Monday, March 28, 2016

Happy Easter 2016

My precious ones.

So thankful for Jesus - for the love he poured out to us on the cross. And, that WE live because he couldn't live without us.

Happy Easter, friends.

Monday, December 7, 2015

When Christmas Is Both Joy and Sorrow

I always feel nostalgic this time of year.

I suppose everyone does. My dreams and daydreams and quiet moments, rare as they may be, are flooded with memories.

SO many memories.

Some so painful I can hardly catch my breath for the remembering.
Some filled with inexpressible joy.

I remember my first Christmas as Jason's wife. Life was new, again. I woke up with my best friend next to me, and yet, he was a stranger. I'd only known him as my husband for 10 days, and I couldn't get enough of how wonderful and new he was to me.

I remember my Dad. Whom I lost just over 10 years ago to suicide. Who loved Christmas and who loved me - just for being me. Over and over, again. I remember my Dad.

I remember the first Christmas I spent with a broken heart. Everyone around me wore happy, plastic faces, and I wore grief. I was an unlikely Grinch, only my heart had been trampled on and refused to grow, and I desperately wanted to sing with the Whos. I couldn't find my song.

I remember the year I got a baby carriage. It's the first Christmas I remember. I wore my blue, polyester "Chatterbox" nightgown - perfect for the "Will she ever stop talking?" little girl who wore it at age six and still appropriate today, for the forty-year old who's never met a microphone she didn't love - as I pushed my new baby doll around our house on Sherman Avenue. It snowed that year.

I remember Christmas 2004 - my first as a mother. My newborn son was my world. He was the baby in every manger I saw, and "For unto us a child is born; a son is given" made my heart cry out a thousand thanks to God every time I heard or sang or read it.


I remember my Playdoh Fun Factory. And, my hand sewn Cabbage Patch Doll because a "real" one couldn't be found. I remember my first pair of Guess jeans and my karaoke machine - which blasted Wilson Phillips back-up music and my sisters and I ROCKED THAT HARMONY, YESPLEASEANDTHANKYOU. I remember the mixed emotions of Mom's new engagement ring and our new Atari and all of it blends together in one big mental montage of Christmases past.

While we decorated our Christmas tree this year, I sat and cried big fat tears for what had been. I wept for my Dad, whom I miss so much. I wept because I now have four sons and a daughter, and they are the best, craziest, most exhaustingly wonderful gifts I've ever gotten. I wept for the beautiful sacrifice my parents made to give us a toy-filled Christmas each year.

I wept for my broken heart 20 years ago. I wept for the broken hearts of those I love today. SO. many. broken. hearts.

I wept because, given the choice, I would never go back to the hurt and pain, but I want to close my eyes and relive the moments and gifts that took my breath away. Wouldn't we all?

As this memory-filled montage plays over and over in my head this morning, this week, this Christmas season - I look back and see how Christmas has been this broken and beautiful mix of joy and sorrow. And, the more I get to know and love people, it seems that's the way it is for most of us.

We are hurting. But, we know - we KNOW there is more.

Here's what I know about Christmas:

I need the baby in that manger.

In the hard things - the ones that have broken and wrecked my heart - I need a Savior.
In the blessings - I need the One True King that brings eternal joy.
In that duplex of hard and blessing - I need the Prince of Peace, whose love never waivers with the sway of my heart.

Jesus. He redeems our past. He redeems today. He is the hope for our future.

Friends - while the world around us grapples with both pain and joy this season - remembering the past, trudging through today, confused about tomorrow - we often forget they are listening and watching. Or we KNOW that they are watching, so we grab a megaphone to shout how our various Christmas traditions differ: Santa or no Santa, real or fake, elf or no elf, Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, plain ol' red cup OR ONE WITH SNOWMEN ON IT for the love of all that DOES NOT MATTER, one present or ten. We can be so easily lured into launching social grenades to defend our way of celebrating Christmas.

This Christmas, if we can tell anything to the broken, the joy-filled, our children, new mamas holding their newborns, the homeless and orphan, the oppressed and hurting, and every soul who gets to hear, see, and read our voice, can our loudest shout be: to the broken-hearted, the joy-filled, our children, new mamas holding their newborns, victims of violence and abuse and the ones that love them, the oppressed and hurting, and EVERY SINGLE SOUL who gets to hear, see, or read our voice, can our loudest shout be:

"We have GOOD NEWS to share! Do you want to hear it?"

Out of love for the Gospel, that has the power to SAVE and redeem lives, and the hope-filled message of Jesus' birth, let's not squander this season in the name of who is the "rightest" in how we celebrate. We are in the same army. ALL YEAR LONG. Fighting to share with a hurting world the same GOOD NEWS:

• God will never hand you over to despair.
• God is strong and mighty to save and He will never let go of you.
• God is the Hope you are looking for - this Christmas and every day forward.

Our broken and hurting world needs OUR Savior.
Our blessed and indulged country needs THIS King.

Let's fight, together - however we celebrate this time of year - using this Christmas season to tell the world:

Your Hope.
Your Joy.
Your Peace. In all circumstances.

He's here.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Why Disappointments Are Gifts To Our Children

I heard the pitter patter of not-so-little feet coming up the steps and I knew it was time to grab the pliers and pry open my eyes. I looked over at the clock.


Oh, morning. You have no mercy.

I rolled over and saw Jack, my eleven year-old standing next to his Dad's side of the bed.

"Hey, Mom. Is Dad in the shower?"

"No, bud. He left for a trip really early this morning. Just a quick one, though."

"WHAT?", my boy furrowed his brow. "Another trip?"

"Yeah, but just a quick one. He'll be home tomorrow."

"But, it's's just that I made him breakfast this morning. I've never done that before."

"You did?"

My eyes popped open. Oh my word, what did this child do? Did he turn on the stove? Is there a HUGE mess down there that somehow in my comatose state of "my husband was up at 4am and I didn't sleep well", I didn't hear a thing.

I rubbed my eyes ready to slide out of bed to go survey the damage and looked up at Jack.

He was crying.

"Oh, buddy. I know it's hard. But, he'll be back tomorrow."

He wiped his eyes and left to go downstairs.

I stumbled out of bed, threw on a sweatshirt, walked past the baby's room - where I heard babbling and singing - and headed to the kitchen.

Jack, Max, and Lincoln were all sitting at the kitchen table eating a bowl of cereal. I glanced around the room looking for signs of disaster, but found just cereal boxes and the gallon of milk in the middle of the table.

I breathed a sigh of relief.

Jack seemed to have recovered and was leading a serious and important discussion about the latest Avengers movie.

I headed over to make a cup of ambition for myself, when I spotted it.

The sweetest "Made for Dad" breakfast ever.


What's a mama to do but cry?

You know, as a mother, this is some of the hardest stuff I do. Processing and handling the things that hurt my children - their disappointments, their fears, the things in life that are such letdowns to them - this is hard stuff on my mama heart.

Isn't it like that for all of us as mothers? Oh, how their hurts slay us.

But, you see, here's what I've learned:

These disappointments are GOLD. Treasures. Priceless gifts in raising children.

Today, when Jack gets home from school and I have time to sit down and talk to him about what that bowl of uneaten Raisin Bran REALLY means, I will have an opportunity to show him what God has taught me.

Our hurts and disappointments really point us to God's love for us.

If we let them.

The love Jack has for his Dad that prompted him to wake up today and pour that bowl of Raisin Bran, the relationship that has been nurtured since the day they laid eyes on each other, the eleven years of bonding, sharing, car-racing, book-reading, bike-riding - this is God's love poured out on my boy.

He has a Dad who loves him, and he loves his Dad.

The love in our family - God has given that to us. And, that we miss each other when we're apart makes us newly aware that God has been so good to us. And, when we choose to focus on that, our sadness turns to joy.

It's taken me thirty years to see this in my own life - to process my own fears and disappointments this way.

When Satan wields the spear of "God doesn't love you because..." and we wield the sword of "But, I'm so grateful for..." against it, well - we find joy in the goodness of God.

Thankfulness. It is the antidote for disappointment.

My children. They will be disappointed again and again. My hope is that they learn to lift their eyes in thankfulness to the One who loves them more than any other, even in the midst of hurt or sadness.

So this afternoon, when I sit down with my Jack, that uneaten bowl of cereal gives me an open door to remind my boy that missing each other when we're apart is a great gift to us.

And, together - he and I will use thankfulness to slay the power of what isn't, what we don't have today, who isn't here today.

And, FIGHT our disappointment by being grateful to God, together, for the joy we have in this great gift He has given us:

The love in our family.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Hot Milk Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

When I {sorta, barely sorta} homeschooled Jack and Max when they were little preschoolers, our first lesson was on darkness and light. I took them out for ice cream after our first day to celebrate.

Because I knew how it would go down:

Jack would choose chocolate.
Max would choose vanilla.

Darkenss. Light. Homeschool #winning.

{I made a video of our first day of school those many years ago. I am NOT watching it because it will render me useless, curled up in the corner, weeping for all that's been lost for the rest of the day. You, however, can watch it here if you're so inclined.}

{Also. If you want to make a cheap, massive bulletin board for anywhere in your home, I wrote a picture tutorial for how we made the camo one in the video here.}

Six years later, and my Max will still, always, every time choose vanilla. Vanilla ice cream. Vanilla cookies (i.e Snickerdoodles). Vanilla pudding.

And, ALWAYS, vanilla cupcakes.

After testing, re-testing, playing, dabbling and tweaking, I've finally come up with the PERFECT vanilla cupcake.

The batter, made with warmed milk and butter, a recipe from my husband's grandmother - renders cake that is spongy, not-too-sweet, and SO buttery and soft, but sturdy enough to hold its own. If you have a kitchen, you will ALWAYS have on hand all of the ingredients to make these cupcakes.

The frosting? It's a divine, perfectly sweet, buttery (notice a theme?), magical topper for Grannymom's batter.

These little hands. My tiny helper. Love me some Whit.

Also, you can pipe on this frosting and make it swirly and finished. But, I love the simple, homemade look of just spreading it on with a knife and adding a few sprinkles. (*You can easily color it as well with food coloring.)

Whit: They look like fwuffy cwouds. Totally.

Try these. I know you'll love 'em as much as we do.

Here's the recipe:

Hot Milk Cupcakes

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup milk
2 sticks butter
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together flour and baking powder. Set aside. Cream together sugar and eggs.

In a small pan, heat together milk and butter until butter is melted. Add flour mixture to egg mixture and beat well. Then add hot milk with butter mixture. Beat until smooth. Add vanilla and mix until combined.

Line muffin pans with liners (or grease with cooking spray or butter). Using an ice cream scoop, fill each liner with batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

Cool. Top with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting.

Yield: 2 dozen cupcakes

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Approximately 6 tablespoons milk

Beat butter with mixer. Slowly add confectioners sugar to combine with butter. Add vanilla.

Beat in milk, one tablespoon at a time until you reach desired consistency.

Top cupcakes with frosting.