Friday, April 11, 2014

Hope realized...

My garden is coming alive - just in time for Easter! I planted a bunch of bulbs that I got on sale at Walmart last fall and they are beautiful.  The tulips and grape hyacinths are my favorite.  Along with the pansies, the front gardens are looking colorful...ugly dryness redeemed, hope realized.

Plants in the back yard are starting to bud, as well.  The grass is finally turning green.  Yay!  There won't be any dried grass brought in the house by dogs and small children...until next winter.  I'm very excited that this year I will get to enjoy our lilac bush in bloom.  It does have some drought damage, as does the snowball bush in the front yard, but it is blooming!  I love the delicate scent of lilac.  Just two weeks ago, I checked the dry empty branches of this bush to see if it was still alive...

Towards the end of winter - and this year seemed to be an extra long winter - we look forward to the hope of spring; green returning to the landscape, budding trees and bushes, flowering bulbs, warm earth in the gardens.

It reminds me of my favorite TV shows which all have the same theme:  redeeming what seems impossible to redeem.  These are shows like Restaurant Impossible (we've enjoyed several of Chef Robert's recipes) where Chef Robert comes and rescues failing restaurants by helping the owners understand the problems that are causing them to fail, helping them resolve their conflicts, remaking recipes for tasty food and remodeling their dining rooms to appeal to customers.  He gives the owners hope.

Another favorite TV show is Property Brothers.  Each episode features a couple who have an expectation of their first home being their dream home.  The brothers' first assignment is to help the couple understand the reality of their expectations on a limited budget.  Then they help the couple choose a fixer upper that can be remodeled to be the home they would love.  The couple always comments that they would rather have the dream home without the work and they just can't see how a fixer upper can be turned into what they want.  The brothers confidently tell them that it can be done with a lot of hard work and can be done on their budget.  The brothers talk a lot about the homeowners' need to trust their expert experience.  In the end, even with the inevitable unforseen problems that come up, the home is everything the new owners dreamed of...another avenue of hope.

I had an "ah hah" moment when I realized that I enjoy shows like these because I have come to appreciate and am beginning to recognize the hope that God offers me time and time again when I feel overwhelmed by life.  I was definitely a "fixer upper" when I became His as a child.  It's been a long and sometimes painful process as He has stripped away the old (it must be done before the new can be seen), shown me my failures covered by His grace, and has been and continues to be by my side giving me strength during the "remodeling" process.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. 
Philippians 1:6

Chef Robert's Chicken with Kale and Sweet Potatoes
I'm not much of a greens fan, but this sauteed kale was delicious and so nutrition packed. 

2 chicken breasts - pounded, seasoned and cooked in butter in a skillet.  Remove chicken from skillet, keep warm.  Put some red wine vinegar or red wine in the skillet, scraping up the bits of chicken and spices.  Reduce to make a nice sauce.  When reduced, add a tsp of butter and whisk.  Set aside.

Baby kale (it cooks down so fill a large skillet with the kale)
1/4 cup chopped bacon (I used 2 Tbsp real bacon bits)
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 tsp diced garlic

Saute in skillet until vegetables are translucent and kale is wilted.  Add:
1-2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp butter
crumbled feta cheese (optional)

Saute until butter is melted.  Serve in a pile on a plate with a cooked chicken breast on top.  Drizzle reserved sauce over the chicken.

Serve with oven roasted sweet potato cubes.

Serves 2

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Blinded by emotion...

The last recorded encounter of a woman and Jesus is found in John 20.  Jesus had died on the cross and had been buried in a borrowed tomb.  Then he had risen from the dead, just as he had told his followers he would.  And he appeared first to a woman!  Here's the story...

Mary Magdalene had gone to the tomb early in the morning a couple of days later.  She was there so early that it was still dark.  But she was able to see that the stone at the entrance to the tomb had been rolled away, leaving the inside and the One buried there vulnerable to people with less than honorable intentions - at least that's what she assumed, because she ran to alert Peter and John.

They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.  Assumption based on fear...

The disciples took off to check out her story and, sure enough, the tomb was empty.  But they found something very strange.  The linen cloths that had wrapped the body of Jesus were lying neatly on the burial shelf.  And something very significant; the face cloth wasn't with the linen wrappings but was rolled up and found in another spot.

Here's why that is significant - it was Jewish custom in those days when guests enjoyed a meal at someone's home to use their napkin to indicate whether or not they enjoyed the hospitality and food.  If the napkin was crushed and placed back on the table, it meant the guest intended to return. If the napkin was rolled or folded and laid aside, it meant the guest intended never to return.  Are you getting shivers yet?!

Jesus left a sign for the disciples that he would never return to the grave!  They didn't get it, though, and went home... wondering...

Evidently, Mary Magdalene followed Peter and John back to the tomb because John 20:11 states that after the men left, she was standing outside the tomb weeping.  She had to see for herself what the disciples had described to her.  So, she bent over to look inside and was surprised to see two angels sitting on the shelf where Jesus' body had been placed.  They asked her why she was crying and she told them that she was afraid that someone had taken Jesus' body and she didn't know where they had put him.

She was in such an emotional state that it didn't register in her mind that she had just talked to some angels!  She turned around and saw someone else, but was crying so hard that she didn't see that it was Jesus.  She assumed he was the gardener and begged him to tell her where Jesus' body had been taken.

Can you relate to Mary?  I cause myself emotional stress when I assume things without checking out the facts before I respond.  She was so overwhelmed with her emotions that she didn't recognize Jesus when she came face to face with him.  Think about that for a moment...

Jesus saw her and knew what she was feeling.  It was time for her to live based on reality instead of faulty assumptions.


Even through the tears, she recognized his voice in the way he said her name and turned to look at him.


I'm sure she was shocked and relieved at the same time.  She reached out to grab hold of him - to never let him leave her sight again.  It's interesting that the Greek word for touch in this verse means: touching for the purpose of manipulating.  He stopped her and told her that he couldn't be touched yet.  He knows us so well!

Jesus sent her to tell the disciples what she had seen and heard him say.  She probably didn't want to take her eyes off of him, but she turned and ran, carrying her incredible news in her heart. 

I have seen the Lord!!

Do your negative emotions keep you from recognizing the Lord's presence in your life, especially during difficult times? Are you allowing yourself to be blinded by assumptions?

He's there, calling you by name, waiting for you to recognize him...

Cake In A Mug
Do you ever want just one piece of cake?  And we all know that if you bake a cake, you will eat more than one piece and pay the price in added pounds and feeling yucky.  This is a recipe from Trim Healthy Mama that makes just one piece of cake in a mug.  The cool thing about this cake is that it is sugar-free, quick to make and actually good for your body.  Woo hoo! 

1 egg
2 heaping Tbsp cocoa powder
4 tsp Truvia (from the small container, not the baking Truvia with sugar)
1/2 tsp aluminum free baking powder
dash of vanilla
1 Tbsp water
1 level Tbsp coconut oil

Crack the egg into a large coffee mug and whisk with a fork.  Add the rest of the ingredients and stir until well blended.  Microwave for one minute.  Enjoy your cake!

If you like a fudgy cake, just microwave for 45 seconds instead of a minute.  I eat mine plain, but you can "frost" it with whipped cream cheese or whipped "cream" made from coconut milk. Yum!