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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Highway

Last Sunday Todd preached on keeping the faith during the storms of life....twice.  It reminded me of this little bit of my heart I wrote several years ago.  I found the original date, July 18, 2005.  Six years ago.  Our oldest was 8 and our middle was 5, our baby wasn't even on our radar yet as you will see.  We were just two years into our ministry at IBC and many of the fulfillments of what God was calling us to do were still distant on the horizon.  What a blessing to see them made obvious now in flesh and bone and bricks and walls.  An amazing reminder of His faithfulness. 

From Summer 2005:

The Highway
One day my children and I set out for the one hour voyage to Grandmother’s house.  As we pulled onto the highway I noticed the dark storm clouds ahead.  I love these storms.  I always have.  I love to see the dark come over and smell the rain before it arrives.  I love to snuggle safe and secure at home.  I love to sleep or wake up during a storm.  There is something cozy about a good thunderstorm.  This day I drove unafraid toward the cloud, happy to be on the way to see my family for a much needed break.
As I drove into the storm I quickly realized it wasn’t a friendly, cozy storm.  It was one of those nerve-wracking, white-knuckles on the steering wheel, talk out loud to yourself kind of storms.  I couldn’t see anything as I began to tap the brakes and drive slower than the speed limit, which is strictly prohibited in my car.  I looked toward the sky and saw no signs of sun or even friendly rain.  Only this dangerous sheet of water could be seen.  My wipers on high couldn’t even keep up with the deluge.  I realized as I began to plan how I would rescue my children when my car ran into the ditch that I only had to keep my eyes on the road.  I whispered a prayer for safety and concentrated on the next 10 yards of highway ahead of me; the highway that was covered with orange water colored by the Oklahoma dirt flooding up from the ditches.  I fought the urge to look to the sky or to the rearview mirror where a sunnier day was fading.  As I traveled along bit by bit the rain lessened and I began to relax and finally looked to the sky.  You might think I saw a rainbow, and that would be a good ending.  What I saw was a sky full of threatening, dark gray clouds being rushed around by the many flashes of lightning all around.  As I began to brace myself for another round with the storm, I saw a break in the clouds.  It was one tiny oval shaped view of blue sky.  It brought me such hope and reminded me of my Heavenly Father.  I forced myself to focus only on the highway even though I wanted to watch the sky.  I felt comforted and homesick as I always do when I see evidence of God around me. 
As I pondered the sky, I felt Him saying to the part of my heart that hears Him, “Perhaps you’ve been thinking I’m the blue spot in the clouds–True, but I’m also the highway.”  Of course, my mind rebelled at this idea.  Shouldn’t God always be in the clouds?  I decided the voice had been the other parts of my heart and that they had ruined my comfy God moment with their heresy.  Then I noticed the highway anew, washed clean by the rain.  It glowed and shimmered with the promise of solid direction.  It never occurred to me not to follow the highway.  After all, I had no choice.  But it was wonderful to see the reassurance of God’s direction and provision for me in that plain yet beautiful picture of black asphalt.  As I continued on through the storm, I considered the last few months of my life.  My life is a busy family led by a pastor husband who faces immense pressure daily.  It is two children who delight, change and challenge all the time.  It is a church I love and serve.  It is friends and family and strangers who I seek to comfort and show authentic God love.  It is a quickly changing future with a new season for this mama.  But for the last months it has also been the pressure of a public attack on our precious church, the crushing moral failure of another pastor friend we love, and the loss of two babies before we could even celebrate their possibility.  God gently reminded me that I had been spending a lot of time either looking to the sky wishing to go home or with my eyes glued to the rearview mirror wishing for the comfort of easier days.  And all along He was the road.  As I take one step after another on a path with turns I never would’ve chosen for myself  I am grateful for the many people and opportunities that make this journey exciting and beautiful.  I am also weary from the burdens I carry.  Burdens not so crushing I can’t go on, but heavy nonetheless.  I am encouraged and strengthened by this picture I saw in the storm.  While I’ve been looking to the tiny oval of blue in the sky, God has been underneath me laying a bit of asphalt just in time for each step I take.  Sometimes the highway shimmers with expectancy around the bend.  Sometimes the highway is invisible, covered with red dirt water I have to slosh through.  But one thing I know and have always known, God’s way is always solid.  He’s not only with us on the journey, He supplies the ground for each step. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day

It is a joy to share life, family, and ministry with a man
who IS all he APPEARS to be and more.

Happy Father's Day to the Real Deal!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Our oldest is at Super Summer [super fantastic Christian youth camp] this week.  Although it is here in our own town, we don't see him since he stays on campus.  But I did hear that a couple of moms were going to show up on campus with pizza and cookies today.  So I jumped on that band wagon; just in case he's nearby. 

You may already have a favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie at your house, but just in case you don't I thought I would share this recipe.  I originally found this in a Southern Living cookbook from 1993.  I love to bake cookies, and without a doubt these are the ones I make most often. 

For me, these two ingredients are what make this recipe so fantastic.

And real butter.  In my experience, real butter tastes best but can leave you with cookies that are kinda flat (and I like mine plump).  I think the pudding mix butter combo makes a great chewy solid but soft texture for these cookies.  I also really prefer milk chocolate chips especially in this recipe, but that's just me.....and my little family.

Here are a couple of things I've learned baking cookies:

Don't overbake. This is what cookies should look like as they come out of the oven.  You should see a little bit of brown, but wonder if they are really done. By the time they come off the cookie sheet and cool they are perfect.

Remove them from hot cookie sheet quickly.  I never bake cookies more than 10 minutes (these take 9) unless they are really big.  Let them sit on the cookie sheet for a couple of minutes if they are underbaked, and they will firm up.  I usually give them about 30 seconds and then use my favorite metal spatula to move them to wax  paper to cool.  My cookies are always pretty fragile when I move them, but I like them to be soft and not overly crispy.....and if one falls apart on the way from the cookie sheet to the wax paper I usually eat it so no one has to look at an ugly cookie.  I'm thoughtful that way.

I always use this spatula.....I got it in a basket of wedding gifts.  If it ever breaks I'll be in trouble because I always flub cookies when I try to use something different.

Another tip, don't dip your measuring cup into your flour tub....scoop or spoon flour loosely into your measuring cup and level gently.  This gives you a more accurate measurement and keeps your flour from packing into the cup too densely.

I use a scoop to make my cookie dough into balls.  I love the ones from Pampered Chef and have all 3 sizes. The largest is for muffins, the middle for big cookies and the small for little cookies and mini muffins.  They are super handy.

So when I make these cookies I let 2 sticks of butter and 2 eggs sit out all morning so the butter is nice and soft and the eggs are at room temperature (at least that is always my plan - more often than not I have to nuke the butter and drop the eggs in cold-it still works).  I mix the butter and sugar together well and then add the dry pudding mix and finally the eggs and vanilla.  I dump the flour and baking soda straight on top and mix just until blended.  I pour in the whole bag of chocolate chips and mix a few more times.  Then scoop out onto cookie sheets a couple of inches apart and bake for 9 more thing, never scoop your cookie dough onto a hot cookie sheet.  Rotate the use of your cookie sheets so that each one is at least cool enough to touch....or your cookies will spread (which is a bad idea on many levels).

Chocolate Chip Pudding Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 small package instant vanilla or chocolate pudding
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4  cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
12 oz milk chocolate chips
Beat butter and sugars well, add pudding mix and eggs and vanilla, mix well.  Stir in dry ingredients then chips.  Bake at 375 degrees for 9 minutes.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Summer Intentions

June Craziness has begun!  I've just returned from Kid's Camp with my oldest daughter, such a great week.....and the wonderful crazy schedule continues on Monday.  But today we have a rare slow Saturday.   Right now our kids are all resting or playing.  It's a unique family day of unplanned activity.  My baby girl keeps asking me what we are going to do today, she's just not used to this!  I anticipate they will all begin to get pretty stir-crazy soon and we will find something to do, but for now I'm enjoying the quiet. 

I used to schedule and plan summer times and then send my kids back to school in August feeling like a frustrated failure because we never made it through our list and never stuck to the schedule.  I don't do that to myself anymore.  Instead I try to make the most of every teachable opportunity we are given.  I wrote about these types of intentions here, Cupcake Saturday.  I thought this Saturday was a good time to revisit those thoughts.

"Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity...."   Ephesians 5:15-16

Instead of trying to control our time, maybe we should see the time we are given as an opportunity to make a name for Jesus....and make the most of it.

Watching kiddos swim at Camp....