Saturday, January 26, 2013

Unexpected Joy

Have you ever wished for something, expecting one result, and ending up with something entirely different??
Like the gorgeous dress on the mannequin that looks bulky and all-wrong when you try it on?
Or the droolable recipe from Pinterest that turns out so badly you want to throw it in the trashcan before anyone sees it?
Yup, I have!

In some ways, my journey of faith bears some resemblance to these illustrations. At least, in the moment, it sure feels like it does! You see, recently I prayed for an increase in my faith, and a deeper understanding of what it meant to really know God. Good stuff, right? I thought so! I was excited about growing as a Christian and as a wife. Funny how those prayers get answered...

 Enter a myriad of big decisions, for our future and our business. We spent a good deal of time discussing our options and praying fervently for wisdom and direction. What happened next was what I call a refining process. {The part I'd rather skip over!} After pouring ourselves into making the right decision, the door closed. And at the same time, we experienced a significant financial loss because of a simple mistake. I felt like someone poured a bucket of cold water over my head and I couldn't quite catch my breath. It was a let-down in more ways than one, even though I felt peace, knowing that our prayers had been answered.

But as I struggled to accept the loss, and to stay in that place of "perfect peace", I got a hug from God, in the form of a text from a friend, with these verses from Romans 5.

 {5 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.}

The light bulb suddenly came on! God is in the process of answering the very prayers I've been just looks quite a bit different from what I pictured! {Kinda like those failed Pinterest attempts} He knew the only way to grow my faith, and draw me to a deeper intimacy with Him was to  allow difficulty, even pain. It's funny how you can know these things in your head, but it doesn't connect to your heart until you get that revelation. And in the strangest of ways, it's a message of hope. For me, the knowledge that something good will come from something difficult makes the process so much more worthwhile!   

I compare it to having a baby: the anguish of labor pains is a necessary part of the process in delivering a precious child into the world. I think I can safely say that most women don't desire the pain, but they endure it, for the sake of the joy they will soon experience {and also because it's the only way to get that baby out!!! ha} But the reality is, suffering is often the only way God can do that deep work of building our character and drawing us to Himself. Even though I wouldn't choose some of these experiences, it's there I find hope. I find God. And all of this gives me joy! Crazy, isn't it? Yes, except that's how God works. He takes a big mess and makes something lovely out of it; not necessarily enjoyable, but so worth it in the end!

And I can assure you...He's not done with me yet! But I pray that even this small change within me becomes an deep well of joy that springs from nothing more than knowing Him.

:: Praying you find hope in the trials! ::

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Easy Homemade Yogurt

Homemade yogurt was on my list of projects to do for quite a while, 
and I was amazed at how easy it really was to make,
not to mention a whole lot cheaper and healthier than what you buy in the store!

Since a few of you had requested this recipe, I decided it would be easier to blog about it than to try to post it on Facebook!
The recipe comes from the A+ Cookbook - a new favorite of mine - and originates with Laura Showalter. 

The ingredients:
1 gallon milk
2 1/2 T unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 cup sweetener (sugar, honey or other)

Cooking Instructions:
Heat milk in large kettle to 180 degrees. Remove from heat, let cool to 120 degrees. 
Meanwhile, soak gelatin in 1/2 cup cold water. When milk reaches 120 degrees, stir in gelatin, yogurt and sweetener. (May also add powdered acidolphilus.) Beat well. Pour into glass jars. (I prefer wide-mouth quarts.) Incubate by one of the following methods: 
1) Place in a large lunch box cooler or large thermos, fill to neck of jars with hot water, and leave 6 to 8 hours.
2) Or set jars in oven on pilot or with oven light on (temperature should be approximately 110-120 degrees); leave 6-8 hours.
Refrigerate 12 hours before eating.

My Notes:
I didn't have quite the full gallon of milk that the recipe called for, so the yogurt was more the consistency of a gelatin. I think I'll try using a little less gelatin the next time I make it (and obviously, more milk!) 
I also used honey as a sweetener and thought the flavor was delicious.
We all loved it, especially Hadassah!!
A favorite of mine is eating it with fresh fruit & homemade granola!

And there you have it...your own homemade yogurt!
Let me know if you like it :)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

2013: Word for the Year

The beginning of a new year is a source of fresh inspiration and excitement for me! New opportunities, new goals, new growth. But a new year can also be daunting. So often, life just doesn't work out the way we plan. {I'm speaking for myself here and assuming you can relate!} We set goals that we struggle to attain, make plans that don't materialize, and in those moments, struggle with defeat and discouragement.

That's one of the reasons I find purpose in a word for the year. My word for 2012 was TRUST. And believe me, it was a year of growing in that! So often, when I was feeling fearful and uncertain about the future, I would remember this word. And it comforted me to know that even when I didn't know the outcome, God did. And I could learn to trust Him to provide for all the details. I'm still learning what this means, and will probably be for the rest of my life! But it was so wonderful to see God's hand in the word that was on my heart.

So, with these lofty expectations already in my head, I started thinking and praying about the direction of my life for this new year. And of course, a word! It was an interesting experience, because it didn't come to me right away. Actually, the first word that came to my mind was GROW. There are specific areas in my life that I am praying about, and longing to see change in. I want to grow, to be challenged, to mature. Shortly after that, I was reading about TRANSFORMATION and it touched a chord within me. But a few days later, I was with my small group, and different women were sharing their word for the year, when IT came!!! And I knew it was my word! 

Definition: To set free from confinement, restraint or bondage.
To relieve of care and suffering.
To relinquish.

The last definition is what came to mind; a relinquishing of my dreams, my plans and the need to control my life. And that scares me! Surrender doesn't come easily for me. But when I looked at the meaning of this word, and saw the first part of the definition, I was blown away. I can't set myself free; that is God's work. And it happens when I release everything to Him! Then, and only then, I am truly free!!! Can I say "wow"? 

So yes, I am excited about this year!! I know there will be change, and it's not all going to be easy or even pain-free. But that is when growth happens, and that is when I experience transformation. So if you think of me and my word, you can whisper a prayer that I will live this out and truly experience release in my life. And I'd love to do the same for you! What is your word for 2013? 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Looking Back: Best Moments of 2012

Another year is history: gone, but for pictures and memories! 2012 was another unforgettable year, filled to the brim with challenges, joys, growth & change. But isn't that the story of life? A blending of the good and the bad, woven together into a thing of beauty by the Creator. I love that!

So you wanna join me in my reminiscing? I promise not to take up more than an hour of your time!

Most Enjoyable: Our Anniversary trip to Sanibel Island in Florida! The weather was perfect, the beach heavenly, and we enjoyed it all with some dear friends!!

Most Rewarding: Completing two 5k runs, both times while pushing Hadassah in the stroller! No, I didn't break any world records, but I was happy with my time considering the circumstances. Doing it with friends made it a lot more fun!

Most Challenging: Adjusting to my role as a full-time mommy, for sure! Even though the change hasn't been easy, I still think it's the best job in the world!!

Most Tedious: Sewing look-alike dresses for Hadassah & I was a top priority for my first Mother's Day! I'd forgotten just how stressful it can be, and will think twice before I attempt it again!! {wait. I have fabric in my cupboard...for more dresses!}

Most Life-Changing: Our youth trip to Jamaica touched me in the deepest ways. Ministering to kids who have so little broke my heart and opened my eyes to the needs around me. 

Most Crazy: Yes, we dressed up like cows for a lunch at Chick-fil-A! Did I feel crazy walking in looking like this? You bet!! But I'll probably do it again next year!

Most Surprising: The birthday dinner my husband planned for me at Olive Garden, even arranging for my family from PA and some friends to join us!! {I think I screamed. And maybe got overly excited! It was awesome.}

Most Creative: A Barn Sale event, featuring local artisans, and put on by some of my friends & I was a highlight and pushed me to get my creativity on!

Most Memorable: Our baby girl's first birthday was a wonderful celebration, complete with family & friends. We are so blessed to have this little ray of sunshine in our home!


Most Sibling Weddings in One Year: At least, for the Showalter family! Jeff & Bridgette got married in February, and Craig & Jessica, in November. That's alot of love, people!!! We can only hope there's a little more time before the next one rolls around :)

Most Addicting Food: Deep-fried oreos!! Oh, my. Eat them once, and you'll never be the same again. Literally!

Most Precious: Watching Papa with his little girl. It melts my heart!!

So that's some of the best moments of my year; what were some of yours? 

Happy New Year, everybody!!!