friends and loved ones · in my kitchen · more cake, please · Uncategorized

Prepare Him Room

 

For my entire life, and I do mean every year, I’ve heard the words to “Joy to the World” at Christmas time. Not one holiday season has passed without the opportunity to heartily sing out the hymn with gusto.   “Joy to the world, the Lord is come!  Let earth receive her King!  Let every heart prepare Him room and heaven and nature sing.”

This year I heard these words in particular everywhere I went: “Let every heart prepare Him room.”  The lyrics seemed to follow me around and I could not escape them.

Every heart.

Prepare.

The thing is, every year when Christmas rolls around, my life turns into a ridiculous flash of activities and I don’t prepare – at least, not like I should.  But this year, with the words echoing in my ears, I began to ask Him sincerely, “How can I prepare?  What can I do to make room  for You this Christmas?”

The answer seemed to tiptoe in the back door- and I wasn’t prepared for how He was making room…

Over the holidays I love to bake gifts for friends and family.  On one trip to Wal Mart, Michael and I ran into an old friend who had come on hard times.  After chatting with Him, I felt so strongly – I whispered to Michael maybe I should make a cake for his family, – but I wasn’t sure we would run into him again.    I felt so strongly that if I was to bake a cake for him, it would work out!

A week or two later, I walked into the very same Wal Mart after a morning of making several cakes.  Believe it or not, I ran into our friend again and was able to leave a cake with him.  Someone who had very little to give his family for Christmas, was so excited to receive this simple gift.  Friends, as I walked to the car, I’ll admit a little teary, it was as though He spoke audibly to me : “Whatever you do for the least of these you have done to Me.”

So, a few days before Christmas, I gave cake to Jesus, without even planning it.  And I knew in an extraordinary way that He had drawn my heart to His, made room for Himself, and His purpose, even in my cake baking!

My prayer has changed since then.  No longer am I asking how to prepare room for Him at Christmas.  No, I’m asking Him to make room for Himself, in ways I never dreamed, in every part of my life, all year long.

I can’t wait to see what He has planned!

 

friends and loved ones · home schooling

The 3 R’s of homeschooling

(My lovely kiddos pictured on our first day at a new co-op – Oh, don’t we look super happy! )

Its a mental picture of sorts I have – it describes how our school year is going.  We are about 6 or 7 weeks in to our academics for the 2017-18 year, and I have to tell you about it:

You know that little kid on the playground who is too small to keep up, but is always trying hard, scrambling along just behind everyone?

That’s me.

I’m that little kid shouting, “Wait for me guys, wait for me!”    Almost always a day late and dollar short.

Assignments late for a new co-op teacher?  Check.  Forget an extra appointment, even though its been on the calendar for months.  You betcha.  Trying to remember new passwords and order the right stuff for the right class but getting it ALL WRONG.  Absolutely.

I was looking back thru my journal and found an entry from August where I wrote out all of the “new” things implicated in the upcoming school year -and really it was sort of a prayer asking the Lord for help.  When I got to writing it all out it became clear just how much our year was going to be different from the last – and the whole thing was a little (okay, a lot) scary.  It looked like this:

new school year.  Help
new co-op.  Help
new choir.  Help
new friends and relationships.  Help
new technology.  Help
new requirements.  Help
new classrooms.  Help
new schedules.  Help
new books, teachers, expectations.  help help help!
new expenses, new emotions. HELP!

So, I tried to encourage myself with these words:  New is good.  New is hard.  New stretches.  New is healthy.

It worked just a little.  But then, I thought about the real way to homeschool.  I learned this way back in the early days, but I always forget.  My heart is prone to wander from the truth.

I know beyond any doubt that homeschooling, this year, is what God has for our family.  And with this knowledge I can homeschool using the three Rs.  You may not know them…

Remember.  Remember His faithfulness – that He already has done big things and He will continue to accomplish through me what He has called us to do.  

Rely.  Once I get around to remembering (which is more difficult than one might think) I need to rely on that faithfulness – rely on His goodness, His mercy, His provision.  HE will do it. 

Rest.  I can calm down in the middle of all the “new” that we are experiencing.  Even if I feel like we can’t catch up, even if I feel like nothing is going the way I’ve planned, I can rest in HIM.  He is the author of this story, not me.  I can let my heart remain in HIM.  

 

“I am the vine and you are the branches.  He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”

 

 

 

friends and loved ones · in my kitchen · more cake, please

Chocolate mascarpone Bundt and a happy birthday!

Cake #36 was a delight to make because it was for my husband’s birthday – we chose a recipe for Chocolate Mascarpone Bundt Cake.   And, yes, it was very yummy!  Michael’s parents came over for a birthday dinner and shared cake with us!

There’s not a lot to say here, simply because it was a good recipe – and it turned out well!  However, I would say – don’t bake it the full time as recommended.  I baked this one just over and hour and I’m afraid it was just a tiny bit dry around the edges!

Chocolate is so complicated when it comes to baking because it is hard to tell when it is finished baking.   I believe that if there is cocoa in the recipe, the cake bakes and then dries out quickly.

Here is the recipe from thebakingfairy.net.    It is definitely worth attempting!

Cake #36 Chocolate Mascarpone Bundt Cake

Ingredients:

  • ⅔ cup {10.5 tbsp} unsalted butter, softened
  • 1¾ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 8 oz mascarpone cheese {about ¾ cup}
  • 1¼ cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup cocoa powder
  • 1¾ all-purpose flour
  • 1½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Instructions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter and flour a bundt pan very well.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until creamy.
  • Add in the eggs and vanilla, and beat until fluffy. Stir in the sour cream and mascarpone, and mix until combined.
  • Add in the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt, and beat until creamy and fluffy.
  • Finally, stir in the chocolate chips.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan, and bake for 60-70 minutes (I wish I had only baked it for about 55 minutes, instead of 60), until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Let cake cool slightly in the pan, then invert onto a serving platter. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.

happy birthday, Michael!

 

friends and loved ones

Hold me tight

My sweet girl sat on my lap at the doctor’s office, a quaking mess, nervous and jittery.  She’s a bigger bundle than she used to be, but she still fits.  “Should I hold you tight?” I asked – and she’d nod.  I wrapped my arms around her and held on tight.   Truthfully, we were both a mess.

She was scheduled for a small procedure.  If we knew then what we know now, we probably wouldn’t have been so shaken. But, there were many unknowns : how long would it take, how much it would hurt or how long it would hurt…  and as we waited our heart-rates soared to new heights.  And I, I just tried to hold her as snug as I could – so she’d feel secure.

Honestly, I had been dreading the event ever since we put it on the calendar.  I mean, who wants to plan on pain?  As I wrote it on our family daytimer, I had such a heavy heart.  It is one thing to take a journey like this for myself – its another thing entirely to schedule something painful for your child, even if it is for their good.

As we waited, I just kept whispering in her ear, “I’ll hold you tight. I promise.”

You know, I’ve never had the little procedure she had done, so how did I know she’d want to be held?  Because often I need to be held just as tight…

Don’t we all?

 

Last night we sang a song in rehearsal, and I love the words to the chorus – I’ve been singing it all morning…

He’ll hold you
When the tempest rages all around
He’ll hold you
Plant your feet on solid ground
He’ll hold you
When the waves come crashing down
He’ll hold you through it all.

It reminds me of the words Jesus says in John 14, when He’s been telling His disciples what they need to know before He goes back to Heaven. That may be an oversimplification of the passage, I suppose, but towards the end He gives them this promise in verse 27:

27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

In the middle of the night, when I’m in the darkest places, I’ve found myself calling out, even begging “Hold me, please…”  The Holy Spirit is always there whispering – “Dear one, I already am.”

He promises – even when I’m not able to ask, even when I’m not sure of His presence – He’s there.  He never lets go.  In the very hardest, most painful places of insecurity, hardship and unrest – He is holding tight, offering supernatural peace for my unruly heart.

 

friends and loved ones · in my kitchen · more cake, please

cake #32 Kentucky butter cake with caramel pecan bourbon sauce

A few weeks ago, a good friend of ours had a birthday.  I found out what kind of cake he might like and planned to make something yummy for him.  Do you know what happened?

I made a disastrous version of the cake.  It was terrible!  It was so bad I just could not even bring myself to blog about it.

Today I redeemed myself – I made a Kentucky Butter Cake with caramel pecan bourbon sauce.   And, I think it may be a winner!  The caramel sauce alone I could eat every day for the rest of my life it tastes so delicious.

I will be honest and tell you that I’m not sure the sauce has the exact texture I wanted, so I’ll be experimenting with it more.  However, in today’s form it was anything but terrible.

I used the same Kentucky Butter Cake recipe from cookies and cups blog that I’ve used before.  It is definitely a keeper.  Look back a few posts to cake #26 for that recipe!   But, here’s the recipe for the caramel pecan bourbon sauce – I hope it works well for you – and I promise, I’ll keep you updated on any success I have with it.

Southern Pecan Caramel Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup pecans
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon bourbon divided
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt or kosher salt

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place pecans on a baking sheet and toast for 10-12 minutes until browned and fragrant. Transfer pecans to a cutting board and chop.
  2. In a medium saucepan, add sugar, corn syrup and 3 tablespoons bourbon. No need to stir. Have the whipping cream measured and next to the stove at the ready. Place saucepan over medium to medium high heat (depending on how hot your stove runs). Bring mixture to a rolling boil and watching the sugar mixture deepen in color. It will go from a light corn-syrup color, to light brown to amber. The change between light brown and amber is quick. Be ready for it. When it achieves a deep brown (not burnt) color, pour the cream into the center of the pan. It will steam and bubble vigorously — that’s ok. When it calms, remove it from the stove. Stir in the salt and chopped pecans. Let it cool for about 10 minutes. Stir in the remaining teaspoon of bourbon. Transfer to a glass storage container. You can store sauce in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

 

friends and loved ones · home schooling

everything will be okay… right?

I walked into the room, bringing a wave, no, a tsunami of tension with me.  She wasn’t facing me, standing at the table looking over her teaching materials, and I thought momentarily I might catch her off guard.  “Mrs. Jones,” I said, my voice lightly trembling, “I’m Emily’s mom and I… uh… we …” She whirled around, and stopped me with a gracious warmth in her voice.

Everything’s going to be alright.  Everything’s going to be just fine,” she said.  

I can still hear those words rolling off her lips.  Her eyes were shining brightly with the light of Jesus and she knew exactly what to say.  All of my worries and anxious thoughts were defused in just one moment.   It was a moment I will never forget.

That day was our first day of school in 2016, and Emily was nervous.  But I… I had taken up that nervous-ness right along with her.  All summer, I had coasted along confidently, happily believing we had made the best plans for Emily’s first year of high school. But, as the first day closed in, we both became less and less confident.

Some years are different than others for me in how and what I plan for our school work, but always, and I do mean always, I reach an anxious point.  And at that point, I pray frantic prayers to the Lord for help and wisdom and peace because I know that I can’t do this BIG thing He’s called me to do without His help.

Last year, He used Mrs. Jones to help calm my heart. (And by the way, we had a fantastic year – thanks to the goodness of the Lord!)   School starts tomorrow, but this year, we don’t have a Mrs. Jones.  And so, I’m remembering, His goodness – but also her words and her heart.

Because He is at the heart of our home school, I am confident:

Everything’s going to be alright.  Everything’s going to be just fine.  

And to everyone starting school, at home, or in christian, public or private classrooms – I pray you will live confidently believing :   He who promises to finish the good work He started, will be faithful!   Have a great year!!

a bit of history · friends and loved ones · in my kitchen

memories and a few teardrops

It wasn’t that long ago that I was looking online for dishes. Just a few months ago, I suppose.  I happened to mention the search to a friend of mine.  Little did I know she’d find them!

Specifically, I was searching for little glass trays with matching cups that have a tear drop design in the glass.   Perfect for a little snack and beverage, I’ve been wanting these little place settings because they would be just right for guests at a wedding or baby shower.

But really, that’s not why I wanted them.  I was looking at them because they remind me of GG, my dear Great-Grandmother, who used to serve us all manner of snacks and “splitzies” on those trays, with a little 7up in the matching cup.

When my friend texted me a photo, having found 8 sets at a local thrift store, I was elated.   I finally made it to the shop today, and I was relieved to find that they hadn’t been sold yet.  Of course, I bought all 8 sets.

Oh the memories that have been unlocked in my heart, just from seeing these little teardrop dishes today!   Her wonderful way of telling a story, the giggles and rolling laughter at her funny poetry, the crosswords, games of hide-the-thimble, strawberry picking, the snowballs at splitzie time (listen, I don’t have time to explain that one right now), the many books she read aloud to us,  her outrageous costume jewelry and that car of hers we road in around Ottumwa to the Hi-Vee or to the Baptist Temple – its all resting squarely, right on those little plates.

I’m so grateful for my GG, and her example of loving life, loving us, and loving Jesus.  Mostly, when I look at these dishes, I remember her, and I’m inspired to do the same!