Seven-layer-salad

I make this bizarre salad on holidays, it’s a seven-layer-salad. It is so yummy to me; its very fragrance is indicative of a special occasion. Putting the salad together totally gets me in a festive mood. And apparently it gets me into the writing mood too. Bonus!

So, I’d love to say that this very special salad recipe was passed down through my family, perhaps starting with my great-grandmother and working its way down to my box of memories. But, no. My family history is a bit of a convoluted one, so I must admit to you that this recipe comes from my former, step-grandmother. Doesn’t that just sound God-awful? But seriously, she was the mother of my step-dad John who was in our lives for ten very important years of my life, essentially all my teenage years.

Grandma Thompson was a precious, precious woman who I adored. She was a great cook, all homey and comforty food. Her kitchen truly was a child’s heaven. She actually made homemade hard candy . . . from scratch . . . by hand! We would sit at her table and stretch it into long strands and roll the hot candy into little balls, oh, it was so much fun.

Anyway, somehow this recipe of hers, among others, made it into my permanent file. And it is a triumph of sweet and salty. You layer into a clear bowl the following: iceberg lettuce, green peas, water chestnuts, green onions, bacon, sweetened mayonnaise, and then top it with a thick layer of parmesan cheese from the good old green can. It has something for everyone! How could you go wrong? People in my family have different reactions to this salad. But the ones with which I shared my childhood, they know it means Christmas.

Christmas memories are funny things. They don’t always come in traditional ways. And they mean different things to different people. What may bring back a painful memory for one person might be the complete opposite for another. And the things you do in your own home could very well be making rock-solid Christmas traditions for your children. My mother took Christi and me out for Peking duck one Christmas Eve, and to this day, I honestly feel that Peking duck is the quintessential Christmas Eve meal. I only had it one time and I couldn’t have been more than about 8-years-old. That’s how powerful a memory it is.

From seven-layer-salad to Peking duck and everywhere in between, the journey is what I look back on with such fond memories. The taste of that duck, I can’t really recall, but the idea of it, I’ll remember forever.

Whatever you do this evening and tomorrow with your family and friends, I hope you enjoy wonderful Christmas traditions passed down through the years. And I hope you make new memories that your children will pass along, imprinting a little piece of you on their souls.

God bless you all, thank you for reading. Merry Christmas!

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Mistakes and onions

What do you do when you screw up; I mean, really step in it? That’s what I did recently. I made a big mistake, a whopper. I wasn’t thinking, I just had a brain fart. I blanked, I spaced out. I screwed the pooch.

The first thing I wanted to do is literally crawl in a hole and hide from everyone and cry. Guilt overwhelmed me. I felt like a giant jerk. And my brain went a hundred miles an hour trying to figure out how I could have been so stupid as to make that mistake. I mean, come on! I’m a 38-year-old, mature, responsible woman. I have a job, a family, I’m a relatively good person, but I SCREWED UP. Now what?

Well, I have a “this is how it ought to be,” and a “this is how it actually is.” Here’s a little of both. This particular time, I happened to have realized my mistake during a phone call. You know when you get that phone call where the person calling makes it abundantly clear that you screwed up? Yeah, it was that phone call.

It was in the morning, during my coffee ritual. And I was simultaneously making a pot of French onion soup. (Long story.) I had just chopped up 4 ginormous onions for the soup and had thrown them in the pot to start caramelizing when the phone rang. When I read the caller ID, I knew it. My heart dropped to my toes. When I began to appreciate the gravity of what I had done, I had to sit down.

So by the time I hit the red “end” button on my phone and locked the keypad frantically so there was no way anyone could hear me scream, I yelled a little. And then I smelled burning onions, and I yelled some more.

I had tears from onions and tears from the phone call.

After I collected myself and repented for saying a bad word (or 5) I salvaged the soup, put it on simmer, put the lid on it, and went upstairs to get dressed. It was silent in my bathroom as I was putting on makeup, but my thoughts were screaming.

The truth of the matter was, there was nothing I could do. I had apologized, I was truly sorry for the mistake. I had done all I could. But as we all know, that doesn’t always set us at ease and make it all better. The mind will replay it again and again: what they said, what you said, what you should have said, what you should not have said. And that’s when it hit me. I have an attorney. I have an advocate. I have someone who does have the ability to make it better. And that is the Holy Spirit.

You can’t rationalize your way into peace. I tried. I’ve tried many times. But asking the Lord for help and praying in the Spirit does bring peace. Always.

So I prayed . . . Lord, I really screwed up. I’m so sorry. Please help me to fix this. Please go before me and smooth this over. Please let the ones who were affected by this see that I made a mistake and I’m sorry. Please help me get through this and make it better.

And then I prayed in the Spirit for a few minutes, off and on until I finished getting ready and headed out the door. Within that time frame, I began to feel better. I began to feel my heart crawl out of that hole and my confidence began to come back up. The beating myself up stopped, the brain squeeze let up. I could breathe again.

I know that all sounds too easy . . . over-simplified, but it works. God wants to help us, but He won’t come unless He’s asked. He’s a gentleman.

I’m a simple girl. I mess up, I ask God for help, and He helps. I ask the Advocate to intervene on my behalf, and He does. I pray in the Spirit, and peace settles down on me. Try it. It’s a good feeling.

Don’t be an island

I went to a funeral today. It was for the grandmother of my precious niece and nephews who had lost her brave battle with cancer.

A notion has been rolling around on the inside of me for days now, and today’s experiences just brought it into clearer focus. It is this: Don’t be an island.

People need each other. Families need each other. Women need other women. Men, yes men, need each other. I don’t care what they say, when the chips are down, they need each other.

I tend to be a hider. I’ve never been a girly girl. I’m not into makeup and hair and shopping and In Style magazine (much to my husband’s chagrin). My natural tendency is to keep my problems to myself and turn inward. But the Lord has been impressing on me recently how important it is to share one another’s burdens and be there for each other.

I am so incredibly blessed to have a couple of very special friends who I can really talk to and share my innermost feelings with and they are safe. This is a rare thing.  As I’ve journeyed down this road of life, I have leaned on these friends, and they have leaned on me. And thankfully, when one of us is down, the other is up. But it’s so important to have a Godly friend who will listen to you, and speak the Word to you, and share wisdom with you, and pray for you. As iron sharpens iron, these friends make me a better, stronger, more powerful woman. (Proverbs 27:17)

The Bible says for us to pray for one another that ye may be healed. (James 5:16) And not just physical healing, but healing in a family situation, a job situation, or anything that needs intervention from Heaven. That means if you need something, a breakthrough in an area, go pray for someone else that also needs a breakthrough. It really works! Not only is it a Biblical principle, but it makes it impossible for us to focus on ourselves. We can’t be pouring our gifts, love, time, talent, and prayer into someone else and still be focusing on our own problems, it’s just impossible. I dare you to try it.

Make yourself go to that meeting, or that fellowship. Make yourself call that friend and go meet for coffee. Make yourself offer to help someone. MAKE YOURSELF. And trust me, I know it’s pulling teeth. I don’t have any more teeth in my mouth because I’ve pulled them all out trying to come up with reasons and excuses why I can’t; but you know what? I can. I may be asking Santa Claus for dentures this Christmas, but God gives me strength, God redeems my time, God blesses me back in astounding ways when I give into someone else’s life.

This blog . . . it is silly and funny and short and not all that spiritual, but people tell me it is a blessing. So I keep at it. And when I hear back from you all that it is a blessing to you, that blesses me. It’s a cycle. So we can either fight it or roll with it, but I’m learning it’s much more fun to roll with it.

It’s not hopeless

Here’s my scene. I am sitting at the kitchen table, the dog is munching on his food to my right. Jaxon is working on Math homework to my left. I have changed out of uncomfortably binding work clothes and into sweats, and made a cup of tea. And you know what? I am ridiculously comfortable now. Life is good.

Yes, I still have to guide my child through homework, cook dinner, clean the kitchen, wash uniforms, etc., etc., ad nauseam, but you know what? I am so blessed. I am so blessed that I have a warm home to come home to, a car to drive me to the grocery store so I can cook that dinner, a precious son who wants my help and actually likes me, and a loving husband to curl up next to after all is said and done. Like I said, life is good.

I’m so thankful that I serve a God that cares about the things that concern me. He cares about the little things, just like the big things. From healing of sickness, to favor in a court case, to a sick pet, and everything in between, large or small, my God cares about the things that I care about. He cares about all of us. And no problem is too big that God can’t solve. And no need is so insignificant that we can’t bring it to God in prayer.

How can I think that a God that knows how many hairs are on my head wouldn’t care about my little issues? He knows everything, He knows what’s in my heart. He knows what I’m dealing with, what I’m struggling with. And He’s got answers to my questions. All I have to do is ask and I will find answers. I may have to stick with it for a while, Rome wasn’t built in a day, but God always comes through for me. Always. And He will for you too.

A dear and wise friend once said to me that life is hard, even on a good day. And she’s right. Life is hard. It can have moments of transcendent joy and utter satisfaction and it can have real crap piles. Real, stinky, awful, hurtful messes. And sometimes we find ourselves in a situation that truly looks hopeless. But I know in my heart, if we seek God’s face, seek after God’s heart, His will, and His Word, we will overcome these situations. It may not turn out like we planned or even like we’d hoped, but God can take a huge mess and turn it into something beautiful with ease. He is masterful at it. I’ve seen Him do it in situations in my life that you would swear were totally hopeless.

God is the King of fixing the hopeless situation. Take heart. Your situation is NOT the one that’s going to stump Him.

God is bigger

God is so big. So much bigger than we can think. And He wants to bless us more than we know. The Bible says in Matthew 7:11 that just as a father wants to give good gifts to his children, how much more does God almighty want to bless those that serve Him? Sometimes His goodness just astounds me.

I believe, with every fiber of my being, in the concept of seed-time and harvest. It is woven into my very fabric. And I’m not talking about just money, although I know that works and have seen it work for 38 years. But I am talking about reaping what you sow in other areas. When you sow love, acceptance, forgiveness, hope, or joy, you are rewarded with those things multiplied back to you. You may not even remember giving that hug to someone, or passing along that smile, but the eternal rolls in heaven keep records. Let me tell you, I have seen them come to pass in my own life in astounding ways. God amazes me.

I was praying the other day, I was asking God to honor His Word, (which He always does when we do our part,)  I was reminding Him of His promises to me, and I was actively expecting a harvest on some seed that I had sown. He blessed me back in a way that had never occurred to me. He blessed me so much, I was flabbergasted. There’s no other word for it, He absolutely flabbergasted me. It made me think of that scripture in Ephesians 3:20 that says He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think. I’ve read that so many times but it struck me in a new way when I watched God do something for me that was abundantly above what I asked, or even what I could think!

God is so much bigger than our little minds can grasp. He can bless us in ways that never occur to us. That’s exactly what He did for me. God sent something into my life that just melted my heart. It made me smile until my cheeks hurt.

God can give bigger than we can imagine! But we have to put ourselves in a position to receive those blessings. We have to keep an eye out for them, we have to actively expect them, we have to thank Him for them, and we have to keep our hearts right. His blessings can stretch us and require something from us. Sometimes He wants to give us something that’s bigger than we were expecting and we may need to broaden our mind before we can receive it and enjoy it. Speaking from experience, His blessings can make us have to step up to another level. But you know what? That’s OK, I always need to be moving up level after level. Life is not about regression, it’s about advancement.

So as we begin the last big week of school before the kiddies are out for Christmas break, (Oh, hallelujah) I am going to keep an attitude of expectancy for God to bring good things into my life. I am going to thank Him for His many, many blessings and I am going to share those blessings with others, knowing that when I do my part, God always does His.

God and the swimsuit

Jaxon’s school has a little swimming program and the fourth grade boys get to swim every Tuesday. It has posed a challenge for me to always remember to send his swimsuit and towel each Tuesday. Even when I put it at the top of the stairs where I actually have to step over it in order to make it down to the coffee maker.

Well, this particular Tuesday, I forgot the swimsuit and the moment I sent Jax out the door to school and headed upstairs to get ready for work, I remembered. At that precise moment, my phone rang and it was Lynn. They were halfway to school, and Jaxon had just said, “Swim day!” So then Lynn fixed everything, he saved the day. He calmed the storm and solved the problem. I heard Lynn tell him, “Mom will bring it to you.”

Jaxon’s response? “OK, cool.”

Simple acceptance. Blind faith. Total trust that Mom would bring the swimsuit to school. Never a doubt, never a question. Never a maybe she will get busy and forget, or a maybe it’s silly of me to ask her to do that, maybe she has bigger issues than my swimsuit. No need to ask her again and again, just total faith that I would do what I said I would do.

That is how we should approach God. He knows what we need, and He knows what we want. He knows the desires of our heart, the Bible says. He also cares about all our little issues. Why can’t we trust God that He will do what His Word says He’ll do? Why do we get so bogged down in the problem that we forget to thank God for the answer? Do we really think that Mom will honor her word more than God will honor His? Does Mom’s word hold more weight with us than God’s?

My friends, it seems like we may have some adjustments to make.

Let it snow

The sun came blinking through the blinds in a winter morning Morse code . . .

I tried to sound like a novelist; that’s as far as I got.

I’ll have to settle for one great line and some special effects.

Wait for the snow . . . it’s cool!

Don’t go crazy

It’s amazing how widely a woman’s mood can swing. Or maybe it’s just mine. Depending on the time of day, the state of my laundry pile, and a hundred other factors, I can run the entire gamut of human emotions in a single day. Why do we do this? And how can we rein it in? What can we do to keep our minds and moods from ping-ponging all over the map?

Well, I’m no expert, but here’s my two cents. First of all, I think it’s a combination of natural things and supernatural things. In the natural, there are so many pressures around us, especially us busy working moms. It helps to consciously focus on what needs to be done right now and what can wait, to prioritize my tasks, so to speak. This makes me able to focus more clearly on the task at hand. Then in the supernatural, I have the secret weapon, the Holy Spirit, the teacher, the comforter, the one who reminds me that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me and that I am more than a conqueror.

Some scriptures that have really helped me when I’m feeling my brain and emotions simultaneously squeezed are 2 Timothy 1:7 which says that God has given me a calm and well-balanced mind, and Isaiah 26:3 which says God will guard him and keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Him.

The world is crazy, we all know this. And the devil would like to make us all go crazy with it. But I refuse to allow him to mess with my head. When thoughts come to me, I have weapons in my arsenal to fight back. And I fight back until I win. I encourage you to dig into God’s Word and get a hold of these scriptures and others like it that bring peace. There are loads of them in there, precious promises that will help us find our way out of any mess we find ourselves in. And I have certainly found myself in plenty of them!

Today, I am at peace. I am grateful for the Word of God, I am grateful for my family, I am grateful for my amazing friends who love me and pray for me and cheer me on. I pray for those of you who are reading this, and I cheer you on. Whatever you’re facing, you can do it, hang in there, you are not alone.

A little recycling

Remember in school when we had to write a paper and we worked and worked to try to make it as long as possible? Remember trying to stretch it out to make that 3-page mark or that 5-page mark? Gosh, I do. And now I find myself having to learn to do the opposite. Part of my work this week is to edit one of Oral Roberts’ classic sermons down to fit in their ministry magazine.

OK, so get this. The original sermon that he preached was probably about an hour and a half to two hours long… the man could preach. Then many years ago, it was edited down to fit in his original magazine to the length of about 6000 words. Back in the 1950’s, people would sit down and read a long article like that. Today that is not the case!

My task is to take that 6000 words down to about 1500 words, without diminishing the message! It’s a daunting task, but you know what? I’m actually really enjoying it. It is such a good message that he’s preaching. And it’s 50 years old and still totally relevant and fresh and anointed.

You know, God’s Word doesn’t change. God’s laws and principles don’t change. Even though I’m recycling an old sermon, it is just as powerful as it ever was. On the flip side of that, the devil doesn’t change either. He doesn’t have any new tricks, he just reformulates the old ones and tries to make us think it’s big and new and scary. He is the same old dog.

So recycle the good stuff, but throw away the garbage!

Stumped

It has been absolutely brutal to get blog posts out of me this week. I don’t know what’s wrong with me! Have I already run out of things to say? Not possible. Just ask my family.

I started this blog with hopes of disciplining myself into writing every day, and developing and honing my skills. So far, I don’t feel very honed.

But a friend of mine lent me a very interesting book that has made me laugh and given me a little insight into the universal challenges of the writing process. This writer has made me feel much better about my bouts with sitting in front of the laptop, staring at a blank screen and being so clueless that I can’t even type my own name.

Here are a few thoughts from her book. Crack me up!

…You turn on your computer, you bring up the right file, and then you stare at it for an hour or so. You begin rocking, just a little at first, and then like a huge autistic child. You look at the ceiling, and over at the clock, yawn, and stare at the computer again…

…You are desperate to communicate, to edify or entertain, to preserve moments of grace or joy or transcendence, to make real or imagined events come alive. But you cannot will this to happen. It is a matter of persistence and faith and hard work. So you might as well go ahead and get started.

(Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott)

This is how I have felt this week, especially the rocking.

So I’m just going to sit here and stare and think, and think and stare, and keep asking the Lord what He would have me say. Meanwhile, thanks for hanging in there with me.