Thursday, August 25, 2011

Before & Afters

I've been on a home decorating/crafting binge for about the last week. So I decided to put together a post of some before & after pictures. When possible I'm including 'before before' pictures--what the house looked like when we bought it! I hope you enjoy and maybe you'll get an idea or two for your own home!

What the living room looked like the day we moved in. Blah.

After we painted but all our old furniture still.

The living room now! I'm  moving the poster (subway map
of NYC w/pictures on our honeymoon) that was here to
a blank wall and adding another poster made of tickets/momentos
of shows we've seen, places we've been etc.
The dining room on the day we moved in. Ugh!
You have to look closely but you can see where we took out
the sliding glass doors and put in 2 windows.
We tried to match the ugly woodwork but it looked stupid.... I repainted it! It now matches the bottom color of the
walls. We added in a corner/pellet burner and I just
hung those shelves. I'm going to put my wedding flowers
in the apothecary jars on the shelves.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Diving Into Fearlessness

Lucy Van Pelt: Are you afraid of responsibility? If you are, then you have hypengyophobia.
Charlie Brown: I don't think that's quite it.
Lucy Van Pelt: How about cats? If you're afraid of cats, you have ailurophasia.
Charlie Brown: Well, sort of, but I'm not sure.
Lucy Van Pelt: Are you afraid of staircases? If you are, then you have climacaphobia. Maybe you have thalassophobia. This is fear of the ocean, or gephyrobia, which is the fear of crossing bridges. Or maybe you have pantophobia. Do you think you have pantophobia?
Charlie Brown: What's pantophobia?
Lucy Van Pelt: The fear of everything.
Charlie Brown: THAT'S IT!

It's interesting to me how fears become phobias and then they become debilitating. I'm not one of those Howard Hughes reclusive types completely crippled by fears but I find that my phobias get in the way. Or at least provide a handy excuse for trying new things and getting out of my comfort zone.

I have a pretty strong fear of heights but it materializes in strange ways. Put me on the observation deck at the Empire State Building or Sears Tower, and I'm completely fine. I enjoy it, even. Put me on the top row of bleachers at a football game or basketball game and I'm a basket case. I somehow developed this pathological fear of tripping on the bleachers (because I'm clumsy) and somehow falling through the gap to my death, or at least paralyization. (Side note: Is paraylization a word??) Roller coasters are evil--I get all pale, clammy, and shaky when I ride even the smallest ones. And diving boards just seem completely insane. I think this is because the Natatorium had a high dive and it seemed sooooo high when I was a kid. In fact, while most kids loved the Nat I eventually started not liking it so much. I got too over-whelmed by all the kids and noise and not being able to keep up.

Maybe that's the root of it all. Not being quite adequate, not being as brave, as fearless, as capable. I'm a klutz so falling down bleachers is a complete possibility, and as a child that would be scary. I wasn't (and still am not) a very strong swimmer, I can swim but I'm not very good at it, so diving boards would be very scary, the water is so deep. Roller coasters look scary, and people are always screaming, and what if my seat belt came off?

What ifs and perceived (or even real) inadequacies. The perfect equation for fears to become phobias and then debilitating. I have fears of conflict, fears of success, fears of failure, fears of imperfection, fears of being noticed, and fears of being unimportant. I think if we all admit it, we're all a little prone to fear. Sometimes fear is healthy, it keeps us safe. It is good to fear the hungry, angry bear we meet in the woods. It is bad to fear standing up for yourself, or taking a chance, or trying something new.

Lately I've been feeling trapped. Trapped by my circumstances and trapped by the fear of changing them. Better the devil you do know than the one you don't. And I just keep thinking about these words the Apostle John wrote, the Apostle of Love: There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18) Or the way The Message puts it: There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.

There is no fear in love, love banishes fear. Time for another Biblical theorem: If God is Love, and there is no fear in Love, and if God/Love is for us, nothing can stand against us. Thus, there is nothing to fear. 

Because all of the things I listed, and anything you can think of, any of your personal phobias, are meaningless in the face of Love. The greatest thing to fear is Judgment Day and eternal separation from God/Love. That fear has already been banished. Jesus paid the price, He stands in my place, even when I still have fear and still do wrong. His Love has eliminated the power and reality of that fear. So what else is worth fearing?

Today I faced one of my fears. A little diddly one but still a fear. We take my students swimming every Friday in the summer time. I normally avoid getting in the pool, unless it's about a hundred degrees. Today the water was cold from the rain last night and I was trying my darnedest to not get in. My students were splashing me (ah-hem, irritating me) and then another supervisor (and friend) decided to join them by doing an enormous cannonball right in front of me. I was drenched. And shivering. So the only logical thing to do was to get in the stupid pool. Then I started thinking...this is the last swim day, and that diving board doesn't look so high, and the kids would be so excited. And no joke, I thought back to this episode of The Biggest Loser when all the contestants had to jump off the highest building in Australia. And I envied their chance to face their fears. Well, here I had one. A little fear but something that had kept me from trying  it all my life. So I got in line with three of my students and they gave me pep talks the whole way. One said he'd jump in the shallower part at the same time I jumped off the board. So with all their little faces cheering me on, I held my breath and took the plunge. It was cold and deep, and I'm sure I didn't have good form swimming back to the rope, but it felt good to do it. They were so proud of me and while it seems silly, and maybe even is, I was proud of myself.

Sometimes we have to start small. Throw off the little things holding us back before we can take on the big ones. Thankfully, graciously the greatest one has been conquered. Eternity is now on our side, for those who Believe. So, with that in mind, what shall I fear? Nothing.

I'm divin' in, I'm goin' deep
In over my head I wanna be
Caught in the rush, lost in the flow
In over my head I want to go
The river's deep, the river's wide
The river's water is alive
So sink or swim, I'm divin' in
("Dive" by Steven Curtis Chapman)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Lucy & Ethel Make Peach Jelly

Last summer Curtis and I were thrilled to discover the many types of fruit growing on our property. Mulberry tree, cherry trees, grape vine, raspberry bushes, and a peach tree. The day we discovered that the mulberry tree is in fact a mulberry tree I exclaimed, "what is this? The Garden of Eden?"

I am loathe to admit it but so much of the fruit went to waste last year. My mom helped me with some of the cherries, and I tried to freeze some of the mulberries, but the peaches were a complete waste. I resolved this spring that the peaches would not go to waste. And it is more than safe to say that I have kept that resolution

A couple Saturdays ago my best friend Katie helped me make some delicious peach jelly. We took the bucket full of peaches that I had gathered and cut them into quarters, leaving the skins and pits in tact. After adding water we boiled them on the stove until juice began to form and the fruit got, for lack of a better word, mushy. I then strained the fruit to get  beautiful coral juice. The next day we took the peach juice and turned it into jelly. I used this recipe taken from
To make juice, cook peelings, seeds and peaches in water. Strain to make 3 1/2 cups peach juice. Pour into a large saucepan and add 1 box Sure-Jel. Bring to a hard boil and pour in 4 1/2 cups sugar. Boil about 2 minutes or until 2 drops slide together to make a big drop. Pour into sterilized jars and seal.
Frankly I have no idea what the "2 drops slide together to make a big drop" part means but we used our best judgment and it set up just fine. Even if it did boil over all over my glass top stove...and when I turned on the vent fan to clear the smoke cookbooks started falling on our heads. No one said we had to  be graceful and Martha Stewart about it, its much more fun to be Lucy and Ethel. We ended up with 4 medium sized jars and 3 small jars (no idea how much any of the jars actually holds).

This week I took all that yummy 'mushy' fruit and turned it into peach butter. The recipe I used can be found in its entirety (step by step directions) here, but I'll boil it down for you. Did you like that, boil it down? I'm hilarious.

The recipe calls for 6 quarts of peaches. I didn't measure, I figure when it's not baking, it's not an exact science. My medium sized crockpot was full and that looked like the picture, so close enough. I used a little less than two tablespoons of cinnamon (my recommendation would be to use less than that, it seemed a little heavy on the cinnamon when I tasted it), a teaspoon of allspice (the recipe calls for half teaspoon but I love allspice and always use a little bit more no matter what I'm making). The recipe also calls for cloves but I didn't have any so I used a little bit of nutmeg instead. A little nutmeg goes along way so if you use that, start small, you can always add more.

I left it my crockpot over night, about 10 or 11 hours and it reduced but not enough. If you're able to stay at home, just turn up the heat or leave it in for several more hours. If you have to go to work, like me, then throw it in the fridge until you get back and can speed up the process. I used my mixer to blend it and soften up some of the larger pieces of fruit and peels that were resisting becoming butter. Then I put it in my large soup pot, put my splatter guard on the top to let steam escape and turned the heat on medium. Once it started bubbling I turned it back to the lowest setting. It only took about 30-45 minutes to finish reducing. I let it cool for about 35 minutes before putting it in freezer safe containers. (I really detest using jars, freezing is so much simpler). I let it cool on the counter for a couple more hours then had Curtis help me carry it out to the freezer in the garage. I ended up with 4 pint containers, and 4 smaller containers (not sure how big).

I still have about six or seven cups of juice left so I intend to get some sugar-free pectin to make some jelly for my diabetic grandmother (uses splenda instead of sugar), and another batch of regular. I had hoped to make some peach honey but it looks a little advanced for me. Something about sugar and juice in equal parts and some other stuff that looked like math. I need to keep it simple and build into the word problems in the kitchen.

At any rate, peaches are pretty cheap now in the grocery store. Meijer had them for $.69/lb the other day, and you may still be able to get some at an orchard depending where you live. I hope I inspired you to try preserving some delicious fruit this year! is a wonderful site with directions for preserving just about anything in a million different ways. You'd be amazed what you can do with a pile of fruit and determination. Believe me, if I can do it...anybody can. Even Lucy and Ethel.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Secret Message Decoded

Whatever you're doing inside of me,
 it feels like chaos but somehow there's peace.
You're up to something bigger than me,
Larger than life, something heavenly. (Chorus)

This is a Sanctus Real song, and for me, its the one that really put them on the map in my life. At the time I first heard this song things were going well, but I made a mental note of it. I knew it would be one of those songs I would cling to in the middle of the night someday. And it has been. It's the anthem of reassurance. Pain is a necessary part of life, especially life as a Christian. Pain can signify when somethings not right, and it can allow growth. Nobody likes it, but there can be a peace that passes understanding when we understand that whatever 'it' is, it's bigger than us.

Whatever you're doing inside of me,
it feels like chaos but I believe,
You're up to something bigger than me,
Larger than life, something heavenly (Chorus 2)

They played this song at the inaugural concert at the Stroh Center at BGSU. I've heard it dozens of times, even recently, but I found a new message tucked inside of it, like a secret note just for me. In the same way that 'Beautiful Things' by the band Gungor symbolizes more to me than being remade--its about making new life, making beautiful things out of dust, out of us. Tonight the words 'inside of me' grabbed my attention and gripped my heart. Perhaps it's my training as an English major that makes me find meaning where there isn't intentionally one, but I couldn't help but feel that I was supposed to pick up on that tonight. The song is supposed to be about emotional turmoil during difficult times and I get that, big time. But for me the meaning is more literal. I have no idea what God is doing inside of me in terms of allowing me to become a mother. And it feels like chaos sometimes. All the tests and data collecting and stress and baby drama definitely can create internal emotional chaos. And sometimes it feels like physical chaos when my body reacts to the medications. But when I remember that God does have a plan for me (Jeremiah 29:11) and that plan is bigger than only me there is a peace that can override the chaos. I believe that God has a plan and all of this is intentional and purposeful, and I believe that with all my heart.

Whatever you're doing inside of me,
it feels like chaos but now I can see,
This is something bigger than me,
Larger than life, something heavenly (Chorus 3)

I consider this last variation of the chorus to be a promise. I've been able to get to the top of a mountain after trudging through a valley and see how the struggle was part of a larger plan. And those past experiences reassure me that nothing is without purpose, and someday I will see. Even if that day comes on the other side of Eternity, someday I will see how this struggle and journey has been bigger than me. And at any rate, what God is doing inside of me is larger than life. It's about so much more than creating life. It's strengthening me, drawing me to Him, requiring me to share my heart, and expanding my faith. That is most certainly something heavenly.

But I'm still a dreamer, a believerOh, I've lost my faith in so many things, but I still believe in You
'Cause You can make anything new
 This is the chorus to a different Sanctus Real song but it seems like the best way to end this post. Sometimes I do lose my faith in the process. I stop believing that all this struggling and hoping and praying and dreaming will work. But even when I've lost faith in everything, even myself, I still have my faith in God. And God is still faithful to me. He can make anything new, even a body that doesn't work properly. My favorite word in the entire English language is 'believe'. That word is in every room of our house, one way or another. I'm not always good at showing my belief, but I believe deeply and I dream even deeper. And it's okay for me to dream and believe even while facing difficult realities, because God is a redeemer. No matter what I may lose or never gain, I have Him. What else is there really?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Frame of Mind/State of Heart

I lost my voice when I was in college, about my junior year. It was related to my sinuses and it didn't clear up for a long time, six or eight weeks. I could talk just fine but I couldn't sing. It hurt to hold out a note, or my voice would crack and pop and go out like static on the radio. I would get so frustrated week after week when I couldn't worship in church with everyone else. I wanted to be able to sing out and praise God. I wanted people to hear me praise Him. Eventually I realized I could praise and worship silently, that worship isn't really about singing or music. Worship is a frame of mind, a state of heart.

I'll bring you more than a song, for a song in itself isn't what you have required. You search much deeper within, through the way things appear, you're looking into my heart. I'm coming back to the heart of worship, and it's all about you, it's all about you, Jesus. I'm sorry, Lord, for the thing I've made it when it's all about you, it's all about you, Jesus.

For about two years Curtis and I went to a tiny church outside of Bowling Green. Every Sunday about 15 to 30 people would gather for worship. For Easter we put together a tiny choir and we practiced our hearts out. None of us are American Idol material, no one would ever sign us to go on tour, but we gave it our all. When Easter morning came and we sang I knew we were praising God. I don't think I'd ever felt that way singing before. It felt as if Jesus Himself had come in to sit down and listen to us. I'd felt the Spirit move in other situations, but this was different. This was pure worship. We had the frame of mind, and we were in the right state of heart.

Come, now is the time to worship. Come, now is the time to give your heart. Come, just as you are to worship. Come, just as you are before the Lord. Come. One day every tongue will confess you are God, one day every knee will bow. Still the greater treasure remains for those who gladly choose you now.

From time to time I sing solos at church, or as they're called specials. Sometimes I listen to 50 songs before I settle on one that is just right. I don't pay attention to things that most music people do. I don't notice what key something is in or how modern the song is. I listen to the words, and more than anything, I listen for the Spirit. Not always, but sometimes I get this feeling, a little nudge, an internal ah-ha! and I know that I've found the right song. I sang a special the week after that aforementioned Easter service. It took me ages to choose the right song and when all was said and done I had no idea why I picked it other than I knew I was supposed to. I didn't know what was about to happen but God did. The song was Jesus Will Sill Be There by Point of Grace. That week in two totally isolated events a marriage went on the rocks and a precious soul took his life. That song came at the just the right time as a message from God that He is in there in the midst of all the pain and questions. The following Easter I sang Sandi Patty's Was It a Morning Like This? and one sweet sister cried the whole way through it; it was her favorite Easter song and blessed her so much to hear it. My songs are not about how talented I am (because I'm not) or how great the songs are (because sometimes their outdated). My songs are about worshipping God in the right frame of mind and state of heart, and letting Him do what He will with my offering.

Here I am to worship, here I am to bow down, here I am to say that you are God. You're altogether lovely, altogether worthy, altogether wonderful to me. I'll never know how much it cost to see my sin upon that cross, I'll never know how much it cost to see my sin upon that cross.

I've been singing since I was very small, three or four years old when my family did specials together at Christmas time. I had voice lessons through middle school and high school and I was in the show choir, musicals, and community theatre. I've used my voice for many different purposes, but I have a deeply rooted belief that God gave me this voice for His use. God has given it to me, and He can take it away. I think He was disciplining me when I lost my voice in college. It was a reminder that worship is about more that music, and that my music is about more than me. Sometimes I wonder what I'm doing as a member of the worship band, playing my keyboard badly and having never heard about a third of the songs we do. But I know what my role is. I'm not the keyboard player or a backup singer. I'm there to be conduit for His spirit and His power. And somehow when I'm in the right frame of mind and state of heart, my fingers hit the right notes, when I can't even look at the music because my eyes are closed in worship for Him. God gave me my voice, He gave me a willingness to serve, and I've got to use both for His glory. That's what worship is really about.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Only Legacy Worth Leaving

The first time I heard this song I was twenty years old, sorting out the facts of my life, and trying to figure out how to really walk with God, rather than just believe in Him. It was one song on a compilation album I bought at a used CD place in town. That cd set became the soundtrack for my early twenties along with a couple of others. But this song found a special place in my heart, it resonated with me. It will be one I will carry with me for the rest of my life not only because it inspires me but because it reminds me of people I love. Or better yet, people that have loved me.
I want to leave a legacy. How will they remember me?
Did I choose to love?
Did I point to you enough to make a mark on things?
I want to leave an offering.
Child of mercy and grace who blessed your name unapologetically.
 I want to leave a legacy.

My grandparents will leave a legacy when their time on this old Earth is over. They have chosen to live for Christ so much so that they have come to embody and symbolize love itself. If God is love, and we are being made into Christ everyday through the power of the Spirit, then we are becoming love. I believe this to be true not because its a pretty idea but because I see two old souls becoming more and more like love everyday.

I've been irregularly blessed. I not only have my grandparents legacy to look to and draw from, but the legacies of others just like them. Today we laid to rest our dear friend and neighbor, Lester Pierce, a man who in just two short years became a source of inspiration and wisdom for Curtis and I. At the funeral I listened to person after person stand up and tell about the impact he had on their lives and I realized that somewhere I'd heard this before. And I realized it was everything I've said about my grandparents. And as I looked around the church I saw others that have lived in and will leave a similar legacy. These are the folks you don't necessarily notice as they teach Sunday school, organize funeral dinners, work with the youth, clean the church, drive the bus, plan activities for VBS, or get down on their knees everyday to do their best work in prayer. These people blend into the background sometimes with humility, meekness, and love being their defining characteristics. My grandmother gets down right flustered when people make a fuss over her contributions. She, like Lester, didn't do the work for the recognition--they did the work for the Lord. They did it out of love, first for Christ then for others because He loves them.

I've come to the conclusion that the best legacy that can be left is one of love. True love. Not The Princess Bride or The Notebook kind of true love.  We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.--1 John 3:16 This is true love. Love that sacrifices sleep, me-time, and self to serve the Lord, to help one another, to lend a hand, to say a prayer. When we give up our lives to help and serve with love in our hearts that is true love. And that is something sorely needed in the world today.

One by one these saints travel to heaven and we who have been so blessed to know them are left with their legacy in our care. I want to do right by them, and what I've learned is that the only way to do that is to do right by God. By keeping my eyes on the Cross and my feeted pointed toward Calvary and my heart broken for Him, I may just be counted among those who loved truly.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Start From Scratch

I apologize that July's posts have been few and far between. On the other hand, I am not sorry for not writing out of obligation. The only way I know how to write is from my heart and sometimes that means I need to be quiet for a time. This month has been quiet in that sense, but incredibly busy in all other aspects. Another reason for my scattered posts.

To be quite honest I'm not sure what I'm going to write about today. Thoughts are tumbling around in my head like clothes in a dryer. I think that rather than try to come up with some deep, profound meaning out of my scatter-brained thoughts it may be better to stick to something more simple.

My sister-in-law and friend, Megan, has a lovely blog in which she shares not only personal stories and insights, but recipes, decorating tips, and gardening pointers. I've only ever shared one recipe on this blog and while I've discussed my propensity for clutter, I've not ever shared how one fixes it. These are not my strengths. But today I'm going to share a couple recipes that I'll be preparing this week.

Sticky Buns (Grammy's Recipe)
  • 2 loaves frozen bread dough
  • 2 packages of non-instant vanilla pudding
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp milk
Place frozen bread dough in a lightly greased cake pan, cover with plastic wrap (lightly greased) and let rise until doubled in size. Take one loaf and tear into pieces, places pieces in the bottom of a 10x13 cake pan. The bottom should be mostly covered but the pieces shouldn't be touching. Prepare sauce and pour over the bread pieces. Take remaining loaf, tear into pieces and place in all open spaces in the cake pan. Cover again and let rise until reaches the top of the cake pan. Bake at 375 for 20-30 minutes.

It is important to let it rise both times or it comes out thick and flat, instead of fluffy and light. I made this on Saturday and the grease from the pan and saran wrap got into the dough and stopped it from rising the second time. Its about an inch and half think, instead of being about three inches high. I feel sad because this was the one thing that turned out every time I made it, and I was intending to take it next door to our neighbors.

Peanut Butter Pie (Uncle Gary's Recipe)
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter (creamy)
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 c. confectioner's sugar
  • 12 ounces whipped cream/cool whip (more is okay)
Mix ingredients together until smooth and light. Put into a graham cracker crust (or a oreo cookie crust) and let chill in the refrigerator. Best served with a drizzling of chocolate syrup or a little whipped cream on top.

Easy as pie. Seriously, the only pie I can make. The first time I made it I was living in the dorms and had no mixer. I'm pretty sure I used a large table spoon and fork to mix it, and set it on the window sill to chill. Its easy, simple, and incredibly good...if you like peanut butter.

Fantasy Fudge (Great-Aunt Ruth's Recipe)
  • 3 c. sugar
  • 3/4 c. margarine
  • 2/3 c. evaporated milk
  • 1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 7oz jar marshmallow cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 c. chopped nuts (optional)
  • 1/2 c. peanut butter (optional)
Melt margarine in LARGE microwave mixing bowl. Stir in sugar. Stir in evaporated milk. Microwave 3 minutes and stir; 2 minutes and stir; 3 minutes and stir; 2.5 minutes and stir. Exactly! Remove and add chocolate chips, marshmallow cream, vanilla, and stir. Add nuts and peanut butter, if wanted. Pour in a greased 13x9 pan or 8x8 pan. Cut while warm. Do not chill to cool.

Okay, I only attempted this once and it didn't set up right but it still tasted amazing. We ended up using it more as a chocolate fudge spread than eating it in pieces. Either way the recipe is delicious.

One thing you'll notice is that all three recipes come from someone in my family. I've shared before that I come from a long line of domestic goddesses, or as I call them: true women. Clearly the domestic gift goes beyond just women as my uncle is a talented host, cook, and baker. I wish more of their talent was passed on with the recipes but I suppose I'll just have to start from scratch and work my way into the fold. (Pun very much intended).
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...