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desertcarcThe engine of progress begins with a soul inspired. A soul inspired begins with a relationship with God. A relationship with God begins with a conversation, a talk and listen, and an “I-believe-Lord.-Help-my-unbelief” kind of growing trust. It’s Monday. Monday is a good day to begin being inspired.

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beachbirdccThe world may ruffle your feathers, but the Lord gives peace to your soul.

“And the peace of God,
which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”
~Philippians 4:7.

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“Drip down, O heavens, from above,
And let the clouds pour down righteousness;
Let the earth open up and salvation bear fruit,
And righteousness spring up with it.
I, the LORD, have created it.”
~ Isaiah 45:8

 

floridateac“Do you believe,?”Jesus asked.

“Yes, Lord! Help my unbelief” came the answer. The blind man had to then open his eyes to see, the lame man had to stand up, the sick woman had to reach out to touch the hem of his garment.

Peter invited Jesus to dinner before he was asked to follow Jesus, Cleopas invited a stranger into a conversation on the Emmaus road, and the soldier walked to find Jesus to ask for the healing of his servant. All had to act to have their life changed in big ways, ways as simple as opening our eyes, trying to stand up, inviting someone to dinner or including them in a conversation.

Maybe it works in changing our daily, too – little changes like inviting someone into a conversation, going to see a neighbor, even making a cup of tea and carving out a place of goodness in an everyday ordinary routine -and inviting God into it with those words from long ago: “I believe. Help my unbelief.”

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(This is a ramble about an adventure steeped in blessing. I don’t think I could write about my weekend any other way)

I flew to a woman’s retreat – going far away from home is a hard thing for me. It’s the second time I’ve ever done anything like that. I left feeling like a little ladybug in a very big elephant-sized world and returned feeling so very brave.  I took my camera because it helps me holistically process, both directly and indirectly, my experiences. On the two-hour drive to Winsome 2018 at the Sulfur Springs Retreat Center, I didn’t stop to take photos. When I got there, for some reason, I really needed to take a photo of the horses in the pasture. Don’t ask me why because I really don’t know why. Yet, on the two hour drive back to the airport, I stopped, even turned around and drove back, to take pictures of things that just said, “Stop. You  need to do this. It’s a blessing I have for you.”

Winsome 2018 was a weekend of blessing. Kim Hyland, founder and host of winsome and author of An Imperfect Woman told us, “He sabotaged my strategies and he saved me.”She talked about of the idea of Perfection as a Saboteur, that “perfection is too heavy a burden to carry on our own,” and how it “drives the need for redemption in us.”

Denise Hughes, blogger, author, and editor, talked about how, for writers, writing is an act of obedience, that the writer “places the writing on the altar and we leave it on the altar, leaving the outcome of where it goes in God’s hands – and, as a writer, that liberated me to write in whatever spaces God gives me – whether it’s a big community or a small community, – and later she talked about how God grows us into women of grace. She is a beautiful story-teller!

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Niki Hardy, a beautiful, eloquent rectal cancer survivor, talked about False Guilt leading to broken identities, not being good enough to have an abundant life, how we need to find abundance in the pain, how to hold on to who we are to him – and then she had us close our eyes, think about our happiest and most secure place – and she led us on a journey:

What is your happiest and most secure, safe place? I was surprised – not my porch, not my garden. Not my thinking room. Not the house where I grew up. It wasn’t Paris, the beach or the mountains. It was my kitchen – but not just my kitchen empty. It was my kitchen with all my boys, my husband, my daughter-in-laws, the grandgirlies and grandson – listening – just listening to them talk the way they talk, interact the way they interact – even when it’s not pretty, even when it’s not grace, even when hard growing is going on.

“You’re wearing a backpack,” Niki said. She asked us to think about what we had in that backpack, what made it heavier, a burden, a challenge, something weighing us down.

Sometimes in my kitchen, when there’s too many schedules loaded into my schedule, when there’s emotional chaos brewing, when there’s too many heart-sores I cannot heal in me or in those I love, when my jaw is just dragging the ground due to exhaustion from what I don’t know – it feels like I’m carrying a backpack that weighs me down. Squatting down to find the marjoram in the spice rack – or the summer savory – only to find it above the stove, I feel as though I wouldn’t be able to rise up; rummaging for a storage containing with a matching lid, or the garlic press, cooking, baking, being overwhelmed by the mess I’m making and the knowledge I have to clean it up. I could imagine the weight of that visual backpack; I could feel that weight.

I couldn’t pick just one burden to put in my backpack. I thought of the challenges my boys face – and I put those inside. I thought of my mom challenged with carcinoids and my aunt with dementia – and I put those in, too. Then, I thought about my dad walking out on our family, not having a dad who thinks you the world – and, though I have worked through the rejection, the heart sores from it – and am so blessed that God has stood in the gap, teaching me is the best Father – there are days I still struggled with the lack of that tangible relationship. I always imagined a father who would tell one of my boys when he was being sassy, “Son – don’t you talk to my little girl like that.” A father’s relationship with his daughter impacts her self image and self worth. I remember a little girl in our neighborhood. One day one of other neighborhood boys made her mad – and she ran into her house hollering at the top of her lungs, “Daddy”- that moment kind  of wowed me. God was showing me through that little girl running to her dad the kind of relationship of relationship he wants with me. I almost second guessed myself and didn’t put it in – because, really, in comparison to so many other challenges people have, well, I started to put a guilt trip on me, that false guilt trip mentioned earlier, that guilt trip that satan uses to trick us away from God, who he is, how he sees us – and how we see ourselves through him.

Then Niki asked us to see Jesus walking toward us. I was dismayed – I thought I should have picked the mountains or the ocean in that moment. I second guessed myself, thinking I should have had a better answer, that my truth isn’t good enough. With my eyes closed in Pennsylvania, I was wide-eyed behind my kitchen counter (it’s an open floor plan) in Tennessee – standing there wondering what I was supposed to do now – and, just like my son’s friends who stop  by – who know they don’t have to really knock, but always tap on the door – there was a tap  on the big kitchen doors – and I saw him – Jesus – on the other side of the glass door, tapping and then pushing it open. The door always opens loud. Nobody can sneak in or out of our house. He pushed it open and walked in – like he belonged. Like I was part of his belonging – and, it just about took my breath away! God takes our truth and our confusion – he knows what to do with it. He just needs us to be honest about it . . . with him and ourselves.

Next, Niki asked us to give him what was in our backpack – and there, in that kitchen, I pulled it all out and gave it to him, right in the hustle-bustle of my happy, secure place, where it is o.k. to not always know if you have the right answer.

Then Niki  told us that in return he gave us a package to put in our backpack – and we were to open it – what was it?

I rejected the first thing that came to my mind, as though I had a choice. Shouldn’t it be solutions for those I love? Shouldn’t it be a well mom and aunt? Shouldn’t it be problems solved for the challenges my sons faced?

And I remembered a quote that I love, that I found this year:

“Child,’ said the Lion, ‘I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own” ~ C.S. Lewis, The Horse and His Boy

God doesn’t take away the salvation he gave me to give to someone else who doesn’t have salvation – because there’s not enough to go around and I’m being selfish. When my heart cries out for healing, he doesn’t say, “I’m giving this to you, but, really, you should give it away to someone else – because there’s just not enough to go around and me being healed is really selfish. He doesn’t send cardinals darting out in front of me and say with regret – because  I gave you this blessing, someone else will go without a blessing today. If the potter is gracious enough to want to make the bowl or cup of myself whole again . . . . shouldn’t I accept it, knowing that he also wants to do the same thing for ones I love? That his blessings, his healing, his making whole our brokenness – there is a never-ending supply?

This package I unwrapped and placed inside my bag was for me, about my hurts, about my story, about my relationship with him, so I chose to accept the package he gave me. The gift wasn’t a choice. To accept the gift was my choice.

. . . and I chose to accept the gift, I felt so loved, understood, accepted, and valued by this father through creation and adoption.

Inside the wrappings was a key to my bedroom in his house, with a big window overlooking the most glorious view, in a bedroom designed for his favored daughter. It reminded me of Kintsukuroi, which treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, using a mixture of gold and silver, making the object stronger and more beautiful than before.

Winsomehorse4cElise Daly Parker hosted a Dreams Vision Board Party, which I didn’t complete (remember that horse photo I just had to have?), but I have tucked away to work on in a few weeks. It’s something that has been niggling at the back of my mind, this thinking about the next 10 years. Elise has given me the tools to be able to think about it without hedging my way out of it.

There were more speakers . . . wonderful speakers, sweet worship, heart-felt hospitality – and delicious food ((the scones were amazing!), rocking chairs I just melted into, cozy rooms and kindness . . . so much kindness.

I came to Winsome not knowing what to expect. I allowed that. I didn’t impose expectations of this retreat. I sat long and talked much with sweet friends Brandee and Sherry, Judy, Debbie and Delia, and so many other sweet women, some expecting babies, some with empty nests – and some in between.

I’m still processing the faith seeds shared. I’ve learned that it doesn’t already have to be done, not to be impatient as I unpack and unfold the messages that worked their way into my heart. I came home better equipped for this ever-changing, ever-challenging, grace-filled, God’s-love-in-it, overflowing journey.

The ladies of Winsome were indeed a joy, delightful, engaging, kind, praying, pointing the way, encouraging with beautiful hospitality. I am so glad I was brave and courageous enough to do a new thing!

Winsomehorse5c

Trekking Through – http://www.trekkingthru.com/
http://www.richfaithrising.com/ Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/ Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://www.messymarriage.com/ Messy Marriage
http://holleygerth.com/ Coffee for Your Heart

bradfordpearwinterinstac. . . and the bradford pear blossom survived
the bitter winter storm to bloom
more beautifully
than she thought possible. . . .

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Journaling as I progress though The One Year Chronological Bible:

“See, I have refined you, though not as silver;
I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.
For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this.
How can I let myself be defamed?
I will not yield my glory to another” ~ Isaiah 48: 10-11.

“Announce this with shouts of joy and proclaim it.
Send it out to the ends of the earth; say, ‘The Lord has redeemed his servant Jacob'” ~ Isaiah 48:20b

“Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who hope in me will not be disappointed” ~ Isaiah 49:23b

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I’m feeling keenly the contrasts lately. Maybe it has something to do with being a “tween” – living life in between aging family with health challenges and raising children still in the nest or encouraging those outside the nest. One day I’m hugging grandlittles who give whole-hearted hugs or big slurpy smiles – and another day, I’m sitting beside a hospital bed, holding hands with someone I love who fell, who doesn’t always remember, who doesn’t always smile and be the person I’ve known since before I can remember – or I’m sitting next to my mom in a doctor’s office, waiting for results – they were good results – her numbers are in a good level – and I marvel at my mom, her get-up-and-go spirit that a brain tumor, carcinoid cancer – or even neck surgery cannot slow down or get down – and I tell her to share with me a thimble-full of that indomitable spirit.

Every season has its contrasts.  I was thinking about those contrasts while I sat on a beach far from home for a soccer tournament (LOL – so tough) – and the gulls, they sounded like they were laughing at me. The next day, I understood why they were laughing as if they knew something I didn’t. The next day it poured rain all morning. The last soccer game was postponed (after the players had already warmed up in the pouring rain). Maybe those seagulls knew – and the contrast was a hysterical joke to them.

While my son’s team played, it snowed in Tennessee – and when we got home later that night, while the snow was long gone – it was snow cold! All these contrasts in so many areas of everyday living – the sunshine and rain helped me organize not just my thoughts but my heart, this sunshine and rain sent me to Ecclesiastes 3 – “To everything there is a season” part . . . and it made me think of my seasonal contrasts.

. . . .there’s a time to sow and reap, a time to scatter stones and pick them up, a time to keep and throw away, a time to tear and mend – part of this time for everything is a time to sit in the sun . . . and a time to stand in the rain,
a time to rise early . . . and a time to sleep in,
a time to hold their fingers while little ones learn to walk . . . and a time to send off to independence
a time to give hugs . . . and a time to be hands off,
a time to match socks . . . and a time to let them sit, untouched,
a time for gentle love . . . and a time for tough love,
a time to bury the zinnia seeds in the soil . . . and a time to pull up the roots for winter,
a time to gather the old stories . . . and a time to let some stories go,
a time to help my children be successful . . . and a time to let them learn how to handle failure,
a time to hurt . . . and a time to forgive,
a time to feast . . . and a time for leftovers,
a time for wild apple ginger tea with honey . . . and a time for plain black coffee,
a time to pray . . . and a time to live in the wait of a prayer sent out,
a time to be alone . . . and a time to sit around a table with friends and family,
a time to take responsibility . . . and a time to give the hard stuff to God
a time to grill cheese sandwiches . . . and a time to bake my Blue Cotton Crunch Cake.

“Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see—
how good God is.
Blessed are you who run to him” ~ Psalm 34:8

Recipe for Blue Cotton Crunch Cake

Part 1: The Blueberry Crunch Part
Wash and drain 4 cups blueberries, set aside
Measure and mix the following:
1 cup flour,
1 cup oatmeal,
1 cup brown sugar
1 Stick melted butter
When all 4 ingredients stirred and all ingredients are incorporated,
set aside to prepare Part 2.

Part 2: The Cake Part
Cream 1/2 Cup Butter and 1/2 Cup Butter-flavored Crisco Baking Stick
Add 1 and 1/2 Cup Sugar
Blend two together until creamy
Add the following mixture 1/3 at a time to the creamy mixture: 2 Cups Sifted Flour, 1 tsp. Baking Powder, 1/2 tsp. Baking Soda.
When mixed, add 3 well-beaten eggs (room temperature)
Next, add 1 Cup Sour Cream.

Line an 8-inch tube cake pan with baking wax paper after spraying with a non-stick spray.
1) Fill Bottom of the tube cake pan with half cake mixture
2) Sprinkle 2 cups of the blueberries on top of the cake mixture.
3) Sprinkle half of the oatmeal, flour, brown sugar and butter mixture on top of the blueberries, ensuring the top is completely covered. The crunch part is the top of the cake.
(Recipe makes 2 cakes)
Bake at 350° for one hour.
When cooled, turn cake out of the pan. Turn again so that the crunch part is the top. The difference between the tube cake pan and a bundt pan for this recipe is the tube cake pan creates a flatter top which better holds the lemon curd. With a bundt pan, the lemon curd drips off creating a lemony, sticky mess.

Part Three: The Lemon Curd Part
4 Eggs
Pinch of salt
2 Cups Sugar
1/2 Cup Lemon Juice(fresh squeezed)
1/4 Cup Butter
Zest from one lemon
Mix well. Then put in a double boiler, cooking 30 minutes until thick. Put in jar and refrigerate until ready to use. I make a day ahead so it is good and cool, which makes it more manageable. Spoon on cake top when ready to serve.
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Grandmother’s Christmas Coffee Cake
Blue Cotton Blueberry Crunch
Holiday Living with Mason Jar Summertime Pies

http://www.missionalwomen.com/     Faith-Filled Fridays
http://arabahjoy.com     Grace and Truth
http://www.janiscox.com/ Sunday Stillness
Porch Stories – http://kristinhilltaylor.com/
Trekking Through – http://www.trekkingthru.com/
Woman to Woman – http://www.w2wministries.org/
Searching for Moments http://www.lorischumaker.com/better-wife/
http://www.richfaithrising.com/    Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/     Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://www.messymarriage.com/  Messy Marriage
http://holleygerth.com/     Coffee for Your Heart
http://3dlessons4life.com/     Thought-Provoking Thursday
God-sized Dreams http://www.godsizeddreams.com/
http://donnareidland.com   Mondays @ Soul Survival
https://faithadventures.me/ #TeaAndWord Tuesday
The Modest Mom The Art of Homemaking Musing Mondays
Purposeful Faith Tea & Word Tuesday Talk  
 Blessed But Stressed
 Embracing Everyday Glimpses
Fresh Market Friday:  Fresh Market Friday

Anita Ojeda