Black and White Challenge

“Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow?” (Job 38:22)

My daughter-in-law Carlie tagged me in a Facebook challenge to post seven black and white photos in seven days with no explanation or words. At the time, my life was spinning too fast to take her up on it, but tomorrow the holiday festivities begin with the first family arriving, and between now and the New Year, we have high hopes of seeing all twelve of our children (counting our in-law kids) and eighteen grandchildren except those who live in Belgium. Therefore, my life is going to be even busier . . . possibly too busy to write my blog! So, I’m thinking to have a series of seven black and white photos that depict what life has been like over the past few weeks (albeit interrupted over the weekend with my usual recipe post on Saturday and a scripture meditation on Sunday). Perhaps over the Christmas to New Year week I can post a series of color photos that relate to our holidays and the joy of family (from another popular challenge going around Facebook these days called “Grandma”).

Because my heart is to share the Lord, I’m allowing myself one scripture verse caption for each photo, but I won’t indulge in any other explanations or words. Hope you enjoy!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

If You Think It's Not Supposed to Be This Way . . .

You’re not the only one! In fact, It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way: Finding Unexpected Strength When Disappointments Leave You Shattered—by Lysa TerKeurst—has become a New York Times bestseller because it speaks so eloquently to broken hearts. Why? Because Lysa shares transparently from her own life-shattering experiences, opening her heart to expose both the pain and the healing she found during her struggle to survive and eventually overcome the unthinkable that happened to her.

For a starter, have you ever heard the old saying that God will never give us more than we can handle? Lysa reminds us that this in not true! God sometimes does give us more than we can handle so we’ll stop trying to do everything on our own. He isn’t being unfair or unkind; rather, He’s at work transforming us into the image of Christ. That may be something you’re resisting, or it may seem impossible to you, but what you now think of as a terrible tragedy may actually be intended by God for your good. Sound unbelievable? Are you willing to surrender to God and see what happens?

Potter working on a wheel made from an old rubber tire in India

Lysa is an artful story teller, and her book is full of fresh insights into the age-old problem of dealing with pain and heartbreak. One of my favorites has to do with the story from Jeremiah 18 of a visit to the potter’s house, where the Lord reminds Jeremiah that we humans are like pottery being crafted by the Master Potter. When Alan and I were in India, we watched with fascination as a potter formed vessels on his wheel, and so the idea of the clay protesting about how it’s being formed made perfect sense. No, we are not mindless clay; God has given us a will, so we can either submit to the will of the potter or try to manage things on our own. But, if we resist the Potter, we will never be as exquisitely beautiful as we can become if we allow God to mold us, paint us, and fire us.

Something I’d never heard before is that broken vessels can be ground up into dust-sized particles that—when added to the clay as “grout”—will actually make a new vessel even stronger and more able to withstand pressure without breaking. Lysa likens us to being intentionally ground to dust sometimes in order to become something new, stronger, and better. I know none of us like pain, but God’s promise to make beauty out of ashes if we’ll let him is very comforting to me.

If you, or anyone you love, is feeling like your world is upside down these days—or completely burned to ashes—consider reading It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way. If you live in Grand Rapids, you can buy the book tomorrow at the Kregel’s Parable store (Rivertown Mall) for $5!! (Otherwise, you can always buy it online.) Speaking of great books for Christmas, if you’re on Face Book, the “Kregel Parable Christian Stores” Face Book Page provides many helpful ideas and opportunities for spiritual growth. If you’re not on FB, their catalogues are hosted at www.kregel.com/catalogs. I’ve also subscribed to their mailing list from their homepage (https://www.kregel.com/) so I know ASAP what they’re offering! (No, I’m not on their payroll, but I am prejudiced! 🙂 This particular book is published by Thomas Nelson, but Kregel has the best deal tomorrow!)

But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter;
and we all are the work of thy hand” (Isaiah 64:8).

This Is the Day I Became Thankful for Tim Tebow

Speaking of giving up our doubts and letting go of our lives to serve God—I was blown away by the inspiring ideas and example of Tim Tebow, which he shares in his latest book, This is the Day.

Maybe you’ve heard about Tim Tebow for the past 15 years, but I literally knew nothing about him until my son (who’s in Christian publishing) mentioned that he’d written a really popular best seller. Since I love biographies, I was immediately intrigued, and when I discovered it was available on Scribd, I couldn’t resist. So, on a recent trip, I listened to This Is the Day: Reclaim Your Dream. Ignite Your Passion. Live Your Purpose.

Before sharing some inspirational insights from his book, let me tell you a few amazing stories about his birth and childhood. Tim was the youngest of five children, born of American parents but in the Philippines, where his parents were missionaries. Tim’s mother contracted dysentery and fell into a coma before she knew she was pregnant, and the medicines used to help her survive caused a placental abruption. The doctors feared a stillbirth so recommended an abortion, but Tim’s parents refused, and today they have a very unique, superstar-healthy son!

As a Christian mother who home schooled all seven of my kids, I was particularly interested to note that the Tebows home schooled all their children too. Among the many unusual honors Tim has received, Tim was the first home-schooled athlete to be nominated for the Heisman Trophy. He also managed to play the entire second half of a game with a broken fibula, which included one play where he rushed for a 29-yard touchdown! That year, he was named Florida’s Player of the Year! Tim Tebow has a string of athletic honors too long to list. To name a few, he is the only three-time recipient of the Gators’ most valuable player award. By the end of his college career, Tebow held 5 NCAA, 14 SEC, and 28 University of Florida statistical records!

Since then, he’s played five years of professional football, started a career in broadcasting, and is now pursuing a career in professional baseball. Even more astounding than his athletic prowess (at least, to me) is his unflinching faith in God and his incredible life of loving others for the sake of Christ through his Tebow Foundation. Tim seems to have unbounded energy for such ministries as visiting men in prisons and his “Night to Shine” program: “An unforgettable prom night experience, centered on God’s love, for people with special needs ages 14 and older.”

I could go on and on, but you get the picture! What’s not to love about someone with a heart of gold, a body of steel, and a will of iron to love Christ and make His love known by serving others?

At any rate, the book was a total “upper” for me from start to finish. If you need a lift or a little bit of inspiration to “reclaim your dream, ignite your passion, and live your purpose,” think about reading This is the Day!

Bits and Pieces of Wisdom from “Timmy” (which is what his family and close friends call him):

“YODO” You Only Die Once: Motto of Sarah, who was terminally ill and wheel-chair bound but somehow managed to go to the Night to Shine prom and dance on her own two feet before dying the next day!

Don’t just show up for the party; be present during the process.

God can take us from the bottom of the barrel to the top of the sky!

Ask God what he wants and be willing to dream God-sized dreams.

Don’t “numb out” on media all the time, or you’ll miss the real world and all the good God has in store for you.

It’s all in the process: Wake up, work hard, and get better!

Don’t let your past define you, but learn from it.

“Clear your mechanism:” Stop. Breathe. Pray. Focus on the present.

“Only a life lived for others is a life worth living” (quoting Albert Einstein).

Transcend the journey: Choose to believe in God and that God can make even our darkest days into light.

“Flip the Script:” Instead of thinking in terms of negative “what ifs,” turn them around into positives to move forward.

“Confidence is Key:” If you’re feeling disenfranchised, go back to the Well (God and his Word).

Remember your title: “Child of God.” He loves us! This can give us the confidence we need to reach out to others with the hope we have.

Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God; And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:22-24).

(*All photos found on-line via a google search, most from Wiki Commons or official photos of Tim Tebow.)

Have You Found the Joy in They Call Me Mom!?

Do you ever find yourself trying to conjure up a smile while your kids are screaming and some little old lady pats you on the hand, smiling sweetly and trying to encourage you with, “Enjoy them while they’re young. Just remember: These are the best days of your life!”? If so, then next time try reaching for They Call Me Mom and a cup of coffee rather than rummaging around in your medicine cabinet for something to get rid of your headache.

They Call Me Mom is a heart-lifting, laughter-inciting look into the lives and loves of two every day moms* who wrestle with the same world of dirty diapers and vomit-scented tees that every young mom faces daily, and they’ve collaborated together to share with you their worst experiences and their best tips on how to survive and—even thrive! (Well, least . . . sometimes! I mean, let’s be honest, we’re never perfect, and our days don’t always end well, even if we are livin’ the dream. Right?)

Thankfully, Michelle and Bethany are open about sharing the ups and downs that come with living the dream of marriage and motherhood. Personally, I remember the days when I’d pray my way through sleepless nights with sick babies and start the mornings feeling like an explorer lost in Africa, trying to chop a path through the jungle, machete in hand and a trail of seven little ones behind. Life is never easy!

Nothing on earth quite so special as home and family!

Bethany Jett is the wife of a military man who gets regularly deployed. She is often left to parent her brood of boys alone so has lots of empathy and insights for single moms. Michelle Medlock Adams has two grown daughters and is starting that magical age of being a grandparent, so she can conclude with pleasure that—although every day is really the stuff of “the best day” and should be lived with joy and pleasure— grandparenting is also a new season of “best days.” Personally, I resonate with this too; I truly keep enjoying my children and grandchildren more and more as they (we all) continue to grow!

They Call Me Mom: 52 Encouraging Devotionals for Every MOMent

So, if you’re a young mom, or love a young mom, consider looking into this delightful book. Each devotional addresses some aspect of mothering, such as being called “supersleuth, mean mommy, cheerleader, worrywort, overprotective, beautiful, embarrassing, rainbow recorder” . . . and 44 other names delineating our job descriptions as mothers. Each devotional gives vignettes from both women, healing thoughts from the scripture as to what our loving Heavenly Father has to say about us (and to us), and then concludes with a short section of helpful strategies for solving problems.

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 6:33).

(*Yes, the authors are “every day mothers,” but they are also both successful authors who know how to write a good book! 🙂 )

“Love Heals; Hate Hurts”

Two nights ago, Grand Rapids enjoyed the great privilege of being addressed by Martin Lowenberg, a ninety-one-year-old survivor of the Holocaust who has taken up the mantle of trying to be an agent for spreading love and peace. I arrived fifteen minutes early, which was way too late to actually be admitted into the overflowing hall. After winding slowly through the stop-and-go traffic (all of whom were looking everywhere for parking, just like me), I found my way to a nearby church lot. But alas, the venue was dangerously overcrowded and the leadership made the decision to turn away all remaining wanna-hearers.

However, I noticed that the hour and a half presentation was recorded and is available on the Kent District Library Face Book page (Lowenberg starts at about minute 8):

The powers that be are trying to find a time to bring him back to speak at a larger venue, but meanwhile, I wanted to simply report the heart of his message, particularly in light of the reactivity of at least one of my blog followers, who disagreed with the church sign I posted yesterday, encouraging people to “Just love everyone. I’ll sort “em out later. —God”

Of the 179 times the word “hate” is used in the Bible (KJV), the overwhelming preponderance has to do with people hating God or one another. There are about twenty times it mentions things that the Lord hates, such as wickedness (Psalm 45:7), evil (Psalm 97:10), pride, lying, murder, discord (Proverbs 6:16-19 lists seven sins the Lord hates), etc. I think Amos 5:15 sums it up: “Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate.” God clearly hates evil, and he also wants us to hate evil, love good, and establish justice. What are we doing to “establish justice”?

Certainly, justice isn’t established by hating people!! Hating evil is not the same thing as hating people. Jesus specifically commands us to love people, even those who are cruel and hurt us: “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

This is also the message of Martin Lowenberg, who is Jewish and suffered terribly—in five different concentration camps during World War 2. His message? Love others. Be kind, because love heals and hate hurts. Lowenberg’s life demonstrates the ability of the human spirit to overcome tragedy and be happy. In the Q&A afterward, he mentioned that we can all learn to be happy and understand that life doesn’t have to be serious and sad all the time.

On the other hand, this sweet, bent-with-age, very elderly gentleman is clearly not just resting at home! He’s on the road sharing his story, not for the sake of making people feel sorry for what he endured, or to make himself famous, but to help people learn that hatred hurts others. “We all want to live as long as we can in happiness and harmony with our families.” So, he advised those who asked for advice to “Be good people, help others, be with others, and show them what you would like to see . . . stand up against evil. It’s very difficult to speak against evil, but we need to do it all the time.”

Hebrews 1:9, “Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” God anoints those who love righteousness and hate evil with joy, and I think this is the message Martin Lowenberg was sharing . . . and demonstrating in his life.

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (53): What Are Your Favorite Earthly Treasures?

Jesus told us not to lay up treasures for ourselves on earth. This is excellent advice, and as I survey my life, I realize how badly I’ve failed in this area! I’m surrounded by such abundance that my closets and drawers are stuffed. What is wrong with me? My lame excuse is what I call “Depression Consciousness” I wonder if it’s a diagnosis . . . I took too much to heart the training of my parents who lived through America’s Great Depression during the 1930’s (nearly a hundred years ago now!) and learned that every bit of scrap anything was worth keeping because it just might come in handy someday. However, that’s really no excuse for hoarding more than I need, which is in fact what I’ve done. I need to change my ways!

Many of you are probably neat as a pin and this is not your weakness, so hats off to you!! I grew up helping my spiritual mother (who was a millionaire) empty the last crumbs of bread from the wrapper onto her bird feeder (along with commercial bird feed). “Waste not, want not.” Good training, for sure, but some of us (like me) need to relax our grip on material possessions and unload our overabundance into the hands of charitable organizations whose mission is to help the poor (not just get rich on our donations; there is a difference, so I hope we’re all intentional about where we contribute our used clothing and no-longer-needed house wares). As a Christian, I like to contribute to organizations whose mission is to be the hands and feet of Jesus to a hurting world, but if you’re not a believer, you may have other priorities.

On an even deeper level, I’ve been exercised by meditating on this command to recognize that my favorite earthly treasures are actually not “things.” “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal” (Matthew 6:19). My favorite treasures are the people I love, and my guess is that—if you stop to think about it—this will be true for you also. So, what is Jesus trying to teach us about not laying up treasures in this context? Moth and rust may not cause the demise of the people we love (more likely illness), and it’s rare (although it does occur) that “thieves break through and steal” our loved ones.

Still, all earthly treasures, whether people or possessions, will not last on this earth, and I think this is the point. Jesus is warning us that what is physical is not eternal, and we should not set our hearts on that which is only ephemeral. Instead, God wants us to “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:2-3).

I’m sure this does not mean to withhold our love from those around us. The Bible from beginning to ending teaches us to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 37-40). So, Jesus doesn’t ask us “not to love” those around us, He tells us not to “set our affection” on them.

What does this mean to you? To me, it means I need to stopping hoarding material possessions and adding to my collections of “things.” (Yes, even tea cups!) I need to open my hands more completely to the needs of the poor and clean out my closets! AND—I need to hold my family and friends with open hands, recognizing that even my most precious possessions on earth are gifts God has granted me for time rather than eternity. I need with great soberness to acknowledge that only those fellow human beings who are reborn into spiritual life will go into eternity with me, which intensifies my desire to pray for others and shout out the good news of the gospel from the rooftop of my life! “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17).

Jesus Saves
(—Priscilla J. Owens, 1881, Public Domain)

“We have heard the joyful sound:
Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Spread the tidings all around:
Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Bear the news to every land,
Climb the mountains, cross the waves;
Onward! ’tis our Lord’s command;
Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

“Waft it on the rolling tide:
Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Tell to sinners far and wide:
Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Sing, you islands of the sea;
Echo back, you ocean caves;
Earth shall keep her jubilee:
Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

“Sing above the battle strife:
Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
By His death and endless life
Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Shout it brightly through the gloom,
When the heart for mercy craves;
Sing in triumph o’er the tomb:
Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

“Give the winds a mighty voice:
Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Let the nations now rejoice:
Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Shout salvation full and free;
Highest hills and deepest caves;
This our song of victory:
Jesus saves! Jesus saves!”

Matthew 6:19 “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal.”

Kathi’s “Dutch” (English) Chocolate Torte Cake

Have you ever had a piece of an Arnie’s “Dutch chocolate torte” cake? Until we moved to Grand Rapids, I always wanted a Mardi Gras cake for my birthday, but after discovering one of Grand Rapid’s best culinary achievements, I began looking for excuses to buy Arnie’s Dutch Chocolate Tortes. They are “the best,” and they’re hard to beat for a birthday party or special occasion, because Arnie’s Bakery also has masterful cake decorators, but if you don’t mind your cake looking less than perfect, I’ve developed a cake that at least competes in texture and flavor, and that’s what really counts, right?—especially if you can save $25 in the process! 🙂

Kathi’s English Chocolate Torte
Serves 12- 18 (very rich!)
(Okay, so maybe it should be “Dutch,” but I’m not Dutch.
“If you’re not Dutch, you’re not much!”
?? 😦 Well . . . I won’t go there . . .)

Bake your favorite chocolate cake. I used a Betty Crocker Triple Chocolate Fudge cake, but make your own or use your favorite. (I find that Duncan Hines cakes are too soft, but home made or most store-bought mixes work fine.)

Use two pans, and after they are baked and cooled, cut each layer in half with a thread just when you are ready to frost.

Fluffy Butter Cream Frosting

Butter cream Filling:
2 pounds plus three cups powdered sugar
1 cup softened butter
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt

Frost cake completely: each layer, the top and sides, and chill in the refrigerator until firm (several hours or overnight).

Four-layer chocolate cake filled and frosted with white buttercream frosting

Then, entirely frost the top and sides with chocolate ganache. Here’s how:

Chocolate Ganache:

 1 cup heavy cream, heated until it just starts to boil, then turn off the heat and immediately add 16 oz. (two cups) dark chocolate chips.

Chocolate Ganache

Whisk until it’s totally smooth.

Cool to room temperature, and then carefully drip over the chilled cake, spreading the ganache and smoothing it from the top down as you go.

Kathi’s “English” Dutch Chocolate Torte Cake

Return your masterpiece to the refrigerator and chill until the ganache is also firm.

Take it out of the refrigerator just minutes before serving. It’s easiest to cut if it’s cool, but it tastes best if it’s room temperature, so find the “sweet spot” time wise (maybe 10-15 minutes; if you want to serve it straight out of the refrigerator, try microwaving a single piece for 10-15 seconds to make it just about “perfect!”).

Kathi’s Dutch Chocolate Torte served with whipped cream and caramel sauce

Praise ye the Lord. O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good:
for his mercy endureth for ever” (Psalm 106:1).