scavenger hunt

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On the way to the airport, hubby asks Ben why he’s chuckling.

Ben explains that he left us a scavenger hunt.  “10 of the same things, all eye level and in plain sight.”, he says.

Hubby tells me this as I say “What the heck is that up there?”.

Cheese.

He taped up single slices of American cheese all around the house for us to find!

GOOF BALL.

Good luck to us.  So far we have only found 2 of them, four days later.

It’s fun though.  8 more potential reminders of Ben’s quirkiness around the house.  Somewhere.

But where?!?!

ellie m

 

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all growed up

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Packing, taping up moving boxes, and big crocodile tears.

That was the scene here Sunday night.  The eve before Ben, hubby’s 23 year old son, was to fly off to Indiana.

He got a great opportunity to stay with his sister, Bethany, and her husband for a little while so he could find a job and start living his life!

Hubby knew this day was coming, but he thought Ben would move somewhere locally.

My relatives all live within a 15 minute ride away from me, so I am a stranger to long-distance family.

They were able to enjoy a breakfast together on the way to the airport.

They won’t be apart for long though.  Before we know it, hubby will be out there visiting and we will be flying Ben back to visit for sure.  Ben doesn’t know it yet, but I’m scheming to have him stay here for the month of August.  Shhhh….

Strange not having his goofy mug around.

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ellie m

 

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bad lip reading

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Oh my goodness.

I have NEVER laughed so hard!

I couldn’t breathe.  I couldn’t catch my breath, not even for a second.

My ribs hurt.

I was crying so hard, you would think that I was watching the King Kong movie.  (saddest. movie. ever.)

I kept hitting hubby all throughout — just a natural reaction — because I wanted him to pause it before I passed out.  Or I was angry at him for allowing his son, Ben, to make us watch this.

It took me no less than an hour afterwards to recover.

Enjoy!

ellie m

 

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what a week!

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“May He grant you your heart’s desire
And fulfill all your purpose! ”  ~ Psalm 20:4 NASB

What a prayers-answered week we’ve had!

Answer to prayer #1: We met with our attorney who is confident that our request for Graham will be successful!  Graham (non-verbal special needs son), now 20 years old, has essentially been out of school since October 24th because of a severe behavior issue.  Since then, we have had several meetings with the school and school district trying to fight for a way for Graham to get the help he needs to continue to learn  how to express his frustration in non-aggressive ways and continue to be socialized in classroom/public settings.

Answer to prayer #2:  Residency offers for hubby to move towards his full-time chaplaincy career are starting to come in!  Hubby has worked in ministry for 25+ years, primarily as a Pastor.  He has done chaplaincy work for almost 10 years, most recently at a cancer treatment facility.  He has such a heart for getting to know people, relating with them, and praying with them, especially during hard, hurting times.  I AM SO PROUD OF HIM!!!!!!!

Answer to prayer #3:  As I mentioned in a previous post, I began my part-time/telecommuting schedule this week!  For the time being, hubby is transitioning Graham-care stuff over to me so he can focus on his work.  This special needs world is new to me, I have zero experience.  I never imagined I’d be able to help a kid like Graham progress.

It also allows me to be able to be home more with my boys!  THAT, is icing on the cake.  I am so excited.  I am going to make the most of it.  I have all these bonding activities to do with them swirling around in my head.  I can’t wait to start picking them up from school, taking them to after school practices, cooking with them, having dinner ready by the time hubby gets home, going out after dinner for frozen yogurt mid-week and not having to say “it’s late, mommy has to go to work tomorrow morning”.

I was listening to Dr. Tony Evans the other day (love him & his daughter Priscilla Shirer) as he was talking about women making their home a priority.  One of the things that he said was (paraphrasing) ‘what good are all of the comforts you can afford if your family isn’t saved?’.

Good perspective reminder, yes?

Still praying for the final outcomes for each of these things, but grateful that God has given us several green lights this week.  We welcome the much needed relief.

ellie m

 

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happy dance

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work-at-home-mom

 

I have an announcement to make!

This week, I got to start working a new part-time schedule AND telecommute from home as necessary!

<—-  I picture it to look like this.

 

~ Except my boys are 12 & 16.

~ And hubby’s special needs son, Graham, just turned 20.

~ And we don’t live up in a Penthouse with a view of downtown anything.

But other than that, it’ll look exactly the same.  See the smiles?

I’ve always wanted to be a stay-home-mom.  ALWAYS.  Now, we find ourselves in a position where this (or something close to it) is a real possibility.

God’s been working in our home, for sure, which means there is a story behind this…which I will write about…soon!

ellie m

 

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one word

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one word

2 years ago, my friend Anna from work introduced me to the idea of selecting “one word” to focus on for the new year.   A nice alternative to the traditional New Year’s resolution.  Then today, I saw a post with the picture above from (in)courage.  It must be in the air.

I really like this idea, so this year, I decided to talk to hubby about it so that we could come up with a word that we could work towards together.

This year, as we continue to settle in with the whole blended family-special needs-work changes type life, our word for 2015 is “PEACE“.

Wait!  No, it’s  “JOY”.

Um…“Wisdom”?

Perhaps I need several “one words”.

What word would you choose for 2015?

ellie m

 

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mexican wedding cookies

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Mexican Wedding Cookies.  Hubby calls these dust balls.

They are delicate, crumbly, sweet-but not too sweet, cookies coated in a blanket of powdered sugar that I could eat all day long.

I’ve been making these since 2009 using a recipe from a co-worker.  So easy and simple.  This recipe is a keeper!

Today, since my special friend, Lisa, was coming to visit (YAY!), I decided to quickly whip some up so she’d have some goodies to take home with her.  She arrived just in time to help out, very fun.

Here’s how we made them:

Using an electric mixer, cream together 1 cup unsalted butter (at room temperature), 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar, and 1 tsp vanilla extract.

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Gradually add 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour to the mixture.  After that’s all incorporated, mix in 1 cup pecans (chopped into very small pieces) with a spatula.  The mixture will be incredibly sticky.

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With floured hands (this is important – it’s super sticky!), roll a rounded tablespoon of dough in your hands and shape into a ball and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

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Then flatten it down a little bit.  Hubby uses his knuckles.  I use my palms.  Use whatever you’d like!  Some people leave it shaped as a golf ball or crescents.

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It was fun being to take pictures of Lisa and hubby baking together!  Doesn’t she have a great smile???

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They were making each other laugh.

I think they were making fun of me and how I tell people to FREEZE so I can take a picture and how a quick batch of cookies can turn into a 3 hour ordeal because of all the picture pausing.

We very much like having Lisa around :)

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Throw the cookies into a pre-heated 275 degree oven and bake for 40 minutes.

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Once they’re done, let them cool completely and then roll them around in a pile of confectioner’s sugar so that they’re well coated.

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Then pile them onto a plate and enjoy!

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It doesn’t get much easier than that!

Mexican Wedding Cookies

Dust Balls

Heavenly Snow Balls

Easy Baked Wedding Cookies

Call them whatever you want to — just make them!

Enjoy!

ellie m

 

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ina’s caramel-icious sticky buns

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My aunt first made these years and years ago and I loved them.

I was surprised that she made them because she is more of a savory-food cook, not a baker.  I asked her for the recipe and she told me that she had seen Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa) make them on “Good Morning America” and that they were super easy to make.

Ina Garten?  You know it’s going to be good!

Super easy to make?  This recipe is a must!

I kept a mental note and stored these yummies away with several other ideas in my pile of good intentions and there they remained.  Until today.

Let’s get started!

Start by taking out 1 box of frozen pastry to thaw according to your brand’s directions.

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This is what makes the recipe so easy.  Normally, you would start out by making a homemade yeast rising dough (like we did for our “ree-ally good cinnamon rolls”) but puff pastry replaces that here.

Never worked with puff pastry before?  Trust me, this is great stuff.  They turn out flakey and buttery, much like a fresh french croissant.  You can use it for savories and sweets.  I’ve wrapped them around chicken with herbed cheese, used them for chicken pot pie, and have made quick desserts like nutella & banana pockets.  They turn simple food into fancy food.

Now preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Put 6 tablespoons of unsalted butter and 1/3 cup of brown sugar in a bowl

Why does my picture show a lot more butter?  Because Ina’s recipe calls for 1 1/2 sticks but this is a LOT of butter for it’s purpose.  I would definitely only use 6 tablespoons next time and possibly add some corn syrup to help coat things better.

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and cream together.

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Place about 1 rounded tablespoon of the mixture into 12 muffin tins that have been sprayed with non-stick spray.

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It’s really important to spray because these will bubble up in the oven and after you’re done inhaling these melt-in-your-mouth treats, you won’t want to have to spend a lot of time scrubbing your tins.

There.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

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If you like nuts, this is where you can rough chop up 1/4 cup of pecans (do you notice I make hubby do all of the work?)

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and sprinkle them evenly over the butter/sugar mixture.  Or leave them out if nuts aren’t your thing.

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Now lay your first sheet of unfolded puff pastry (fold lines going left to right) down on a lightly floured surface

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and brush it with a little bit of melted butter.

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Sprinkle each sheet with 1/3 cup of brown sugar and a 1.5 teaspoons of ground cinnamon to taste.

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Roll the pastry dough towards you like a jelly roll.

If you have some thread laying around (we never do, but we have dental floss!  No comments about that please, sometimes you just gotta improvise), bring it just under the rolled dough like so

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and trim off both of the ends and discard.  Then proceed to slice 6 equal pieces

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and gently push each piece down on top of the pecan/butter/sugar mixture, spiral side up.

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Halfway done!  Now repeat those steps for your second sheet of puff pastry.

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Then put the muffin tin on top of a baking tray – because there WILL be ooozing – and throw them into your oven for about 20 minutes.  (Note – Ina’s recipe says 3o minutes, but ours started to scorch at 25, so watch them closely!)

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Carefully invert the buns onto the baking tray while they are still hot.

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And there you have it!

If you think they look mouth-watering in the pictures, wait till you taste them!  They melt in your mouth.

But do not wait to eat them…

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…these treats are designed for you to eat them right away while they’re warm – or you’ll regret it!

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Enjoy!

ellie m

 

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“ree”-ally good cinnamon rolls

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It was Thanksgiving morning, and hubby and I got off to a slooow start.

We celebrated a full-fledged Thanksgiving-with-all-the-trimmings- dinner a few days earlier (on Sunday) with the boys and guests.  By mid-week, we hadn’t even though about what we were going to have for Thursday.  We had a turkey on Sunday, turkey leftovers during the week, and were looking forward to another turkey at my mother’s house on Friday.  Thursday needed to be different.

What we did know, was that we wanted to sleep in and make homemade cinnamon rolls to go with our morning coffee.

By the time we rolled out of bed, we decided that we would try Ree Drummond’s (The Pioneer Woman) cinnamon rolls recipe.  It has been probably 30 years since I have made homemade cinnamon rolls (you know, when I was five years old.  ahem) and since that recipe no longer exists, we thought we would use this one as the base and tweak just a couple of minor things.  Like, making the dough the night before.

Did I mention we were off to a slow start?  The cinnamon rolls weren’t ready until late afternoon – but they were SO worth it!

Here’s how it’s done!

The dough – makes about 45-ish rolls – (I regretfully do not have pictures of the first few steps because I wasn’t thinking I was going to photo document this recipe until my brain woke up and I yelped “wait!  i should be taking pictures!”)

First – dissolve 1 cup of sugar with 1 quart of whole milk and 1 cup of canola oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Take the saucepan off the heat and if you are impatient, like me, pour the liquid into a different bowl and throw it in the fridge to help cool it down faster.  Why?  Because the temperature needs to drop down to about 110 degrees (use a thermometer!) before you can sprinkle and dissolve 4 1/2 teaspoons of active dry yeast into it.  Anything over 110 will kill the yeast and your dough won’t rise.  Let sit for a minute or so.

Now put 8 cups of flour in a large bowl, make a well and pour the warm liquid into the center and mix all.  The dough will be sticky!  Throw a kitchen towel over it and let the dough rise for 1 hour.

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Then mix in 1 more cup of flour/1 teaspoon each of baking powder (heap) and baking soda (scant), and 1 tablespoon of salt and combine with the rest of the dough.

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It should look like this.  Throw the kitchen towel over it again and let it rise for at least another hour, preferably overnight,  to let it continue to rise.

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The filling –  Combine 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup brown sugar, 3 tbsp ground cinnamon and pour into a mixing bowl with 3 sticks of softened butter.

 

Cream the butter

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then pour in the cinnamon sugar mixture and mix together

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until it looks like a paste:

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Time to assemble!

Go get your covered dough.

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It should look like this:

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Cut the dough in half and place it on your floured surface.

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Flatten it out a little before you start to roll it.

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Roll it out into a large, thin rectangle.

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Start spreading the cinnamon sugar mixture all over the dough

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until you get an even layer that looks like this:

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Starting from the furthest edge from you, roll the dough tightly down towards you.

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That’s right, keep going!

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This is what it will look like once it’s all rolled up.  Yes, it looks small, but it’s going to have another chance to rise again.

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At this point, some people use a knife to cut into individual pieces.  I say DON’T DO IT!  Personally, I feel that using a knife smushes your dough, and that’s not a happy thing.  If you have some thread laying around (we did not, but we had dental floss!  No comments about that please, sometimes you just gotta improvise), bring it just under the rolled dough like so

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and bring the 2 ends up, criss-cross them all the way through

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and now you have a perfectly cut piece!  Continue cutting about 1 1/2″ pieces and place in a greased baking pan.  These round pans hold about 7-9 pieces, depending on how much you let it rise.

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Now throw that kitchen towel over them again and let them rise for just a little longer

then pop them into a 375 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes or until the dough gets golden brown.

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Your kitchen should smell yummy at this point!

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Don’t eat them yet!  You’re almost done – just need the icing!

The icing – You’ll need 2 pounds of powdered sugar, 1/2 to 1 cup whole milk (to get it to the consistency you want), 1/4 cup melted butter, 1/4 cup of brewed coffee, 3-4 teaspoons of maple extract (to taste), and a couple of dashes of salt.

You gotta trust me on the coffee and maple extract – I was really hesitant to use these and wanted to wimp out and use vanilla.  But we went with it and it turned out SUPER good!

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Mix all together until it’s silky smooth

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then drizzle that goodness onto your hot rolls

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and if you become impatient like me, forget the spoon and just start to pour in on!

These were so good!  The bread was moist and sweet and the filling had just the right amount of sweetness to it – not too much so the icing was a good compliment to it.

We liked the adjustments we made to the ingredients and cooking method versus the original recipe, but since the foundation of it is from Ree Drummond, we thought we’d name them after her.

We hope you enjoy these “ree”-ally good cinnamon rolls and share with your friends and family!

ellie m

 

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pear tarts

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Hubby is a baker and his specialty is his grandmother’s homemade apple pie — pie crust and all.

Pssst.  I don’t like apple pie.

But I love that homemade crust!

So one day he decided to substitute pears for the apples AND made smaller – individual tarts instead of a whole pie so I could have more crust.  It’s one of my FAVORITES.

Here’s how he makes them.

For a dozen tarts, start out with 5-6 super ripe pears.

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then peel them

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and cut them up into thin slices.

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Set them in a strainer to let the excess juice drain out so they don’t get mushy.

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Toss the pear slices in a mixture of 1 cup of sugar, 1 tbsp flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice to taste.  Place the pear slices in the refrigerator.

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Now it’s time to make the crust!

Start with 2 cups of flour.

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Add 2 teaspoons of salt

Start with 4 tablespoons of cold water – the dough will start out crumbly.  As you continue to work with the pastry blender add 1-3 more tablespoons of cold water – working the dough until the dough starts staying together through the wires of the pastry blender.

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Place your dough on a floured surface

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and start to shape it into an oval.

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Roll it out until it’s about 1/8″ of an inch.

(By the way – the rolling pin hubby uses is his favorite.  It’s his Grandma Snyder’s rolling pin from the 1940’s passed down to him.)

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Take the rim of a glass and cut out the individual crusts

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and use a sharp knife to slide it underneath the dough to lift it up

and place in a greased muffin tins like so:

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Now grab the pear slices from the fridge and start placing them into each individual pie tart

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and pop them into a 350 degree oven for about 50 minutes.

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These are SO yummy.  Serve them with whipped cream or ice cream to make them extra special.

Thank you, hubby, for coming up with this creation for me!

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Enjoy!

ellie m

 

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set-aside or set-apart?

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There was a huge season in my life recently when I felt like I was being set aside.  Much of it had to do with facing consequences based on utterly huge mistakes that I had made.  I assumed that God maybe gently set me aside during this time so He could intervene and stop the pain I caused of those around me.

That, and also maybe, just maybe He needed me to be set aside so I could hear His voice among all others.

Whatever the reason, being “set-aside” felt like rejection.

Until I read this post by Lysa TerKeurst:


There were many feelings I thought I’d have at this small conference I’d been so looking forward to attending. Acceptance. Fun. Camaraderie.

On paper, these were my people.

They lead organizations. I lead an organization. They are vulnerable. I am vulnerable. Like me, they know the stresses of deadlines, trying to balance kids with ministry, and the nagging sense that we should keep hidden the fact that we have the pizza delivery place on speed dial.

Yes, these will for sure be my people.

And the great thing about gathering with people you just know you’re going to bond with is that they will get you. Really get you … like on the level of having inside jokes that makes every conversation comfortable and delightful.

I couldn’t wait to be with these people.

And I couldn’t wait for the deep friendships that would surely bloom as a result of our time together.

I walked into the meeting room and quickly found the people I was excited to meet. Every seat had a name tag attached so I circled the table looking for mine. As I got to the last chair and realized my name wasn’t there, I got a sinking feeling.

I milled around the room looking for my name, feeling increasingly out of place. Finally, at a table on the opposite side of the room, I found my name. I rallied in my heart that the Lord must have a special plan for me to meet and connect with the others assigned to my table. I took my seat and pulled out my cell phone as I nervously waited for my tablemates.

I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

As the prayer for the meal concluded and the event got underway, it was painfully apparent the others assigned to my table weren’t able to come for some reason. So, I’d be seated alone. Very alone.

In reality, I don’t think anyone else really noticed my predicament. After all by this point everyone in the room was busy passing rolls and salad dressing options.

In my head I started to have a little pity conversation, “Well, self, would you like a roll? Or ten perhaps? It’s certainly an option when you’re sitting single at a table for 10.”

And that’s when a very clear sentence popped into my head, “You aren’t set aside, Lysa. You are set apart.” It wasn’t audible. And it wasn’t my own thought. I knew it was a thought assigned by God that I needed to ponder.

To be set aside is to be rejected.

That’s exactly what the enemy would have wanted me to feel. If he could get me to feel this, then I’d become completely self absorbed in my own insecurity and miss whatever reason God had for me to be at this event.

To be set apart is to be given an assignment that requires preparation.

That’s what I believe God wanted me to see. If He could get me to see this, I’d be able to embrace the lesson of this situation.

Have you ever been in this place? I wasn’t just in this place at the dinner that night. I’ve been in whole seasons of my life where, though I had people around, I felt quite alone in the calling of my life. Can I give you three thoughts that might encourage you in a season like that?

1. Look for the gift of being humbled.

Proverbs 11:2 reminds us that “with humility comes wisdom.” In this set apart place, God will give you special wisdom you’ll need for the assignment ahead.

2. Look for the gift of being lonely.

This will develop in you a deeper sense of compassion for your fellow travelers. You better believe when I walk into a conference now, I look for someone sitting alone and make sure they know they are noticed.

3. Look for the gift of silence.

Had I been surrounded by the voices of those people I was so eager to meet that night, I would have surely missed the voice of God. I’m trying to weave more silence into the rhythm of my life now so I can whisper, “God, what might You want to say to me right now? I’m listening.”

I know it can painful to be alone. And I know the thoughts of being set aside are loud and overwhelmingly tempting to believe in the hollows of feeling unnoticed and uninvited.

But as you pray through your feelings, see if maybe your situation has more to do with you being prepared than you being overlooked.

There is something wonderfully sacred that happens when a girl chooses to look past being set aside to see God’s call for her to be set apart.

By Lysa TerKeurst posted on (in)courage’s site

ellie m

 

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mary, did you know

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The first time I heard this song was when hubby sang it (solo) at church years and years ago.  I remember thinking that this is the prettiest song I have ever heard.  I have reminded him since that I want him to sing it again so I can record him and play it over and over.

Today, I watched the video of this song by Pentatonix – an a cappella band who did such a beautiful rendition of it.   Just beautiful.

Here is the video and the lyrics are beneath.

Mary, Did You Know

Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you.

Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God.

Mary did you know, Mary did you know, Mary did you know…

The blind will see, the deaf will hear and the dead will live again.
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb.

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you’re holding is the great I am.

ellie m

 

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UPDATE:  Ugh.  Since posting this, hubby informs me that the song he sang was “Joseph’s Song”, not “Mary, Did You Know”.  Joseph…Mary…you understand how I can get confused, yes?

kirk cameron’s “Saving Christmas” movie

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I admit, I throw a wet blanket on Christmas every single year.

I complain about the commercialism, materialism, and the let’s-spend-until-we’re-broke-ism mentality.  Not to mention Christmas trees, cards, lights, toys…all out on display before Halloween arrives?  Christmas had been hijacked by retail stores!

I wanted to be surrounded by reminders of the real meaning and joy of Christmas.  But I had given up hope on that many seasons ago.

UNTIL…I saw a movie trailer for Kirk Cameron’s new “Saving Christmas” movie.  There was a scene of this guy with the same attitude I had and Kirk Cameron tells him that everything that he was seeing around him was all about Jesus.  I wondered how he was going to explain that.

No spoiler alerts here — I will just say that I was expecting just a cheesy sort of fun movie that hubby and I could watch together — but the movie completely exceeded my expectations!  As we were walking toward the movie theater, I said to him “maybe this will help me with my attitude”.  And boy, did it!

I am so glad that I saw this movie.  I never thought that I would be able to experience Christmas the way I wanted to, but this movie turned it around.  I was so giddy afterwards and now have a child-like anticipation for this Christmas season.  So thankful!

Do you have the same attitude I had?  Check out this trailer — then check out the movie.  Only in theaters for another week or so!

Enjoy!

ellie m

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