Thursday, April 30, 2009

Birthday "Cake"

So Ransomed Grace's birthday is this weekend, and the Firecracker Princess caught me off guard Tuesday morning. We were sitting at the table having breakfast, and she asked me who the gift bag sitting next to me was for. I told her it was for RG, because her birthday was coming up. Her eyes lit up and she said, "Oh mommy, what kind of cake are you going to make for her?". Um, gulp. Weeeeellll, I hadn't really thought about it. Firstly, I've only known RG for a month. Secondly, she is a FANTASTIC cook, and it's sort of intimidating to cook for someone whose every dish gets highest praise. Thirdly, well, I just dropped the ball. My daughter didn't, though, and I'm so grateful.

After the FP asked what she'd like, I told her we'd send her an email and ask. RG responded pretty quickly, and we ran to the store to get the things to make a dark chocolate New York style cheesecake. We came home and got our aprons on (though the CCM doesn't have one yet, so he just made a CRAZY mess of his shirt). I got everything out grabbed the camera, and we documented our journey to make a little book for RG.

Here are the pictures, and the text of the book we made:

Kids and Cake:
How it all comes together

Made with love by the Firecracker Princess
and the Chubby Cheeked Monster
(and we guess mom helped, too)
Special thanks to the Joyful Babe for sleeping during the making of this project.

Hi Ransomed Grace! We're so excited to make your birthday cheesecake; my brother couldn't keep his hands off of the chocolate. We wanted to show you how we did it!

Here's mom in her apron. Didn't I do a good job taking her picture? She says it's the only time you'll probably ever see her without makeup.

CCM's laughing because he knows a) mom still has her eyebrows drawn on and
b) there will be batter for obedient children to enjoy. Yay!

Momma and I in our aprons. Mine is red because it's my favorite color (ElleBee made it for me, along with my chef hat). CCM wanted to take pictures, but I wanted to get started on the cheesecake!

Here's our recipe. Mom had to read it, but we guess she put in the right stuff.

She makes us line up all the ingredients before we start, something about trying to make a carrot cake without carrots once. Silly mom.

A new pan, mom says that thing on the side is a "hinge". We picked green because it's the CCM's favorite color.

We washed our hands (with soap). Momma said you might not like the taste of 2- and 4-year-old fingers in your cake. Or 29-year-old fingers; she washed her hands too!

Mom pressed the crust into the pan while we ate the extra crumbs. Cookies with melted butter, yum!

We use only the finest ingredients, and our QA department is second to none. This cream cheese passes muster. Does yours, CCM?

Hmm, I think I'll need to try another sample. Yes, yes, I think this will do quite nicely. You may proceed.

We let mom put it into the oven because it's hot in there. We wanted to grab some spoons and dig in, but she said it's a surprise for you.

What's up with these dirty dishes? It's a good thing I'm a kid and can't wash them. Daddy will clean them right up when he gets home. Baking is a family affair in our household. Yay daddy!

Can I give you a birthday hug? No? Aww, man!

What about a birthday kiss, then? My sister already went to get cleaned up, but I'm happy to fill in for her!

OK, here it is with the toppping on. We hope that you enjoyed seeing us bake your cake, and we hope that it's tasty. Thanks for being so wonderful to our mom, she loves you a lot. Happy birthday!

We had so much fun with this little project, and even I have to admit that the cheesecake was tasty (RG and I cut into it RIGHT away when I got there yesterday). We love you, Ransomed Grace!

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Sigh. I told you all a little while ago that Ransomed Grace asked me to do a piece on the things for which I bear shame. While I'll spare you most of them, there was one that was really hard for me, and these four things all seem to flow into one another. I can't remember a time when I felt anything other than fat, ugly, unwanted, and unloveable. I know, I know. But really, I know I'm not the only one who feels that way, it's just hard to say aloud.

Anyhow, that's totally not the point. God has sent the hounds of heaven after me on this one. I told a few people that are precious to me about feeling this way (Ransomed Grace, Prisoner of Hope, Ginger, and my Elijah House small group, and of course the Music Man), and He will not let it go. Just today I had four people stop me and tell me how lovely/radiant/beautiful I looked. OK, weird. It's like some big conspiracy of grace. But what I realized is this:

Most of the time, upon hearing God's truth, I find myself saying, "Yes, but..." instead of "Yes, Lord".

That is all.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


I was talking with Prisoner of Hope the other night, and she said something so quietly profound to me. I told her about how I've been begging God to just break me down, that my heart has no other cry these days. He has been so amazing in this process so far, exposing me to yet protecting me from so much. Anyhow, so PH said, "
When we ask to be broken, it's then that we want God's heart and His face more than we want His hand". So true. I just want His face, His heart, His presence.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

From a Mountain to Ebenezer Stones

God's faithfulness never ceases to amaze me, never.

Ransomed Grace asked me to work on an assignment a couple of weeks ago meditating on Deut. 1:6, then asking God what mountain I need to move on from.

He spoke very clearly when He told me that it's a mountain of hatred. He told me to take His hand, and that soon enough I'd forget that terrifying first step from the summit. He told me what I was afraid of; being left alone, the fear of man and of circumstance.

I heard Him and wanted to believe, but told Him right back that I was afraid that if I tore down this self-made mountain, I'd have nothing to remind me of my childhood. That it was my life's work. That I'd lose my identity, and that I didn't know how to be successful at anything else.

Well. So, being God and all, He tells me that He wants to tear that puppy down and resurrect Ebenezer stones in its place. I didn't really understand how, since I didn't have any particular memories of Him in my life before I was a believer, but today I got my first one.

I went to Catholic high school, and had a four-day, three-night retreat my senior year called Kairos (sacred time). I found some of the materials we had from it, and each talk included "take aways" and one or two songs. Looking through most of the songs, they were standard Top 40 fare, but there were two that struck me. One is "On My Knees", a Nicole C . Mullen song that I just adore. The second is "Love Song for a Savior", which I posted a YouTube link to on this very blog some months ago.

Prisoner of Hope prophesied over me the other night, and the verses below seemed so very appropriate. Gotta love a three-strand cord. I know, and more than I know, I believe, that God conspires to do good to and for those who love Him.

Thank you, Lord. For your goodness, your faithfulness to me. I'm so thankful that not only are You for me now, You were for me then. You're so faithful that you'd give me a stone before I did my part to tear down my mountain. Now I feel safe enough to start, knowing that You will replace my broken fortress with a foundation of sapphires. Thank You.

Isaiah 54:11-12 (The Message)
Afflicted city, storm-battered, unpitied:
I'm about to rebuild you with stones of turquoise,
Lay your foundations with sapphires,
construct your towers with rubies,
Your gates with jewels,
and all your walls with precious stones.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Power of the Tongue, The Power of the Cross

Prov 18:21 says, "The power of death and life is in the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit".

Lately I've been discovering how true this is. My nasty words to my precious friend killed something, something in her and something in our relationship. However, our reconciliation brought new life to our relationship and started to heal some long-wounded places in both our hearts, thanks be to God.

After she and I had reconciled, a non-believer said something really unkind about me in the reconciled friend's presence. I am so, so thankful that the Lord had convicted me about my words with a believing friend before this happened, because I would have straight up eviscerated this girl (we'll call her Tracy). So did I screw up with Tracy like I did RF (reconciled friend)? Happy to say that I didn't. Instead, I paused and threw up a desperate prayer, finding out later that RF was praying in the corner because she heard what Tracy said to me. You gotta love that faithfulness on her part. I responded kindly for once, and asked Tracy's forgiveness for inciting her to anger.

The cross was there to bring RF and I back together. It would not have been there for Tracy and I, as opposed as she is to the things of God. I'm still totally sick that I messed up so badly with RF, but it's so incredible to watch God make beauty of my mess. And if He can do that in these small things, who am I to believe that He won't do it in the big hurts of my life? The things I don't like to think about, much less talk about.

God is starting to deal with my heart toward people in my family, and it is hard. I don't like this work. I'm thankful that I have Jesus with skin on in Ransomed Grace to walk me though it, because otherwise I wouldn't be bold enough to start. Y'all, I'm scared. I'm afraid of this pain, of the shame, of the possible rejection on all sides. But He who began this good work in me will bring it to completion, in that I trust. I just wish it were faster! :)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


So there's this quality of God that is so wonderful to me, that "He is" (hence the tattoo). He's constant. He can't help but be who He is because, well, that's His nature. He is good, so good. So holy, so amazing, so wonderful (thank you, Ransomed Grace, for this homework. It's speaking for me right now). :)

But me? I'm not so constant. In fact, the sails of my little emotional ship have been all over the place today. Ransomed Grace and I have actually touched on this a bit, this whole being emotion-led thing. Allow me to illustrate.

Sunday, I was talking to someone after church. This person loves me. We haven't known each other for a super long time, but we're in relationship, and it's good. She and I chatted for a few minutes, she was hanging out with one of my babes for a bit, just general goodness. Right? I'm working on a project and needed some feedback, so I asked said friend about it. She got back to me, and I was glad to see that, but the response felt a bit brusque. Well thought out, but not generally as warm a response as I'd get from her. So what did I allow to happen to my emotional state?

Well, it's not as though I was angry, and I wasn't sad. But I did start to think about what happened both Sunday and yesterday and wonder if there was something that I said or did that made her feel like I was being pushy, or if maybe I had misread something and she only SORTA loved me, like it would change with whichever way the wind blew.

Tonight as I was getting ready to have my quiet time, I reread the message I got from her earlier. And thereit was, right at the end. The little affirmation that I had been missing, the one that told me I was still loved. It was before my eyes all the time, I just didn't see it for whatever reason.

Besides being humbled and realizing just how much I had let this affect my little heart all afternoon, I figured this out. She had been loving me all day. Nothing happened between yesterday and today that changed her heart toward me. While I was being blown about by the winds, she was constant.

It's a good lesson, yes? A lesson about building my house upon the Rock. A lesson about the character of God, and therefore the character of people who love God and seek to be transformed into the image of Christ.

Whose love don't I trust, then? That of the Great I Am? Hers? Mine? All of the above? I'll let you know once I figure it out.

Monday, April 20, 2009

New Furniture!

We have needed (desperately) a new sofa and chair for some time. The ones we had were 7-15 years old (handed down in practically new condition from in-laws). Well, with three kids and a slightly-lazy-about-food-in-the-living-room mom, they got bad fast. Plus, our living room is a weird shape, and a full-sized sofa is just too big for the room. So we donated the sofa, moved the chair into the Princess' room until I can recover it for her, and went to World Market. Do you have them around you? I love that place. They had a 25% off coupon for furniture, so I was able to get a $700 sleeper loveseat for $450 (it was already $100 off). We figured a full-size sleeper was a good option since we've run out of bedrooms for guests!

We also bought this chair:

We'd like to get a small chair to add a bit more seating, since the chaise and the sofa are all for the main seating. We're also thinking of ditching the coffee table and getting some padded ottomans for add'l seating when needed. Any thoughts on this? I really love a touch of leather in a living room.

I'm excited, we were able to take it all home in my in-laws Jeep and avoid the whole $200 delivery thing and get it set up immediately. Love!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Forgiven and Free

This song is an amazing reminder of the thing I tend to forget most. In doing all this hard emotional work, I often forget my joy, forget my inheritance as His child. And frankly, it's more than sad, it's sinful. Rather than getting all morose about my own sinfulness yet AGAIN, let's just take a moment to recognize how GOOD He is. Forgiven and Loved might help (and sorry for the graphic picture, don't know why it starts since that's near the end of the song). Happy Friday!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Break Me Down

Sensitive. Have you ever been called the "sensitive" one? In our culture, it has such a negative connotation. I remember being told that I was too sensitive from early on. And the truth of the matter was that I was, and still am. I have a really precious friend, Prisoner of Hope, who is this way too and, because I don't want her to connote her heart with something so negative, I've taken to calling her "tender". And I think this is really a better descriptor.

These days, my heart is feeling really tender, too. I wake up exhausted emotionally, spiritually, and physically. The cry of my heart has been the lyrics of the Tenth Avenue North song, "Break Me Down". For so many years I've hardened and protected this heart from the barrage of heartache in the world. Now, years of building tidal waves seem to be crashing over me, and I'm just trying to hang on. I know that after a while things will get easier, especially as I allow the balm of Gilead to pour into these cracked places. But for now, it hurts. I want to be the sort of woman that runs to the Lord when things get hard, but this feels like it's a long process of hurt and surrender for me.

Tonight I meet with Ransomed Grace, and while I'm excited, I'm anticipating hard work and perhaps tears. I don't cry in front of people much, and especially virtual strangers (though this stranger already loves me, I remind myself). Without further ado, here's my anthem

Break Me Down by Tenth Avenue North

Yeah, I feel You fallin'
Like the rain against my skin
And I hear You calling
Your voice like thunder in my head
But now I am stallin'
Cuz I'm afraid to let you in
Yeah, come break me down with Your mercy
Come break me down again

I'm Yours tonight
I'm Yours, You can break me down
Break through these walls I hide behind
I'm Yours tonight
Come and break me down
Won't You break me

(Won't You break me down, breaking me down)

I feel it inside me
I feel You underneath my skin
These walls could not hide me
They could not keep You from coming in
So now here You find me
Right back to where I began
Oh, come break me down with Your mercy
Come break me down again

I'm Yours tonight
I'm Yours. You can break me down
Break through these walls I hide behind
I'm Yours tonight
Come and break me down
Won't You break me down

(break me down, oh oh, come and break me down)

Cuz I need your strength to feel this weak
I need your touch to fill my need
I need your strong hands to carry me
Take me, break me, set me free

Cuz I need your strength to feel this weak
I need your touch to fill my need
I need your strong hands to carry me
Take me, bring me to my knees

I'm Yours tonight
I'm Yours. You can break me down
Break through these walls I hide behind
I'm Yours tonight
Come and break me down
Come and break me down
Come and break me down
Yeah, won't You break me down

Monday, April 13, 2009

Over and Underneath

Do you own this Tenth Avenue North album? Because if you don't, you need to buy it, like pronto.

These guys seem to have a real anointing, an ability to speak for the Lord both gently and profoundly. They speak words that are a balm to a ragged spirit.

Last week was deeply painful for me. First there was the whole issue with my friend, then I met with Ransomed Grace and got some really difficult assignments. One question she asked has me twisting inside, but I know that I know that I know that God told me to do whatever she asked of me. The assignment was to write about experiences for which I bear shame (and a different question of the things for which I have regret, but that's much easier). It's really, really hard to read aloud the things for which I bear shame, but I'm sure I'll do it on Wednesday. My friend John's sister is dying and is desperately far from the Lord, and it breaks my heart to watch him ache for her. She literally may not make it through the day. And of course yesterday was Easter, the holiday which I think is most painful. Not only does it bring to bear just how much God loves us, but also just how profoundly I have failed Him.

But how could I be depressed when I hear this song, I ask you? It's such a sweet reminder of what He believes of me!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Africa, Russia, and the Mouse

When the Music Man and I learned how much our tax refund would be this year, we hemmed and hawed over what to do. First we decided to go to Disney World again. Then we decided to not go and get the house painted. Then we decided NOT to and rescheduled the WDW trip. THEN I felt like the money wasn't for us and that we were to obey whatever the Lord told us to do with it. The SAME DAY that I told the Music Man I felt that way, he took the kids to small group (I skipped because I was reconciling with my friend. As an aside, my friend John says, that in reconciliation we have to be willing to go anywhere, at any time, to meet anyone for any reason for the cause of reconciliation. I hated to miss group, but reconciling was more important, and God really blessed that time).

Anyhow, so we have a friend in our small group who is taking a 12-week mission trip to Africa, and had half her money raised. He felt burdened to give her the rest from our tax refund and called to ask what I thought. I said if he felt that's what we needed to do, to go for it. It was bittersweet. I was overjoyed to be used for Kingdom purposes, but I really wanted to take the kids to Disney World. Selfish much?

Anyhow, so we surrendered the dream and canceled the trip. I felt like we were supposed to give another chunk of money to some missionaries who are setting up house in this country again after some time. They're not well known by us, but precious nonetheless (you know how God likes to do that, right? Knit hearts together in big crazy tangles you could never unravel even if you tried? That's what He's done here).

And do you know what God did? He let us find a way to take the trip. We shortened the days, we switched things around, but we're still going. And do you know what the MM said to me? He said that he felt like the money was used in a much better way now that we got to bless some people with it, and he's thrilled that the Lord would bless us with a trip. How wonderful all around, I'm just so thankful.

Happy Easter!

The Broken Road

I blogged on Thursday about how I was going to spend some time reconciling with someone precious to me, and figured I'd update. Thursday was really a pretty perfect day. I felt like the Lord told me to fast, so I did. Since I was up at 4 am, I prayed until 6 or so, then decided to take a nap at 8:30. Woke up at 10:30, when the Music Man took all the kids on a hike. They got home and I had to leave for the International House of Prayer (hereafter known as IHOP) with my friend Susan. It was two hours of getting to soak in the Lord's presence, and He spoke a ton.

It took a bit over an hour to get home, then I had half an hour to change and grab some clothes to go to meet my friend. She and I only ended up having about twenty minutes to talk because of other obligations, but the time we did have was so sweet. I got to say what I needed to say, felt like she did, and truly felt like the Holy Spirit was there to be balm for both our hearts. We realized that it had gotten really out of hand, and came to an agreement that if we had issues like that again, we'd talk in person right away instead of taking 10 miserable days and sending emails back and forth.

After we talked, I decided to hit a dance class at the gym, because after such a sweet day with the Lord, I wanted to DANCE! My friend Pam has instilled this dance love in me. Even though I'm still kinda terrible, I've come to appreciate the things that my body can do. On my way out of the gym, I saw the friend I'd just reconciled with, and we chatted. Then she called me on the way home, just because she loves me and wanted to. Isn't that sweet?

I am such a proponent of reconciliation. It's so, so hard, but worth so much. God works in those painful places and strengthens bonds. I'm so thankful to both the Lord and my friend for walking that ground with me. It is holy, that work. It is sweet.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Do You Like?

So what do you think of my new blog design? The immeasurably talented ElleBee did it for me. Isn't it fantastic? Really, I gasped with glee and clapped like a little girl when I saw it. Love. Thanks, Elle. Or Bee. Whatever nickname you prefer in the blogosphere. Smooches.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

I Screwed Up

Big time. I mean like royally. Sigh.

I have this friend, Prisoner of Hope. She and I have been in relationship for about 10 months, but it's one of this dive-deep friendships, a total divine appointment. The last Monday of March, I asked a question about something she did in front of people that she said shamed her. I will say that my motivation was pure (to my mind), and that I was seeking clarification, but that doesn't change how she felt about it. She didn't let me know until this past Monday. And did I react in humility, befitting a Christian woman? Did I, with no thought to my own offense, ask for her forgiveness?

Well, not exactly.

Yeah, instead I acted like a trapped and wounded animal. I lashed out. She's EXTREMELY sensitive, and I let her have it. However, I was crafty enough to do it in ways that sounded sweet and innocent enough. She knew, though. She knew that my words were designed to be daggers, and they had the desired effect.

I've been in knots about this since Monday. Yesterday I met with Ransomed Grace and explained to her again why I was right and my friend was wrong and this was all silly. You know what happened? She quietly told me about the humble way her husband reacts to these situations. Not how pious her own heart is, but how he reacts in a godly and loving way. After I left her house, I went to the gym. After sweating it out and processing for a bit, I realize that she was right, and as a correllary, how sickly wrong I had been.

On the way home, I called PH. I left her a voice mail just to tell her that I can't imagine the ways she must've been hurt for her to react the way that she did, and I was so sorry to be another person to wound an already scarred heart. Told her that whatever I felt, I was wrong because this was about HER. And you know what? It is. She came to me in humility, letting me know that I'd hurt her. She wanted to reconcile, but I was more interested in being right.

My friend Tim used to say, "You can be right or you can have relationships, but you can't have both". I can honestly say that I never understood what that meant until last night. Wow did it sting when I did!

So it's now just after 5 am, and I got up a while ago to pray. Tonight at 6:30 EST I'm meeting with my friend to work on reconciliation. Please pray that this time goes well. At the end of the day, I want her in my life more than I want to be right. Isn't that what it's all about, after all?

Monday, April 6, 2009

New Tattoo

Saturday my friend Kathryn and I went to Psycho Tattoo to get a new tattoo for me. I've wanted one since the Firecracker Princess was born, but I've always been pregnant or nursing. Well, the Joyful Babe is now 13 months old, and only nurses twice a day so I decided to go for it.

Here it is:

If you're wondering what it is, exactly, allow me to explain. From the bottom up, it says, "I Am", which is my favorite name of God. He always was, and is therefore the foundation. Then the Jesse tree, which originally showed the lineage of Christ. The roots include people like Abraham, Isaac, Jesse, David, and Solomon. Jesus is the trunk, as a shoot from the stump of Jesse. The dove in the branches is the Holy Spirit, and the green leaves are representative of the new life offered to all through His propitious death. It's good, right? Got the whole trinity in there in order. Eh, I like it at least. :)