Sunday, January 30, 2011

January Girls Night: Movie Time!

January Girls' Night

Snug in pajamas or comfy clothes, lots of popcorn and snacks, and a chick flick...

I think we're good!

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Quiet Heart, Part II

“’In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.’” –Isaiah 30:15

Peace, rest, and strength are found in quietness. And yet...

We avoid the quiet in our world today. Why?

Because when all is quiet, when everything is stripped away, when distractions are left behind...

We are left with only ourselves. Our inadequacies, weaknesses, and sins. Our fears. Our unspoken heartaches and worries.

The peaceful silence we crave can also make us uncomfortable as we confront the issues we push aside during the busy day.

But wait.

Someone else is in that silence. We are not alone.

There's a God who meets us there. Who is with us when the weight of our weakness, pain, and fear descend in the silence.

A God who will be our strength when we are weak.

Who exhorts us to not fear, because He promises to be at our side, almighty and all-loving.

Who weeps with us when we weep (John 11:35—one of the shortest and most powerful verses in the Bible).

He whispers words of comfort in the silence. Words of healing, encouragement, and hope that we otherwise would not hear.

As I seek to have a quiet heart, I realize that it’s not only about silencing outer distractions, clutter, noise, and busy-ness—but also silencing the inner voices of fear, doubt, worry, and expectations…

So that we can hear His voice.

And as we learn to quiet our hearts, He is there to help.

“He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad because they had quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven” (Psalm 107: 29-30).

The One who quiets the storms and the sea can quiet our hearts.

Thank you, Lord.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Quiet Heart, Part I

The upbeat music blares from the radio as I drive. My cell phone beeps with a message. The sounds of traffic echo around me. A thousand thoughts swirl through my mind. Reviewing the day, planning what yet needs to be done. Regrets from the past. Worries about the future.

Amid so much noise inside and out, could I hear a still, small voice?

In the Bible, God spoke to Elijah in that still, small voice (1 Kings 19:11-12).

He still speaks to us today. But sometimes my heart is too cluttered and my mind too noisy to hear.

Hurried. Chaotic. Distracted. Overwhelmed. When these qualities describe my heart and life, there is no room for the still, small voice. No time to pause, to listen, to reflect.

“Let not yours be the outward adorning with braiding of hair, decoration of gold, and wearing of robes, but let it be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable jewel of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (1 Peter 3:3-4).

A gentle and quiet spirit, Peter says. This means to allow my heart to be at rest, to be open and ready to hear the faintest whisper of our God in the stillness.

And so my resolution for the new year is to have a quiet heart. To purposefully uproot the useless noise, clutter, and distractions that steal my peace. To resist the rushed mindset that tempts me to focus on how much I get done rather than the quality of what I do.

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

In a world that pushes us to do, He invites—commands—us simply to be.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Remembering the Smallest Americans

Loving Father,

We pray today for the all your children, but especially for your unborn children. So fragile, so vulnerable. We pray for those parents who are considering abortion of their unborn child. Work in their hearts, Lord, and show them the miraculous gift of life you have entrusted to them and the responsibility that includes.
We pray for the doctors, nurses, and medical staff who are involved in abortions. We pray for their souls, that they may see your light and your truth.
We pray for all those on the March for Life in Washington, D.C. today, and all the local marches, braving the cold to be a voice for the silent unborn. Bless them for their efforts and sacrifice.
We pray for our beautiful country, for its leaders, that they may lead with honor and integrity. Pour your grace into their hearts, that they will have the courage and conviction to fight for life in all its stages, so that we will no longer be a nation which kills its own.
Forgive us, Lord, for our apathy and indifference. Set us on fire to be bold witnesses for life in whatever opportunities you send.


Friday, January 21, 2011

Setting Captives Free

Long ago, your people Israel
Cried to you in chains
God above, please set us free
From our bondage and our pain.

You heard their cry, You felt their pain
You led them faithfully
Despite their sin, you showered mercy
You set the captives free.

Years later, your Son came down to earth
He taught, and healed, and loved
A people still in bondage
But seeking you above.

The lame stood tall, the dead awoke
The blind man learned to see
Healed from sin and suffering
You set the captives free.

Then beneath a heavy cross He walked
Amid the cries and jeers
Of people who did not realize
They had waited for Him for years.

He hung upon this cross for us
Redeeming a world in need
And as the nails held him tight
He set the captives free.

And yet today the chains appear
Enslaved once more we become
To fear, to sin, to worry and doubt
We forget You have already won.

You break the bonds, you offer your hand
Just let them go, you say to me
I watch the shackles fall to the ground
As this captive is set free.

With praise and joy I thank you
And ask that others too may know
The joy and freedom that you give
When we let these burdens go.

Loving Father, Savior, Spirit
Give them eyes of faith to see
You’re a God of unending mercy and love
And You still set captives free.

by Laura@LifeIsBeautiful/Jan2011

Saturday, January 15, 2011

This Little Light of Mine...

I cuddled in my chair, watching the candles as I prayed. One little tealight was dimmer than the others. It looked as if it were almost ready to go out, but it continued to burn with a gentle orange glow next to the other bright, flickering candles.

Only a moment later I glanced at the candle again and noticed it burning brighter. Instead of a quiet glimmer, it had grown into a taller, shining flame—still not as tall as the others, but shining with its own light.

And in that moment, my heart related to the little candle.

Sometimes I feel bright and filled with the light of Christ. Ready to meet the day and live it for Him. To share His light with others.

But sometimes I feel my energy grow dim. My bright mood darkens with sadness or pain or weariness. I can hardly keep the embers glowing and I fear that all will be ashes soon.

I wait. I hold onto the tiny glow within. I hope.

And as time passes, the flame begins to grow again. My sparkle returns and I am grateful for more light.

Two different lights. The bright blaze, full of energy and warmth. And the tiny spark that is ready to go out, that is using everything within it to keep glowing in the darkness.

The beautiful truth is...both can glorify Him. He understands that feelings come and go, that weariness happens, that motivation wanes.

But He does ask that we keep going. That we give Him all we have, whether it be a bright blaze or a tiny spark.

He'll take care of the rest.

After all, He is the Light of the World.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Life is Beautiful...

-when I wake up to a world of sparkly snow and sunshine.

-with a cup of Hot Cinnamon Spice tea in a cute snowman mug.

-as my WoodWick candle crackles and sparkles in the quiet of the evening.

-on a walk through the neighborhood, breathing the fresh, cool air.

-when spending time with my family and my uncle’s family playing the crazy Xbox Kinect.

-with the infectious laughter and mirth of the choir members at our post-Christmas party.

-at the nursing home Mass when Fr. Todd spoke of how the little things do matter—the prayers of these residents can be powerful and serve a great purpose.

-when the elderly woman in front of me held her husband’s hand, sitting close to his wheelchair and assisting him.

-when a dear online friend reached out to me, sharing her heart to encourage my own.

-when a new year stretches ahead, a gift unopened of time and opportunity, with the promise of grace, hope, and mercy because of God’s presence.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Mondays and New Years

"I suppose when we wake on January 1 the world will look the same.

But there is a reminder of the Resurrection at the start of each New Year, each new decade.

That's why I also like sunrises, Mondays, and new seasons.

God seems to be saying, 'With me you can always start fresh.' "

-Ada Lum

Monday, January 3, 2011

White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake

This recipe would have been more timely before Christmas instead of during this month of New Year's resolutions! However, the flavors of this amazing cheesecake do have a tendency to make you forget the calories and sugar...
My beautiful voice teacher has made this for years and somehow I was able to talk her into letting me help her make it this year (and copy the recipe!). Thank you, Joan!

White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake

½ cup butter
¼ cup sugar
½ tsp. vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Cream butter, sugar, and vanilla in a small bowl at medium speed until light and fluffy. Gradually add flour, mixing at low speed until blended. Press onto bottom of 9-inch springform pan. Prick with fork. Bake 25 minutes or until edges are light golden brown.

4 8-oz. packages cream cheese, softened
½ cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
4 eggs
12 oz. white chocolate, melted, slightly cooled.

Beat cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, just until blended. Blend in melted chocolate; pour over crust. Bake 55-60 minutes or until center is almost set. Run knife around rim of pan to loosen cake. Cool before removing rim of pan. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight. Garnish with raspberry pie filling, fresh fruit, chocolate curls and powdered sugar.

Makes 12 servings.