Month: April 2014

I WILL Create or Else!

Easter Popcorn 1

Every Good Friday I teach 3rd and 4th graders at our church along with a wonderful group of volunteers.  This year I decided to make a treat for those volunteers – a recipe I had pinned from Two Peas & Their Pod, Salted Carmel Easter Popcorn.  I purchased all the ingredients the night before and got up on Friday morning ready to create.

First, you will need to know that I know nothing about candy-making so the name of the treat – Salted Carmel – should have given me a clue that this recipe might not be quite as easy as it looked.  Unaware of what was to come, I happily combined the popcorn and the M&M’s.  That was easy.  Then I combined the sugar, salt and water in a saucepan.  I’m never really sure what a recipe means when it says “saucepan”.  I grew up calling everything that was not a pan, a pot.  I don’t know if I used the right thing or not.  Anyway, I got it going and had it boiling away.  Looks pretty good here, right?

Easter Popcorn 2

Unfortunately, I tend to stick pretty closely to a recipe even when I’m not sure that it’s working out the way it’s supposed to.  The recipe said to boil until the mixture was amber-colored, about 8-12 minutes.  I wasn’t totally sure what amber-colored was so I figured I would give it 8 minutes.  At 8 minutes I had a very dark, smoking mess in my saucepan/pot. (Sorry – I didn’t take a picture of this one!)  For whatever silly reason, I went ahead and mixed it in with the popcorn and then tasted it.  Burnt popcorn wasn’t really the treat I was looking for.  So I threw it away, quickly, before it became hard, burnt popcorn on my new cookie pan.  I had plenty of ingredients left because I had planned to make two batches, so I started over again.

This time, I did not burn the sugar mixture.  However, the next step was to add heavy cream and stir until smooth, then add marshmallows and vanilla.  I was still rattled over the first fiasco and added the marshmallows and vanilla first.  I soon saw my mistake thought that maybe it would be okay if I just added the cream anyway.  Wrong!  This time I just shoved the mess into the trash.

This was the defining moment.  I was ready to give up, but before I gave up, I thought about what was happening.  In the past, I have been afraid to try new things because I might not get it right or I might waste expensive ingredients/supplies.  You can’t imagine how many times this kind of thinking has stopped me from creating.  Ridiculous, especially when I have already purchased the ingredients/supplies!

I looked around my kitchen, knowing that I already had enough ingredients to make two more batches.  Right there, in my own kitchen, I decided that I was not going to give up – that I was going to break the lack-of-creativity-due-to-fear pattern now!  Carefully, I mixed up another batch, being sure to check the directions over and over again, and voila! Salted Carmel Easter Popcorn!

Easter Popcorn 3

Easter Popcorn 7

I can’t promise that the fight is over.  I can’t promise that I won’t ever hesitate because of silly perfectionist or procrastinating fears again, but the first step has been taken.  Victory is so sweet (literally)!

 

He Is Risen!

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He took on flesh and lived among us…us – the ones who were ruined and made filthy by our own sin.

He wept over and prayed for us…us – the ones who flaunted his law and ignored his voice.

He was beaten and humiliated for us…us – the ones who thought only of ourselves and tried to steal his glory.

He died for us…us – the ones who demanded his death without understanding that we weren’t in control.

He rose again and lives for us…us – the ones who are helpless and weak and try to pretend we aren’t.

He loves us…us – the ones who will never really understand such a love, the ones who have to be quiet, and come with empty hands, and believe, and bask in his incredible love.

What’s a Grandma to Do?

Three years ago I knew without a doubt that I was not ready to be a grandmother.  I work in elementary ministry at our church and I stay as far away from the early childhood area as I can get.  I do not grab babies when I see them passing by.  I do not volunteer to babysit other people’s babies.  Something would definitely have to drastically change before I was ready to be a grandmother.

Guess what that something was?  Very simply, my daughter telling me that she was going to have a baby.  That’s it.  I didn’t have to see the baby.  I didn’t need to know if the baby was a boy or a girl.  In an instant I was turned into a grandmother.  It’s the weirdest transformation I have ever witnessed and I still don’t understand it.

Apparently, my grandmother must have had an experience somewhat similar to mine.  My mother told me that Grandma did not want to be called Grandma.  Well, I don’t really, either.  My grandma name is GiGi.  I don’t know anything else about my grandmother’s transformation to Grandma, but I know without a doubt that she loved me and would have done just about anything for me.  She is my mentor in grandmothering and as I have grown into this role, I have looked back at the lessons she taught me to guide me as I spend time with my little darling.

Creativity – my Grandma was always making something – usually something crocheted, but she also was a great cook, and she played the organ, and she gardened.  When I was old enough, she patiently taught me to crochet.  “Patiently” – don’t skip over that word!  That means that I made endless mistakes and that she helped me to pick them out and correct them – without any negative comments or even eye-rolling.  (Actually, I’m pretty sure I never saw my grandmother roll her eyes!)  At Grandma’s house, I learned to love creating things – crafts, yummy food, and music.  I want to help my little grandchildren to imitate their God by being creative.

Books – In a corner of my Grandma’s living room, in a cozy little spot beside the TV, was a little bookcase full of children’s books.  I spent hours in that corner reading and re-reading those books and gradually moving into Grandma’s collection of Reader’s Digest books and book club books.  Grandma was a reader and she encouraged me in my love of books.  In my living room is a hutch which holds a little collection of children’s books.  When my granddaughter comes to visit, she generally heads straight for that hutch and pulls out her favorite Thomas the Tank Engine book.  I think I am carrying on Grandma’s legacy in the book-reading department.

Love of Outdoors – When I was little, both my grandparents spent a lot of time outside.  They kept a big vegetable garden and Grandma had several flower beds that required her green thumb.  At Grandma’s house I learned how to pinch a snap dragon so that it looked like the dragon was opening his mouth.  I learned to rake leaves and jump in the pile (the reward for hard work!)  I learned to blow air over a blade of grass and make a great, loud noise.  I also learned the pleasure of sitting together with family on the back porch on a summer night.  I am not much of a gardener, but Aria and I take little walks and I watch as she collects leaves and dandelions and tears them to bits and then looks for more.  I think she too is learning to enjoy the outdoors.

Unconditional Love – The most important thing I learned at Grandma’s house was that she loved me no matter what.  There was never a moment when I felt unwelcome in her house.  There may have been times when she was tired of kids filling up her house, but I never knew it.  Whenever love seemed to be in short supply everywhere else, I knew I could find it at Grandma’s house.  Maybe that’s why I spent so much time there.  I hope I am showing my little sweetie the same love my grandma showed me.

Almost three years have slipped away since I learned that I was going to be a grandma for the first time, and I have enjoyed every minute.  I think my grandmother’s example is helping me to enjoy being a grandma.  I know I think of her quite often when I am planning something new for Aria or when I am just looking forward to one of her visits.  Thank you, God, for the blessing of my grandma and now for the chance to be a grandma!

Wandering in the Desert

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The wilderness of Engedi

I was born and raised in the farmland of south central Pennsylvania where green is a normal outdoor color and water shortages are almost never a problem.  Moving to north Texas made me much more aware of how many rain days we have and I have learned what drought is and what it does.  However, none of that prepared me for the vast desert wilderness we entered when we left Jerusalem and traveled down to the Dead Sea.  The idea that whole communities of people lived in Qumran and at Masada, and that David hid from Saul in Engedi is mind-boggling.  There is almost no water and very little vegetation.  Surely only desperation or insanity could drive people to live in such a place.

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Qumran

Qumran is the location of the Essene community who hid the scrolls that would come to be known as the Dead Sea Scrolls.  As we toured the remains of their village, we could see cisterns where they collected every bit of rainwater that could be caught, but how could it ever have been enough?

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One of the scroll caves

Incredible as it may seem to me, people actually did live and work in Qumran.  They carefully copied many scrolls, some of which are biblical, and then secreted them away in the caves surrounding the village.  Centuries later the scrolls were accidentally discovered when a goat fell through the ceiling of one of the caves and was recovered by a young shepherd.  By His providence, God preserved and then revealed to the world scrolls that were older than any other scrolls we had at the time. He used that excruciatingly dry desert air to preserve scrolls that would reinforce our faith in His unchanging Word.

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The view from Masada

Masada is a giant rock formation with a relatively flat top on which Herod built a fortress and a summer palace.  It’s another desert place which makes me scratch my head and wonder, “Why?”  Why would he chose such a lonely, dry, hot place as a refuge?  And beyond that, why would anyone bother to chase an enemy to such a place.  But it happened!  A community of Jews dug in at this wilderness place and determined never to be taken by their enemy, the Romans.  And the Romans did follow them there and built camps and besieged the Jews for a couple of years, finally building an enormous ramp which gave them access to the fortress.  What did the Romans find when they breached the walls?  An eerie silence.  The Jews had decided to die by their own hands rather than be killed or enslaved by the Romans.  A sad story, but out of a barren fortress in the desert came a rallying cry like our Alamo as, hundreds of years later, the brand-new Israeli nation faced their Arab enemies in 1948.

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Waterfall in Engedi

One more stop in the desert – Engedi – the area where David hid from the anger of King Saul.  It seems that all around us was nothing but rock, but then far off in the distance we could just barely make out a cleft in the rock, and patches of green, and a stream of falling water.  I think of David, forced to live like a hunted animal in a barren wilderness, and I imagine him writing these words:

“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”

Perhaps this is the message of the desert – perhaps the dry and barren places of our lives are meant to drive us to the living God for the water of His Word.  It is in the desert that we learn that God is all we really need.  And He is more – much more than enough!

 

 

 

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