Friday, November 21, 2014

Fabulous Friday Food :: Pumpkin Bread

For us, Thanksgiving is usually anything but traditional. See, we don't have family nearby, so for Thanksgiving we're on our own. We've tried having Thanksgiving at home with just the five of us, but something about just the five of us sitting around our dining room table makes me a little sad.

So over the years we've tried different things. We've gone to the big city a number of times for Thanksgiving dinner. We've even stayed in a hotel in the city a couple of times (it's actually more fun than it sounds!).

We've gone to friends' homes, which is also very nice, but a reminder yet again of how we don't have family close by.

Last year was probably our favorite Thanksgiving yet: we drove to Washington DC to visit Kate who was studying there for the semester. We rented a house through VRBO, which turned out to be perfect for us. We walked a ton, we saw the sights, and we went to one of our favorite DC restaurants, Founding Farmers, for Thanksgiving dinner. Oh my, YUM! Totally non-traditional (we did have turkey, though), but such a great memory. We still talk about it.

This year is a little different because we've decided to actually stay home for the first time in a long time. Since Kate doesn't live with us anymore and Caroline is away at school, we decided that a nice, quiet, traditional Thanksgiving at home might be just the thing we need this year. 

Today I decided to get a little head start on some baking for next week, so I whipped up a batch of our favorite pumpkin bread. This is a recipe I got from a friend of mine probably 25 years ago (crazy that I've been making this bread for that long)--it's really and truly the best pumpkin bread recipe I've ever tried. 

And easy? Yep. Totally easy. You probably have everything you need right in your pantry. 

So here we go. (This won't take long.)

Basically, cream the butter, sugar, eggs, pumpkin, and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, sift the dry ingredients.

Mix the two together until well blended. Add nuts or chocolate chips, if you want. 

Our family always wants chocolate chips.

Be sure you butter and flour the loaf pans before you add the batter. 

I don't know about you, but I seem to have a hard time getting loaves of sweet bread out of the pans.

Anyway, bake the small loaves for about 45 minutes (larger loaves take an hour). When they're done they will look beautiful, like this.

This bread would be great for a breakfast treat or on your Thanksgiving table. It's delicious and moist and tastes like fall. Whatever you do and whenever you serve it, be sure to enjoy your time with family and friends.

Happy Thanksgiving!

For a printable version of this recipe, click here.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

When the Gospel Seems Too Good To Be True

“It’s like it’s too good to be true or too scary to be real.”

A friend and I were sitting in my family room drinking tea, talking about how God can transform a life, and this is what she said.

I thought about it for a second, then nodded my head and agreed with her. Sometimes the thought of God reaching down into my mess seems too good to be true. At other times, the thought of God actually seeing the mess that I am is too scary to be real.

How could He actually do that? Why would He even want to deal with me when I’ve let him down in so many ways?

The gospel does sometimes feel too good to be true. Not in the literal sense—I believe that the gospel is indeed true—but in the figurative way we use that phrase.

When we say something is “too good to be true” we don’t mean that it’s actually untrue, but that we just can’t believe something that great would happen to us.

The first time (well, every time, actually) I set foot in England, I felt like it was “too good to be true.”

Every time I held my own newborn baby I felt like it was “too good to be true.”

Some days, when we’re clicking on all cylinders and my husband looks at me with love in his eyes, I feel like it’s “too good to be true.”

But these things are real. These things have happened to me. They aren’t “untrue.” They just feel too good to be true.

And that’s when I resoundingly agreed with my friend.

The gospel IS too good to be true. The fact that God allowed his only son to leave heaven to come to earth to live among sinful human beings only to be tortured, beaten, and crucified is beyond my comprehension. That’s a love that is “too good to be true.”

And too scary to be real? Yeah, I get that one too.

The power that raised Jesus from the dead? Pretty awesome power. Power, which, if we really understood it, would make us fall on our knees, overcome.

The kind of power that sees into our very souls and still loves us and wants a relationship with us? That’s kind of scary too, when you think about it.

The kind of power that can heal our diseases and has authority over demons? Wow. Amazing, yes, and scary.

Still, it’s real. He’s real. I believe it because I see it every day. I see it when the sun comes up in the morning. I see it when my family gathers around the table. I see it when I walk my dog through the park nearby.

I see it when He takes hold of the life of someone who thought she was beyond hope, and He brings hope once again.

Of course, my mind immediately went to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe:

“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion." "Ooh" said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"..."Safe?" said Mr Beaver ..."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.” 

“Too good to be true and too scary to be real.”

I get it. It’s called Awe. Amazement. Wonder. These are just the things that the gospel should make us feel.

Friday, November 7, 2014

How to Give Thanks in a Storm

Exactly seven years ago today, I was one sick mama. And I mean that in the most literal sense.

Seven years ago, I was admitted to the hospital not knowing that I would stay there for twelve days.

Twelve days! Nobody stays in the hospital for twelve days anymore, especially not a mom with three young, terrified daughters at home and a husband who works 45 minutes from home who is suddenly thrust into the role of both Mom and Dad while trying to conceal his role as worried husband from those three young girls.

We were in a storm. . . .

Want to read more? I'm sharing over at Mothers of Daughters today. Click here to see the rest.

Monday, November 3, 2014

What do you do when you’re bone weary?

The phone on my nightstand sounds an alarm at 5:30 a.m. 

I’m not ready.

I swipe, and then I sleep.

Until 5:45 when my second alarm sounds.

I rub my eyes, say hello to God, and slowly peel away the blankets. It’s cold, and climbing out of the warm cocoon I have built overnight is just about the last thing I want to do.

As I begin to sit up I realize that I am not refreshed, but weary. Bone weary.

As I slowly trek across my bedroom floor toward the shower, I run through my day—all the “shoulds,” all the “need tos,” all the “must dos” race to the forefront of my mind, and the weariness that has enveloped my soul for months wraps its tentacles around my heart yet again.

Being tired isn’t the same thing. I’m not tired, really. My mind is racing, so I couldn’t lie down and sleep some more.

No, it’s just a weariness that has seeped into my bones and into my heart that won’t let me go.

Is this what getting older feels like?

I’m fighting. I do not want weariness to be my hallmark. I do not want to be one of those people who, when asked how I’m doing remarks, “Oh, I’m O.K. I’m just tired.”

Who wants to be around that?

There’s nothing wrong with me, physically; the myriad of doctors I visited this summer assured me of that.

It’s just this soul-sucking weariness that has taken over, and I must figure out how to get rid of it because the truth is, life isn’t going to change. This pace that we have chosen is not going to stop.

The ministry we have, the places we serve, the family we love all bring me to the same place: my life is amazing.

So why do I feel so worn out?

Honestly, I have no answers.

Burdens are burdens and some are not meant to be shared, but we carry them every day.

Life is life and it is meant to be lived, but some days I’d just like the roller coaster to stop its ups and downs.

Work is work and it is fulfilling, but some days I’d like someone else to step in and do it for me.

What’s the solution? Where is the relief? When will it come?

I think the answer is found the moment I am awakened by my alarm: open your eyes.

I think of the story in the Bible of the man who was born blind. I’m sure he was weary, tired of begging for crumbs, exhausted before he even woke up every morning. Then one day, Jesus sees him and miraculously heals him, and everyone keeps asking him, “Who opened your eyes?” His immediate answer: “Jesus.”

My alarm should truly alarm me. Am I opening my eyes to the burdens of the day or am I opening them to Jesus, who, by the way, has offered to carry those burdens for me?

Am I waking to thoughts of my creaking bones or thoughts of the One who truly sees me?

Am I living in life-giving gratitude or in life-sucking negativity?

This is my reminder to myself today: Open your eyes. See Jesus.