Tuesday, July 31, 2012

You Don't Have to Wear a Scarlet Letter

Recently, my oldest daughter was required to read the story The Scarlet Letter for literature class. I remember reading the same book when I was in high school. Many of you are probably familiar with the fictional story of Hester Prynne. She was the main character from this story set in the 17th century, who was publicly set before the townspeople and shamed for her sin of adultery. She was also made to wear the red letter "A" on the front of her dress.

I can only imagine the feelings that would go through a woman who not only had to stand before a jeering crowd in  public humiliation, but also had to wear this symbol for the rest of her life. It was a symbol that would instantly identify her to every person she would ever meet. Shame is a powerful force. I think that even today, both men and women feel that they must forever wear their past mistakes upon their chest to somehow pay for their mistakes.

For the past several months, one portion of a verse from the Bible has been replaying itself over and over in my mind. It is this one that says, "You shall know them by their love." (John 13:35) I know I am sadly lacking in this so many times, but I'm asking God to cause me to grow hugely in this area.

 I have been thinking of this verse and knowing that God is trying to show me the bigger picture. Other people will recognize us as a true Christian by our love, and especially our words and actions of love. When we can look at a person with the love Jesus has for them, at the place they are at right now, and demonstrate love towards them, then they will know that we are His disciples.

In our church, a beautiful ministry has started of helping women who have had abortions. It helps them in dealing with guilt or shame, tormenting thoughts, and sorrow from their past. It is also to help them experience the total forgiveness and restoration that Jesus offers. I am so grieved at some who have no compassion for women who have gone through an abortion. It would seem that they believe a woman should wear a scarlet letter to forever identify her past mistake. But Jesus looks at her so differently. He has tremendous compassion on her.

Jesus showed His compassion when He met a woman, who, the Bible says, was caught in the very act of adultery. She was then placed alone in front of a crowd of people. (I wonder what passed through her mind as she stood there? She had no one brave enough to come and stand by her side.) The teachers of the law and the Pharisees were quick to identify her and quick to begin her punishment. But Jesus' reaction was different.  Jesus never looks at just our outward appearance and actions. I think He looked deep into her heart and saw all the brokenness that she had ever experienced and the total lack of self worth that she believed about herself. He bent down and began writing in the dust of the ground. When they continued to question Jesus on what actions He was going to take, He had one answer, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first one to throw a stone at her." The Bible says that those who heard Him, began to go away one at at time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left with the woman.  Jesus told her that He did not condemn her and to go and leave her life of sin. He did instruct her to leave that life, but He didn't demean her or make her feel as if she had no value.

 Perhaps you feel you wear the letter "F" for failure. I think we all have moments when we feel like failures as a parent. Maybe you feel you failed at a marriage, school, or a job.  But that isn't your identity. It isn't who you are. God hasn't stamped you as a hopeless case.

What makes the gospel of Jesus Christ good news is that we don't have to carry our past with us any longer. I believe that is also important in our interactions with one another. We can't treat a person as "less than" because of their past.  His love has redeemed it is my job to let someone else know that His love will redeem them and wipe away the hurts from their life.

What is shame? The dictionary defines it as a painful emotion caused by a strong sense of guilt, embarrassment, unworthiness, or disgrace. Shame can literally consume our lives and dictate our steps. It can make us believe that we have no value based on what we have done. If you have lived under a cloud of shame for very long, it can seem impossible to ever break free from it. But Jesus sees where you are right now and longs to show you how He feels towards you.

The dictionary definition mentions guilt as part of shame, but they are actually two different issues. My husband is a pastor and often says to our congregation that guilt is feeling bad about what you've done. Shame is feeling bad about who you are. It is an identity issue.

What can be done then?  Psalm 34:18 says, "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." and Isaiah 1:18 says, "Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow, though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool."

You don't have to wear an invisible scarlet letter. The Bible says that if we confess our sins (what we have done wrong), He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I John 1 says, "If you walk in the light as He is in the light, then you have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin." If you think about this verse, it is making a correlation between walking in the light (transparency) and fellowship (relationships) with one another. A safe, close friendship where we can be transparent, can help us not to hide in shame any longer. The goal of shame is to keep us in hiding. But making a decision to step out of that belief will help us be healed.

My heart breaks over anyone reading this who is struggling with feeling they have no value. I so often have felt the same way. It is only recently, really, that the Lord has opened my eyes to how He really feels towards me. He will do the same for you. I've never experienced an abortion, but have had friends who have gone through one. Their lives have been forever impacted. But they have experienced healing and restoration.

Today, talk to Jesus openly and tell Him how you feel about yourself. If you have guilt over a past mistake, He is able and willing to forgive you. But if you are experiencing shame or you feel you are constantly living under a cloud of shame, then allow Him to heal those painful and broken parts of your heart that you have been protecting for so long. He doesn't look at you in those feelings of shame. You have tremendous value to Him.

You are not marked for life. His love is reaching out to you wherever you are right now.

*The ministry I mentioned can be reached on

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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Lava Chocolate Cakes

I've been on a dessert kick lately. I found this little dessert on the Taste of Home website. I've seen a variation of this recipe in several places, but decided to try this one out today. My kids taste-tested it and gave it their seal of approval. It's always fun to cut into a chocolate cake that has a liquid-y chocolate center, right?

Ingredients for 4 Lava Cakes:

You'll need 4 - 6 oz. ramekins
4 tsp. sugar
1/2 cup butter, cubed
4 oz. semi sweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup confectioners sugar
2 eggs plus
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 tsp. instant coffee granules
3/4 tsp vanilla
6 T. flour
1/2 tsp salt
 Whipped cream or extra confectioners' sugar

Grease bottom and sides of the 4 ramekins. Sprinkle each with 1 tsp sugar. Place the ramekins on baking sheet and set aside.

In a microwave safe bowl, melt butter and chocolate for 1 minute or so. Stir until smooth. Stir in confectioners' sugar until smooth. Whisk in eggs, yolks, instant coffee and vanilla. Stir in flour and salt; spoon batter into prepared ramekins.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 12 minutes. Centers will be soft, but sides are set.

Remove to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Carefully run a small knife around cakes to loosen. Invert cakes onto serving plates. Lift ramekins off (mine came off easily, thank goodness!) Serve warm with whipped cream or sprinkle with confectioners' sugar.  Yield: 4

Source - Taste of Home's beautiful photo

My creation - I didn't get a clear shot somehow, but it was good!
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                                                   recipe to Thanks so much!

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Easy Peazy Chocolate Raspberry Pie - 5 Ingredients!

A friend gave me this recipe several years ago and it is such an easy summertime dessert. If you like the combination of chocolate and raspberry as I do, then I think you'll love this.

You will need one ready made chocolate pie crust ( I usually find these by the puddings and jello).

1 8 oz Cool Whip - thawed

1 container raspberries

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 tsp. oil (not shown)

Combine 2 tsp. oil and chocolate chips in a bowl. Microwave for 1 minute and 30 seconds, stirring once or twice. Stir well after taking it out of the microwave to make sure all chocolate pieces are melted.  Fold in a container of thawed Cool Whip into the melted chocolate, then fold in raspberries. Place this mixture into the pie crust and refrigerate for 2 hours or in freezer 1 hour. Garnish with raspberries. (You can also store this pie in the freezer for up to 3 months and pull out whenever you need a quick dessert.)

It only has 5 ingredients and you never have to turn the oven on! Refreshing, cold, and delicious!

P.S.  Take a look at a little visitor we had on the deck while I was making this pie.


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Monday, July 9, 2012

Making Your Mother-in-Law Your Friend

If I were giving advice to a woman about to be married, it would be this. Do your best to make your mother-in-law your friend. I know there may be women who would say, "But you don't know my mother-in-law!" I'm sure there are very hard cases where you feel that you don't care for her or you feel she doesn't care for you.  But as much as it relies upon you, be at peace with her. Make good choices and take the high road in the relationship.

I am blessed to have a wonderful mother-in-law. In fact, I told my husband the other day, that I consider my mother-in-law, Faye, to be one of my best friends. Let me tell you a little about why I feel this way about her.

In 1992, Dave and I were told that our one year old twins had cerebral palsy. About two years later, they were both scheduled to be fitted for wheelchairs. I stayed with them at the University of Iowa Hospitals while Faye stayed at home with our other two children.

 On the day we arrived in Iowa City, I was so burdened down with sorrow I felt like I could hardly function. I remember being shown a catalog of wheelchairs and then somehow found myself sitting on the floor crying. I knew wheelchairs were something that had to be done, that this would be best for them, but the deep feeling of grief can hardly be described.

The kids and I stayed there that week while they were being measured, fitted, and re-measured for their wheelchairs. We came home for the weekend and then returned the next week for another few days. At night, when I finally got them both to fall asleep, I would sit and look out the window at a clock on the campus grounds, and wonder if things would ever get better. It felt like there was no place I could put this weight of pain that I was carrying around.

Finally, we returned back home at Teen Challenge. We pulled into the driveway and I remember asking Dave if somehow he could put the wheelchairs somewhere that I wouldn't have to look at them for a while. We lived in a pretty small place, but somehow, after putting the kids down, he was able to place them out of my direct line of vision. I laid down for a while in the back bedroom and listened to the sounds of conversation in the house. I could hear Faye in the kitchen making supper for us and our children's voices. When I walked into the kitchen and saw Faye making meatballs and talking with Dave, I felt comforted. It felt like the heaviness lifted a little, and that everything would be okay. I'm sure Faye probably hugged me and cried. That would be the thing that she would have done. But to tell you the truth, the details of that day are a little foggy. All I really remember is that her presence in our home at that time made so much difference in my pain filled mind.

Just a short few months later, Faye just "happened" to be spending the night at our home when Alex, one of our twins, suddenly went to be with the Lord. She stayed back with our other children while I climbed into an ambulance with Alex in the early morning hours, and Dave drove to the emergency room. She was waiting for us when we arrived back home later that morning alone.

There have been many instances like this one in my life. She has been there through thick and thin with Dave and I.  I don't remember when I stopped looking at her as just "mother-in-law" and started looking at her as "friend", but that is what happened. You may feel like you don't have a lot in common with your husband's mom, but this is where you need to become creative and find the areas where you have shared interests. After all, you married her son and that is a good starting place. Sometimes it just starts with a decision that you make. It can really start with you.

 Faye has taught me a lot by her example. When everyone else around her wondered if one of her sons would ever turn his life around, she never doubted. She always believed. It reminds me of a book I read a few years ago where a lady went to heaven and asked about the thrones she saw lining a wall. She was told they belonged to the praying mothers. I can't find anything in the Bible that supports that, but I wouldn't be surprised either!

Honoring your mother-in-law really isn't an option. Praise her to your children and set aside times to have fun with her. Speak to others of all the good things that you see in her. Someday, you and I will be the "mother-in-law"and what we have sown, we will reap. I want to reap a good relationship with my someday daughter-in-laws and sons-in-law, but it starts now.

Ice skating with Grandma

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Thursday, July 5, 2012

French Silk Pie

I love pies. I truly do. This is one of my favorites and is actually very easy to make. This pie also freezes extremely well. I have frozen a couple and used within 3 months. It's a great pie to pull out for guests along with some homemade whipped cream.

You will need a 9 inch baked pie shell. My mom and mother-in-law make a very good homemade pie crust, but I use the frozen pie crusts from Walmart. Bake it for 9 minutes, then take it out and let it cool while you make the filling.  I think a post about learning to make a homemade pie crust is in my near future:)

For the french silk filling, you will need:

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup softened butter
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
3 squares ( 1 oz each) unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled ( I happened to find a new item for this called Nestle Choco Bake which are pre-melted unsweetened chocolate packets - very handy!)
3 eggs

Homemade whipping cream:

1 cup chilled whipping cream
2 T. powdered sugar

Beat sugar and butter in bowl til light and fluffy. Stir in vanilla, cream of tartar and chocolate. Beat in eggs til light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Pour into cooled pie shell. Refrigerate until set, 3 - 4 hours or cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 8 hours. ( I've kept mine in the freezer for up to 3 months. I cover with plastic wrap and then slip the pie into a large ziplock bag.)  Remove from freezer 15 min. before serving.

Looking good!

For the homemade whipped cream, you will need to beat the chilled whipping cream and the 2 T. of powdered sugar in a chilled bowl until stiff. Top pie with whipped cream and chocolate curls. (I used a room temperature Hershey chocolate bar and shaved off the sides with a vegetable peeler for the chocolate curls)

 I know everyone seems happier in the house when Mom is making a dessert. Sometimes I've made two pies and put one in the freezer for a future treat.  I hope your family enjoys this as much as we do!

Finished product!

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recipe from Betty Crocker Cookbook 1987