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We’re making some changes around here, and the first one is that you can now find my blog here. I hope you’ll drop in for a visit soon!

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One Step Closer

The conversation began with a Friday-morning trickle of dissatisfaction and took only moments to swell into a full fledged deluge of frustration. My 10-year old son’s laments went like this…

While we cleaned up after breakfast:
“I wish I didn’t have to go to school.”

After he brushed his teeth:
“School is boring, Mom.”

As we left the house:
“Other kids have lots more breaks from school than I do.”

While we loaded his backpack in the car:
“I wish I was sick so I could stay home. Do you think I might have a fever?”

As we buckled our seatbelts:
“Homeschooled kids have lots more free time.”

Pulling out of the driveway:
“Can I please stay home?”

Leaving our neighborhood:
“Public school kids don’t have as much homework.”

I’ve presented Mason’s comments as a monologue, but you can be sure that I offered pearls of wisdom aplenty in response to his attempts to weasel out of a day of school. I won’t bore you with them here, but I’m sure you’d have been impressed! After about ten attempts to redirect his focus toward gratitude, instill in him a desire to learn and encourage him to maintain perspective, I realized that it was going to take more than pithy rejoinders to help him readjust.

It was time for a story.

I read this morning about the Israelites. You know, they’d been slaves in Egypt for hundreds of years. God heard their cries for help and sent Moses to plead with Pharaoh for their release. Pharaoh wasn’t so keen on losing his highly productive slave force, so he refused again and again until God helped him see the light, and he let the people go.

They were free, and they were really happy about it for a little while. When they saw Pharaoh’s army coming after them, they complained and told Moses about how they longed for the good old days in Egypt! God rolled back the sea, and they walked across on dry land. Once the last Israelite made it to safety, the wall of water crashed down on Pharaoh’s finest, and none survived. The Israelites had quite a party to celebrate.

It only took three days for them to forget. They were thirsty, and the water was bitter, so they grumbled. God made the water sweet, and they were on their way again. In a matter of weeks, they were complaining again because they were hungry. So God sent bread from heaven, and their full stomachs made them happy…for a while.

They traveled further and grew thirsty again. You’d think they would have learned a thing or two about God by now. You’d think they would have realized that He would give them whatever they needed, but no. It was easier to complain than trust. So that’s what they did. I haven’t mentioned it, but with every complaint, they also blamed Moses for their misery. They accused Him of bringing them into the desert to die. They blamed him for their hunger and thirst and told him they would rather be slaves in Egypt with tasty food than free people in the desert who had to depend on God for their next meal. They were out of water again, so they did what came naturally…complaining. God told Moses to strike a nearby rock to turn into a gushing fountain.

At this point, I asked Mason if he remembered where the Israelites were headed when they left Egypt. He confirmed, “The Promised Land.” I also asked if he noticed a pattern in the Israelite’s attitude. “They complained a lot.” With these satisfactory answers.

It was time to capitalize on the teachable moment.

The Israelites were free. Their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and generations before them had lived their whole lives as slaves, and now they were free. Trouble was, they barely noticed because all they could think about was the moment. They forgot they were on their way to the Promised Land.

We’re all on our way to a Promised Land, but getting there means we have to cross the desert. Deserts aren’t easy to get across. We have to face challenges we’d rather not face. We have to do things we don’t feel like doing. We can choose to complain or to trust. We can focus our attention on the obstacle that gets in the way of what we want, or we can believe that it’s all  part of God’s great plan.

We neared the drop-off line in front of the school, and I stole a quick glance at my son’s face. It had been transformed. Where there had been a furrowed brow and discontented eyes minutes before, now there was peace and resolve. Truth had hit its mark, and this ordinary school day had taken us both just one step closer to the Land of Promise.

It’s been too long since I posted a recipe around here, so to make up for lost time, today I’m posting three. With that said, and a trio of tastes to go, we’d better begin.

Potato Latkes

Potato pancakes are the national dish of Belarus and a staple in Hanukkah celebrations, but who needs to travel across the world or wait for a special holiday to enjoy them when they are fun to make and a perfect complement to soup or salad.

2 med. potatoes (I like Yukon Gold with the skins on).
1 lg. yellow onion
2 carrots
2 T. flour (I use whole wheat)
2 T. cornmeal
1 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
2 T.  Italian parsley, chopped (optional)
1 T. fresh thyme, chopped (optional)
2 eggs. beaten
canola or peanut oil, for frying

Shred all vegetables with a mandoline or food processor. Place potatoes in cold water for 10 minutes to remove some of the starch. Dry the potatoes in a salad spinner or by squeezing out the moisture with paper towels. (The salad spinner is much faster and works like a charm). Toss veggies with the flour, cornmeal, salt, pepper and herbs.  Stir in eggs, and mix well.

Gently drop 1/4 c. patties into hot oil. I do this by using a 1/4 c. measuring cup to scoop up the potato mixture and then turn it onto the back of a metal spatula and flatten it out with the measuring cup. Sounds funny, but it makes the job easy. Cook until lightly browned, and then flip to cook the other side. Drain on paper towels.  Keep your oil good and hot so they won’t be greasy at all on the inside, and you will get all of the great taste of the veggies and herbs. Salt to taste. A little grate of fresh Parmesan doesn’t hurt either.

By the way, I plan to try these with some sweet potato thrown in soon. I’ll let you know how they turn out.

Homemade Applesauce

Making applesauce myself is a new venture, so I suspect I’ll improve on this over time. For now, though, it’s short, sweet and couldn’t be easier or more delicious.

4 apples, skins on, cored and chopped (I use Gala and/or Golden Delicious).
3/4 c. water
1/4 c. sugar (I use raw).
1/2 t. cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until apples are tender, approximately 15 minutes. Puree with a hand blender or mash with a fork.

Raspberry Vinaigrette

This is imminently yummy with spring greens, dried cranberries and a healthy dose of blueberries, blackberries, sliced almonds, pumpkin, flax and sesame seeds. Plenty antioxidants and taste to match.

1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/3 c. raspberry wine vinegar
1 T. balsamic vinegar
2 t. Dijon mustard
1/4 t. dried oregano
1/4 t. pepper
1 T. seedless raspberry jam (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake until all ingredients are well mixed/emulsified. Serve with greens for plenty of goodness.

Snow is in the forecast for south Texas tomorrow. 80% chance. 1″ accumulation. This is equivalent to the newsmaking blizzards experienced across the midwest this year. Schools will likely close. Many businesses will too. All I can say is Hilarious! I mention such news because it seems odd to see snow in the forecast when I have summer on my mind!

The month of July ends each year with Proverbs 31 Ministry’s conference for women who lead ministry, write and/or speak, and the weekend is appropriately titled, She Speaks. It’s an annual sell out and is one of the best conferences I’ve ever attended…most probably because it is led by some of the finest leaders I know…Lysa TerKeurst, Renee Swope, and Lee Ann Rice.

Registration is now open. I hope you’ll make plans to join us. I have the privilege of leading a few sessions and am planning on sitting in on as many as I can when I’m not teaching. This will be a great time, a life changing time and three days you won’t forget. Check it out…She Speaks, July 30-August 1, Concord, North Carolina.

And, by the way, I’d love for you to meet some of the friends I’m looking forward to see at She Speaks this year…

Wendy Blight
Holly Good
Amy Lively
April Pressley
Mary Ann Ruff
Renee Swope
Lysa TerKeurst
Wendi Westmoreland
Lisa Whittle

If you are attending She Speaks this year, let me know in the comments below, and I will to add you to my “Friends to See” list (and include a link to your blog or site).

You might always wonder how you might feel or respond if some catastrophic event came into your life…until it actually happens and then you know. Yes, I had thyroid cancer five years ago, but hearing my doctor say that I probably had ovarian cancer now tops my list of personal high stress life experiences. Since I’d often wondered how I might react to such news, I’ve now settled that one. Here’s how it went…

  • First came disbelief…trying to make by brain accept what my ears had already processed.
  • The what ifs followed.  Lots of them.

 

  •  Then I resolved that I would not be overwhelmed.
  • Then I woke up at 2 am…overwhelmed.
  • So I prayed and prayed and cried myself back to sleep.
  • Friday morning began with sadness and a CT scan.

Gerry’s face has not looked so solemn in all of our 15 years. We talked and cried as we began to feel the crushing weight of it all while we made phone calls, rearranged a million plans and prayed that God would make a way for us to get into MD Anderson.

5:00 pm on Friday arrived with waves of relief. No answers and no changes but startling relief. For two days, every moment  and every thought was dedicated to finding the best possible surgeon, the best possible answers and thinking through every imaginable scenario. Adrenaline was our ammunition, and cancer was our enemy. But when the doctor’s offices closed, we could no longer pursue leads, request tests, ask questions or try to manage the crisis. Knowing there was nothing else to do but wait was the best thing that could have happened. That’s when I realized how stressful it is to try to control the uncontrollable.

Having the kids home over the weekend brought normalcy back to our lives and allowed me to step back and  see that my only option, the best option, was to trust God. So I asked Him to take over. I asked Him to order our steps. I read that He is my portion forever and decided that was enough. He mentioned that I am His portion too and reminded me that He’d do nothing less than His best on my behalf. What more could I ask for?

I slept better that night than I had in years. Truly, I did. Many of you know about the sleep issues I’ve had since my thyroid surgery five years ago. I had  not slept a full night since…until that night…the night I decided to believe that God really is enough. He is good enough. Great enough. Big enough. More than enough. My portion forever. And He grants sleep to those He loves. He was there, and that was all I really needed.

I’ve learned more than I ever cared to know about cancer in the past couple of months, and the lessons came complete with illustrations via the bare heads and shivering frames of men, women, teens and children who waited alongside of me for blood tests, CT scans and doctor’s visits. This classroom held its  lessons in shadowy places, yet it is here that I learned more about God than I did about cancer.

  • I learned that God doesn’t have to show up. He’s already there.
  • I learned that God doesn’t need to shout. He waits for us to be quiet.
  • I learned that God doesn’t have to be visible to give comfort that is as warm as a hug and as personal as a whisper.
  • I learned that God is more ready for us to hear Him than we are to listen.
  • Best of all, I learned that God really is enough for me.

Learning that I don’t have cancer has washed away a Niagra of fear, worry, doubt, stress, speculation and anxiety. You name it, I felt it. But all those subsided, and in their places stood faith. Strong and ready to fight, not so much against cancer but for me. Thank God, I’m not the woman I used to be.

When I was a girl, my Dad served as bodyguard to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. One of the perks was that my sister and I got an occasional ride in the official limousine. Once inside the stretched out car, we were enamored with the latest in 1970’s technology. Automatic door locks and windows. Such luxuries were unheard of in our family’s Dodge Dart. The limo even had a window that could be raised and lowered between the front and back seats.

The highlight of our limousine rides was the enviable avocado green phone mounted to the hump in the back floorboard. The idea of being able to make a phone call from a car was the ultimate enticement to two little girls who knew nothing of such innovations…well unless you count our six foot long living room stereo on which we played our Charley Pride eight-track tapes! Those were the days. How I longed, begged, pleaded and wished to press the avocado colored buttons to make just one phone call to tell someone, anyone that I was doing so while riding in a car.

Phones in cars no longer avocado green or mounted on the hump, and buttons are no longer necessary. Touch screen technology may be the latest greatest, but I still have two favorite technology “buttons.”

You Deserve a Break

The pause button earns a place among my two techie faves because life is busy and being able to press “pause” at will just sounds nice. Pressing “pause” on life is a good idea. The pause button brings peace. It allows me to control the pace. The momentary hiatus affords time for reflection, and whatever I’ve paused picks back up right where I left it. Nothing lost and moments gained. Love it.

My personal “pause” button takes on several forms. A good long conversation…face to face…no texting allowed. A creative outlet. Writing. Reading. Cooking. Taking a walk. Taking a nap. (Gasp)! I’ve found that pressing life’s “pause” button is not easy. Rest is hard work. But so worth it. And so essential that God Himself took a day off. (Gen. 2:2) He must have enjoyed His day of rest because He followed it up by commanding rest for His people, their livestock and even the dirt in their fields. (Ex. 23:12; Lev. 24:4-5)

God’s repeated commands and example of rest is a sure sign that rest doesn’t just happen. We have to press pause, and I like Rick Warren’s advice on how to do so best of all…Divert Daily…Withdraw Weekly…Abandon Annually.

Can I have a Do Over?

Another of my favorite buttons to press on the array of gadgets that fills my home is “Undo.” When I first discovered that I could undo just about anything on my computer, life was forever changed. Technology with forgiveness…what a concept!

Do you know what this realization does for me? It makes me less afraid. Knowing that I can “undo” a slip of the finger or a misplaced click of the mouse enables me to carry on without fearing that I might destroy my work. Only then am I able to really explore and learn and grow.

My mistakes have a reply. Undo. This may very well be the best bit of technology ever invented. It’s also the best spiritual reality as well. God invented the ultimate “undo” by offering forgiveness through Christ’s all encompassing sacrifice on the cross. This changes everything. His death cancels out my errors. His offer of redemption reverses the curse of my failures. Where I’d have inadvertently pressed “delete,” He offers restoration of all that was lost.

Do you know what this realization does for me? It makes me less afraid. Knowing that I can “undo” a slip of the tongue or a misplaced intention enables me to carry on without fearing that I might destroy my life. Only then am I able to really explore and learn and grow. Sound familiar?

My failures and flaws have a reply, and the Bible begins to sound like a computer programmer when explaining the “undo” offered to us.

“…He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.” (Col. 2:14-15)

Eight-track tapes and avocado green car phones are a thing of the past, but the Ancient of Days is as new as Apple’s latest. God offers us the ultimate in progress: pause and undo. There’s not a touch screen, blue ray or HD contraption in all the world that can compare.

The Gift of Community

Visiting my grandmothers’ homes was filled with childhood novelties. My paternal grandmother lived in the mountains in West Virginia, and she had a cuckoo clock that captured my fascination. My maternal grandmother lived in Florida not too far from the beach, and she had a party line phone. Visits to her house created plenty of occasions for me to conjure up reasons to linger in the kitchen with the intent of listening in on the conversations of my grandmother’s neighbors. The juicy tidbits to which I was privy meant little to me, but such readily accessible eavesdropping was irresistible.

Snooping  on the Party

As often as I could, I’d invite myself to the party and pretend that I had a part in the story being told. I would imagine what I might add to the conversation if I ever dared to speak (which I never did). The snooping was fun for two reasons. First, it was something to get away with. And second, who could resist a party waiting at the other end of the phone?

For all the fun I had, I remember precious little about the particulars of those surreptitious phone calls. What I do recall, though, is that I felt like I had a part in the conversation even though I contributed nothing more than a listening ear. My intrusions on the party line only hinted at a need that has grown more profound in the passing years: We need each other.

A Word with a Story

When cancer alarms began ringing in our lives, we soon realized that our story and our lives belonged to a larger community. The remarkable response and involvement of hundreds of people in our journey through a cancer scare, surgery and recovery has been like an exclamation mark adding emphasis to our own need for others to walk through life with us. Now, with the precision of hindsight, I can see that the blessing of God came to us via the blessing of a community of people who chose to join our journey.

Since I love words, I couldn’t resist looking into the history behind the word community. I thought I had this one figured out before my search even began. The word community looks like this to me:

Common + Unity = Community

This makes perfect sense and fits with what I’ve always thought about living in community. If you had asked I would have defined it as a group of people unified to achieve a common goal. That isn’t a bad definition, but when I really began looking into the history of the word, I learned that it really means much more.

The Gift of Together

Community is the compounding of two Latin words. Cum and munus.

Cum + Munus = Community

We hear cum around graduation time as universities confer degrees with honors titled in Latin: cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude…with honor, with great honor and with highest honor. So the word community begins with cum, the Latin word for with or together.

The second half of the word is more unexpected. Instead, of being next of kin to the word unity, community is a descendant of the Latin word, munus, which means gift. It’s related to the unfamiliar English word munificence, meaning generous or bountiful. It’s also a close relative of the word meaning, which is defined as purpose or what is intended to be.

That’s quite a mouthful to say…

Together + Gift = Community

My mini investigation amounts to more than an unsolicited vocabulary lesson. It has helped me grasp a deeper understanding of what it means to live in community. It’s more significant than working toward a unified goal. True community is the gift of togetherness. This fits with God’s assessment, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” (Gen. 2:18) Scripture persists with this theme.

  • Two are better than one for they have a good return for their labor. If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! (Ecc. 4:9, 10)
  • Wounds from a friend can be trusted. (Prov. 27:6)
  • My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. (Jn. 15:12)
  • Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal. 6:2)s

The Real Thing

The outcome of my surgery on December 21 became a miracle of good health, answered prayer and sweet relief. From the beginning, you have been our community in the truest sense of the word. You have cried with us, prayed with us, given to us, helped us, encouraged us, walked with us and celebrated with us. You have been together with us in every way sharing this journey as a community of friends, family, acquaintances and often the friend of a friend of a friend.

You have placed yourself in community with us much like the world’s first community of Father, Son and Spirit, and that has been the sweetest gift of all. It beats snooping on the party line any day.