Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Bitter and Sweet

Happy New Year to all of you! Thank you for sharing in our joy, and I pray that God poured out His Spirit over your homes this Christmas. Later I'll share a few pictures from our celebration.

The word of the season is bittersweet. As I get older, I recognize that life really is a series of antonyms. More and more, I see the tension of living, the coexistence of pain and beauty.

The day before our family's good news, many in our church gathered around a sweet grandmother whose biopsy revealed aggressive Stage 4 breast cancer that is unresponsive to chemo.

Christmas Eve, an extended family member was in a car accident that broke a lower vertebra. Her husband is out of work, they have three young boys, and she faces a lengthy recovery and possibly a lifetime of pain.

A close friend my age, probably one of the most fit 40 year old women I know, reacted to anesthesia from surgery and now has emphysema. (Did you even know that could happen? I didn't.)


This year, our choir struggled with our Christmas music. Sickness plagued several of us, and I for one never got "attached" to any of the songs. Yet, the morning we sang, three people accepted Christ as Savior. Before the service, the precious ladies I teach, the elders of our church, and our pastor anointed me with oil and prayed for me in advance of my tests. The Holy Spirit filled the room that December morning. People are still talking about the "something different" that marked that service.

The state patrolman who arrived at that young mom's accident told her husband that she should have died. Folks from our hometown have commented on the similarity of circumstances with an accident that claimed the life of a high school friend of mine a few years back.

My friend's surgery with the disturbing side effects revealed that a suspicious nodule on her thyroid was benign.


Living and dying.

Joy and sorrow.

Pain and peace.

Bitter and sweet.

Christmas, this precious season of joy that we mark with carols and lights and the Pioneer Woman's cinnamon rolls, is meaningless without the agony of the Cross. In so many ways, the way we celebrate brushes over the harshness of His coming and the violence of His death. We read of gold, frankincense, and myrrh but ignore their meaning. Our King, our Priest, would suffer greatly in His death that brought us hope and salvation. Beauty for ashes was a costly exchange.

Dying for living.

Sorrow for joy.

Pain for peace.

Bitter for sweet.

Be blessed in 2010,

Monday, December 28, 2009

Unspeakable Joy

"Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy
Then it was said among the nations ,
'The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.
Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like the streams of the Negev.
Those who sow in tears
will reap with songs of joy.
He who goes out weeping,
carrying seed to sow
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with him."
Psalm 126:2-6

Biopsy results negative.

Monday, December 21, 2009


a very special birthday!

Numbers 6:24-26

24 " ' "The LORD bless you
and keep you;

25 the LORD make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you.

26 the LORD turn his face toward you
and give you peace." '

Merry Christmas!

Ginger, Big Red, DD#1, & DD#2

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

My Soul Magnifies the Lord

Back in my cantata-singing days, it was a joke among us altos that Mary always seemed to be a first soprano. Any song based on the Magnificat was always a slow, soft, and dramatically high solo. Beautiful to hear, but impossible for my range to sing along.

That's one of the reasons I love this particular song on Chris Tomlin's new Christmas album, Glory in the Highest. It's an unexpected twist on what is usually the bastion of operatic female soloists. I love the effusive joy, the unabashed praise, the sheer happiness of it.

The last few weeks have been full of emotional ups and downs. It is no accident that God has called me to the Stepping Up study at this time, because I have needed the Psalms to speak words I didn't even know I needed to say (or hear), and I have needed the push to get on my face (literally) before Him daily. We were talking in at church last week about how we didn't just need God to be our shield, we needed Him to be our fortress--because we needed to be surrounded. I have felt His walls around me, and He has given me this song, I think, for the pure fun of it, that in the presence of my enemy, I would have rejoicing.

I hope you will rejoice today, for your Strong Tower has come.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Lightening the Mood, not the Menu

After several days of serious--or at least semi-serious-- posts, I told DD#1 that it was time to lighten the mood.

"Maybe I should share some reindeer jokes," I suggested.

"Mom, your jokes are" Insert wrinkled nose, eye-rolling photo here. "How about just a recipe instead?"


Orange-Rosemary-Sweet Potato Pie. Oh my my my. (Say this in your best Southern accent.)

Do not turn away skeptically when you see the ingredients. Your tongue will experience a intriguing taste sensation that will have it wondering, "What's different about this? Could it be...? No, that's not it. Maybe it', that's not it." The rosemary adds just the right amount of mystery to an oh-so-down-home dessert.

Orange Rosemary Sweet Potato Pie

(I am giving you the simplified version. If you really want to make your own pie crust from scratch, the recipe is in November's Southern Living.)

1/2 pkg. refrigerated pie crust
1 Tbsp. plain white cornmeal
2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary, or 1 tsp dried rosemary

1 1/2 lb sweet potatoes
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup evaporated milk
3 Tbsp butter, melted
2 tsp orange zest
1 Tbsp fresh orange juice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 vanilla extract

Unroll pie crust on a floured surface. Sprinkle with cornmeal and rosemary. Lightly roll them into the crust. Fit into a 9 inch pie pan according to package ingredients. Crimp edges. Set aside.
Bake sweet potatoes at 400* on a baking sheet 50-55 minutes or until tender. Cut potatoes in half and scoop out pulp. Mash pulp and discard skins.
Whisk together eggs and sugar until well blended. Add milk, next six ingredients, and sweet potato pulp, stirring until blended. Pour mixture into rosemary-cornmeal crust.
Bake at 400*for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 325*, and bake 20-25 minutes until center is set. Let cool completely.

Big Red is a pie man at heart, and he ate three pieces. One after the other. Oh my my my. ;-)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Winner!

We have a winner for the Casting Crowns Peace on Earth CD!!
Congratulations to Mellissa at Mellissa's Musings! Thanks so much for reading! May you and yours have a very Merry Christmas!

I've just polished off a yummy mocha with whipped cream and some of the best homemade chocolate syrup ever. There is a belated birthday pie in the oven for Big Red, Orange Rosemary Sweet Potato--the name alone should make you drool--and believe me, it smells amazing.

All this after Big Red had complimented me for losing a few pounds with my semi-faithful walking routine ( two miles in the morning, and two in the evening if all goes as planned--that's been rare). I meant to walk yesterday, but I spent most of the day clearance-sale coat shopping with DD#1; does that count as exercise?

Maybe I'll get up and walk now. Or I could join Big Red, who is snoring ever so gently on our couch, backlit by the Christmas tree. A comfortable scene, and since I like my hubby and want him to keep liking me, I won't show you the photo. ;-0

May your days be merry and bright!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sweetest Traditions

Thanks for sharing your awesome Christmas traditions with me! We may borrow a few for our family. Loved, loved, loved them!

Here is a picture of one of our favorites: baking gingerbread cookies.

I love this tradition.

It represents freedom to me.

The gingerbread cookie baking session was one of the first places that the Lord began to break the chains of perfectionism I'd forged for years. At the time, I didn't recognize what was happening, but I am so very grateful that it did.

You see, I had dreamed of being the mom who created the Martha Stewart Christmas for my family. Visions of neatly decorated cookies wrapped in cellophane and tied with silver ribbon danced in my head. The treats produced in our kitchen would be culinary masterpieces, awaiting their photo op in Better Homes and Gardens.

Then I made the cookies with a three year old.

Things were not going as planned.

The gingerbread men were misshapen aliens. More icing and sprinkles were on the floor than on the cookie.

After a few minutes of stress, I did something I'd never done before.

I backed off and let her do it.

We had fun, and we've had fun ever since. Every year, a friend or two join the fun and the flour flies. Only now they are old enough to clean most of it up themselves. :-)

Every year I can taste the freedom. I like it.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Midweek Mary Moment

***The Casting Crowns giveaway will end Friday evening. If you haven't left a comment yet about your favorite Christmas tradition, go here.
This song isn't from Casting Crowns, but it has been on my mind and CD player a lot lately. Please, please take some time out of your busy day to stop and savor the words. The Lord has really given me a sweet expression of praise for Him through this song this week.
***Didn't realize the song posted twice, but I've no clue how to fix it, so just listen twice! ;-)

A Gift for You

**After my last post, I decided to share this picture of Big Red and me, just so you know that none of the marriage words in my hate list apply to us. He is a rock for us and a true prayer warrior. One day I'm going to post a picture of myself on a good hair day, but today is not that day.

In honor of all of you, I am hosting my first ever giveaway! After all, what's not to love about presents at Christmas? Leave a comment today about one of your favorite Christmas traditions, and you could win a copy of the new Casting Crowns Christmas CD, Peace on Earth.
Since, like, three people read this blog, think how great your odds are of winning! ;-)

Christ is born! Be blessed today,

Monday, December 7, 2009

Words of Life

Words I hate:









All these words have been part of my last few weeks in some form or another--not all in my own home, or I couldn't manage this post. They have, however, all come up in conversations with people dear to me. A few came from those not-yet-dear, near strangers who chose for whatever reason to share their suffering with me. Either way, the words left me breathless, at a loss about how to pray.

I am a woman of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips.

By myself, I am undone. I see gaping holes in hearts, hollow eyes, broken spirits, and yet I am powerless to change anything in myself, much less in someone else.

Words I love:





Because of Emmanuel, my God with me, I can know the power of words that speak life, not death. I can know hope.

Those words I love are not just words; they are the very truth of God, spoken for me, for you.

I can't explain it, but I know I can see it in the faces of precious sisters in Christ, whose sufferings have made them beautiful. They have a richness of spirit, a quietness of soul, inexplicable apart from their Savior.

A while back, I shared Jude 24-25--but I can't get over it, so I'll share it again. These verses are the why of Christmas, the why of the Cross.

Let these words become words you love:
To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy--to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power, and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

(Almost) Stealing My Affections

Be still my heart!

When it comes to desserts, I have a gigantic homing device that sends me to the chocolate choices. Our family's favorite Christmas cookie (which I'll share later) features delectable semi-sweet goodness. Actually, our favorite desserts anytime always have chocolate in them. One recipe didn't start out with chocolate chips in it, but I figured cookies that were yummy before Nestle's would have to be even better after it--and they were. I'm nothing if not loyal.

Then Paula introduced me to her banana pudding.

It was love at first spoonful.

Not a chocolate chip in sight: just pudding, cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk, and Pepperidge Farm Chessman cookies.

And bananas. Let's not forget them, extraneous though they are. They raise the nutrition factor.

This just gets better as time go by, so be sure to eat lots of oat bran and broccoli and tangerines on the day you prepare it. Then you'll feel less guilty about wallowing in the fluffy, creamy richness the next day.

Break out your wallet and your aerobics DVD and gather these ingredients:

Paula Deen's Banana Pudding (from the Lady and Sons Just Desserts Cookbook)
2 bags Pepperidge Farm Chessman Cookies
6 to 8 bananas
2 cups milk
1 5 oz box instant French vanilla pudding
1 8 oz pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 12 oz container frozen whipped topping, or an equal amount of sweetened whipped cream

Line the bottom of a 13x9 inch dish with one bag of the cookies and put the bananas on top. Blend milk with pudding mix well with a handheld electric mixer. Beat cream cheese and condensed milk together in a bowl until smooth; fold in whipped topping. Add to pudding mixture, stirring until well blended. Pour mixture over cookies and bananas; cover with remaining cookies. Refrigerate.

I mustn't neglect to say that my sister also prepared an amazing chocolate raspberry bar at Thanksgiving as well, which would have won hands down had it been competing against any other challenger. I wouldn't want you to think I turned away chocolate completely.

Alas, there is not a single Christmas treat, chocolate or otherwise, at my house right now. (There are also no Christmas decorations yet, though I plan to remedy that this weekend.) I have, however, sent two kids to the principal's office so far, and I've only been at work three days. Maybe I need a little sweetening up. ;-)