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!


ellie m

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clementine cake – a must try!

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Last week, hubby and I made Clementine Cake for the first time.  It came on my radar after we watched the movie “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” a few months back.  I looked up recipes – there’s not a lot of variation out there.  Hubby is the hands-down baker of this clan, so I always recruit him to help with baked goods.

Here’s how we did it!

I chose to use a combination of Nigella Lawson’s version and a version I found in my Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottozenghi.  The main differences are that Nigella’s version is flourless which, with the amount of ground almonds it requires, gives it a texture that might catch some people off guard.  The Jerusalem cookbook’s version does include flour, but the flavor of the clementines mostly comes from the zest in the batter and the syrup that is poured over the top of it in the end.  I much prefer Nigella’s technique of cooking down several whole clementines in boiling water and using all of that to flavor the cake.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.


You start out by bringing 4-5 clementines (1 lb) up to a boil and then simmer for 2 (yes, two) hours.  I kept the lid on and kept my eye on the water level, adding more as needed.  There should be enough for them to float around in.


After they’ve cooled down, cut them in half and take out all of the seeds and throw them in a blender.


Blend them up good until it’s a smooth puree.  I love this color!  Between you and me, I’m loving all of the colors in this entire post!  Makes me want to go out shopping for clementine-colored everything.


Now it’s time to put together all of the other ingredients, which are not all pictured here because I thought it would clutter up the picture…and I don’t like clutter.

First, cream 3/4 c. butter with 1 1/4 c. superfine sugar.  Slowly add in 5 beaten eggs.

Then pour in the clementine puree and mix until they’re all combined.

Now for the dry ingredients.  (yes, I know, the sugar above is dry.  just follow along please)

Add 2.5 c. ground almond (I used almond meal from Trader Joes), 3/4 c. flour, and a pinch of salt.


Mix it all up then pour the batter into a well greased and parchment paper-lined springform pan.  We decided to lather it in butter and forego the parchment paper but it still required hubby prying the cake off of the bottom of the pan with a sharp knife.  Lesson learned?  Use the parchment paper!

Both recipes say to bake for 1 hour total, but the two we baked finished up quickly, in 40 minutes.  Make sure you check it at around 35 minutes – if it’s not done and the top is getting too brown, cover it up with foil.

After it has cooled down, you get to decide how you’d like to top it.  We did one where we dusted it with powdered sugar which was pretty…but hubby is a cake-must-have-frosting kind of person, so he whipped up a variation of Betty Crocker’s 7 Minute Frosting.  To that, he added the zest of 1 clementine and the juice of 1/2 of a clementine.

Then he took a few clementine segments and arranged them in a spiral in the center of the cake to pretty it up.

This is super yummy if you slice it, toast it, smother it in butter.  Or just eat it as a cake should be eaten.

So moist, and so good!

2014-10-19 October 2014 Clementine Cake 116


ellie m


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what’s for dinner?

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The other night, hubby asked what we were having for dinner.

His response when I showed him?

“That sounds like an NHL injury

Ha!  Get it?

Happy Friday people!

ellie m


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sunday dinner prep

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Getting some of the ingredients together to marinade the chicken for dinner tonight!



ellie m


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fall college tour. already?!

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<snif snif >

How did this happen?!

Okay, so it won’t be for another couple of years, but now that my precious miracle-baby boy turned-16 year old son is actually touring colleges, it suddenly seems real.

He’s with his school touring 6 colleges in Southern California this week.  I texted him and asked him if he wouldn’t mind taking a selfie or having someone take his picture at a college or two for me.  You know what I got as a response to that request?

< crickets chirping >

Yep.  Dead silence.

I was hoping to post those pictures here, but since it appears there’s a slim-to-zilch chance that that will happen, I found this image, which I think adequately describes a day in my near future:


ellie m


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graham’s temporary ‘quiet box’

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My co-worker (previously a middle school special needs teacher) gave me the idea of getting a refrigerator box (cut out one of the sides so it would be 3 sides only) that Graham might be able to be taught to retreat to before he ‘goes over the edge’.

Haven’t found one yet, but he did enjoy settling into this smaller box as soon as he spotted it sitting outside yesterday.  Lots of smiles, squeals, and laughter :)

It reminds me of little children who like the box better than what came in the box — you all know what I mean.

First, he had to make it comfy with his pillow and blanket…


…too much excitement!  How about a nap in it instead?

ellie m


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“by your side”

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We saw Tenth Avenue North in concert together in October, 2012.  I’ll skip through the up and down events leading up to that night, but I will say that it felt like a God-thing that we were there.  To this day, we think of it as a special night.

So when it came time to thinking about wedding songs – in particular, the song that I would walk down the aisle to – we thought we would select one of theirs.  We were very intentional about making decisions surrounding our wedding day based on what was meaningful to the two of us and thought about special things that only we shared together.  It had dawned on us one evening that using one of their songs would be perfect.  We had to find one with the right tempo and the right lyrics.  We both overwhelmingly agreed that it would be “By Your Side”.

The video I am sharing in this post is the same one we used on our wedding day.  I really wanted people to focus on the beautiful words of this song.  So the video played for them and the doors didn’t open for me to walk into the room until the second verse started.

I know that my God will always be by my side, and so will my best friend, who married me on that day.

Do you have a special story about the wedding song you picked?

“By Your Side” Tenth Avenue North (partial lyrics)

Why are you striving these days
Why are you trying to earn grace
Why are you crying
Let me lift up your face
Just don’t turn away

Why are you looking for love
Why are you still searching
As if I’m not enough
To where will you go child
Tell me where will you run
To where will you run

‘Cause I’ll be by your side wherever you fall
In the dead of night whenever you call
And please don’t fight these hands that are holding you
My hands are holding you

ellie m

waking up at dark-thirty is starting to show

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I get to work early each morning.

Each day at work, a soldier greets me at the gate to check my badge.  Once I’m allowed to drive on, I always feel like I’ve just entered Disneyland because it’s a different world inside – everyone is so nice to each other.

Last week, not once, not twice, but 3 (THREE) days in a row, the army man at the gate greeted me with the words “Are you awake yet ma’am??”.  I’m thinking, even if I looked that horrid, how can you tell?  The sun isn’t up yet – it’s still dark outside man!  So I blew it off, telling myself he just thinks that’s a fun thing to say to me in the morning.

BUT THEN…we were wrapping up a team meeting on Thursday when the facilitator looked at me and said in front of the group…”You’ve been quiet – you look tired – are you sleepy?”.

UGH.  I guess that confirmed it.

I WILL sleep properly this week so kids be warned – you’ll need to plan accordingly!

Happy Monday people!

ellie m


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our blended family wall gallery. at last!

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I’m one of those moms that takes hundreds – no, thousands – no, millions of pictures.  I see nothing wrong with photo documenting Every Single Moment possible.

So when I finally got tired of having an item called “wall photos” on my never ending to-do list, that meant that I had to sort through my hundreds – thousands – millions of pictures and pick only what could fit on this empty wall space:


In my mind, the wall seemed much larger than in reality.  I’d have to choose carefully.

So I procrastinated.  And procrastinated.  And procrastinated.  I DID NOT want to go through the painful process of deciding which ones would make the cut!  But last weekend, we were stuck in the house (no sitter for Graham) so hubby decided we would be ambitious and get some projects done.  The wall gallery project was mine.

I sifted through many photos and decided that I didn’t want posed shots.  I wanted fun, active ones.  After many hours and an Advil or 2 (or 3 or 4…) I picked out the lucky 22 and came up with sizes (all 5×7 or 8×10) and their placement.


I took a trip to a couple of frame shops to find basic frames that would be small enough to not take up too much space on the wall and came up with these (all layed out on the hallway floor – 3 are cropped off on the left):


Everything else was left up to my handy dandy hubby.  You see, that’s how we work.  I come up with the vision, he makes it all happen.  I won’t mention that he said that it was a geometric nightmare.  And I won’t mention how many times he re-primed and re-painted the wall before he got it to look like this!


I was a little worried that it might end up looking a little too cluttered, but I think it turned out just perfectly!  They are all exactly level (hubby has issues if things aren’t precise) – can you tell?  Now on to the rest of the walls of the house :)

ellie m


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when a special needs kid keeps pulling your hair out. literally.

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I like my hair.

I’d like to keep it.  (or at least most of it?)

I think that’s a reasonable thing for a girl to hope for.  (did I mention I’m the only girl that lives here?)

Over the summer, I have experimented A LOT with how to deal with Graham’s aggressive behavior and he has made tremendous progress with self-control and quick recovery time!  Yay!  I will expand on that in a different post, so stay tuned.

Graham’s go-to response if he’s even the slightest bit unhappy is to grab/pull/kick/throw.  Think of him as a 3 year old non-verbal child who is in a 200 pound football-esq adult man’s body who walks as slow as a snail with Frankenstein movements.   It finally dawned on me why episodes with me (and his female aides at school) are more difficult to get out of and many times require the help of someone else.

It’s the hair!

Guys can get away much easier because he’s mostly pulling on their shirt.  Not so easy to get distance from him when his little fingers have a tight grip on a girl’s hair.  And once you do break away from him, you start to find clumps of hair that are no longer attached to your head, like this:


The solution?

Personal protective equipment.  Head protection gear.  Safety helmet.  In other words…



Hubby had this sick look on his face as we shopped at a sporting goods store to find me the perfect save-my-hair-hat.  I looked at him and said with a smirk “this is how much I love you”.

My lovely co-worker, Anna, and I were brainstorming one day about possible protective wear.  We came up with a bicycle hat.  However, hubby decided that the holes in that hat would give Graham places for his fingers to hold on to.  I then pictured a smooth baseball hat to cover my hair with some sort of chin strap that could hold tight long enough for me to get distance and that could break free easily so I can avoid choking.

[excuse me while I take a moment to take in the fact that I just wrote that last sentence]

We found this:


Relax.  It’s just a prototype.  I’m not sure what it’s real purpose is, but this had a baseball hat top with cloth coming down on both sides that attach under your chin with velcro.

I introduced this to Graham as a hat that would help him not to pull my hair.  To help him ‘control his temper’ (a phrase we have been using with him this summer).  This odd looking hat has seen action once so far and it was successful!  We were sitting at the dinner table and I could tell he was on edge.  So I put it on and when he tried to grab my hair, he couldn’t and he didn’t bother to try a second time.  So we’ll continue to use this for now.

That is, until I can talk Scott into buying me one of these ADORABLE equestrian hats:


C’mon, you gotta give me some kudos for creativity?


ellie m


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