Happy Easter!

Today was Easter! It was busy and exhausting and beautiful. Beautiful because we celebrated our risen Lord. Beautiful because my son looked wonderful in his Easter bubble. Beautiful because my husband is just gorgeous. Beautiful because we gathered with family and ate fabulous food. It was exhausting because I have a one year old…and because… I don’t know about you but I try to cram an awful lot of personal details into every special occasion. I don’t think this is a bad thing. I’ve always been this way and I will likely continue to be this way. Last weekend, was also extremely busy and as I rushed about on Saturday night tending to details and making sure everything was ready and in place for an eventful Sunday, my husband looked at me from the couch and said. “I would not want to be you. It must be exhausting.” I didn’t know quite how to react but he was careful to explain that he noticed all my effort to make sure everything was “right” and he wouldn’t be able to do it. I was flattered, but I wondered if I was busying myself with the wrong focus. Last night, I found myself in the same whirlwind. Coordinating Easter outfits, packing more comfortable but still festive egg hunt outfits, preparing snacks and stuffing the diaper bag with entertainment hoping we would make it through Easter service, prepping the casserole so that it was ready to pop into the oven as we got ready for church, and, and, and… And then… we found ourselves in our seats at church this morning. The sanctuary was stuffed with worshippers. We were even almost on time! And as we sang about the cross and the payment and the blood and the atonement. As we raised our hands and thanked Him for the tomb and we lifted our voices in joy over His resurrection. In that moment, none of the details that made the “perfect” Easter Sunday took any sort of place in my heart. In that moment, there was only gratitude and acknowledgement of my Jesus and His great love for me. Me, the one lost in a sea of followers. He died for even one so small as me. And I just loved Him back in that moment. Asking for nothing and honoring the moment of unity with fellow believers as we praised the one true Prince of Peace. Happy Ressurection Day, y’all! I hope yours was lovely and filled with reminders of His great love for you.

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Now, about that casserole…
I told you there were two broccoli casseroles in the line up and I was going to have a broccoli bake off. Are we done with broccoli yet??? I couldn’t help but smile as I pulled out the little card that boasted the name “Annie Huett”. This isn’t Mamaw’s recipe but her mother’s, my great grandmama. What a treasure I possess! I prepped it all on Saturday night and Billy got up and put it in the oven for me Sunday morning allowing me to sleep a few extra minutes. (xoxoxo, Billy) I have to tell you… This one is truly delicious! I loved it. I tweaked it a bit and it was oh so good! I bought broccoli cuts instead of florets last time and this time I got the florets. That along with the cream of chicken soup made a huge difference! Here ya go… I brought this cheesy side dish to Sunday lunch with my in laws. I’m pretty sure only billy and my brother in law tried it… I’m not going to dwell on that, LOL… I tried it and had two helpings and I don’t even like broccoli. It’s good! Take my word for it.
The original: (yep. Broccoli is misspelled. Precious.)

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What I actually did…
Used standing mixer to combine:
2 lb package of frozen broccoli FLORETS
1 can cream of chicken soup (I hate mushrooms)
8 oz melted velveeta
2 tbsp onion flakes
3 eggs

Turn into baking dish, sprinkle generous amount of shredded cheddar on top, cover in crumbled ritz or townhouse crackers, bake at 350 for 35 minutes (I didn’t add the crackers until I reheated just before serving at lunch)

Oliver loves it!!! That makes my Mama heart so happy.

I wish I had an Easter story to tell about my grandparents today. The truth is imagethough, my dad pastored, as did they, so we were usually doing separate church things. Easter is all about what Jesus did for us though and they were all about spreading that gospel through their ministry in the Church of God. So, today seems fitting to share some of their ministry with you. I don’t know how denominations keep the records that they do but I have had the program from my grandparents’ retirement celebration tucked in my Bible for YEARS. On it are the “stats” from their 45 years of official ministry. They retired in 1993 but they continued to travel and share the gospel until their death in 2000. So these numbers aren’t accurate for their whole lives but show how dedicated they were to reach the lost. I keep this paper clipped to a page in Psalms. Though it may boast of numbers and facts and display their picture on the cover, they were not proud people. They humbly shared the love of Christ and were concerned with individuals, not popularity. They mostly pastored small churches. And so, it’s only fitting that their triumphs and accomplishments for Jesus reside next to Psalm 115:1

Not to us, oh Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.

This was their heart toward God. To win souls for eternity and to be a light shining His love and faithfulness to the lost and the broken. Pa’s ministry began in 1947. On October 26, 1947 Pa preached his very first sermon while on deployment in Japan (more on that later). From that day, until May 30, 1993, he won (on record) 1,733 souls to Christ. He baptized 819 believers. He also healed and delivered in Jesus’ name and boasted not of himself but of the power that was given to us all through the Son of God, Jesus Christ. So, as the day closes on another Easter celebration, I reflect on the life they lived for Him. I reflect on the life Jesus lived for us all. I thank Him for the cross and I acknowledge the sacrifice that made a way for us all! He is risen! Our Redeemer lives! Happy Easter, y’all!

Today, We Wait

It’s Saturday, that day between Jesus death and His resurrection. How must His followers have felt on this day? It’s the day after tragedy and the day before redemption, before restoration, and before new beginnings. We know Jesus cried out from the cross those three lovely words: “It is finished.” To His followers though, after having left him in a tomb, did it feel finished? I’m no Bible scholar, but I can’t imagine their pain or grief or fear felt finished. Have you ever been in a waiting zone? A holding pattern? You remember the promise, but less and less with each passing moment. Despair washes over you and seems to take away your breath. Hopelessness blinds you from seeing provision. Your faith in the promise becomes blurred by the reality of your situation. Fear overrides any hope for the future. I’ve seen my share of Saturdays. That day after disappointment and before restoration. Have you?

On this day, over 2000 years ago, for the ones who loved Him, there was sadness, there was weeping, there was mourning, and there was pain. All hope seemed lost. Understanding hadn’t yet been revealed. What remained… Was love.

I believe it was Mary’s love for Him that allowed her to see Him resurrected first. She sought to love, serve, and obey rather than to understand. She, along with other women, stayed beside Him until the end. Most of the disciples had fled, but they remained. After resting in obedience on the Sabbath, in her sorrow, she went to where His body was laid bringing spices she had prepared. And poor Mary felt so much hopelessness when she found the empty tomb, it blinded her to the radiant truth standing in front of her. Jesus! What joy she found when his voice called to her beyond her tears of despair! What must His followers have realized upon seeing Him alive and whole? Redemption Was realized! Their sadness was traded for triumph. Their weeping was traded for joy. Their mourning was given gladness. Their pain, was washed away. Their fear was cast out by perfect love.

Perhaps you have found yourself watching the sun set at the end of a dreadful Saturday. So… we wait. For with the sun’s setting comes the promise of its’ rise. Today, there may be tears and feelings of hopelessness… But hope does remain. Hope remains, for our hope is in the One who conquered death and the grave. Hope remains for our hope is in the One who made the promise. So, today we rest. We rest in obedience knowing that it is all His to redeem. We rest in the knowledge that we are His and He is ours. My Redeemer/your Redeemer will do what He promised! He is risen, and His resurrecting power is at work in the midst of our circumstance!

Such a comfort…

I’ve said this before and I’m repeating it here. I did not start this challenge to copy off of the movie Julie and Julia. I am inspired by it though. And Tuesday night, as I chopped broccoli in my kitchen (made quiet by the fact that The Bear was sleeping soundly in the carrier on my back) one of the scenes from the movie played in my mind. The heroine has a very stressful job and one night while making chocolate cream pie she says:

“You know what I love about cooking? I love that after a day when nothing is sure, and when I say “nothing” I mean nothing, you can come home and absolutely know that if you add egg yolks to chocolate, sugar, and milk it will get thick. It’s such a comfort.”

I had a moment like that on Tuesday. I’ve never been a good enough cook to know with certainty about how something will turn out. But Mamaw’s recipes have always been a comfort. Last week was an unsettling one for us. Life is funny in the way that you can never count on it to stay the same but you can always count on it to ebb and flow with both joys and sorrows. It is rarely certain and ever changing. I stood in the kitchen and let the swirl of events engulf me for a moment and then Julie’s words ran through my mind. I’ve never counted on chocolate cream pie like she did. But I do count on these recipes. At that moment, as the world’s uncertainties raged around me, I was standing staring at her perfectly typed words from so many years ago. They hadn’t changed a bit. It’s such a comfort to know that I can flit about my kitchen gathering ingredients and mixing in bowls the very flavors that she did all those years ago. I remember her dresses fluttering and her tall figure peeking in the oven and gazing out the window over the sink. She had a perfect view of the street and the home where she grew up. I wonder what thoughts filled her mind. The grandmother of my childhood, the mother who cared for her sons, the wife who loved her husband and her congregation through kitchen concoctions.
image I love that when nothing is sure, and when I say “nothing” I mean nothing… I can open a green box and pull out a slip of aged paper and remember her perfectly in my mind’s eye. And THAT is such a comfort! I remember watching her in her little kitchen on the farm. I would sit on the bar stool while she did this and that. Sometimes she was joyful. Sometimes she was wrapped in my grandfather’s arms. Sometimes she was quietly contemplative. Sometimes, there was worry in her eyes. Sometimes… She was crying… Like after her fathers funeral in her pretty black suit. I wonder if she found comfort in the assurance of recipes tried and true. And for a moment, I feel connected and safe and quiet as I mix and measure and remember.

Anyway… About that recipe… We are still in the B’s which apparently means a whole lot of broccoli. This week I made her broccoli salad… Sort of. I’ll be honest. I was not a fan of this dish. Pretty sure it was just me… Unless Billy and Tia are lying, they seemed to genuinely like it. I’m not a huge fan of broccoli anymore… Unless it’s covered in cheese… It was one of my pregnancy food aversions and I haven’t really gotten over that I guess. Those foods are still low on my list. I can eat them but I don’t enjoy them any longer. Oh well… So, that may be the issue for me here but at any rate… I am staying steady. When I embarked on this challenge, I said I would make it all from A to Z. The delicious and the questionable. I am staying true to the course!

So, here ya go all you broccoli lovers out there:

Mamaw’s Broccoli Salad
-One large broccoli bunch cut into small pieces
-1 cup white raisins
-1 lb bacon, fried crispy
-3 chopped green onions
Mix separately:
-1 cup mayo
-1 tbsp vinegar
1/8 cup sugar
Combine and toss together

Here is the version I made based on what I had on hand. I decided Mamaw would appreciate my frugality.

– 1 large broccoli bunch cut into small pieces
– 1 cup dried cranberries
– 1/2 package of bacon, fried crispy
Mix separately:
– 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
– 1 tbsp vinegar
– 1/8 cup sugar
Combine and toss together

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I served alongside lemon chicken and spinach soup at supper time and with sandwiches the next day. It was made better by the fact that we enjoyed our meal on our peaceful back patio. Spring has arrived and it is my favorite!!

The Ultimate Matchmaker… And Carrot Cake

We are in the B’s still in the recipe box but Mamaw had written a recipe for carrot cake on the back of the recipe for broccoli casserole. I’m happy to go with that! Carrot Cake! Yum!

So, I set out to bake the cake during bath time last night since Billy was home and on bath duty and that meant I had a solid amount of time to mix and measure and grate without interruption. This challenge means a lot to me. It really does. I so badly want to sift through the memories and the stories and get them immortalized for our family. It’s harder than I expected it to be but it’s so very worth it. I was very tired last night due to the fact that Billy has been out of town for work, but I don’t want to make any excuses in this journey, so I got to work anyway. I actually did have a decent excuse though in that, about an hour before bath time I managed to injure two of my fingers while pitting an avocado. Hurt so bad!!! But I was determined. Hosting a baby shower on Saturday left me with leftover food: apple crisp, fruit, hummus, and lots of baby carrots. Instead of running to the store, I thought it wouldn’t be that bad to just grate those little carrots for the cake… Nope. I was wrong. Do not do this. The recipe calls for three cups of shredded carrots. Grating baby carrots is ridiculous. RIDICULOUS. I also realized while gathering my ingredients that I didn’t have enough self rising flour. So, I called my lovely sister in law Joanna. She’s the baker in the family. I knew she would know how to make do with all purpose and baking powder. I just had one question but we managed to chat for more than a half hour. We’re good at that. We chatted about chicken coops and missing each other and using family recipes. We laughed at how we both have all these recipes from our grandmothers but how many of them were written in some kind of code that only they could decipher. While we talked, I grated… And grated and grated and grated those stupid little carrots. I could have sworn they were mocking me with their refusal to cooperate. I grated for nearly our entire conversation and I finally did what I feared I might do… I hit knuckle. That’s right. I grated my stupid knuckle. I now have two band aids on my left hand and one on my right. “That’s it! I’m done”. I measured the fruit… or the carrot of my labor and after all that time I didn’t even have a cup’s worth and somehow while getting the carrots into the measuring cup I managed to fling (with force) the tiny, wet, bright orange flakes ALL OVER my sparkling clean kitchen. And then, I really was done! I called it a night after cleaning up my mess.

I decided to head to the grocery store today for real carrots and self rising flour, and try again. Oliver joined me this time and took a nice nap while I worked. imageMy second attempt at this recipe was a huge success! SO good! Joanna recommended the Pioneer Woman’s cream cheese frosting recipe. I couldn’t even wait for the cake to cool before digging out a slice and slathering it with sweet, creamy, dreamy goodness. I can’t even… I’ve typed it all out for you and linked the wonderful Pioneer Woman at the bottom of this post. But first, a memory.

A few days ago I wrote about learning to be vulnerable in my relationships. I also want to be purposeful in showing others (especially my husband) how I feel about them. I wanted to welcome Billy home with a freshly baked goodie last night. Oh well…he did get a kiss… Does that count? He got cake tonight instead! That lead me down the path to Mamaw and Pa’s love story. Mamaw used to tell me a lot of stories. She talked about growing up on the farm and school days and pastoring. Her favorite stories to tell were the ones involving her sweetheart, my Pa. They must have been her favorite because she loved to repeat them and I loved to hear them! So, today I’ll tell you the (short version) to the beginning of their love story.

Mamaw attended a Church of God church growing up with her parents and her 2 brothers, my Uncle Willy and my Uncle Jimmy. She told me some stories about that too… Like the fact that the whole family was “turned out” of the church… Mamaw was turned out TWICE! This meant that their membership was revoked but could be earned back after a year of faithful attendance and Godly behavior. And yet they continued to be faithful church goers, even church planters for the rest of their lives. That blows me away. We are so very easily offended at the church these days. We are quick to leave not only the church but the faith, when the smallest thing doesn’t suit our fancy. But they remained loyal and humble. The best part of this story though is what they were in trouble for! The family’s offense? They attended a community picnic. That was too worldly of an event for God fearing Christians. Mamaw’s second offense? She was caught in her uncle’s grocery store not wearing hose… At 12 years old! Can you imagine?? Well, apparently, this correction didn’t shake her in the least because church is exactly where Annie Lucile Huett met Lindsey Charles Croft. It was a tent revival in Wildwood actually. They met during the altar call. It use to be standard, even while I was growing up, to have an altar call at the end of every service. Sometimes, for specific prayers like salvation or healing or the “Holy Ghost”. Sometimes it was just in general. Well… Lindsey answered a call that night and Lucile went down to pray for him. Pa would tell that story when he was a traveling preacher. “We met the night I went down for prayer. She prayed for me to receive the Holy Ghost and she’s been praying for me ever since.” And it was true. She prayed for him all the time but specifically in church. Whether they were visiting a church to minister or at their home church, before every message my grandfather preached, instead of praying for the message himself, he asked his sweetheart to stand and pray for him. My eyes are welling up just remembering. It was completely precious and completely powerful to see her boldly approach the throne of grace on his behalf and call upon the Lord to do a mighty work through her husband and to let all in attendance be changed and have an encounter with the God of creation. Her voice would rise up in such strength and confidence as she called out to the Lord on behalf of us all but especially for him, her husband.

I’m so grateful for the altar that provided a meeting place for them. I love that they were set up by the ultimate matchmaker. What a legacy that began as he cried out for more of Jesus that night. I love that God designed things that way.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matt 6:33

He didn’t bow before the Father that night asking for earthly things. He wasn’t asking for a wife or a family or a future. He went to that altar asking for more of God’s presence and power in his life, and all the other stuff was added to him. I love this reminder that God is faithful to keep His Word concerning us.

Carrot Cake

4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3 c shredded carrot
1 1/2 c vegetable oil
2 c self rising flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 c sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 c walnuts

-Beat eggs
-add sugar, oil, and vanilla
-sift and add cinnamon and 1 cup flour
-mix well
-add carrots
-sift and add salt and remaining flour
-add walnuts
-mix well
-pour in baking dish, bake at 350 for 1 hour

Frosting

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ree-drummond/sigrids-carrot-cake-recipe.html

A Love Like Theirs

Joey Feek died today at 2:30. While I was gathering my son’s belongings and cleaning up the classroom I use to teach ASL. While I was laughing with some teenagers and picking Cheerios up off the floor… A family said goodbye and Joey’s faith became sight as she was ushered into heaven. It’s been a really busy day for me. I didn’t realize she had passed until around 6:30… In the Walmart parking lot. I blinked away tears and set my mind to the task ahead of me when I caught a glimpse of it in my newsfeed. I pushed past my emotions and chatted with Oliver and gave him a snack as we went inside to one of my least favorite places on earth. It all hit me on the way home though.

By my writing, it would probably appear that I’m a super gushy person. I do consider myself to be a loving person. I try to show kindness. I attempt to show affection. The truth is, I feel everything… Excruciatingly deep. However, I show only a tiny portion of what I’m feeling. I’m more open in writing than I ever am in person. Partly, because I must have time to process things and face to face doesn’t allow for that. And partly because, I have guarded my outward emotions with an impossible fortress. I tear up constantly… I RARELY shed said tears… Unless I’m pregnant… I stifle cries at all costs because the truth is, if I’m alone, once the flood gates are open, it can last for days. The other truth is, crying to or with someone is a level of vulnerability and intimacy that I’m just not comfortable with. It’s a rare day that I even cry in front of my husband and if I do, I keep the tears away from his shoulders and instead I just busy myself.

I’ve asked myself why this is a hundred times. I think I’ve come up with some answers. Here’s a little back story for you. When I was 10, my perfect world crumbled a bit. My parents, ministers, got divorced. We moved several states away from my dad and lived with my mom. I’m not going into specifics but during this time, everyone was crying. Like, A LOT of crying. It made me feel insecure and like the world had fallen off its axis. I certainly don’t blame them for crying. But it was hard to process it all. I cried too but then there were 2 defining moments (that I won’t go into) where I distinctly remember putting a shield around myself. Everything was out of control. But I was not. I taught myself to remain stoic and strong and firm… Especially in emotional chaos. Then, since I’m being vulnerable… When I was 19, my not so perfect world was shattered when my grandparents were murdered. They were the ones I often bore my heart and soul to. My human safety net was yanked away and I was left raw and broken and bleeding. Now, there is one place and one place only where I feel the freedom to release pent up tears. That’s with Jesus. In worship, I can fall apart and know I will be held together. And if I’m talking with a girlfriend about Jesus… I usually get real in those moments also.

There have been other moments too where I’ve thickened the walls on my vulnerability. Moments in my marriage even. Again… Not going there on here except to say, my fear of rejection mixed with lack of self confidence mixed with my intense need to plan and control details has robbed me of what could have been incredibly precious moments. I married a man who loves grand gestures and romantic notions. I, however, usually can’t get passed my need to control things so I can really enjoy or capture those moments. I could give so many examples…

Here’s a really good one… It’s called “Lady”. My husband (who doesn’t sing) sang to me at our wedding. It was a complete surprise. I had meticulously planned every detail of the day and right when our friend Chad Smith was “supposed to” sing my favorite Kieth Urban song… The one that was on the program I had written… Billy grabbed a microphone and Aaron Unthank headed to the piano. My head spun. My heart pounded. “What’s happening? What’s happening? Why is he messing with the plan?” And with both fear and love in his eyes, he began… “Lady…” It’s a moment no one who attended our wedding will forget. The room burst into laughter at my reaction. It was funny… I honestly thought he was joking… But it was so heartfelt. And I missed it. I totally missed it. I missed the words. I missed the sentiment. I missed an opportunity to give Billy his own moment to express his own emotions. Why? Because it wasn’t my plan. Because what will people think? Because he should know me better than this. Because I’m not good at being looked at by a church full of people while gazing lovingly into Billy’s eyes. That requires vulnerability. That requires honesty. That requires intimacy. That was the first of many opportunities missed.

It’s not just him. It’s family. It’s friends. I have SO much love I want to get out. But I so often hold back, because what will they think? What will that look like? What will I sound like? What if they don’t love me back?

And then came Joey and Rory. I was talking to Wendella on the phone sometime around Thanksgiving. She mentioned them and I said “Who?”. I looked them up and started to follow. Turns out, I knew their music but didn’t know their names. Then, one night after a long day of me being super petty and a little bit mean and Billy being… super grumpy and a little mean also, their story crossed my mind and I literally stayed up the entire night reading Rory’s blog. I was blasted with the feeling that I do not want to waste one more minute being petty or mean or holding back or demanding perfection. Without a doubt, I love him as much as they love each other but my ability to convey that love is malfunctioned. The love they have for each other reminds me of the love my grandparents had for each other. Believing in the other and choosing to always see the good. Kissing in the kitchen and praying for each other out in the open. Boasting and proudly displaying the affection they share. It’s the kind of love I always said I would fight for. It’s the kind of love my husband and I are capable of… It’s the kind of love that I’ve not given myself over to completely. And so, around 5:00 am I was compelled, with tears flooding down my face to wake my husband out of his sleep and tell him I was sorry and that I love him. It took me 10 minutes to work up the nerve. I did not get the reaction I was hoping for. Billy does not like to be shaken awake at 5:00 am… But I finally realized that my need to express affection cannot be reliant on the reaction of the loved. I have held back long enough. And I’ve tried to be more open and less fearful since that moment. I have a really long way to go.

And so tonight, as I sat in my driveway in the dark. I didn’t swallow that familiar lump in my throat. And I did not stifle the tears. I sat and gave Joey the good cry she deserves. I gave her the good cry that she gave me the courage to express. I cried for the world’s loss and rejoiced for heaven’s spectacular gain. She was a beautiful person. She is a wonderful soul. I didn’t get to meet her here but I believe I’ll get to meet her in heaven. And that will be better anyway! I won’t walk away from that meeting carrying my own insecurities. We will meet spirit to spirit. Nothing hidden. Nothing lacking. I’m happy to wait. And I’m happy they have opened their lives to us. What a lovely love story.

I encourage you to pray for Rory as he raises that sweet baby girl and pray for God’s love and peace to sustain him.