million miles to go

I love this song by Joy Williams and Trent Dabbs… not because it is catchy or clever (because it is those things), but because it reminds me to persevere. Tonight, it’s really not about a layered love relationship as much as it is about chocolate dough chilling in the fridge, a newsletter almost finished, and a cup of I Love Lemon tea that needs refilling.

One thing you should always do when you start a recipe – read through all the directions (especially if it says chill for about 1 hour). Don’t worry – I’m not fazed. The countdown begins… at 9:12 pm.

Today, I told a student she was an onion with many layers and after-school I taught cheers in heels behind my closed office door. Interesting day? That’s not the half of it! 🙂

I can also now, at 10:55 pm, go on record saying the following:

Though recipes may be gracious about cavalier attitudes towards flour and sugar, it is NOT SO with ingredients like semi-sweet chocolate chips (tried substituting COSTA bars), dark brown sugar (tried substituting unknown Honduran sugar alternative), and chocolate mint wafer candies (tried substituting chocolate mints, like the ones you get at a restaurant).

Yep, I just wanted that to be officially on record… and also, you should only believe the exclamation, “So easy!” on a recipe if you have all the ingredients… and start very early… and are not still wearing your white pants from work.

I’m not disappointed, though. I finished my newsletter and spent some solitude time in the good ole cocina. I’m pretty sure my version will fly tomorrow, but we’ll see. If not, there’s always

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

Monday are YUMdays!

MONDAYS are YUMDAYS

I love Mondays. No, really. I LOVE Mondays.

You think I’m kidding, but today sealed the deal. Here are some of the things today that overflowed my cup:

 

 

  1. I drove to school instead of rode the bus, which perfectly placed about 8.5 extra minutes to spend with David in 1 Samuel
  2. I ran out of coffee filters at my house, but savored a Vanilla Chai tea… delicious start!
  3. I met the day with uncharacteristic (before coffee), silly joy and greeted students with grand gestures and lopsided smiles.
  4. During our mid-morning break, I was heading back from an errand in the administration building, secretly hoping two certain, special students would be waiting in my office… and THEY WERE. I think I scared them with my loopy-ness and laughter, but I don’t care. I love it when I find students in my office… especially when the special ones appear!
  5. CHAPEL happens Monday and today was such a blessing! I am sure many of the seniors won’t admit it, but they want to know about hearing God’s voice. That was exactly the message!
  6. Then, I got to counsel one of my favorite students using a SWEET analogy about records playing in our heads. Sometimes we’ve let the record of lies steal the show and we listen to it over and over and start to believe all the foolishness it plays. We’ve got to put that sweet record called Truth on stat and then you better believe we’re gonna speak and act out of that life-giving overflow! I’ll admit, my favorite part was connecting it to a Corinne Bailey Rae song, “Put Your Records On” because every time I saw her I broke out into singing.
  7. I love that THIS was shown to remember our time at the SLEEPout!
  8. then…(drumroll) it’s MONDAY so that means culinary collision with two of my favorite ladies! I seriously can’t explain how beautiful and brilliant these girls are… so I won’t try. Just read this blogpost and you’ll get a little taste of the night (not a real taste, but a cyber-ish one:).
  9. I love praying in my car on the way back from Monday baking dates. Shoot, and I just have to say again how much I love these amazing high school girls. They may/may not be changing my life (mostly may).
  10. I may/may not have consumed too much caffeine today (mostly may), which means I might be up writing for awhile!

I hope you are going to

let LOVE fly like CRAZY

with a wink and a smile

I’m not sure why, but this song was playing in my head as I sat down to write today. I just lunched on my version of a Honduran staple – baleadas (substitute wheat tortilla, take out salty cheese, add salsa) – and now I sit helplessly waiting to hear back from students who are probably sleeping and completely unaware that my afternoon plans somewhat hinge on their replies.

In the meanwhile, I want to bring you up-to-date on some of the happenings here. In my typical, completely disconnected fashion, I’m giving it to you straight today about baking, meanings of words, and a strange desire to start a movement.

LovE CakE!

I’m still marinating on this idea of baking and sweetness and life and tasting … yesterday was the last day of chapel and I spent the morning hours (prior to 6:30 departure) baking up some serious pumpkin gobs with butter/cream cheese frosting. A week of creative treats for the seniors who bring their Bibles to chapel almost wore me right out, but there is a beautiful, redeeming quality to what some women painfully label a chore.

This redeeming quality to laboring in the kitchen is not the look on people’s faces when they eat your hard-won creation (though I’ve found I often make them eat it in front of me so I can see a reaction) nor is it the exclamations of delight and the serious battle for second helpings. The redeeming quality is an empty tupperware at the end of the day.

I (quite haphazardly) stumble onto the school bus in the morning in professional garb, toting a backpack and the familiar tupperware container with secret treats. By the time I get to school, I usually have frosting or chocolate or some unknown ingredient stuck to some inconvenient place. But, back to redeeming qualities…

The tupperware goes out from the house full and comes back empty. Every single one of the little, labored-over creations has found its place and that knowledge only finds me right back in the kitchen to make it happen again. What joy! Check out this video that my friend Kasey Miller (who, by the way, is one of my favorite inspirations in the kitchen!!) shared… this will make you want to LOVE CAKE too!

gracia and gracias

So, my word study on “pan” and “paneh” might have failed, but I’m very interested in the connection between the Spanish words, “Gracias” (thank you) and “gracia” (grace) and I think this will lead to something more conclusive. Both words are derived from the Latin root “gratus,” which means “beloved,” “agreeable,” “favorable,” and “pleasing.”

I was originally interested because at the Micah Project sometimes we just spend time in prayer thanking God for His character. Many times, this will come up, “Señor, gracias por tu gracia!” Maybe no one else takes notice or thinks it odd, but whenever I hear that, I wonder about the strange and beautiful connection between gratitude and grace. When we say thank you, we are responding to an action or a gift or something we have received. Gratitude is what happens (or should happen) after receiving something good. We feel strange accepting a gift or complement without giving something back, so we express our gratitude by saying, “Thank you.”

Here is where I get really interested… why do we use almost the exact same word to describe unmerited favor? The Miriam-Webster dictionary (and many Christians) gives the first definition for grace to mean what is received from God and that which allows one to have faith in what Christ did on the cross.

So – back to that Latin. If the Latin says, “pleasing, beloved, agreeable,” and “favorable,” why am I stuck on these two words? Well, if we say “thank you” because we have received something, that person or persons have become (in some way) beloved or agreeable to us. What is AMAZING is that we have done absolutely nothing to please or become favorable in God’s sight. Even our righteous acts are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), but God called us “beloved” and showed us “favor,” though we came with nothing to deserve this response.

WOW!

starting a movement

Everybody is making movements these days, so I thought I would throw in my two cents about what deserves “movement” status. Maybe it’s because I’m sitting here waiting for a student to tell me if she does/doesn’t want to meet for coffee (though she told me for sure yesterday) or maybe it’s because I’ve been around young people long enough to know commitments are … fluid at best and often motivated by bad information.

So, I’d like to start a movement. The movement will be called, “we care and follow through with things that matter.” I know – it’s not very catchy right now, but I think I could hire some serious PR and those flaky kids would really start jumping on board. Well… they would jump on board if the message was so diluted no one knew exactly what kind of movement they were joining. But, they would join for sure, eventually. And, by that time the whole purpose of said movement would be moot (case in point).

That’s my point.

It is very easy to get kids fired up about things (there are many, many broken things to bemoan in this world) and very hard to get kids fired up about searching serious answers followed up by serious action. I’m not talking extreme, here, folks. I actually think things get extreme when we get distracted by flashy PR campaigns and people telling us what is important and what to do about it.

I guess it would be refreshing to see a youth movement with, as my high school history teacher used to say, “fire in its belly.” Everything from coffee dates to mission trips to environmental debates would be informed by something solid – something true and absolute and transformational. Let me know if you know of one and I’ll scrap the whole idea.

strange day explained

It’s 9:32 pm.

I’ve got dream bars in the oven (with a variation that has me puzzled about cooking time), I’m munching on tortillas with sun-dried tomato hummus (the strangest before-bedtime snack I’ve ever been a part of), and I’m looking at what I picked up at the grocery store: fake milk in a box, chocolate chips, powdered sugar, pumpkin, and oatmeal (wondering why these are my first purchases after paycheck), and I’m thinking it’s a strange day.

Oh, well. I’m sure you have those days too. Nothing especially wrong or out of place, but you feel like you are moving around in someone else’s skin and it’s just uncomfortable. At this point, all of you who haven’t felt this way have at least one eyebrow raised. Which, I guess, is kind of my point.

Sometimes I get overwhelmed with everything I want to do or read or hear or say or know and I go into overload mode. Hm. I imagine this is what a baby bird might feel when it first discovers its wings. There are so many endless possibilities – so many adventures and birdies to adventure with and trees and clouds and…

then there’s that typical picture of the not-yet-ready-for-flight
birdie falling clumsily from the nest.

There’s no better way to explain than to give a few examples, so here they are in NO particular order:

  • I really want to know if there is a connection in the Hebrew word “paneh,” which means presence and the Spanish word “pan,” which means bread. We’re studying the story of David right now and when he ran from Saul he stopped and asked for bread from a priest who only had holy bread on hand. This bread was called “paneh” because it was the bread of the Presence. I thought, how neat would it be if there was a connection because Christ (the Word) became physically present and is the bread of life. I have searched and can’t make sense of etymologies in several languages… The farthest I got led me to some Polish explanation of Mr. and Mrs. (which is pan/pani).
  • At what point are liberties counterproductive in recipes? I mean, a little more butter, flour, and sugar would naturally just increase quantity, no? And peanut butter always adds value, right? Tomorrow we will find out! I’m sincerely hoping that my scheme to encourage “Taste and see the Lord is good” (Ps. 38:4) leads them to understand GOD is what the need to taste! (More joy and satisfaction, less tummy-ache!)
  • Why does pride always wiggle its way into the category of “self-preservation”? That is a lie through and through.
  • I hope with every hope in my heart baking becomes drastically cheaper.
  • I have been reading an absolutely amazing book called, “Competent to Counsel” by Jay E. Adams and I love how he challenges the excuses we make for personality by saying, “It’s just who I am.” We are in a sanctification process, here, folks – there’s no settling for “just who I am.” So, I started to wonder (out loud) about how I should change my personality… what needs refining? I was wondering this and talking to my friend Sarah, when all of a sudden I wondered if I could still do the splits. I paused, slinkered down as far as I could and then popped back up above the countertop and said, “not quite.” She burst out laughing and then she said, “More of that. You should definitely change your personality to include more splits.” I don’t know…
  • There’s this student. She is amazing, beautiful, inspiring and God is transforming her right in front of my eyes. I’ve never had a front row seat to something so spectacular! I mean, here I am, sitting next to her just listening to her talk with such seriousness about faith and plans. But, it’s not just fluffy, future talk. This girl is making it happen in her life the way some kids can only make it happen at summer camp or youth conferences. I’m just thinking, “What’s up with this?” God is SO amazing to be working and restoring and growing such a beautiful heart! And I get to watch? WOW!
  • I’ve got Asia on the brain and I don’t know why.
  • I want to read and understand and memorize the Heidelberg Catechism… and then try to start understanding what Bach has to do with it (thanks Justin Taylor for planting that seed in my already crazy day!).
  • I want like crazy to sew an owl costume right up for Halloween, but I’m not sure where I would go with it… which makes me want to have a costume party at my house, which reminds me of the mammoth weekend of 4 am sushi-making chaos that is barely a week behind.
  • There’s a crazy urgency in me to take each of these seniors by their ALP uniform shirt and shake them a little bit (friendly, of course) to make sure they know how much I love ’em and how important it is for them to know how much more MASSIVE God’s love is for them. I just want them to get it, as my Dad used to say.
  • I talked to my mom on Sunday and she added the greatest news – Dad finally sold the calf that was the Lord’s! I know it sounds strange… in fact, every single person I told today asked for a repeat. Buying and selling calves makes absolutely no sense to people outside the farming/cattle industry and that’s okay. What you should probably understand is the way God is using my Dad’s hobby operation to bless people around the globe. This time, he gave the calf to the Lord and said the money would go to Honduras. What joy I had as I wrote in a large sum under the current total of money raised by the sleepout. Praise the Lord!!

Oh, boy. Now do you understand a teensy bit more? My brain is like a crazy factory! It makes crazy all day, non-stop! I think I should tone down on the coffee.

It’s now 10:17 pm and I hope this day found you less strangely inclined.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

this is an example of some serious STRANGE happening!


 

Something Sweet

This is a short article I included in my September newsletter, for those that didn’t have the patience to wait for the 30 minute PDF download 🙂

Taste and see that the Lord is good.

These are words that wake me up in the morning and carry me through both spectacular and somber days. This is the word of the Lord. This is His proclamation and promise that He is good. We know God is faithful (Romans 3:3-4) even when we are found without faith. He keeps His promises even when we have twisted His words.

God is always true, always perfect, always good. Do I sound redundant? I hope so. The blessing of this truth seems to seep in anew every time I return to it.

Recently, I’ve been re-discovering God’s faithfulness in this promise (that we can taste and see He is good) by way of baked goods, full kitchens, and Monday afternoons. Before you think that I’m about to blaspheme this beautiful verse in Psalm 34, keep reading. I believe God works through the everyday-ness of life to teach us eternal truths. Right now, baked goods, full kitchens, and Monday afternoons happen to be that beautiful everyday classroom.

Before the school year began, I had visions of laughter circles and conversation and community. How to realize these visions is… another thing entirely. I’m no expert, but I’ve been to college and I know what draws a crowd: food.

God’s design – the very way He worked out the specific details of our bodies – involves a real need for food. Sure, we distorted and perverted and twisted this real need into dependence and false comfort and momentary satisfaction. But, in the beginning, God made Adam and Eve with a body to enjoy – taste and see – food.

He intentionally chose to make us dependent on food for survival, but also capable of enjoying the necessity. He didn’t have to do that, but He did. Wow.

And there’s more.

We are all familiar with the words from Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

What I didn’t recognize until day two of Kay Arthur’s “Return to the Garden” study (in a room full of high school girls gobbling up warm cookies) are these words in 2:18: “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’”

God knew long before extracting a rib that Adam was made for relationship. Adam was made in the image of a triune God and longed for community before he even knew what to call the longing.

So, we were made to eat and we were made to share. Let me re-phrase: we were made to eat, share, and ENJOY it. I just cannot get over this design.

The most beautiful part of my re-discoveries is a return to the thought from which all these began, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” There is a hunger in our bellies only satisfied by more of Him. Every sweet blessing is a reflection of this Truth.

As my heart wells up with thanksgiving at the way we are designed to enjoy life together (through baked goods, full kitchens, and Monday afternoons), I know my true affection is for the Creator of these marvelous things. He is, indeed, good. His design reflects our need for and our satisfaction in Him alone.

Psalm 34:8 continues, “blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.”

That is something sweet.

let LOVE fly like cRAzY

 

saturday's best offering

 

 

 

 

Delicious Adventures!

Last night, we experimented with a recipe from my Good Housekeeping Healthy Choices cookbook. The recipe was for tortilla pizza, but we transformed it into a lasagna and it was so wonderfully delicious! My roomie is a veggie (my affectionate term for the vegetarians in my life), so I’m always on the lookout for recipes that we would both like. This one turned out to be the BOMB!

Then, for dessert, I made baked apples with a recipe from the same cookbook in an effort to welcome fall to the rain and sun of this country that knows not the four seasons.

Tonight, I’m having my high school girls over for movies and THIS incredible apple cinnamon cupcake dessert! Doesn’t it look amazing?

apple cupcakes!

Here’s the description from the website:

Shredded apple replaces some of the oil and keeps the cake moist in these cinnamon-spiked cupcakes. There is a generous amount of fluffy marshmallow frosting to mound or pipe on top for a festive look.

via Apple Cupcakes with Cinnamon-Marshmallow Frosting.

We’ll see how it turns out!

****UPDATE****
Here is the result of several hours in a warm kitchen… lots of laughter… and maybe a few foibles. The recipe is posted below the slideshow.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

To make the CUPCAKES

  • 1 1/2 cups shredded peeled apples
  • 1/2 cup diced dried apples (I used a baked apple leftover from yesterday to save on cost)
  • 3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar, plus 3/4 cup, divided (I used 1/2 cup loosely packed for less sweet)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4 cup cake flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup nonfat buttermilk (I made my own with milk and vinegar)

FROSTING

  • 1 cup light brown sugar (I used 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 4 teaspoons dried egg whites (I used 2 egg whites)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more for garnish

PREPARATION

  1. To prepare cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 12 (1/2-cup) muffin cups with cupcake liners or coat with cooking spray (I made about 17 cupcakes with this recipe)
  2. Combine shredded and dried apples in a bowl with 3 tablespoons brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Set aside. Beat oil and the remaining 3/4 cup brown sugar in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until well combined. Beat in eggs one at a time until combined. Add vanilla, increase speed to high and beat for 1 minute.
  3. Whisk whole-wheat flour, cake flour, baking soda, salt and the remaining 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon in a medium bowl.
  4. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and buttermilk to the batter, starting and ending with dry ingredients and scraping the sides of the bowl as needed, until just combined. Stir in the reserved apple mixture until just combined. Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups. (The cups will be full.)
  5. Bake the cupcakes until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean, 20 to 22 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 1 hour before frosting.
  6. To prepare frosting: Bring 2 inches of water to a simmer in the bottom of a double boiler. Combine 1 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup water in the top of the double boiler. Heat over the simmering water, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved, 2 to 3 minutes. Add reconstituted egg whites, cream of tartar and pinch of salt. Beat with an electric mixer on high speed until the mixture is glossy and thick, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the top pan from the heat and continue beating for 1 minute more to cool. Add vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and beat on low just to combine. Spread or pipe the frosting onto the cooled cupcakes and sprinkle cinnamon on top, if desired.