So we had Easter (one of the best ever as I feel we might.just.have.really captured what it is all about this time..perhaps?), and then delightful visitors and a cold or two in between to fight off (MY BODY DID IT THIS TIME FOR THE FIRST EVER IN YEARS WITHOUT ANTIBIOTICS???!!!! NOW THAT’S SOMETHING TO CELEBRATE) and then more visitors coming and before I knew it days have passed without a post. So before it becomes a week I wanted to say hello to all of you out there and let you know I haven’t forgotten. It’s just that this sojourn of ours does get a little messy and busy and it can all add up to a lot of cacophony which often leads to knees bent seeking forgiveness. And THIS is what I don’t want to ever stop doing in the middle of it all. Take a minute friends and read one of my favorite writer’s thoughts on all things marriage and the life that happens in between because as Ann Voskamp says “Love is more than simply a warm feeling, love is ultimately a daily forgiving.”
It’s the day after Good Friday and there’s anticipation in the air. Night ended sad and forlorn but dawn brings hints of joy and celebration because Sunday is coming! We whip up frosting in pastels and knead coconut into grass and unwrap the lamb that’s been sitting under Saran because we must have something tangible to remind us that it’s not about the bunny or the eggs or the candy..it’s about a lamb.
A perfect lamb that was led to the slaughter to buy my freedom. A lamb who willingly laid down His life so that I can live. And this friends is why every year we pull out the mold and mix sugar and butter and cocoa and painstakingly frost and decorate so that we will not forget. Really it’s what’s been happening for generations now in my family and I want to pass it on. The Shepherd becoming a lamb, laying down all for His sheep. A beautiful picture of love and redemption…and it will be right there on our table Easter morning in case we forget.
Perfect Chocolate Cake
(this is from a dear friend’s family cookbook and she found it in Southern Living. It makes three 9″ cake pans or if you use the Wilton lamb cake mold you will have enough batter left to make one 9″ cake. This recipe works great for the lamb mold because it is a dense cake.)
Combine and stir until smooth, set aside to cool:
1 cup cocoa
2 cups boiling water
Combine and mix until fluffy:
1 cup butter
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Combine dry ingredients in another bowl:
2 3/4 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
With an electric mixer on slow speed add dry mixture and cocoa mixture to sugar mixture alternating between the two beginning and ending with flour mixture. Do not over beat.
Pour batter into 3 greased and floured 9″ round cake pans. Bake 350 for 25-30 min. until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 min. and the. Remove and cool completely. (I followed the directions for baking off the Wilton mold box.)
Italian Butter Frosting
(This recipe is my Mom’s and it was on our wedding cake. My favorite frosting ever.)
2 cups butter flavored shortening
6-8 cups powdered sugar
4 tsp almond flavoring
half and half to thin the frosting
Beat ingredients together in mixer adding cream to make it as thin as you need. I kept mine pretty thick so it would hold up as we used it to decorate the cake. (no more than a couple tablespoons). Continue beating until light and fluffy.
*The kids loved having fun decorating the extra 9″ cake with the leftover icing.
I’m about to whip up pumpkin pancakes for dinner when I get the news. A dear friend’s sister has finished her battle with cancer and crossed into the arms of Jesus, suffering behind, all tears wiped clean, but it’s the ones left behind who are picking up pieces, guts wrenched with grief. And these, these the same friends who have said goodbye to another sister and a father all within the space of a little more than four seasons and how can one bear such sorrow? And I pause with tears reminded life is such a fragile gift. Here today and gone tomorrow.
Then there’s the friend who just can’t find an end to pain. The doctors are trying and the answers are grim but no one can say if and when there will ever be an end to the journey. And I don’t know what to say to either of them because heartbreak is not a quick fix. It isn’t something that goes away in a flash and I know all too well that chronic anything turns straws into heavy burdens and those burdens break backs and sever spirits and I want to be the friend that journeys all the seasons and not just the fair weather ones. So I call to say I’m bringing a meal and pack it up to cart down the street and I come and sit and listen because sometimes it’s not what you say but what you do that speaks the loudest. I know because I’ve been on the receiving end one too many times. And it’s the friend who listens and weeps with those who weep that brings balm to wounds. The willingness to be there…to show up says love, because we are lying to everyone if we think we can go it alone.
We sit down to a humble supper of breakfast fare and David walks us through the significance of the night as we make pretend our pancakes are bread. He tells of Jesus last meal with his disciples, the ones he loves, all the while knowing what was ahead. Of Jesus slipping away to the garden to pray. And I feel as if I am journeying with him there tonight, heart full of sorrow and despair wanting any way possible for my loved ones to not have to face the cup of suffering. And I’m struck as I hear the story again for the hundredth time that even the Son of God longed for companionship at his darkest hour. The Book says he requested his disciples to stay with him and keep watch. To be near, present while he shed tears and pleaded with his Father and opened his fists to exchange his own will for whatever Papa wanted.
And I want to be that friend. The friend who meets in the garden to pray. Who stands guard. Who doesn’t flinch in the face of suffering that won’t end and who doesn’t come with all the answers but with a heart of steadfastness instead. I want to be the one who stays awake and aware, who doesn’t let my own convenience and conceit dictate. Because we all will face days and weeks and months and perhaps years of cups we don’t want to drink and it’s the ones who travel with us that lighten the load by carrying us to the Shepherd who’s been there and who is acquainted with sorrow and pain. I want to be the one who comes and waits.
“Each time you drink this cup remember me.” 1 Cor. 11:25
I wake to rain drumming on roofs; mountains shrouded in mist birthing new life in hues of greens and pastels and this heart has burst its banks for today spells relief! I can breathe…I can walk through woods without fear of toxic pollen no longer a prisoner to the home even if it is only for 24 glorious hours. And this IS the day the Lord has made. A gift just for me. And it is right on time just like He always is. Exactly when needed not a moment too soon or too late. And then I stumble on this:
Now listen, daughter, don’t miss a word:
forget your country, put your home behind you.
Be here—the king is wild for you.
Since he’s your lord, adore him.
Wedding gifts pour in from Tyre;
rich guests shower you with presents. ~Ps. 45:10-12
Ahhh, the KING…wild for me! I had forgotten but I think I will stay here with Him for I’ve been living too long in a country that is no longer mine and I want to breathe in this new home where I am adored and loved and cherished and sung over even in the valleys and on top of mountain overlooks. And yes, I will accept the gifts of today, violets blooming by brooks and branches dazzled in beaded rain and I will give thanks and bask in Love and hold on with all I’ve got because the pull to leave and not cleave will come with the challenges and I need today to remember. So if you see me dancing in the daffodils and among the red buds smile cause I’m just soaking it all in.
Where has time gone? It was only yesterday when I grasped little fingers in mine to take a spring stroll. Flowers were in bloom and birds of all sorts singing and this heart was bursting for there is no greater gift than shaping little lives as they grow. It was then I heard it. The call that has pierced this spirit through since a baby and I wanted them to hear it too. Only there was so much noise, so many songs being sung that their ears couldn’t hear that one distinct sound in the middle of all the muddle. So we practiced. I would hear the turtle dove’s song and sing it back to them that lonesome call seeming to say “come with me come…come” and they would try their best to hear it. To see ears straining and eyes watching undid this mom’s soul because it’s hard and it’s exhilarating all wrapped in one to watch the ones you love try and fail and try again. But then they heard it!!! And oh to the heights of heaven we all did soar and the rest of the walk was all about listening and hearing and listening again.
And isn’t that the way it is with our Father? The voices around us are loud and they clamor for our attention and before we know it everything is as clear as mud and we are stumbling blind. This journey to healing has been full of noise. So much to process with all the opinions and there are so many things I could do or try or buy and it has left this girl spinning in circles and far too often over budget and landed in the department store of despair.
I was out walking a few weeks ago thinking back to that jaunt with my little sweet ones when I spotted a turtle dove bursting into song. I found myself crying out to God that I wanted to hear His voice over all the din…I wanted to do what He was telling me, nothing more nothing less. I wanted His voice to be so distinct that I could not miss it. And I’ve found that the first step in hearing is asking. So I kept asking…and asking…and asking how to best aid this frail body in healing. Then sitting still to listen. Listening while the Word washed over me, listening as dear friends gave their thoughts, listening as I washed dishes and tears mixed with the water and slowly I began to hear Him whisper ever sweetly to my heart because peace is always the measure of His Words above all others.
And so the journey to detox from sugar began. Really I’ve tried it before and always fell off the wagon but this time has been different for courage comes when you know you are being led by the One who holds all the strength you need. But I would be lying to say there hasn’t been sweet cravings so this smoothie has been a lifesaver for me especially when my family pulls out the milk shakes and evening desserts. Also it is low in calories but very filling which has helped with the never ending hunger pains prednisone provides. Above all though, each day I spin up this yummy treat I’m reminded that God longs to speak to His children and if we ask and listen He will show up with words of life. And when He does whisper, or shout or sing…as Ann Voskamp says “Do what HE tells you.” It may not always make sense to the crowd but the peace that comes from listening and obeying is priceless.
Chocolate Banana Smoothie
1 TBL cocoa powder
1 TBL natural peanut butter no sugar
1 cup ice
1/4 cup water (or more if needed)
1 tsp. vanilla
We’d gather round dog tired after long days all six of us and Mom and Dad would pass out the black hymnals with the gold writing and we’d drown our souls in music until the clock ticked bedtime. Eight voices as one singing songs of the ages and I caught a glimpse of it then, but only later as trials wore off the shine and glitz of life did I realize that this what we know, what we live, with the ache that never really goes away, is not our home. C.S. Lewis says: “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that we were made for another world.”
I’d said goodbye to my man a few years back as he went off for training and I was humming this tune, a tune I remember from pig-tail and matching plaid dress days, and it was then he whispered in the ear that I was to have re-made it by the time he returned. And I labored and prayed and cried over it and sang the little ones to bed on nights when I was barely hanging on…just like I was sung to sleep so many years ago, and slowly it began to take shape, to morph just a bit from the original to the modern. It’s a hymn with a haunting melody that mystifies and draws one in and I run to it on dark days when this soul needs to catch a glimpse of light.
So friends, here it is this great song by Andrew Young with just a bit added by me. May it give you the extra encouragement you need on this sojourn.
Hey there beautiful you. The one hanging on with fingernails about to lose grip. I know this life is beautiful and it’s messy and sometimes it’s impossible to sort the good from the bad and there are days when only truth telling will ease the pain of the soul. So grab a cup warm my friend and let’s breathe deep and ease the ache with balm from the word because we, the believers, are the truth tellers and if we don’t speak it, who will? This speaking life comforts and heals, it soothes and lifts burdens cause the days are long and one too many straws become heavy and we still have a sojourn ahead. So let’s pray this together shall we? In the quiet of our hearts let’s water our thirsty spirits:
“Be still and know that I am God.”*
God in the middle of illness, smack dab center in the chaos of kids, sitting near as grief tears the heart in two, present in the mountains of never-ending laundry and bills that twist one into balls of anxiety, there as you wait for answers…or closed doors or open ones. Be still. Know! He is God!
“Be still and know that I am.”
I am the light in this very dark situation, I am the way out..the way to life. I am love and beauty and righteousness and by My hands I hold everything together…yes even that broken bleeding heart of yours. I am patience and peace and joy and in my presence is hope eternal.
“Be still and know.”
Know that I am with you even until the end. I have loved you with an everlasting love and nothing can separate you from me. Not sickness, not today or tomorrow or hunger or danger…nothing can take you away from me. I am your beloved and you are mine and with me on your side you cannot lose!
Cultivate a quiet heart in my presence. Do not run into the future for grace is given only for this moment and it is being lavished on you. Drink, receive with open hands. Bask in the loveliness of this moment for fear will only take you away from me. Embrace my perfect love. I am singing over you with songs of joy! I have called you by name. You are mine and I’ve got this…whatever it is…I’ve got you!
Be the beautiful you I made you to be and in all the messiness of being, know that in me you are forgiven and have the amazing gift of second chances because failing is just an opportunity for redemption. Stop comparing yourselves to others and striving to gather. And remember it is never about what you do for me, but what I am doing in you! Relax, sit back, open those clenched fists, you are my masterpiece in progress.
*Psalm 46:10 quoted in this diminutive form by Saint Patrick