Monday, July 27, 2009

Encouragement We All Need to Hear!

Here is a portion of a wonderful book my husband got me called Confessions of a Prayer Wimp by Mary Pierce. Yeah, my husband isn't too subtle in his observations of me, is he?

Well, he knew I could relate!I just thought I would share a portion with you, if you are going through some turbulent times in your life, or if you just feel really dry and empty...maybe you'll find encourgament that there is a reason for that desert place as well.

Getting fired set me free.Disappointments can destroy us. Or our troubles can drive us to our knees and open our eyes, our ears, and our hearts to pay attention to God. God changes us, if we let him, through our challenges. The day the boss came to fire me, it turns out, was the best day I ever had on that job.

God used the firing as a tool to shape me. God is the Master Sculptor.

English clergyman G. H. Knight said, "It is only the eye of the sculptor that can see beforehand the finished statue in the rough marble block; but he does see it, and all the strokes of his tools are meant to bring out to the eyes of others what is already clear to his own. And the strokes of God's hands are only to produce the perfect beauty of the soul, and make that as visible to others as it now is to Himself. Nothing is more certain than that we will be perfectly satisfied with His work when we see it finished."

Knight asks, "Why should we not be satisfied now when He tells us what a glorious finish He will make, and leave to Him the choosing of the tools?"

How do I leave to God the choosing of the tools? How do I accept firing and failure, disease and disappointment? (She goes on to describe all of the trials and hardships she faced: alcoholism, poverty, divorce etc)

....I fought loneliness and aging like an enemy and sunk into despair and depression.

How difficult it is to let God choose the tools he'll use to shape me.
If God is going to be working on me, I want him to use the soft tools---the quiet whisper, the gentle nudge. I don't want the chisel against my heart, the hammer ringing against the hard stone of my habits.

But who is the pot to argue with the potter? The prophet Jeremiah had this to say on the subject: "So I went down to the potter's house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him." Jeremiah heard God's perspective then. "'Can I not do with you as this potter does?' declares the Lord. 'Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand.'" Jeremiah 18:3-6

Can God do with me as the potter does? Can he do the same with you? Certainly. Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are we in the hand of God.

And there is hope. "We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." Cor. 4: 7-9

I must believe that through the kneading, the shaping, and the firing process that is at times perplexing and wearying-- I must believe that God's every stroke is intentional. Purposeful. That his aim is to reveal to others what he himself already sees in me. That what he sees is something wonderful, something beautiful. Something he imagined when he first saw the clumsy slab, formless and dull, from which I will someday emerge.

What he sees is something so wonderful it is beyond my imagining. Grace upon grace, shining with truth and love and compassion. Glorious. Pure. Beautiful. The very image of Christ.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Almond Crunch Coffee Cake: Two Thumbs Up!

One passion I have is healthy eating. This has come about more as an act of desperation than a natural inclination.

I was recently asked to review a recipe from Sue Gregg, in order to consider further reviewing her cook books. Just perusing Mrs. Gregg's website made me eager to get some of her books and tackle other recipes. She has taken the guess work out of eating healthy and also makes it taste fabulous! The website is full of ideas if you are ready to start your journey into eating wholesome and natural foods. Check it out at:

The following recipe I made just this morning, doubling it in order to feed the company we are hosting. Sweetened with honey and using whole wheat flour, this was a hit with everyone that tried it! It tasted as good as any I've eaten, even at Starbucks where coffee and coffeecakes are a match made in heaven! You may want to double it yourself, just to have enough to enjoy for a few days.

Almond Crunch Coffee Cake (Flour Version)

This version of the recipe is found in The Creative Recipe Organizer.AMOUNT: 11.5" x 8" Pan (12 to 18 pieces)
Bake: 325° for 35-40 minutes

1. Preheat oven and grease or spray baking pan.

2. For topping blend first 3 ingredients with a fork and stir in the nuts; set aside:

1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 tablespoons crystalline fructose
1 tablespoon soft butter
1/2 cup chopped or sliced almonds

3. Thoroughly blend dry ingredients in small mixing bowl:

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon 1 teaspoon baking powder (low sodium preferred)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt (unrefined sea salt preferred)
1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger

4. Thoroughly blend liquid ingredients together with a wire whisk in a large mixing bowl:
2 eggs or 4 egg whites
3/4 cup honey

5. Alternately blend dry ingredients into liquid ingredients with: 1 cup buttermilk or nonfat yogurt

6. Pour batter into pan. Spread topping evenly over top. Press topping slightly into batter with tines of a fork.

7. Bake at 325° for 30-40 minutes or until knife comes clean out of center.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Review: For the Love of Hank the Cowdog!

It is hard to imagine that some of you may not know of the Hank the Cowdog series by John R. Erickson, but it was my thrill and privilege to open up a package from Maverick Books, recently, and find I was faced with reviewing a bunch of Hank the Cowdog items! This was a highly "oohed and ahhhed" package as it contained a CD of songs and book excerpts, a board game and a book (quickly claimed by my sixth grade daughter).

We have listened to and loved Hank for years. Especially my son, who is mildly autistic; he will listen to hours and hours of the adventures this goofy dog, Hank ("Head of Ranch Security"), with all of his friends. However, his life and times are equally entertaining to adults. I have a friend whose parents took the grandkids to Ireland for a special vacation. The grandkids brought some Hank the Cowdog CD's along for the rental car ride. When the gang returned from their vacation, my friend asked her father what he thought of Ireland. "Oh, Ireland was great," he said, "but I really loved listening to Hank the Cowdog!"

The way Hank sees life is unique but not unlike the way all of us can bumble through things at times. All of the colorful characters that hang out on the ranch add to the fun and mishaps. Mr. Erickson has brought to life the ranchers, the dogs, the barn cat and even the vultures and coyotes in such a way that you become like a kid at a carnival, taking it all in and having a blast as it unfolds.

Mr. Erickson has written over 50 Hank the Cowdog books. The chapter books are aimed at a fifth or sixth grade reader but are good clean fun to read to younger children and equally enjoyed by older kids too. The ultimate way, in my opinion, to get the full "Hank" experience is to listen to the books on tape or CD. Mr. Erickson personally brings the story to life by becoming all of the characters as he reads through the adventure. Oh yes, don't forget the silly songs that are often spontaneously sung! Those are hilarious too. The tapes and Cd's have sound effects and music to add to the feel of the story as well. Once you listen to the books being read by Mr. Erickson, you will forever hear those voices yourself as you read the books. It is a strange but amazing fact, that this happens!

At our local homeschool book fair, we had the privlege of John R. Erickson coming to speak and hosting a booth of books and other goodies for all of us adults--I mean, all of the children-- to have a bit of an O.D. experience with Hank. My 10 year old was one of a few greeters at the door when Mr. Erickson walked in and said hello, telling them they were doing a great job.
My daughter turned to her fellow worker and said, "That guy sounded just like Hank the Cowdog!" It wasn't until later that day she discovered it really was Hank (well, sort of!). Mr. Erickson was kind, humble and his family is also involved in homeschooling. It was great to meet the creative force behind the books!

The CD that we received was called "Tales and Tunes from Hank the Cowdog". It was a smorgasbord of book excerpts and included 9 songs as well. We listened to it twice that day. And I know I haven't heard the last of it!

Something else my kids enjoyed was the Hank game "Tornado". The playing pieces have Hank, his buddy Drover, and Junior the buzzard that move around the board in "the wildest race and chase game ever!" Well, that is what the box claims. However, it is actually just a revamped version of "Trouble", which everyone likely has played at some point. Still, my kids snatched it up and gave it a few rounds. It is the travel version of the game, small and portable. I know we will bring it with us when we have a drive to make. The game included a free 30 minute tape from the book "The Case of the Swirling Killer Tornado" so we have been driving around listening to Drover sing about tornado safety (not intended to be anything highly instructional! It came to him in a dream...).

Finally, the book my daughter is reading is "The Case of the One-Eyed Killer Stud Horse." This is book number 8 of the series and finds Hank having a bad day (sick on poisoned bacon grease), and having to sit through being primped and prettied up by some visiting female relatives. Though initially appalled by the thought of being dolled up, he finds all that stroking and brushing to be rather euphoric. Then when a one-eyed horse breaks lose and starts charging at the "beauticians", Hank is determined to come to the rescue!

Ultimately, you can't go wrong with the Hank the Cowdog series. There's always a lot of chaos and fun to be had with lessons learned along the way. If you go to Mr. Erickson's website, you can find other great products like T-shirts, stuffed animals and a newsletter to enjoy several times a year. Hanks just a great, lovable character, flaws and all, that the family can enjoy for years to come.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Birthday Musings

Stumbling out of bed before the sun was up, a solitary thought whispered in my mind, "I am forty." That got my attention and I began to ponder why that word, "forty", could sound so weighty.

First of all, I realized how many words there are with a similar sound; words that hold a less-than-stellar intention if someone used those and words and my name in the same sentence. Words like: foreboding, forlorn, forgetful, and for-Pete's-sake. Also, there are a lot of large items with the same three or four first letters in their spelling. Things like: forklift, former-heavy-weight-champion, and Fort Knox. I think "forty" is getting a bad rap by guilt of association with other words that begin with "for".

The word "forty" also lends itself to sounding some what like a Mafia nickname. "Yous don't do what I says and my friends Shorty, Lefty and Forty here will make ya disappear, ya get da picture?"

Now, take a very similar word, "forte", and by virtue of putting an accent on it and making it sound French it becomes completely different in feel. Sounds enviously cool and aloof. "I am forte," seems alluring, like an exotic nationality. Who wouldn't want to be "forte"? "Forty" just rhymes all too well with, "Lordy, Lordy," don't you think?

So, really I don't mind turning 40. Glad to finally get it over with, in some ways. I have actually been forty for a few months, sort of, because all spring, for some reason, I have had the habit of telling people that ask my age, "I'm nearly 40." So, I sort of gypped myself from the last bit of thirty-something that I could lay claim to. But being forty, over all, is something I am totally at peace with (see my other blog "Indulge Me").

Thanks to my deep thoughts in the wee hours of morning, I have discovered the negative connotation of being forty is really a matter of semantics and pronunciations. For now I am going to go ahead and be cool and exotic and be "forte" while I shop at "Target" (the French version, you know, pronounced "Tar-shay").

Besides, forty is really the new thirty. Everyone knows that!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Indulge Me

With my 40th birthday looming large on the horizon, you'll have to indulge me and allow me to dream a bit.

I am the type of person that tends to work best under pressure. My house is much more thoroughly cleaned when company is coming, I scrapbooked my oldest daughters entire life two weeks before her graduation since I had barely even put photos in an album prior to that point and I tend to put my makeup on right before my husband is due home. Can anyone relate? OK, even a little?

Turning 30 was rather traumatic for me. I am not sure why other than that it seemed to sound so old compared to being in my 20's. Sounded so officially grown up. Maybe I was just too vain to embrace the idea.

Turning 40, on the other hand, seems like crunch time for any dreams and visions I've ever longed to accomplish. My life is, technically, half over and I need to get moving now if I am ever to reach these goals.

I am also in such a wonderful place as a parent that there seems to be a slew of possiblities out there waiting to be tackled! I only have two that I am homeschooling, one going off into missions and another in a great special education program in our local school (yes, there are still some of those programs out there!). So, I feel like a kid in a candy store and I even have a great cheering section, headed up by my man, telling me to go after my dreams! How blessed can one woman get? I can't waste this time wondering "what if." No way!

So, I am looking at 40 with hungry and passionate eyes, with great expectations! Tomorrow I check out classes in a local college, I am working on some great stories and a novel, and I want to really pursue dancing while I am still able! We just found a really solid and wonderful church home and I know that the Lord has many spiritual things to do through these physical possibilities. It seems like a time of new growth in so many ways.

I am certain none of these things are as exciting for you to read about as it is for me to just ponder. Repetitively.

Sorry. Thanks for briefly indulging me.

I just know that the Lord has a bunch of assignments up on the board and they suddenly all seem to have my name on them! I am really excited about the adventures that await in my next 40 years. I wonder if I will still be blogging when I am 80? Hope so!

Let's all grow old together.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

D-Day: July 15th

Next Wednesday is D-day. Well...actually it is my B-day. Not just any b-day either. It is The B-day with a capital B. The big 4-0.

So far, I do not know of any sort of plan or party happening. I am suspecting everything. But, so far, I am aware of nothing.

I'll keep ya posted.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Keeping Life Interesting

I have a terrific son. His nickname is G-man so I will refer to him by that name here as well. Can't be too careful on the Internet, you know.

He is funny and has a knack for using one-liners. He can play the trombone by ear and sings wonderfully. He is also incredibly strong. He also happens to be autistic. Mildly so, that is. His official diagnosis is PDD-NOS, Pervasive Developmental Disorder--Not Otherwise Specified. (Read: Developmentally delayed in most areas).

For a long time, we hoped and prayed G-man would grow out of his delays and eventually "come out in the wash" fairly functioning; perhaps several years behind his peers, but still catching up at some point. Over the past couple of years, we have had to come to grips that, short of a miracle, G-man would always struggle, always need guidance and help. But let it be known: I DO believe in miracles so I won't ever discount that possibility!

I am sure I will write more in depth blogs about different struggles he has had and also the struggles of living with a special needs child. I just wanted to jot a note about how interesting life can be with my young man; wouldn't want to get stuck in TOO much of a routine, right?

The other night I drank way too much coffee, way too late at night, and couldn't sleep. Long story short: at 5 am I got up, rather frustrated because sleep was evading me all night long. Stepping into the hall, I caught a glimpse of my son, notorious for having some sleep issues, sneaking out of the house!

Yes! He had his glasses and shoes on and was quietly walking through to the back door. Once I realized what he had done, I locked the door, figuring at least I would give him a good scare. We live in the country with a few acres and I thought maybe he was just going to go poke around, or visit one of the cats.


Next thing I see is him out of our gate, walking down the road. This isn't good. I should add that he is 16 years old and fairly high functioning so it is not as if I was watching my toddler wander off. I cannot imagine what he is planning to do, however, or why he is headed down the road. I am not sure what I should do either. But, before I have much of a chance to think it through, he turned around and came back! He probably traveled about 20 yards down the street in all, so this happened really fast.

At this point, though things have suddenly improved, I was still unsure just how to handle the situation. He couldn't get in since I locked the door, so I came out a different door-- just to throw in another element of surprise. There he was sitting quietly on a bench, probably pondering his predicament, feeling pretty sure he had unlocked that door when he went outside to begin with.

After confronting him and talking for a few minutes, we headed back inside. I told him that since he liked being outdoors so well, he could go out later in the day and work in the yard (note: we live in Texas, it is July, we are having triple digit temps).

He said a wonderful thing to me, just then. He said something I have longed to hear and could not quite believe it to be true at the moment. What he said showed me that God is still in the miracle business!

"But mom," he pleaded, "I stopped what I was doing and came home because I knew what I was doing was wrong. Aren't you happy about that?"

I am sure he has NO idea how we have prayed for him to have the ability to choose to do right and have self control so this was not something he was conjuring up to play on my sympathies. In fact, I had been praying more than usual for him for the last several days prior to this incident. I was happy about that! Though I haven't expressed it on my blog yet, self control is about as natural to him as speaking Hebrew (note: we live in Texas...). I had to realize that this really was a great moment!

Too bad it had to happen at 5am, though, right? Well, I guess answers to prayer will always have their own timing and there's certainly not a bad time to have one of those "God moments"! Just shows that He is faithful 24/7 and He is the God who is working even when we are asleep!

Or at least, when we ought to be.

At the Intersection of Creation and Evolution: A Dream

The alliterating story below is based on a dream I had several years ago. Please contact me for permission to reproduce.

Darkness devours me.

I am enveloped in emptiness.

Are my eyes open or are they closed? I strain against this shroud of night and still see nothing.

What is this place?

An image illuminates in front of me. A large, leafy tree streaks past and vanishes.

It deserts me to the darkness again.

In a moment, more images appear. A rapid succession of snapshots and thoughts clamor before my eyes and mingle in my mind.

I see seedlings. Several supple shoots have emerged before me and then swiftly stream away.

“The first trees on earth were not seedlings”, my mind observes. “They were not created as small insignificant saplings.”

That thought is rapidly replaced with a vision of a man.

He’s maybe 30; he is muscular and needs to shave.

He fades away.

In his place I see an infant.

A tiny bundle of pink skin upon a soft blanket flickers briefly in my brain.

“Man was created with age,” is the next statement I hear. “Adam did not begin his life as a baby, he began as a grown man.”

The voice seems like my own.

The thoughts do not.

Reeling before me now is a blur of rivers, forests, mountains and even layers of the earth. It is like a movie rushing rapidly before my retina.

The soundtrack of this epic is proclaiming a peculiarly plain concept:

“The earth was created with age. Creation and evolution are not in total opposition. There is a reason that science finds the earth to be quite old: it was made that way.”

Thoughts continue to tumble through my mind; pictures parade before me. I listen in amazement to what seems to be puzzlingly profound and yet rather apparent all at once.

“Adam was created as an adult. Trees and plants were made fully grown.”

I suddenly feel quite certain that, if I were to chop down some of the trees that had been spoken into existence, I would find a range of rings running through their trunks.

“The earth was brought to life with age built into it… just like Adam. He did not begin life as an infant. The earth came into being with what it would need to sustain the life that was created. It was old when it was young. The world was
made with maturity; it was also produced with purpose.”

These thoughts are thrilling. Why had I not seen this before? It seems so simple. Obtusely obvious. Had others not observed this correlation? If they had, why wasn’t it being candidly conveyed?

In the span of thirty seconds I have been ravaged by a radical revelation. I feel the weight of its worth resting on me; it is tantamount to tangible.

I am neither a theologian nor am I a scientist. I don’t claim that the ethics of evolution are completely compatible with the Bible’s account of creation. But certainly Science can come concurrent to creation and affirm our faith with facts.

Of course, the Omnipotent Originator of the Universe is exceedingly elusive to what our mind could ever envision. Above what science could ever extensively elucidate.

Accordingly, creation is confounding too. Each diverse discovery deems it more marvelous to grasp. Many scientists have reluctantly relented to the theory of Intelligent Design.

That’s why, alongside those facts, we also need faith.

Lying inexplicably at the intersection of those two essential elements is an exceptional endowment: the intermittent insight of our dreams.