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Friday, October 26, 2012

Monster Cookies

Today is my Momma's Birthday.  She and my sister are on their way to my house even now so that we can celebrate.  As I think about her I have lots of memories from her kitchen, her food, the way she pulled us in and taught while we prepared and then cleaned.  There were a lot more than cooking lessons going on in that kitchen!  Now she does the same with my girls and's very precious.

One of my memories is of my mom making Monster Cookies for Vacation Bible School.  Now, these aren't named Monster because of Halloween or how they are decorated or any such nonsense.  I'm pretty sure that they are named Monster because of the size of the recipe.  The original recipe which she got from her friend Judy Grein made 17 dozen cookies.

SEVENTEEN DOZEN, folks.....and my mom mixed them by hand.  I remember her with a huge stockpot stirring these puppies up, her spoon digging deep so that her whole hand and arm up to her elbow was in the pot. {My only more favorite mom kitchen story is how she makes Aunt Bill's brown includes power tools and her standing on the counter, I'll save that one.} 

These cookies have a uniquely wonderful chewy peanut buttery taste that reminds me of being a kid.  But as much as I loved them, there was just no way I was ever going to work that hard. And even though I used to be pretty good at math it never occurred to me to try these in a smaller batch - so that I could use a MIXER. Leave it to my dad; he did the math for us and now we can make a mere 5 dozen at a time.  
Which is fine with me as long as the dough fits in my Kitchen-aid.  

I'm not sure how the original recipe worked, but I just mix the ingredients in order; mixing them up pretty well as I add each one.  I use a bigger scoop than my normal cookies (I use the medium pampered chef scoop) so that they are a little bit "monsteryier."  The fun thing about this recipe is that you can change up the add-ins.  It's very flexible that way.

This batch is for my daughter's Halloween Party at school today, so she picked out all the green and blue M&Ms and we added some mini Reese's pieces.  Cute, right?

Since this dough doesn't have any flour, it isn't as stiff as regular cookie dough, but that's ok!  You haven't messed up.  Make sure that you mix it well so that the oatmeal doesn't stay at the top of your bowl!

This is a great Fall Cookie, try it! 

Monster Cookies

Large Recipe (5 dozen):
4 eggs
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 1/3 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon Karo Syrup
1 Tablespoon Baking soda
1 1/4 stick margarine, softened
1 pound peanut butter
6 cups oatmeal - quick cooking is my favorite, but old fashioned works too!
6 oz M&Ms (1 cup)
6 oz chocolate chips (1 cup)

Half Recipe (2 dozen):
2 eggs
1/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup sugar
½ tsp vanilla
½ tsp karo syrup
1 ½ tsp baking soda
6T butter
½ pound peanut butter
3 cups oatmeal
3 oz choc. chips (1/2 cup)
3 oz M&Ms (1/2 cup)

Add ingredients in order, mixing well after each addition.  Make into balls and bake at 350 for 10 minutes.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Call Me Bitter

I like to teach Sunday School.  Which is weird because teaching Sunday School requires using an out-loud voice (kinda like outside voice but in church) and honestly, I just cannot stand the sound of my own.  Add to this the pronunciation of a bunch of Bible Names and places and I just can't get over myself.  Cannot. It is so embarrassing. In the last four weeks I've had to say Er, Shittim, and Salmon out-loud in a roomful of smart mini-ladies (translation, college girls).

All this to say, Sunday School lessons are never boring for me. There are always so many things going through my head. These are just a few things I can actually remember from the last few weeks (in no real order)

  • I can't believe that I just said "Shittim". I can't believe I just giggled about saying "Shittim".
  • Did I pronounce "Why" like Beth Moore?  Because she is really cute when she says why.
  • These shoes are dorky. Oh my goodness, I'm not wearing any shoes....where are they? Oh yeah, there under my chair.
  • Why are you standing up hopping and running your fingers through your hair? STOP. IT.
  • Look at that precious one, she getssss this!  I wonder what she is thinking right now?
  • How on EARTH am I going to get through this entire lesson, I just spent 30 minutes on the first point.
  • Is that what my voice sounds like? Maybe I'm getting sick. It's so low today.  Raise your chin and it will sound more normal.
  • Yes, sweet girls I did just say semen, but it's in the text remember. Maybe we should've sent home a parent permission slip. I bet they have never heard that before in Sunday School. What is wrong with me? It is in the text. You said that already.....
I'm a little crazy maybe. When I teach I am always thinking ahead and behind and just so desperate to represent His Words well.  Bringing all those crazy thoughts into line under His leadership is a lifelong lesson that keeps me rightly humble.  It took Him years to convince me I should ever be in a place to teach but I obeyed, and now the crazy talk is His problem. We're working on it.    

Let me tell you why I love to teach Sunday School.  There is no way to know how or when (I just study and prepare and learn), but somewhere along the way God does something cool.  At the risk of sounding super weird (which I've already established in the first part of this post - I am), somewhere along the way God Himself bridges the gap between my preparation, gifts, and weakness and the Truth He wants to be illuminated from His Word already written.  It changes from written words to lively, transforming, beautifully fierce yet scarily gentle "soak into your heart" Word.....It is HE, Himself entering a heart willing to hear God's Word. 

This is just one example of God's Gap-jumping - from a VBS lesson.

On the occasions that I get to see and be even one part of that process it is so amazing to me.  Last week we started studying Ruth and I had one of those gap-jumping moments. We (and by we I mean I) read chapters 1-2, giggling through all the words that sound better in my brain than out-loud. We went through each main character Ruth, then Naomi, and then Boaz and asked this question. 

What does this character believe about God?

Ruth got rave reviews (she is our hero after all) and so did Worthy Bo (we'll save him for another post).  Naomi's reviews.....not so great. She's sarcastic and almost mean in her efforts to make Ruth and Orpah leave her.  "Do you think I'm going to have more sons for you to marry?" Definitely sarcasm.  While their attachment to her gives us much insight into her true character, she's off her game on the day this story goes into the Book.  The things she says about God are the real heartbreaker for those of us who are God-lovers.  Things like "God is against me, just go your own way!" hurt our feelings. When Ruth refuses to leave and demands to go back to Bethlehem with Naomi and they finally make it into town the scene goes something like this:

"They reached Bethlehem, and the whole town was excited to see them. The women who lived there asked, “Can this really be Naomi?” Then she told them, “Don’t call me Naomi any longer! Call me Mara, because God has made my life bitter. I had everything when I left, but the Lord has brought me back with nothing. How can you still call me Naomi, when God has turned against me and made my life so hard?” Ruth 1:19-20 CEV

The name Naomi means "pleasant".  Nothing like this little doozy of a homecoming. Can you imagine everyone coming out to greet her and she says, 
Don't call me Pleasant, just call me Bitter. 
[super awkward pause] 
MMmmK - have a nice day! Glad you're home...come for coffee next week? 
[half-hearted side hug].

As we think about Naomi we think about how important it is to protect ourselves from bitterness.  But, BUT - here is where God breathed brand-new into the Truth of this lesson for me.  How can we walk side-by-side with a Naomi, even in the sin of her bitterness, and be a reminder of hope? 

One of the questions I asked my class was this, "Where did Ruth get her information about the One True God?" Naomi and Ruth for ALL the time they had known each other lived in Moab (Foreigner Ruth's hometown - not Naomi's). The very Hebrew statements of belief Ruth makes in Chapter 1 must come from lessons taught by her Hebrew mother-in-law, Naomi, before she became Mara.  Can you imagine Ruth's difficulty as she watched Naomi's faith crumble?  Can you see how her own baby faith faltered?

Maybe you've been really discouraged by a woman of God who fell in her walk. She disappointed you with her inability to trust when it mattered most. Maybe you've heard your Naomi say out-loud what most of us only wonder in private and it crushed you and left you with questions you couldn't answer because she had always answered them for you. Could He be good even in this?  All I know is that I was full and He allowed me to lose everything that mattered to me.....everything. He is the reason I am empty.  Is that true?  What if it is? 
The loss of her mentor must've hurt.

Ruth responds without judgment. Her pleasant, un-entitled, humble, innocent life lived with love and service and affectionate acceptance opens wide the door for God's redemption.  Not just for Ruth, but for Naomi too.  By the end of Chapter 2, we are already seeing Naomi's heart change with her statement of renewed faith, "Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “Why, God bless that man (referring to Worthy Bo)! God hasn’t quite walked out on us after all! He still loves us, in bad times as well as good!” Ruth 2:20 MSG By the end of Ruth 4 Naomi is standing in the middle of that same welcome home party with a baby in her arms praising God in TRUTH.  She forgot Him for a season, but He never forgot her.  

And we thought the book of Ruth was just about Ruth.

If you've endured this post to the end, take a few minutes and consider the Naomi in your life.  

  • How to creatively serve her without correcting. 
  • How to love her without know-it-all reminders of where her faith should be (because frankly, you don't know it all).
  • How to enjoy the remnants of her pleasant temperament while overlooking the snarkiness.
  • How to remind her of Truth, but only as a part of affectionate attachment to her just the way she is.
  • How to deflect her negativity while bringing the positive back into view.
  • How to walk on with a trustful winsome heart, leading a wounded one while she rests, even though she is supposed to be leading you.
  • How to pray for her, with her, over her instead of about her.
  • How to remind her of all the Faith Truths she taught you even while being a safe place for her to vent anger and frustration.
  • How to cast vision for a resurrected future without getting mired down in the hopeless present by remembering her fruitful past.
I love Galatians 6:1-10 in this situation....Here it is in The Message, go read it in your Bible too.
"Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. Youmight be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.
Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.
Be very sure now, you who have been trained to a self-sufficient maturity, that you enter into a generous common life with those who have trained you, sharing all the good things that you have and experience.
Don’t be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.
So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith."

See, a genuine Naomi has planted the "good seeds" of trust and obedience in the past but she is struggling now with the sin of bitterness. Encourage her gently and trust God to bring her back.  Rejoice if He allows you a place in that process, but don't presume to take over the process.  It's ugly and painful and purposeful and beautiful and HIS to oversee.

When I first studied through Ruth, this was the comment in my journal.  

"How often do we accuse God and change our names to Bitter 
when He's really working resurrection in us?"

May we cooperate and submit to Him in all things....
Be encouraged my Naomi friends, and don't give up. 
Keep being sweet my Ruth friends, and don't give up.

Please share this with a Naomi....I'd love to hear about how you've been encouraged during a bitter season.

UPDATE; April 2013
In February I was able to visit Israel with my husband. After learning about Ruth and Naomi and planning to teach about their lives and relationship I was SO excited to see "Ruth's Field" on the list of places you can visit in Bethlehem. As we were traveling on our big ole tour bus from the Church of the Nativity to Shepherd's Field, I heard our guest tour guide say in broken English "And there is Ruth's Field....." as we zoomed past. I tried to jump up and take pictures, but missed it....which made me kinda sad.....I might've pouted a little bit.

As we were leaving Bethlehem to return to Jerusalem, my husband came running down the aisle of the bus after visiting with our bus driver hollering at me to get off the bus.... (C'mon, I've only pouted a litttle bit. Really, I have been on my best behavior....I even ate a fish with eyes yesterday!)  I wasn't it trouble though, he had asked the driver to backtrack and make a quick stop at Ruth's Field for me.  

I got off and was able to look out where there are still fields, still producing crops.  I can imagine Ruth stooping over again and again behind the harvesters gleaning leftovers. I can feel her heart pounding in her chest as she wonders if she is doing the right thing and worrying about leaving Naomi in town. I can see Boaz coming from town behind me and gazing down at his fields noticing Ruth for the first time.  As you can see by the goofy grin on my face, I imagine the whole beautiful story. Two or three short minutes that I will remember forever.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Let Her Sit

I was so encouraged this week.  A friend stopped me and told me she was ready for me to do a new blog post...."I checked and it's still pudding."  Pudding is important, but there is chance there are more important things in life (slight, but still a chance).  Her request made my day.  I told her that there are so many things that bounce around in my head and heart that I would love to write about.....but so few actually make it here.  This last Sunday was one of those sweet personal lessons that I hesitate to even share because I have no confidence that I can articulate it in a way that is meaningful, but still; I'll try.

If any of you follow me on twitter, I tweeted recently complaining about taking my youngest to Big Church.  My Sunday schedule has taken a recent overhaul which has included switching from a traditional service {which I loved} to a contemporary service {also love} and from teaching youth Sunday School {loved it for over 5 years} to college Sunday School {love so very very much}.  You see my problem, lots of love but also lots of change. Good or bad, Transition always has Stress as a sidekick.  Add into this the realization that it's time for my 5 year old to start going to Big Church {don't love} and Sundays got super stressful. 

Here are my tweets about this particular experience:

"Perk of 10 years between oldest and youngest; knowing 5yo big church torture becomes teenage real God worship."

"Week 2 of Anna stays for church...never woulda let the bigs sit in the floor. #choosinmybattles" It included this picture...

What I wanted to tweet on Week 3 and 4 breaks my "no negative venting on social media" rule.  But it woulda had something to do with being spread eagle on the floor and bad sewer breath being blown in my face. It might've included this hashtag; #wannabarf

Here are our Big Church Rules:
  • Be quiet.
  • Go potty before church because we are NOT leaving during the service.
  • Stand up next to Mommy during the music at the beginning.
  • When, and only when, Dad starts preaching you can get into your church bag.
  • Stay in your seat (this one is open for interpretation, obviously).

Week 4 had gone so badly that I was digging my heels in for a fight.  These are good rules folks, I'm not hearing one single joke about any of my kids being "that preacher's kid" because they are misbehaving. I won't have that. (So you're seeing my starting point here).

I had fought her through every single song the week before because I made her stand up with me and she was doing the "wet noodle my legs don't work" passive aggressive thing; actually it's not very passive at all. 

So Week 5, the lights go down and the people all stand up and I turn to force her up and I hear very clearly, "Let her sit."  I paused and waited. This was the Spirit.  I asked her to stand and she wouldn't and I felt it again, "Let her sit and pray for her." After a short argument with myself involving a brilliant though half-hearted defense of Rule 3 and an equally brilliant "pppphffffftttt" I let it go.  I whispered into her ear instead...."I love being here at church, this is the time when I get to sing to Jesus about how I love Him. I would love for you to sing with me."

And I just began to sing and worship without her even while I was praying for her.  She sat next to me quietly and before the first song was over I felt her hand in mine.  She let me hold her and she started singing with me. Beautiful. My beautiful parenting stories are so few, that I wanted to point and shout and tweet but instead I marveled.  I let her sit, I prayed, and she joined me on her own.  Now...just keeping it real, she was also pulling my earrings and since she doesn't know the songs yet she sang this ugly monotone version of word endings as she tried to mimic what she heard. 

But she was singing.  
Because she chose to sing, not because I forced her.

I thought of how God handles me.  He invites me and does His thing and never forces me.  But the more I get to know Him the more irresistible He is.  I grow frustrated and independent and pull away and He whispers "Let her sit".  But as I watch Him and His people, I find my hand in His because I belong there.  He is home. My contribution may be an ugly monotone version as I just try to keep up, but that's OK.  His kindness leads me there (Romans 2:4).  He miraculously changes my hard heart into a soft responsive one as He encourages me.

There are so many parenting lessons in this experience.  How often I force my children into a behavior expecting it to motivate their hearts with only disappointing results.  God is after their hearts just as He has pursued mine, so I think I'll spend a little bit more time cooperating with Him there....praying while I let her sit.

"Fathers, do not provoke or irritate or fret your children [do not be hard on them or harass them], 
lest they become discouraged and sullen and morose and feel inferior and frustrated. 
[Do not break their spirit.]" 
Colossians 3:21 Amplified Version

"And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh..." Ezekiel 11:19