.  Even in the unripe.  Even in the not yet. 

Enjoy this. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

I Can't Function Without This

I travel overnight for a wedding, and before we pull out of the driveway, I must check to see if I've packed my thyroid medication.

I can't function without it. I go crazy without it.  Every system shuts down without it.

As I'm burying my head in my suitcase to find the medication, I suddenly realize that I'm as desperate for God's word in my life as I am this little medication.

Even one day without it, and I can't function.  I go crazy.  Every system shuts down.  Living with flair means I see the Bible as essential, daily medication. 

 Have you found this to be true?

Friday, May 11, 2012

All This Before 9:00 AM

I glance out the window, and I see them for the first time:  two purple and green hummingbirds shimmering at my Mother's Day Hummingbird Feeder. 

I feel delight. I'm filled with wonder.  They come so quickly--moving at the kind of speed one can hardly notice--and then they depart into some secret spot. 

Later, on the walk up the hill, we find that the Robin has delivered two more eggs into her nest.

We marvel at God's creation today.  The colors alone hold me captive.  That purple hummingbird!  That bright blue egg! 

And all this before 9:00 AM.

Did you see glorious colors today? 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Best Thing in My Kitchen

I'm in the kitchen, and I find myself so thankful for this one little object.  

It's my baking stone.

10 years ago, my great friend, Charity, suggested I purchase one from Pampered Chef.

I did.  I am so happy I did.  It's my favorite thing in the kitchen.

When you use a baking stone, nothing ever burns (at least not usually).  Everything cooks evenly.  Baking stones make me look good as a cook.  

My baking stone, like my own dear heart, is now well-seasoned with use.  Once pure and creamy white, this old stone has turned nearly black around the edges. An uninformed person might toss it out because it's ruined, but we know that the blackened, oily surface signifies the kind of curing and seasoning every cook desires.

A Well-Seasoned Baking Stone

It adds so much to every baking situation.  For us, this means cookies, pizza, biscuits, chicken, turnovers, and sweet potato fries.  We love what our baking stone makes happen.  The older and the more worn, the better.  The tarnished surface means we have the kind of maturity we need here. 

Just like our own dear hearts.  We're maturing.  We're curing.  Don't be deceived by our charred surfaces.  God knows how to turn failure into seasoning.

We're well-seasoned and ready to add so much.  

I love things that get better with age.  What's your favorite thing to cook on the baking stone?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Return to Joy

This morning, I wake up after a day in bed with a fever and aches.  The sun finally shines, and the whole world seems to sparkle. 

It's true.  I see it again after all this rain.

The children and I find a robin's egg on the walk to school.

Robin's Egg on the Walk

We see glorious flowers illuminated by a rising sun.  

I turn to my garden, and I find evidence of a great harvest to come. 

The blackberries blossom with promise. 

 The lilac and iris fragrance the whole yard. 

The whole earth is full of Joy. 

Don't you love that first sun after days of rain? 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Your Own Gutter System

This morning I see my husband creeping around the outside of the house in the pouring rain.  He's checking the gutter system.

"How are they?" I call out.

"The ones in the back of the house aren't working well.  I have to clean the leaves out."

A house in this climate absolutely requires a properly functioning gutter system.  The gutters collect the rain from the roof and send it towards the downspouts that direct rain away from the house.  In the absence of such a system, rainwater collects around the house and damages the foundations and even floods the basement. 

I think about how a person might direct the downpour of damaging circumstances away from her heart and mind in order to keep a sure foundation.  I need an unclogged path--a system of clean gutters--that collect and divert every onslaught into God's hands. Why do I collect what damages and not release it away from me? 

I know it's a lack of trust that clogs and blocks.  I know it's a self-focus that keeps me tied to my circumstances and not the truth of who God is. 

 I send it all into the downspout and stay secure. 

We're cleaning gutters today.  What clogs and blocks? 

Monday, May 7, 2012

I'll Take What I Can Get

Today it rained all day.

(Not the big kind of rain, but the small kind of drizzle that's enough to keep you inside but not enough to use an umbrella when you're picking children up from school.) 

With a small kind of rain, you stop to consider how long it will take to thoroughly water the irises, peonies, berries, and herbs.

Surely all day.

Maybe that's the right way to absorb--to hydrate--in the gradual way a spring shower insists upon.  There's nothing quick about it; you take it in tiny drop by tiny drop all the way to your roots.  You're so thirsty and ready to bloom that it doesn't matter how little there is or how long it takes to fill you.

I'll take what I can get, even if it takes all day to soak it up.

Do you love spring rain showers?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

When God Asks You to Give What You Do Not Have

This morning in church, we read from 1 Kings 17 the story of the Widow at Zarephath.  Elijah comes to her and asks of her what she does not have

Elijah insists that she give him what she does not have (in this case a loaf of bread).  And when the Widow acts in faith, God graciously and miraculously supplies flour that is not used up and oil that does not run dry. 

Does God ask of me what I do not have or order that He may supply it?  In order that He might usher me into that wondrous place of miracles? 

It suddenly occurs to me that the life of faith begins when God asks something of me that requires absolute dependence upon Him.  I do not have what it takes here.  I do not have the resources or the talent.  I do not have what you're asking of me, Lord! 

He asks of me what I do not have in order that He may graciously, miraculously supply it. 

Did God ever ask you for something you did not have? 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Turning 7 and Wanting Stiletto Heel Cupcakes

She's seven!  She's a bike-riding, soccer-playing, worm-finding kind of girl.  She's also a fashionista.  So when she wanted fashionable cupcakes, I knew I had no choice:

It just so happens that melted chocolate hardens so very nicely and will attach a graham cracker to a Pirouette cookie stick.  I used a design from the book Cupcakes, Cookies, and Pie, Oh My! 

So to celebrate 7 years, we're fashionistas.   That's her kind of flair!

Happy Birthday, Little One!

Friday, May 4, 2012

How Not to Do It: My Attempt at Ice-Cream Cone Cupcakes

I tell my neighbor that my attempt to make ice-cream cone cupcakes by filling cones with cake batter and baking them failed miserably.  They exploded!  They made soggy cones!

I actually drive back to the grocery store to get ingredients to start all over again.  

"You didn't fail," my sweet neighbor says.  "Remember Edison?  He said he didn't fail 1000 times.  He just now knows 1000 ways not to do it.  Now I know how not to do it." 

I now know how not to make ice-cream cone cupcakes.

I turn, finally, to Betty Crocker who says to fill your muffin pan and bake the cupcakes with the ice-cream cone turned upside down on top.  I bake them for 15 minutes at 350 degrees, let them cool, frost them with white icing, add sprinkles, and finish them off with a cherry on top.

Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes Before Baking

Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes

I love you, Betty Crocker.

I'm adding Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes to our list of favorites, right beside the Hamburger Cupcakes and the Green Apple Cupcakes

Have you learned ways not to do something? 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Open Wide Your Mouth

I arrive at another Italian Mamas' lunch (this time, eggplant parmigiana, pesto, roasted peppers, mozzarelle, anchovies--and that's just the beginning), and I'm told to "bring a container" to take home the pizzelles

Apparently, I severely underestimate what's in store.

"Oh, that's way too small," the hostess says, laughing as she eyes my small plastic Tupperware.  "You'll need something much bigger."

Fresh Homemade Pizzelles

When you're with the Italian Mamas, you have to remember abundance and over-the-top feasting.  You have to remember that you'll get more than you can possibly contain.  

I think about Psalm 81 again (just like I did with those baby Northern Cardinals), and I consider that sometimes, I just don't open my mouth wide enough to receive the abundant, over-the-top joy and blessing God has for me today.

I'm closed off.  My container is way too small. 

I feast on my stack of fresh homemade pizzelles, and I know the truth:  God longs to be gracious to us (Isaiah 30), and He wants us to revel in His great goodness (Nehemiah 9).

When you're feasting with the Italian Mamas, you learn how to revel.  You learn how to receive.

You just have to bring a big enough container. 

I want to receive all God has, don't you?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Maybe I Will

Today, the bright blue wildflowers cover the forest floor.  The poor light on this damp morning doesn't make for good photography, but it can't matter.

Not when the blue is so blue you just stop and observe.  I want to stretch out among the blue and listen to the bird calls.

Maybe I will. 

When was the last time you stopped and rested in a meadow?  When did you have the time for it?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Darkness and Light, Darkness and Light

It's one of those moody and indecisive days.

One minute, the chilly air sends me searching for a sweater, and the next minute, the warm sun bakes me.  One minute, the blue sky and bright sun shine brightly, and the next minute, the storm clouds hover, cloaking everything in dark shadows.

Moody, unpredictable weather!  I'm caught off guard when the weather won't cooperate.  

On days like this, you keep your wits about you.  Anything can happen.   You need everything: sweater, raincoat, umbrella.  You can't be too prepared.

I think about this and my own unpredictable moods.  When my emotions won't cooperate, I gather the things I need about me--coffee, good friends, my Bible--and ride out the storm, prepared.  One minute, darkness. The next, light.

I predict unpredictable today.  That's the forecast, and I'm ready.

Do you have those kind of days?