Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Last Day of the Year

Sitting in my favorite coffee shop with twenty-five minutes til closing time. And less than ten hours to the closing of the year.

A word keeps popping up in my mind as I reflect on this year...

thankful.

For over a year I've kept a gratitude journal. Inspired by the story of the ten healed lepers in the Bible, I wanted to be like the one who came back, falling at the feet of Jesus and giving thanks.

Just a handful of things each time I wrote. Some days the items easily flowed from my pen. Other days it took effort to give thanks with the tears. Yet I never once came up empty.

And now as I read back over it, I'm reminded of the transforming power of giving thanks. Of the richness of the gift of life...that from His fullness we have all received (John 1:16).

I'm opening my journal and sharing some of my blessings this year. Won't you join me in counting our blessings as we count down to the new year?

For the YLCF article about fear, and the beautiful thought that God doesn't always ask us to fight the battle--sometimes He just asks us to stand, to stand on His promises, trusting and waiting for Him to save us or fight for us. -Jan. 12

For banana bread and cappucino muffins. -Feb. 24

For safety and security, a home, health, a family and friends, my Faith, and being loved. -March 15

For times when the clouds part and the sun comes out--literally and figuratively. -April 10

For my parents' ability and choices to forgive and not let things ruin our relationship. -May 22

Mercy, grace, hope. -June 29

Eating supper together as a family after a motorcycle ride with dad. -July 18

That even when I struggle to comprehend God, I see parts of Him in the good, the true, and the beautiful because He is the Source of all that. -Aug. 25

The bluejay outside today. -Sept. 20

An hour jog/walk with K. downtown yesterday. -Oct. 10

For the phrase on the radio tonight: "in hope of the grace that is freedom." -Nov. 17

For grace. Always grace. Sufficient, transforming grace. -Dec. 31

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"Wisdom is knowing the right path to take...integrity is taking it."

-M. H. McKee

(I'm a work-in-progress when it comes to following this advice!!)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

On this Holy Night...

May you be blessed. May you open the deepest places of your heart for His light to shine through, just as a Star shone through the windows of a stable long ago. May you believe in miracles and have the eyes to see the ones He's already sent. May you receive the gift of being known and loved by an amazing God. May you have joy and peace that surpasses understanding.


May you remember that no matter what, life is beautiful.


Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Baking: Two New Recipes


“We don’t sell holiday trees; we sell Christmas trees. We don’t sell holiday gifts; we sell Christmas gifts.” She was on a roll and her voice tightened. “We don’t eat holiday dinner; we eat Christmas dinner. People don’t put out manger scenes because the holiday child was born. It’s not just a holiday that brings people into this store every year at this time. It’s Christmas. No one looks at their calendar in December and says, ‘Oh, holiday is coming up on the twenty-fifth. They say Christmas. So ‘Merry Christmas’ is what I will say."

-The Christmas Secret, by Donna VanLiere

________________________________

And we don't do holiday baking...we do Christmas baking. My little pumpkins brothers are home from college for their break. Earlier this week, they visited for some classic Christmas cookie-making (and taste-testing?).

I tried these new recipes from a Taste of Home magazine and LOVED them. The 'Quick Cookie Mix' is the main recipe-- it makes 4 different cookie recipes. *Note* I cut it in half and only made two of the four recipes, which are posted below.

If you are looking for an impressive yet easy recipe-- these are it!! Perfect for gifts if you don't eat them first. I especially liked the Butter Almond cookies--it doesn't get much better than cream cheese mixed into the dough...have I convinced you yet?

Quick Cookie Mix**

1 ½ cups butter
3 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
6 cups flour

Beat the first three ingredients together; gradually add flour just until crumbly. Store in fridge in airtight container for up to one month. Yield: 8 cups. Use to make the following recipes.
***Note: If you are only making the two recipes below, you will want to cut all above ingredient amounts in half...however, the recipes below are yummy enough, you just might want to double it!

Toffee Triangles

2 cups Quick Cookie Mix
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup mixed nuts, chopped

1. In a large bowl, beat the cookie mix, brown sugar, butter, and vanilla until coarse crumbs. Add egg and mix well.
2. Spread in greased 9 x 13. Bake at 350* for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned.
3. Sprinkle with chocolate chips; let stand for 5 minutes. Spread chocolate over bars. Sprinkle with nuts. Let stand until chocolate set. Cut into squares, then cut each in half to form triangles. Yield: 5 dozen.

Butter Almond Cookies

6 oz cream cheese, softened
6 TBS butter, softened, divided
1 egg, separated
2 cups Quick Cookie Mix
¾ cup sugar
2 tsp almond extract
¼ cup sliced almonds

1. In large bowl, beat the cream cheese, 5 TBS butter, and egg yolk until smooth. Add cookie mix and mix well.
2. On lightly floured surface, knead dough 15-20 times or until smooth. Roll into a 12 inch square. Spread remaining butter to within ½ inch of edges.
3. Combine sugar and extract. Sprinkle over half of dough. Fold dough over sugar mixture and pinch edges to seal. Lightly beat egg white; brush over top of dough. Sprinkle with almonds.
4. Place on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 375* for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to a wire rack to cool.
5. Transfer to a cutting board. Cut widthwise with serrated knife into ½ in slices; cut eat slice in half lengthwise. Yield: 4 dozen


Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Best Christmas Books Ever (besides the Gospel of Luke)


Less stress and more peace this week. Thankful. And I've even carved a bit of time to curl up in my favorite chair with some Christmas books. My friend K. called me yesterday afternoon...

(Hello? sniff, sniffle. Sorry, K. sniffle. It's just that I've been reading Christmas stories and-- sniffle-- they've got me tearing up and smiling at the same time. They're SO good!)

Thus, without further ado, I'd like to share the titles with you:

Christmas In My Heart series, compiled by Joe Wheeler
LOVE this series and read them every year (not all of them, of course. There are about fifteen volumes!) Beautiful, touching, old-fashioned Christmas stories. If you get the newer versions, they have beautiful illustrations as well.


Christmas Miracles, compiled by Cecil Murphy and Marley Gibson
This is the new book that had me sniffling when K. called. The coolest thing about this collection of Christmas stories? They're all true. Real-life stories that will remind you to look at life with eyes that see miracles.

Happy reading!


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"Meister Eckhart once said: ‘What good is it that Christ was born 2,000 years ago if he is not born now in your heart?’

"Lord, we do far too much celebrating your actual coming in our hearts. I believe in God, but do I believe in God-in-me? I believe in God in heaven, but do I believe in God-on-earth? I believe in God out there, but do I believe in God-with-us?

"Lord, be born in my heart. Come alive in me this Christmas! Amen."

-Christmas Prayer, Living Faith, Vol. 4, # 3

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Glass Heart

Once upon a time there was
A beautiful glass heart
Unequaled in shine and sparkle
Truly a work of art.

Many looked upon the heart
And were awestruck and amazed
At the beauty and the glory
Coming from its rays.

One day a wise old man appeared
At this famous heart to look
His face held disapproval
And his head he sadly shook.

Do they not see, dear heart of glass
Your beauty is so cold
Your glorious walls of glass are sharp
And trap you with their hold.

The room then shook and off its perch
Glass heart fell to the ground
Shattered pieces filled the air
People gasped--then not a sound.

Hesitant, they now crept forward
Filled with curiosity
The walls of glass had broken
Inside what could there be.

The old man gently knelt beside
And cradled in his hand
A living, breathing, human heart
They began to understand.

Though bleeding from the shattered glass
And bruised from such a fall
The heart was now set free at last
From its false and captive wall.

Warm flesh instead of walls so cold
Beating, no longer still
Its beauty was a different kind
Loving, humble, real.

The old man smiled with joy and peace
As he saw they understood
The lesson of the broken heart
From pain there can come good.

Sometimes in life we lose our hold
The ground below us shakes
We sin, we bleed, we cry, we bruise
We fall and even break

But never doubt that through it all
Reaching out to me and you
Is the One who lifts us from the pieces
To heal and to make new.

-LRM

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Decking the Halls and Being Merry

Swapping cookies at this year's Cookie Bake and Swap


The CUTEST cookie jar I won as a door prize at a nurses' night out






I didn't have a candle that fit in the glass centerpiece...so why not some peppermints? ;)



Christmas shopping trip--taking a break for some lunch at Panera!


Silent night-- no words needed.


Christmas shopping out of town is more fun when you can stay at a hotel afterwards.





The annual cookie baking bonanza and swap


My rescued Christmas tree and my Advent "wreath" on the table


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Tired

The end of this week finds me exhausted.

Overwhelmed at work from too much to do and too few nurses to do it.

Frustrated with noisy highschoolers at CCD class this week who seem oblivious of the fact that there is a God who wants to know them personally. Frustrated that I lost my patience (and temper!) with them.

Discouraged from mistakes in my solos during choir practice. Too tired to sing.

Nameless emotions from two doctor visits in one week. Abnormal labs. Again. Specialists. Again. Fighting to trust. Again.

I'm tired.

Tomorrow is the fourth week of Advent. And though I don't feel as though I've grown in the way I wanted to during this season before Christmas, I'm comforted by thoughts of Mary during that first advent before Christ's birth...

She was familiar with waiting. The unknown. The struggle for trust and faith.

She was tired.

She traveled a long journey.

But she continued to focus on the gift of Christ within her.

I see her example. I want to follow it as the Magi followed the star.

Despite everything...because of everything...focus on Him. Maybe this what it means to live Advent.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"Take time to be aware that in the very midst of our busy preparations for the
celebration of Christ’s birth in ancient Bethlehem, Christ is reborn in the
Bethlehems of our homes and daily lives. Take time, slow down, be still, be
awake to the Divine Mystery that looks so common and so ordinary yet is
wondrously present.

"An old abbot was fond of saying, ‘The devil
is always the most active on the highest feast days.’

"The supreme trick of Old Scratch is to have
us so busy decorating, preparing food, practicing music and cleaning in
preparation for the feast of Christmas that we actually miss the coming of
Christ. Hurt feelings, anger, impatience, injured egos—the list of clouds that
busyness creates to blind us to the birth can be long, but it is familiar to us
all."
-Edward Hays, A Pilgrim’s Almanac

Friday, December 9, 2011

The (Im)Perfect Christmas

If you know me well (…or actually if you know me at all), you know I love holidays. I love decorating, cooking, hosting, and anything festive that coordinates with a holiday. I drink tea in pink mugs for Valentine’s day and make red-white-blue desserts in July and read Christmas stories in December. Oh yes, I celebrate holidays with the best of ‘em.

So don’t think me a Scrooge when I say the commercials on TV this year are driving me crazy! Every other commercial teaches us about the ‘perfect’ Christmas. First, everything must look perfect—clothing, smiles, food, families, homes—with the assumption that perfect things make a perfect holiday. Secondly, the preparation for a perfect Christmas includes buying, buying, and more buying—the more expensive the item, the more you love that person.

The perfect Christmas, right?

I don’t think so.

The only perfect Christmas I know of…was the first one two thousand years ago.

When nothing about it looked perfect… a full inn, an uncomfortable stable, a tiring journey.

Instead of elaborate, it was simple.

Instead of noise and hurry, there was silence and stillness.

Instead of extravagance, there was humility.

Sorry, media. The perfect Christmas looks a little different than you thought. It’s not about making the yummiest cookies, sending the most cards, or even giving the best gifts.

It’s not about stuff. It’s about souls. Salvation. The ultimate gift from the only One who is perfect. It’s about preparing our hearts to give Him even more room than we have before.

Happy Advent, sweet friends. May you have an imperfect Christmas season that leads you closer to our perfect God.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"...Hear the words again, fear not and know that God is near

For the God who spoke is speaking still

And the God who came still comes

And the miracle that happened still happens in the heart that will believe

And receive the miracle of Christmas."


-lyrics from The Miracle of Christmas, by Steven Curtis Chapman

Monday, December 5, 2011

Holy Mysteries

The wind howled angrily outside the century-old country church. The thick rain pounded the parking lot.

But I was safe inside as I closed the door behind me.

I walked through the dark church to the front, familiar steps from years gone by. I paused at the step before the altar and gently sank to the floor. I slipped off my shoes, for this was a holy place.

And I sat at the feet of my Jesus.

Darkness. Except for the light of the small red sanctuary lamp. The flicker that says He’s here. He’s waiting. Just for me.

Quiet. Stillness.

Mystery.

I had unspoken thoughts and emotions on my heart, but no words. So I hoped that my soul would speak to Him when my mind could not.

It wasn’t the first time I had sat in this spot, that I had brought Him my uncertainty and fear, my hope, my awe and wonder. The past memories whispered in hushed tones, reminding me of the prayers I’d prayed in this very spot over the years, some with answers manifested and some with answers still unknown to me but known in heaven.

How many before me have knelt here in this hundred-year-old place of worship?

How many have sat here at Jesus’ feet in those hundred years, offering hearts and receiving graces?

Beautiful faith. Handed down from generation to generation. Seasons change. Years pass. But He is always there. The red glow beckons us to His feet. He is there, waiting with love and mercy and grace and healing. The Ancient One from Abraham’s time; the same God yesterday, today, and forever.

Unchanging.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Life is Beautiful...

-sitting with the choir members once again. So happy to be back with these dear people, my incredible uncle, and the beauty of music ministry.

-spending a night at my parents, eating popcorn and watching "The Middle." That show is too funny (and the middle child is way too much like me at that age! Braces on her teeth, nerdy, and dramatic!)

-laughing with each other at work when the stress levels start to rise.

-finding a bloom on the clematis vine during the month that my grandma died five years ago (one of her favorite flowers!)

-singing way too loud with A. and the radio on a late-night drive back from our Wisconsin trip.

-with the sentimental comfort and joy of a Christmas fiction novella.

-watching little nephew L. walk around with a grin on his face and my (knockoff) Ugg boots on his feet

-having a truly understanding sister-heart on the other end of the phone line when I needed someone to cry talk to.

-working out with my girlfriends on Monday nights, laughing and whining and sweating and talking all at the same time.

-remembering how rewarding it sometimes feels to get down on your hands and knees and mop a floor (but that feeling will last awhile; no desire to mop again anytime soon).

-beginning a new year in the Church as the Advent season arrives. Preparing, worshipping, believing, and hoping with the other members of the Body.

-counting the haves when I’m tempted to count the have-nots. Choosing to trust in the unseen and knowing that He sees all.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."


-John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"Whether it be a 'pretty' gift, such as a beautiful singing voice or great leadership qualities, or an 'ugly gift' such as pain and shame from a past you'd like to erase, everything we have right here, right now, can be used for God's glory.

Let it all speak."

-Jennifer Beckham

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Fierce Beauty: A Book Review

We live in a culture obsessed with the outer shell. When I pause and think about the amount of time and energy and money we—I—put into our clothes, makeup, hair, schedules, cars, and homes…I’m uncomfortable with the way I pursue comfort. I contrast my life with that of my little girl in Africa. With the poor I see walking the streets. It sobers me.

I know life isn’t all about me…but sometimes I live like it is.

I finished the last few pages of Kim Meeder’s Fierce Beauty: Choosing to Stand for What Matter Most last night. LOVED it.

Kim and her husband run Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch, a ranch that rescues abused and neglected horses and invites hurting children to learn and grow by working with the horses. Fierce Beauty is her fourth book and shares her passion for living a purposeful life of serving the King. She uses one of my favorite writing forms—analogies—to teach lessons that reach deep into the heart. Each chapter first shares a story or experience (all of them incredible, captivating, or touching) and then relates that to our spiritual life in a unique, memorable way. I was both inspired and convicted throughout the book. I see how many times I live for myself and the ways this blinds me, burdens me.

I love her analogy of the princess-turned-warrior. She describes the self-entitled princess of this world, weighed down by her own selfishness and in captivity from living for herself. She urges women to throw down such crowns of entitlement, selfishness, and pride and to instead embrace a life of taking up a sword to fight for truth and beauty and hope—and for those drowning without it. This is where true beauty is found—in breaking the chains of worldliness and living a life of real freedom by service to God and others.

The battle is real. So let’s put on our armor, girls(Ephesians 6:10-17).

[This book was provided to me at no cost by Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing. This review contains my honest and original thoughts.]

Monday, November 14, 2011

My Christmas Tree

Jehovah Jireh—the God who provides.

Even little things.

I was casually wondering aloud to my mom the other day what I was going to do about a Christmas tree this year. Last year we had a beautiful real tree chopped down from a field near our third roommate’s family home (with permission!). But E. moved out this summer, so the same adventure seemed unlikely this year and a sentimental part of me doesn’t want to buy an artificial tree yet on my own.

I soon forgot about my Christmas tree musing (it’s only October, after all—though I’m not sure all the stores understand this fact)…until my dad called later that afternoon.
He and my mom recently bought an old house near them to fix up and rent out. The barn is ancient and was full of all sorts of junk unique items for them to toss, keep, or send on.

“Guess what we found in the barn today?” I could hear my dad's grin through the phone line.

A Christmas tree.

Tidily bundled in its box, reader for a new owner. (Yep, that would be me!)

It’s such a small coincidence. And I could simply look at it that way. Yet something inside me says it’s more.

A smile from God. An open Hand. A loving Heart.

I wonder how many of these I miss.

Lord, please open my eyes to see the smallest of gifts You send each day.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Reflections of a Pity Partier

It was a rockin’ pity party on a Friday night. Me, myself, and a bunch of tissues.

I had a nasty head cold. (thus, the tissues)

And a confused, heavy heart from the last few days. (thus, more tissues)

But all good pity parties must come to an end. So I sniffled a few more times, picked up my pile of tissues, washed my face. I lifted up puffy red eyes, asking for an extra helping of grace from above.

And I baked.

I peeled apples. Measured flour. Melted butter. Shaped cookies. Chopped more apples. Mixed crumble topping.

I turned on the radio. I think someone informed the Christian station that I was having a pity party because they were playing some incredibly encouraging, beautiful songs.

It distracted me and soothed me, this rhythm of the kitchen. I love baking any time, but there’s something about baking or cooking that particularly calm me when I’m upset.
Maybe it’s the fact that if you follow the recipe, everything turns out okay. If you add this and measure that, something beautiful and tasty and wonderful comes out of the oven. When I’m confused and uncertain and feeling not in control of life, it’s comforting to take a recipe, follow the steps, and feel like you have some semblence of control.

(Or maybe it’s just because I like wearing cute vintage aprons.)

Whatever the reason, I’m finding myself thankful for the kitchen tonight. Thankful for a God who never leaves me—even when I host pity parties. Thankful that He is in control of everything--even when it's hard to see.

And thankful for the pile of cookies and that pan of apple crisp cooling on the stove.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wisdom for Wednesdays

Ten Ways to Love

1. Listen without interrupting. (Proverbs 18)
2. Speak without accusing. (James 1:19)
3. Give without sparing. (Proverbs 21:26)
4. Pray without ceasing. (Colossians 1:9)
5. Answer without arguing. (Proverbs 17:1)
6. Share without pretending. (Ephesians 4:15)
7. Enjoy without complaint. (Philippians 2:14)
8. Trust without wavering. (Corinthians 13:7)
9. Forgive without punishing. (Colossians 3:13)
10. Promise without forgetting. (Proverbs 13:12)

-Author Unknown

Friday, November 4, 2011

On My Knees

I’ve found it hard to pray lately.

For many different reasons. Sometimes I’m too lazy tired and I barely get a thought in before I’m drifting away. Sometimes I’m distracted. Sometimes I’m moody and don’t feel like talking to God (just keeping it real, folks!). And sometimes…I just really don’t know what to say. It’s not that I don’t have things I want, or things I’m thankful for, or others to pray for…

It just feels like it’s all been said.

Yet in the back of my mind is the advice of our dear priest-friend when I was growing up. To keep praying in the dry seasons. You can shorten it, you can simplify it, but keep praying.

(Now trust me when I say I don’t always follow this wise advice. I’ve slipped into bed with a quick thought up to heaven while I’m snuggling under those polka-dot sheets. And I’ve rushed some Bible reading in before Rachael Ray comes on in the morning on a day off. But let’s move on to the positive, shall we?!)

So one night recently, I attempted to stir up the routine a little. I turned off my light and I knelt beside my bed. There’s something about kneeling that makes it a lot harder to fall asleep while you’re praying! And I followed the ACTS acronym for prayer—just one thing per letter. It’s simple, it’s thorough, and it helps me be purposeful in connecting with the Lord.

A- Adoration. I think of a way I was in awe of His presence that day…something that reminds me of His power and greatness. A comforting reminder that His ways and thoughts are higher.

C- Contrition. In order to keep growing, I need to be real with myself and look at a way I failed to be faithful to Him and others this day. Let’s call it what it is: sin! Acknowledge it, learn from it, and be sorry for it. His grace and mercy are abundant.

T- Thanksgiving. Something from the day that warms my heart, however great or small. There’s always something to be thankful for, and gratitude amazingly improves my perspective.

S- Supplication. Who did I interact with today that needs lifted up in prayer? What’s something that's really been weighing on my mind or heart today?

That’s it. One item per category. But you know what? Once I get going, I often think of more things to tell Him about. And if I don’t—I know I’ve at least followed Father M.’s advice and that of 1 Thessalonians 5:17. God sees and knows our efforts. He is strength when we are weak. His Spirit intercedes for us when we are at a loss for words (Romans 8:26).

If you’re struggling to pray, hang in there! These things are helping me right now, but it’s not about a formula, a to-do list, or a fuzzy feeling. It’s about connecting with the God who made us, redeemed us, and makes us holy one day at a time.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"Don't be someone who pays more attention to what God doesn't do than what God does do."


-qtd. by Joyce Meyer Ministries


(LOVED this! Sadly, I definitely fall in this area many times!)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Be the People: A Book Review

I’m flipping the calendar to November today. In one week, I’ll be standing in line at the polls and ready to vote! Yay! Being an American is such an incredible blessing and an exciting, empowering privilege.

But as Spiderman was told…(all together now:) “With great power comes great responsibility.”

The leaders of our country are not holding all the power. Each citizen has the power to let his or her voice be heard—whether by phone calls to representatives, letters to the editor, purposeful conversations with friends and family, and even financial support. This is our country and we need to take responsibility for its course.

Author Carol M. Swain, PhD., exhorts us with the title of her stirring book: Be the People: A Call to Reclaim America’s Faith & Promise.

Let me summarize: I LOVED this book. When I first received it in the mail, I was intimidated by the amount of words and pages. Though I was interested in the topics and love reading my Citizen magazine each month (Thank you, Focus on the Family!), I wasn’t sure how well I would be able to get into a whole book of such information.

I didn’t need to worry. It was both interesting and engaging. I found myself picking it up at breakfast, on my lunch break, in the evenings. I shared thoughts from it with my family and my friends and my co-workers—who kindly put up with my enthusiasm!

The author looks at the founding values of America and contrasts them with those of today. She covers crucial topics of abortion, the definition of marriage, racism, and immigration. These topics weren’t new to me, yet I learned so much from the studies, lawsuits, quotations, and more that Ms. Swain expertly compiled along with her opinions and knowledge. My favorite chapter was undoubtedly “Family Matters.”

As far as any negative feedback on the book, I don’t think I can give more than a sentence or two. Naturally, I didn’t agree with everything the author said, but I feel she did a great job presenting facts and opinions fairly. Even if I disagreed or did not have a formed opinion, she provided me with lots of food for thought. There were a few times it felt over my head or failed to keep me as engaged, but overall I am so glad I read this book. It was stirring, convicting, and energizing. I plan to pass it on for others to read and I highly recommend it.

[I received this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers via Booksneeze at no charge. These are my honest and original comments about the book.]

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"Faith is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted in spite of your changing moods."
-C. S. Lewis
(Thanks, A., for sharing this!)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Almost Nutri-Grain Bars

We had a delightful patient the other day. She was one of those infectiously cheerful people. During her waiting room time throughout her 4 hour stress test, she chose to redeem the time by writing out recipes she'd been collecting. (Charming!) During her medication infusion, she shared all sorts of yummy creations and we swapped different ideas for baking and cooking. Before she left, she dropped off treasured copies of some of her favorite recipes.

So in honor of my patient and of P., my partner-in-crime...er, cardiology nurse, I thought I'd share this fun recipe for Nutri-Grain Bars. They turn out pretty well, although I suggest using your judgment with the dough and adding liquid as needed if too crumbly and dry. After they were cool, I cut them into individual bars and wrapped each one in plastic wrap-- tada! Your own little (almost) Nutri-Grain Bars to grab when you need a quick snack!

Almost Nutri Grain Bars (makes 15 bars)

1 c rolled oats
1 c whole wheat flour
2/3 c brown sugar
½ tsp soda
½ tsp salt
¼ c oil
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
¼ c apple juice
10 0z jam
1 TBS water


Combine oats, flour, brown sugar, soda and salt. Add oil, egg, vanilla, apple juice and mix. Press 2/3 of mixture into 8 x 12 pan. Mix jam with water and spread over mix. Crumble remaining oat mixture over top and bake at 325 for 30-40 min. Cool completely before cutting. Cost per bar 15 cents.

(From Healthy Meals for Less, by Jonni McCoy-- great book! She is also the author of Miserly Moms: Living Well on Less in a Tough Economy.)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Blessing of Real People

John Michael Talbot’s last night of our three-night parish mission was this evening. He ended the time beautifully with the crowd on their knees as he played and sang his beautiful “Surrender” song.

He asked us to surrender all that rises up to hinder our relationship with the Lord, all that rises up to steal our joy.

With a few stray tears lurking in the corners of my eyes, I bowed my head, aware of the things that rise up in my own life keeping me from joy and freedom in Christ. Kneeling beside me on one side was my uncle who lost his teenage son last year. On my left was a beautiful single mom raising her three young children. Both are incredibly sincere and faithful.

And real.

They have shown me true faith and grace and strength by the way they live their lives. They have shown me what it means to be real. No pretense. No appearance of perfection. Just raw beauty and honest striving. And then I see that being real is more beautiful than anything else. It’s more encouraging, more inspiring, than the appearance of perfection.

Because how inspiring can perfection be when it’s not really truth?

I knelt there between the two of them and felt a wave of inexpressible gratitude for all those in my life who have shown me the beauty of being real. Who have opened doors of their hearts, shared messy details, and admitted imperfections--yet still looking up and following after the only One who is perfect.

When I see them being real with the tough stuff, their faith becomes more real to me, too.

Thank you, O. and Uncle D., for your examples. And thank you to the rest of you who continue to show me what it means to be real.

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Visit from John Michael Talbot

Speaker and musician John Michael Talbot came to our church this week!

This was super exciting for our parish, as it’s been in the works for about two years. I’m so happy I was able to attend—though I had trouble finding a seat! (Come on, people, this is a church. Do NOT lay your coats across the pews to save seats for those coming later!! Thank you to my choir family for letting me slip in with some of them!)

I digress. (In other words, I'm done with the hypocritical whining!)

Once I was squished in comfortably seated, the rest of the evening proved to be full of deep wisdom and instruction, delightful humor, and stirring music. If you haven’t heard of JMT, you can check out his website here.

I wanted to share with you a beautiful analogy he gave on the Christian life. He reminded us that being a Christian doesn’t mean we no longer have the suffering and trials of this life—but that now we have hope and meaning through them because of our God and Savior.

JMT compared the Christian life and transformation to wheat being made into bread. I’ll break it down for you (pun slightly intended!) as he did…

We (as you guessed) are the wheat. Jesus wants to transform us into bread (something better). But naturally, it’s quite a process.

First, you are cut down. Ouch for my pride!

Then into the thresher we go. Stripping away the stalks from the grain.

Sometimes we’re up in the air in life—not sure where we’re going. Like when wheat is winnowed and tossed into the air for the chaff to be blown away. Not fun, my friends. But keep that finished product in mind!

Ooh, and this next one: grinding the wheat. Whew! Are we done yet?

No, for there’s the kneading. Life pushes us on all sides. We’re beaten down.

But ah! We rise after that. Life is going great! Up, up, up we go…

Only to be punched down! (I wish you could have heard and seen him tell this!)

We’re almost done…but you know the last step…

The oven. It’s hot in there! But the heat is transforming.

Finally, a beautiful loaf of bread that will be nourishing to others is brought forth from it all.

(My brief summary was much less profound and interesting than his storytelling, but you get the idea.)

What a blessing to have this unique and talented man speak, sing, and minister to us. I bought a book by him called Simplicity and look forward to gleaning from that as well. (I just hope it doesn't make me clean out my closet! I love am very fond of my clothes! haha! Have a great weekend, all!)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"Life don’t go quite like you planned it
We try so hard to understand it
Irrefutable, indisputable
Fact is
It happens

Ain’t no rhyme or reason
No complicated meaning
Ain’t no need to over think it
Let go laughing."


-A little bit of Sugarland for you ("It Happens")


(I'm not dismissing the seriousness of life and its events with this quote...I just love its reminder that sometimes we I really do need to let go and laugh, knowing that God really is in control!)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Day at an Apple Orchard



On our way to the apple orchard on a beautifully sunny Saturday




I think it's just around that bend...



Dreamy orchard paths



Check out the size of this apple!


And we learned about quince fruits...


Ooh...Golden Delicious!



Do we have enough yet??


On our way back to the car


Time for applesauce and other recipes!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"The last of human freedoms-- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances."

-Victor Frankl, concentration camp survivor and author

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Heart-thoughts

The winds are rustling the fields and the trees as I walk the winding road. It’s fall. I see golden colors emerging, a few leaves on the ground. And despite the beauty in this season, my heart feels heavy.

Memories and questions flutter as the wind blows through my soul, disrupting all that was packed away and put on the shelves.

But healing and growth and goodness have come from grief, so why do these feelings emerge? Why does the coming of fall scatter the broken memories as it scatters the falling leaves? These broken memories that refuse to piece together to give a reason, an explanation, an answer.

I breathe in deeply the crisp air and it reaches my lungs but not my heart.

What do I do with all this?

I kneel beside the pieces, unsure if I am to toss them into the fall winds or try to put them back together. Sometimes neither one seems possible.

So I gather them into my arms and carry them to the altar. I silently give them to the One who knows all things, Who sees the beginning and the end. I ask Him to use them however He wills.

And I keep walking.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"There's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo...and it's worth fighting for."

-Samwise Gamgee, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Dirty Dishes and Glory

It was a quiet Sunday morning after church. No plans for the day, so I had made waffles for breakfast. I love waffles, but cleaning up afterwards—not so much. (All those little grooves that make waffles so yummy when you fill them with peanut butter and syrupy goodness…they make the waffle maker awfully hard to clean!)
I stood at the sink in my great-grandma’s apron, hands deep in water and bubbles. Scrubbing dishes while the rain poured outside and Christian music played on the radio inside.
A new song from Steven Curtis Chapman came on, and the appropriate timing tickled me pink.

“Little stuff, big stuff, in-between stuff
God sees it all the same
And while I may not know you I bet I know you
Wonder sometimes does it matter at all
Well, let me remind you, it all matters just as long as you do

Everything you do to the glory of the One who made you
Cause He made you
To do every little thing that you do to bring a smile to His face
And tell the story of grace

with every move that you make
And every little thing that you do.”

Uh-huh. LOVED it. This reminder that it all matters. Whether you’re climbing the ladder in a career…or just making ends meet with unemployment. Whether you’ve been on ten life-changing mission trips…or have quietly, steadfastly lifted others in prayer each morning in your own home. Whether you speak dynamic and inspirational words to hundreds at conferences…or speak kindly to the telemarketer who calls at dinnertime.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta, that beautiful woman of great deeds and great love, said: “Do not pursue spectacular deeds. What matters is the gift of your self, the degree of love that you put into each one of your actions.”

I continued washing the dishes, thinking how even this mundane little daily task could bring glory to God.

Okay, then, this is for you, God.

I smiled.

And perhaps, as Steven says in the song, God did, too.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

One Cup Connection

I love tea. And coffee. And really any warm and cozy drink…hot chocolate, hot caramel apple cider…

But especially tea and coffee. I like them a lot—or should I say, a latte. (I know, I know; so un-original, but I couldn’t resist!)

So when I was contacted by Sara with One Cup Connection, my interest was perked—or should I say, perc-ed, you know, like percolated? (Okay, done with the coffee jokes).

Sara works on behalf of One Cup Connection in reaching out to bloggers and having them help spread the word about this company. After checking out their website and communicating with the delightful Sara, I’m happy to share a link to the One Cup Connection website and toot their horn for them.

The main products of One Cup Connection are the Keurig brewers and the corresponding K-cups. Now if you haven’t tried these cute little guys, you’re missing out on a fun experience. Keurig brewers are designed to brew the perfect individual cup of coffee (as well as some of the other warm and cozy beverages I named!). You simply choose your K-cup from a variety of yummy flavors and brands, pour some water into the brewer, then pop in the K-cup to begin.

My own experience with Keurig products was at a campground this summer on a weekend trip with the girlfriends. We stayed up late—and got up early—and filled the days in between with all sorts of activities. So when I tumbled out of the tent each morning, coffee seemed a good idea. Lo and behold, the campground store boasted a Keurig brewer and those cute little K-cups. It was love at first sip.

I do have one disclaimer here. I have not actually ordered anything at this point from One Cup Connection, as we do not own a Keurig brewer. Therefore, I cannot fully endorse their company or its service. However, I can say that I was genuinely impressed by Sara’s fun and friendly personality as well as her professionalism. If she represents the company, I have a feeling their service is similar. This review is simply intended to share a link for careful perusal by those interested in coffee, tea, and/or Keurig products.

If you’re curious, intrigued, or already using K-cups and looking for a great deal…perhaps you might take a jaunt over to One Cup Connection. Their special runs through October: Buy 4 boxes of K-cups, Get 1 free and free shipping!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

(The Last of the) Snapshots of Summer: Week 14

Taking on the Windy City with my dear friend R.-- what a delightful adventure! (although it's too bad we didn't have time for deep-dish pizza!)


Goodbye, beautiful Summertime! Fall officially arrives tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"He loves us and enjoys us, and so He wills that we love Him and enjoy Him, and firmly trust Him; and all shall be well."


-Blessed Julian of Norwich

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Grace

Finally. A feeling of peace. Contentment. Trust. Tiny but growing.

Is this grace?

This feeling that washes over me and calms me. That strengthens me, sustains me. In the midst of heartache and trial, unbearable emotions, raging battles. When I am tired on so many levels.

Struggling with what has been…anxious about what will be.

Then it comes.

After tears and prayers and worry and questioning...

The stillness after the storm. God-given. Indescribable. Unexplainable. Nothing outside changes…

But everything inside changes.

Can you feel it?

This is grace.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wisdom for Wednesdays

Blessed Be the Ordinary!

Resist the inclination to be down on yourself because you think you don't measure up to some other worldly or unrealistic ideal. If ordinary family life was good enough for the Son of God to spend most of his earthly life in, it's good enough for you.

— from Catholic Update Guide to Marriage

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ten Years

With the ten-year anniversary of the 9/11 tragedies just a few days ago (Has it really been ten years??), I find myself:

Praying…for the victims and their families; for our beautiful America; and for protection from the evils that threaten, both spiritual and physical.

Remembering…that all loss is tragic, even the smallest, un-televised ones around us; how fragile and uncertain this life can be yet what a gift.

Watching…the beautiful commentaries and memorials on TV, sobered during the moments of silence at the times the towers were hit.

Proud and Thankful…for this incredible country, and all who serve faithfully in military, police, and fire departments. I was so impacted by the Vice President’s comment that never before have we asked this much of our military…yet they have rose to the task time and time again, deployment after deployment…keeping others from being be drafted.

And Sharing...a facebook status from my aunt on the day that sums things up quite well: "The events that have unfolded in the last ten years..And the events that may unfold in the next ten...One nation under GOD..Fight for Him here..PRAY.. God Bless America!!!"

Friday, September 9, 2011

Snapshots of Summer: Week 12

Homemade salsa simmering on the stove-- made with garden veggies from my bestie's mom and using the unbeatable special recipe from another girlfriend's mom...I love my friends' mommas!!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Little Red Book of Wisdom: A Book Review

The Overall: The Little Red Book of Wisdom, written by businessman Mark DeMoss, discusses a host of wise thoughts to remember and to practice on life’s journey. Handbook-sized (so cute!) and just under 200 pages, the book is divided into wisdom for the professional world and wisdom for one’s personal life. I was immediately interested when I saw this book because I love personal growth that gleans from the wisdom of others. (I learn plenty from trial and error…so it’s nice sometimes to learn from others before I make the mistake!) Mr. DeMoss is sincere and purposeful in his pursuit of Solomon’s virtue and encourages the reader to be the same. The pearls of advice vary from practical items such as hand-writing letters and using technology wisely to perspectives such as remembering God owns it all or that life is brief.

The Nitty Gritty: Many, many wise thoughts in each chapter—and such a variety! The author was great with sharing his own experiences, but at times I felt he came across as aloof instead of relatable.

Favorite Quotes: Instead of quotes this time, I’ll share my favorite chapter topics:

Technology Isn’t Everything/Learning to Use it Wisely

Buy Some Stamps/Reclaiming the Lost Art of Letter Writing

The Wisdom of Firsts/The First Hour, the First Day, the First Dime

A Turtle on a Fence Post/Appreciating How You Got Where You Are

What Sticks Out: I’m dragging my feet with this, but since a book review is about my honest opinion of the book, I’m going to admit I wasn’t a huge fan of the book. The Little Red Book and I just weren’t an inseparable pair. It’s hard to put my finger on it. It had great thoughts, an enthusiastic author, and was well-organized, but the voice of the book didn’t speak to my heart. It was direct, instructional, and practical—I have no doubt that many people could learn and grow from putting into practice the chapters of the book. It simply wasn’t my personal favorite style.

[I received this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers via Booksneeze at no charge. These are my honest and original comments about the book.]

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"Whoever clings to me I will deliver; whoever knows my name I will set on high. All who call upon me I will answer; I will be with them in distress; I will deliver them and give them honor. With length of days I will satisfy them and show them my saving power."

Psalm 91:14-16

This is for an amazing and inspiring soul in need of prayer. Please lift this person up to the Lord as you read this today. Thank you!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Life is Beautiful...

-on a bike ride down a country road, with deer grazing (do deer graze?) in a nearby field.

-watching Mary Tyler Moore episodes with my mom and a bowl of freshly-popped popcorn (in my Stir Crazy popper from a garage sale!).

-little moments with A. when her work shift was called off: baking and cooking and mopping and even cleaning out the garage.

-around a campfire on the lake with three treasured girlfriends, making s’mores and Smart Dogs (*ahem* they are much healthier. Do you know what real hot dogs have in them??)

-when others share from the abundance of their gardens and our countertop protests under piles of cucumber, yellow squash, and tomatoes.

-reading a fun Christian fiction book in bed, snuggled under polka-dot cotton sheets.

-chubby little nephew-arms reaching for a hug or a hold, and his adorable scrunched-up grin and giggle.

-taking advantage of a rare full-hour lunch break at work and gathering with the Cardiology girls at a Mexican restaurant next door.

-standing at the window watching an incredible lightning show in the night sky before a storm (God's fireworks! SO neat...just don't tell my mom, who always taught us to stay away from windows when there was lightning!)

-fishing with girlfriends and giggling as we tried to get the fish off the hooks (it takes a village three girls to get a hook out of a perch’s mouth).

-phone calls with my marmee when I’m in need of her wisdom and understanding and listening ear.

-dancing through the house because a hummingbird landed on my new feeder (it doesn’t take much to make me happy!)

-meeting new people, sharing in conversation, laughing with a stranger.

-a motorcycle ride with my dad, loving the freedom and sunshine and daddy-daughter time.

-during a calm, peaceful evening out on the deck, praying my rosary and star-gazing, drinking in the beauty of the night…until I saw a black-and-white creature waddle up to the deck—you’ve never seen such a sneaky, lightning-fast getaway as mine. (he was a cute little guy, but I wasn’t about to risk smelling like a skunk just so I could enjoy my evening outdoors!)

Life is beautiful. What a gift.

And for the cherries on top of these colorful sprinkles, two quotes:

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” — Robert Brault

“I believe we would be happier to have a personal revolution in our individual lives and go back to simpler living and more direct thinking. It is the simple things of life that make living worthwhile, the sweet fundamental things such as love and duty, work and rest, and living close to nature.” — Laura Ingalls Wilder

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Monday, August 22, 2011

Letting Him Do It

It sounded so comforting when I read it.

“Like St. Margaret Mary, you may hear Jesus a hundred times a day, saying to you, ‘Let me do it.’ In your difficulties, in your problems, in all those things in your daily life which are sometimes so difficult, so distressing, when you ask yourself, ‘What shall I do? How shall I do it?’ listen to Him saying to you, ‘Let me do it.’”

And I wanted to believe it. I wanted to feel a burden lifting. An ease that Jesus would do these hard things. That when we let go He steps in.

But instead, I felt resistant to the words in my devotional book. Doubt. Frustration. Because, my mind argued, He doesn’t always seem to step in when I let go. He doesn’t physically appear and do the hard things for me. If I let go or step back or fall down in weakness, I don’t always see Him or feel Him…and those difficulties still seem to be there.

I wrestled with the words.

Maybe letting Him do it means letting Him do it in me, through me. Letting Him pour out grace into my heart, making my weakness into His strength. That when I think I’m doing it all on my own, I don’t realize the graces and the strength He has given me. That He’s beside me, in me, with me. Just because I don’t feel it or see it doesn’t mean He’s not there through the “distress and difficulties.”

The hidden undercurrent of His grace.

I think about those Apostles . Those earthly men who followed the Divine. I look at the crucifix, at my saving Jesus on the cross, and I wonder…did they look at Him dying there, and wonder why He wasn’t stepping in? They had let go of so much in their lives and here He was, seemingly helpless on a cross. Did He look at them with bloody-beautiful eyes that spoke “Let me do it.. Let me do this.” The Apostles had no idea of the power and the grace and the redemption in that moment. The burdens and sins and darkness Jesus had taken on and was conquering.

So too in my moments when I choose to let go and to let Him…maybe I will see no actions but my own. Maybe I will not see Him taking on my burdens or defeating or conquering. Maybe I will feel like my letting go brought nothing. But I must believe. I must trust. Because there is strength and grace and power behind that action of letting Him do it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"It was only a sunny smile and little it cost in the giving, but like morning light it scattered the night and made the day worth living."


-Unknown

Monday, August 15, 2011

It started out as a simple grocery trip...

Just as freedom and captivity crossed at the intersection a few days ago…abundance and need passed each other at the grocery store today.

I was studying the cans of food preparing for a girlfriends’ camping trip this weekend when I heard the little voice.

“Grandpa, why do some people have hundreds of food at home and then still buy more hundreds of food?”

Time stood still for me as I forgot what I was looking for and instead stole a glance to where I’d heard the cheerfully innocent voice.

It belonged to a little boy, about six or seven, with circles under his sparkly eyes and a youthful energy in his skinny frame.

His “grandpa,” stood near him, looking worn and in need of a haircut and shave, but with a kind face. And bent over a child-size wheelchair carrying the little boy’s sister.

The boy’s question echoed in my mind and something inside of me instinctively knew they were in need. Why else would he look with wonder at the abundance of others?

I continued through the aisles, distracted by my thoughts and keeping an eye on the family. A middle-aged woman with them was carefully filling the cart while the man kept the children occupied.

I saw the face of the wheelchair-bound girl. Something was wrong. Her dark bluish-purple lips. The pale face. The sadness and maturity in her eyes.

My heart was being tugged.

All sorts of arguments formed in my mind. He might be offended if I tried to help. Perhaps they misused their money. What would I say anyway? How would I approach?

Lord, give me an opportunity to help them.

And in one of those rare, clear-headed instances, I knew He would not give me an ‘opportunity.’ Because He wanted me to step out in faith—simply seeing them was the opportunity.

So I awkwardly approached them.

And said how sweet their kids had been, how I’d enjoyed watching them and could I buy them a treat?

My heart officially melted in the freezer aisle when I saw their eager faces.

And the beauty in that older man’s face! His scruffiness and not-so-good-smellingness couldn’t hide his love and tenderness for these children as we talked in that aisle. About the little girl’s many medical problems. About what kind of ice cream the boy liked (vanilla! With all those amazing choices, he wanted vanilla!). About the popsicles the girl could eat—because usually she was fed through a feeding tube. About nurses and doctors and hospitals and diagnoses (I was in my scrubs). About a possible surgery for her that could either help her…or take her life.

I cried on the way home, mascara bleeding into my eyes as I thought about this little girl who might not grow old enough to wear mascara. It was heartbreaking. But there was more to it than that. Somehow, in giving the gift, I was given one in return.

Abundance and Need chatted in the grocery store, yet when I think about the love that flourished in this family despite incredible trials…

I’m not really sure anymore which one of us was in need and which one had abundance.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Baking from the Garden: A Healthy Zucchini Bread Recipe

Last night, as a delicious summer thunderstorm approached from the west, A. and I decided to bake up a storm inside (and it was delicious, too). The zucchini bread turned out so well I decided to share it on here. For all those fellow health nuts health-concious individuals...this recipe is a great alternative to the ones that have more sugar than flour! And as Rachael Ray would say, it's yum-o!!

(so I have to be honest here: those amazing zucchinis in the picture? Not from my garden, but graciously shared by a better gardener than myself!)

Zucchini Bread

2 eggs
¾ c honey (I use ½ cup and then add just a bit of sucanat/sugar)
½ c olive oil (I use coconut oil)
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp ground ginger (oops, we didn’t have any)
¼ tsp cinnamon (didn’t measure; I’m sure I used much more!)
1/3 tsp of vanilla (same as above)
1 medium zucchini squash, grated
1 ½ cup whole wheat flour

Beat eggs, honey, and oil together. Mix in rest of ingredient, adding flour last. The zucchini should be about 1 ½ cups, loosely packed. Can also add nuts if you wish. Bake in a greased loaf pan for 1 hour at 350* F.

From Healthy Choices: No sugar. No white flour. No artificial anything. Authors Marvin and Miriam Wengerd of Keepers at Home Magazine

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Morning Mess

I woke up before the alarm, crawled out of bed. Put my contacts in puffy eyes, promising them some more sleep when I returned. I poured my cinnamon tea into a travel mug (ignoring the coffeemaker’s lure of more caffeine), grabbed my journal and devotional, and headed to my morning Adoration hour with Jesus.

I was exhausted. The type of over-tired where everything makes you cry, but you’re too tired to even cry.

And the worst thing was that it was my own fault. I choose what fills my calendar days. I allow the busy-ness to infiltrate. I let the prayer time, the quiet time, lapse.

Doing too much. Not doing enough. Thinking too much. Being thoughtless. One by one, the burdens piled up. The guilt.

And because I was displeased, I thought Jesus must surely be displeased with me, too.

The lies we believe.

But His promises are louder.

Come to me, all you who are heavy and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).

Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).

He commands us to come. Even, or especially, when we are weary or burdened or sinful. Not because He dismisses our mistakes or excuses our sin. But because He is Jehovah Rapha, the God who Heals. Because He is a loving God, a saving God, a sanctifying God.

He doesn’t ask that I come to Him with everything under control. He just asks that I come to Him. Period. And give Him control. Being open, humble, trusting. That He may work in this messy heart and make it more like His.

So I approached the throne and knelt before this God Who never ceases to amaze me. Empty, sinful, and weary, I came to Him. I ignored the whispered lies that He didn’t want me there with all my imperfections because He has said otherwise (Mark 2:17).

I gave Him my messy heart with its sins and faults and failures.

And He gave me His unconditional, indescribable, life-changing love.

What an exchange.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"He said, 'Come.' Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.
But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, 'Lord, save me!'
Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him..."


Matthew 14:29-31 (emphasis mine)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Snapshots of Summer: Week 7



The ice cream aisle...one of our favourite summer places! (My roomie A. is so good about putting up with me and my summer snapshots!)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Free

It was a bright summer morning. I was feeling happy and energetic on my drive to work. My convertible top was down, the sun was warming my face and the wind was dancing through my hair.

Freedom.

I waited at the stoplight, inching my way forward for a right turn and glancing at the oncoming traffic. A large white bus approached, blue wording on the side. As it made its way down the hill and through the intersection, I recognized its logo.

The local correction facility. Jail.

Captivity.

I squinted in the sunlight to see if there were any passengers. Dark silhouettes were scattered throughout the bus as it passed by.

The contrast settled upon me heavily. Just as I was breathing in the fresh morning air and delighting in the freedom of the day, these men and women were being transported in a dark, drab bus to or from prison.

Freedom and captivity crossing at the intersection.

But the crazy thing?

We weren’t so different from each other.

And my heart of hearts knew this as a sobering sorrow filled it.

When ministering to prisoners, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen quipped that the difference between them and him was that he "hadn't been caught!"

How true. We all fall short. We sin. We choose evil over good, dark over light. We turn away from the One who offers freedom.

My Kutless cd spun in the player as I turned onto the road after the bus passed. The lyrics echoed my heartthoughts and I marveled at the timing.

“If you take it all, will my hands stay lifted to the God who gives and take away?”

All this I have, this freedom, is a gift I haven’t earned. This freedom in America. This freedom in Christ.

Blessings.

Did those prisoners grow up in a broken home? Were their crimes born from ignorance, pain, need, despair? What if we switched places? Would my hands stay lifted in praise to a God who is always good no matter what my circumstances?

Grace.

Grace that set me free. Grace that continues to free me from all that holds me captive.

Grace that nudges me to share that freedom with others. With those who do not know the One who shatters chains, opens gates, and pours light in dark places.

So when the sun shines and the wind dances, I praise God for the freedom He has brought into my life in so. many. ways. Yet I also pray that I "not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; [but] rather, serve one another through love" (Galatians 5:13).

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"But You love me anyway
It’s like nothing in life that I’ve ever known
You love me anyway
Oh Lord, how You love me
How You love me."

-You Love Me Anyway by Sidewalk Prophets


(This song is so powerful. My favorite on Christian radio right now. If you get a chance to listen to the whole song, it's well worth it.)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Snapshots of Summer: Week 5

Sun-tea brewing on the deck-- I love the way the sun was shining through the colored tea like stained-glass windows!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Busy, Lazy, Beautiful Summer

We’re cooking here in Ohio this week. Ninety degree temps and thick humidity.


I love it.


But it does make for some lazy summer days.


And I’ve been especially lazy in the blogosphere. Between summer trips and spending time outdoors with my family and friends (and sometimes just by myself!), writing hasn’t been a top priority. I miss it. But I really like living life, too, so it's all good.


I’m keeping up with the Snapshots of Summer and Wisdom for Wednesdays (because one can be lazy and still do those), but inspiration for anything else seems to fail me lately.


(Oh, and speaking of cooking—yes, we were speaking of it, at the beginning—does anyone have any tasty summer recipes or websites with such to share? I’m in want of some new recipes, especially ones that use goodies from the farmer’s market…)

I hope you are all having a wonderful summer.


God is good. And life is beautiful.


Amen?



Chaperoning for our diocesan youth retreat. An incredible weekend with incredible teens. The theme: Seek God in Every Moment. LOVE that.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus."

-1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Monday, July 18, 2011

PrayerWalk: A Book Review

Sometimes prayer can become routine. Sometimes exercising can be boring. So when I was perusing the available books for my next Blogging for Books review, PrayerWalk caught my eye. Author Janet Holm McHenry combines two healthy habits into a unique and powerful ministry. With summer's arrival, my cozy mornings with tea and candles and prayer seemed out of season-- this new idea would be a perfect way to rejuvenate my soul and body!

The Overall: PrayerWalk: Becoming a Woman of Prayer, Strength & Discipline, by Janet Holm McHenry, shares the author's journey into a ten-year plus ministry of prayerwalking. I've prayed before on pleasure walks and exercise walks, but this book made me look at it in a whole new way. I learned that prayerwalking is more than a glance toward the clouds praising their Creator (although it's that, too!) and takes persistence, discipline, and an open heart. Taking on the needs and burdens of the community, Janet prays not only for her own intentions but also those of friends, family, the community...and strangers she passes by on her path. Beautiful. She is an incredible prayer warrior who inspired me with this interesting behind-the-scenes ministry.

Favorite Quotes: "Prayerwalking is not an easy way to to 'take care of prayer' while you get good exercise. It is a call to spend rich time with God, carrying others' loads."

"Anything God puts in my path of vision is a subject for prayer. Our communities need our prayers and Scripture encourages this: 'When right-living people bless the city, it flourishes' (Proverbs 11:11, MSG)."


The Nitty-Gritty: The book is divided into several sections. The first half focuses more on the physical aspect of prayerwalking (exercise rules) and the second half deals with the spiritual aspects. I did get a little bored with the instructions on walking (getting the right shoes, etc.) but I think it would be useful for those just starting an exercise routine.

What Sticks Out: Motivation. This book was a fantastic motivator!! The benefits of walking, the author's personal insights, and the powerful ministry presented were all great motivators for me to begin prayerwalking.

Something Extra: LOTS of extras here: A study guide for groups, a 30-day prayerwalk challenge, resources on walking, and information on doing a community prayerwalk events. I love extras!

So the real question is...did I start prayerwalking?

Yes! And I LOVE it! It was the accountability factor...if I was going to post a review, how convincing would I be if I hadn't gotten out on my feet as well? The most memorable time was the crisp, peaceful morning I watched eight deer cross my path as I started out--what a Wonderful Maker! I'm still learning and adapting prayerwalking to my schedule (not a daily habit)...still hitting the snooze alarm sometimes...still getting incredibly distracted sometimes...but I'll keep going! Won't you join me?

[I received this book from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for free. These are my honest and original comments about the book.]

Rank this review to enter a chance to win a copy of this book!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Snapshots of Summer: Week 4

Watering the flowers and the garden...and the roommate. (Don't worry, friends, I got her back. Revenge was mine.)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"America you are beautiful . . . and blessed . . . . The ultimate test of your greatness is the way you treat every human being, but especially the weakest and most defenseless. If you want equal justice for all and true freedom and lasting peace, then America, defend life.”

-Blessed (Pope) John Paul II
(emphasis mine)



Thursday, July 7, 2011

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"It isn't what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about."

-Dale Carnegie

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Hidden Treasure

We have two nursing homes on a side street outside my neighborhood. I love to walk to them for the monthly Catholic Mass with the residents. It stirs me deeply to watch the amazing, selfless priest be Jesus to these people. To see the faith of these residents despite their grim surroundings. The grace is palpable.

This morning was no different.

Fourteen of us gathered around a large wooden table—most in wheelchairs. One woman with labored breathing. Another sleeping with her head drooped so low onto her chest. Two women chatting about when they would go home…while another one sadly stated, “This is my home now.”

But we all came to the table in faith, like the Apostles long ago. Connected by this love for Jesus and His Church.

Deacon D., a resident there himself, read the Gospel today. This man who had lived a life of service, now lives in a nursing home relying on the service of others. He read slowly, sometimes having to pause between a sentence or even a phrase.

But it was beautiful.

And as he read the words of Matthew, chapter 6, I was struck with how appropriate today’s reading applied to these dear people. The Father who sees what is hidden.

These hidden treasures. These faithful people.

They may never again be able to serve at a soup kitchen, sing in a choir, go on a mission trip, or even kneel down to pray.

But they still serve God in their own quiet, hidden way. By the world’s standards, they have nothing left to give. As Christians, we know it’s quite the opposite. Every single one of us, while we have breath, has something to give, something to offer.

And our Father sees in secret. Nothing is lost.

At the conclusion of the Mass, we sang all five verses of Amazing Grace. The feeble voices became strong with this beloved hymn—how sweet the sound. And this precious grace—this grace that transforms the little things we do into gifts for God…this grace that gives meaning to every moment of our lives because we know Him…

It is amazing.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"This nation needs you. Know the facts. Stand for what's right. Don't be discouraged by the mocking of those who want to claim we just cling to our religion. I'm the first to admit-- yeah, I do cling to my faith. That's all I've got."


-Sarah Palin, in Louisville Courier-Journal, qtd. in The Quotable Rogue, edited by Matt Lewis

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Palin, Politics, and a Unique Summer Read

Sarah Palin.

What comes to mind when you see that name?

Former governor. Vice prez candidate. Author. Mom. Alaskan. Tina Fey?

Intriguing, this Sarah.

But sadly, most of the words we hear or see about her come from a media that loves to create drama and to bend the truth (is that harsh?).

Enter The Quotable Rogue: The Ideals of Sarah Palin in Her Own Words, edited by Matt Lewis. A book of quotes from the woman herself. Instead of hearing what others say about her, let's read her own words, her own opinions, her own values.

The Overall: 180+ pages of quotations from various sources. Divided by topic--such as abortion, economics, national security, family, faith--making it interesting and easy to follow. I found myself reading chapters at a time, like a fiction book.

Favorite Quotes: "I am a normal American. And when it comes to my pro-life views, there are more Americans today saying that they understand the sanctity of life and that they are pro-life than they are pro-abortion for the first time in decades."

"My dad always says, 'don't retreat, just reload.' Don't let anybody tell you to sit down and shut up."

"We hear of a judge's ruling that our National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional. I think we'll be challenging that one. God truly has shed his grace on thee--on this country. He's blessed us, and we better not blow it."

The Nitty-Gritty: I really don't have anything negative to say about the book. I guess if you're not a fan of quotes, you may not enjoy it!

What Sticks Out: Sarah is brave, candid, and conservative. I admire her energy and desire to reform and transform. I loved reading her actual words instead of the media's opinion of Sarah. There were a few things I may disagree with her on, but she had my vote before and she likely would in the future (depending on her opponent, of course). Small government, pro-life, energy independence-- I like the way this girl thinks!

[I received this book for free from Booksneeze for this review. These are my original and honest comments about the book.]

Friday, June 24, 2011

Wounded Souls

As I mixed up his IV medications, I overheard my patient talking with the other nurse. Gruff, negative, tough-guy-attitude. Complaining about his job—“hating every minute,” he said calmly. This comment—in an economy where there are those who would love to have a job they hate…just to have a job.

And when I searched for a vein to use for the IV, he joked about how he’d wanted to punch the last nurse that started an IV in his hand. Lucky me.

I was mildly annoyed with his dramatic, pessimistic attitude.

And in a brief moment, with rolling eyes…

I judged him.

Such a simple action. A moment in the mind. We evaluate and we label and we measure. By whose standards?

I had him all figured out from a few interactions. This complex child of God.

Later before his stress test, I reviewed his chart for a medical history.

And saw words like Divorce. Depression. Evaluating for suicide.

My heart plummeted. How could I have been so wrong?

This wounded soul. I was focusing on caring for his heart physically, but these were matters of the heart that a cardiologist couldn’t heal. Was he aching for love? Wondering his worth? And what had I done to help?

I, who am so quick to judge and slow to learn.

Sorrowed and softened by this newfound knowledge, I spoke more kindly. I treated more tenderly. I tried to love as Jesus would love.

Yet the lesson remains.

When I’m in a hurry, when I’m frustrated or annoyed, when I’m preoccupied with my own worries or pains…what wounded souls am I overlooking?

When I impulsively judge a person by their looks, their words, their actions…what wounded souls am I passing by like a Pharisee?

Holy Spirit, thank you for never giving up on me. Help me to see beyond the exterior. To obey your command not to judge (Matthew 7:1-5). Transform my eyes and my mind and my heart—to see and think and love as you would have me do.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"Perhaps the opposite of faith is not doubt. Perhaps the opposite of faith is fear. To lack faith perhaps isn't as much an intellectual disbelief in the existence of God as fear and distrust that there is a good God."


-One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sunday, June 19, 2011

My Daddy's Hands

My hand slipped into the larger, work-worn hand offered beside me as we bowed in prayer before a family meal. It was comforting, strong, secure.

My dad’s hand.

Earlier that same day after a crazy-fun wakeboarding trip, he held his hand out to me as I stepped off the rocking boat onto the dock. Safety. Protection. Caring.

Worn yet strong from years of labor, these hands. Fixing cars, restoring old ones (and driving them!), the maintenance of a home inside and out. (…and the home of a daughter who knows next-to-nothing about fixing things!)

These hands. Throwing the ball for our little Micah-dog; gripping the rope handle while wakeboarding behind the boat (this oh-so-cool, 50-something dad); mowing my yard to surprise me; texting me to wish me a good day; handing me the local newspaper you saved just because you know I like it; your fingers tiptoeing across my hair from behind to get a reaction from this spider-fearing girl.

These hands that taught me how to drive stick shift, how to drive a boat and a motorcycle (you brave passenger!), how to swing a bat and wash a car and check my oil and make straw-colate shakes and work hard and hold-on-for-dear-life on a roller coaster.

The hands that set up the camper for family vacations as well as drew routes on the atlas for my own road trips. That turn up the radio when a meaningful Christian music song comes on (or a Christian rock one!). That shoot hoops with college-age kids and still give them a run for their money.

These same hands that fold in prayer, slide along a rosary, hold mom’s hand, hug your kids, and make your grandson giggle.

How beautiful.

These strong yet tender, protective, capable hands remind me of someone else’s….

The mighty and loving Hands of God.

Thank you for being a reflection of my Heavenly Father.

And thank you for being an amazing earthly dad.

Happy Father’s Day. I love you.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary. There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him."


-Pope Benedict XVI

Thursday, June 9, 2011

This Jesus

A year and a half ago I opened my worn Bible to the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew. Tonight I finished the last chapter of the Gospel of John.

My motive that fall in turning to the Gospels was one of hope with a touch of desperation—or maybe the other way around. In a lake of confusion and intense pain, I reached for a Jesus I could trust to pull me out of the waters and help me walk once again.

And in the pages of the four Gospels, I found him. This Jesus.

This Jesus who healed the ones who felt small. The ones who were blind, lame, bleeding, and sinful.

This Jesus who taught with such a passion and earnestness. With a desire for His listeners to learn and grow and live an abundant life (John 10:10). He didn’t shy from truth—He was truth. His words were not always easy to take or to live. He asked us to take up a cross, but He would be there to lead.

This Jesus who became friends with mere humans. Who loved them, ate with them, laughed with them, wept for them. Even though He was God and so infinitely above us in every way.

He was so real and so close.

When I struggled with the intangible, I found comfort that this was who God was. He came to earth as a human so we could see Him, hear Him, maybe reach for the hem of His garment…or be embraced by His loving arms. He understood our limits as humans but treated us with patience and compassion.

I was drawn to Him. How could anyone not be? This amazing Son of God with His strength, courage, mercy, wisdom. His attention and care for His people on earth as He lived among them stirred me. His life. His death. And His rising. All so very powerful. And true. Something certain and solid to hold onto.

Life-saving.

This Jesus. My Jesus.

Our Jesus.