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Book Review: Dare to Respect

IMG_2918I was sent the book, Dare to Respect by Tammy Oberg de la Garza and was asked to give a candid critique on it. Honestly, I didn’t expect to enjoy it because I have not read The Respect Dare, the original book this one is based on, and because I do not read Christian fiction as a rule. Many years ago, I realized that reading about young couples who spend every waking moment together and falling in love is not healthy for a reader with a husband who travels extensively. It created all kinds of discontent for me and I learned that what is beneficial for one can be detrimental for another. Because I had agreed to, I dove in and was pleasantly surprised to find that this Christian book was different.
The reader is introduced to six women who have a common reason to come together weekly and complain about their husbands. One of the wives suggests the group engages in a 40 day challenge to improve their marriages. This is the story of six very diverse women who embark on a journey they cannot predict and hit upon issues such as infidelity, pornography, alcoholism and co-dependency.
I was on a Spring Break trip with my two daughters and brought this book along on the beach, expecting it to be a quick read. I enjoyed the story line so much, and even sacrificed some quality time with my girls to finish it. The book is hopeful in that it points back to our true source of fulfillment, Christ, and it removes pressure from expecting our husbands to provide where they cannot. I appreciated the fact that the characters were not perfect, that they allowed each other into their lives and were open to change, and I loved that the characters were wildly different from one another, so the reader should be able to connect with at least one character.
I would recommend this book to any woman who has been married for more than five years, it is a refreshing read with an important message. You can read more of Tammy Oberhausen de la Garza’s work on her blog: www.daretorespect.com

Porch Talk

porch

One night we were sitting out on the porch and a friend shared with me that she and her guy had been trying to get pregnant again. This is nothing new, I spend time one-on-one with a lot of women and am often privy to such information. But this situation was different; my friend is in her forties and has already raised her children. I was completely floored, because I can’t think of anything I would less like to be today than pregnant, except maybe the mother of toddlers. I asked if she was excited at the prospect and she sighed and said two words: not really. What??

You see, her guy loves having kiddos around the house. And over the last few months he kept hinting that he would like to have more. They finally sat down and seriously talked about it and he confessed that he felt that they were supposed to have more children. He said he had prayed about it, hoping the feeling would dissipate but it came on stronger, would she consider it? This friend of mine is a fantastic Mom, she is all in on the parenting gig right up until they fly the nest, and is so close to having it be just the two of them. And yet…..she said she would pray about it.

My friend asked God about having more children and did not feel what her guy did, she basically got no answer, and yet she agreed to try to conceive for a few months. She said she never prayed against having another baby, and even got excited at the thought here and there, and yet in her heart, really did not want to start over again. At the time that we talked about it, there was no baby news and as a couple they agreed that the time had come to stop trying. She was sad that her guy did not get what he wanted and believed was right, but she was also so relieved. Bittersweet.

I sat with my mouth hanging open as she shared her story; what would I have done in her place? Can I honestly say that I would be open to such a departure from my plan, just to appease my guy? In my opinion this is an extreme act of service and sacrificial love. And trust, in her guy and in her God. Over time I have watched many friends being taken on adventures that they never could have imagined, because they were open to God’s calling, even when it seemed inconvenient or even reckless. What crazy idea is stirring in your heart these days, or in the hints of your spouse? How are you going to respond?

Roasted Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

 

ice cream

We had friends coming into town who have a son with an egg allergy, so I researched breakfast and dessert options that could support the sensitivity and found this gem on http://www.bakedbyrachel.com. She also had several delicious breakfast recipes; egg-free pancakes and blueberry muffins were both hits at our house. This one takes several hours overall, but is well worth the time spent.

Roasted Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

1 c whole milk

1 c heavy cream

8 oz cream cheese, softened

1/4 t salt

1/2 t vanilla

11/4 c sugar, divided

2 c strawberries

1/3 c crushed graham crackers

Blend milk, cream, cream cheese, salt, vanilla and 3/4 c sugar until smooth. Transfer into a clean container and refrigerate 8 hours.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Hull and slice strawberries, tossing them with the remaining 1/2 c sugar. Place on baking sheet with parchment paper and roast for 15 minutes. Transfer to a clean bowl and refrigerate.

Churn the dairy liquid in an ice cream maker according to manufacturers instructions. Add the strawberries and graham crackers during the last five minutes of churning, a little bit at a time. Alternate layers of ice cream and graham crackers in a freezer safe container and freeze till firm.

roasted

 

What Do Adult Children Need?

theend

What do they want from me? Sometimes our youngest will gush about how cool someone’s mom is, or how much money somebody’s parents spend on a friend’s wardrobe and I can start to feel anxious about the way I am viewed by our daughter and her friends. If I’m not really careful, I can feel like a failure because we don’t go on fabulous cruises with our kids or know all the latest jargon. This past week my daughter was very amused at my complete inability to take a selfie and at the fact that my phone is always at less than 10% charged. Always.

What do my adult children need from me at this point in life? Obviously, they are very capable in most arenas; they can get themselves from place to place, cook their own meals and hold down jobs while attending school. They have relationships with each other and with other people without needing me to referee, and each can stand up for themselves without needing my approval or permission.

So as I am quickly working my way out of a job, what is my role at this point? It has taken me some time to answer the question, but I think I have it now. My job is to remain consistent. Whenever possible, I need to be accessible to my children, available to answer the many questions that are asked about establishing credit, how health insurance works and if a check is written today, do I still have money in my account? I need to be consistent in my values, so when my young adults are questioning their own, they know they can rely on their parents to be true to what we have taught them. I need to be consistently open to new ideas and perspectives, so our children know they can voice theirs to me and not be shut down or judged harshly. My children need me to be their biggest cheerleader, ready to throw a big party in their honor. And I need to consistently love my brood, whether they disappoint, frustrate or thrill me, they need to be able to rely on the fact that their mother is crazy about them, no matter what.

I may not be everything that my children would like, but I can say that I work hard to continue to be what they need. In my opinion, it’s cool to be consistent.

 

Conversations That Matter

scared

What happened to talk of the weather and the latest story of what your dog swiped off the counter and consumed? Where is the easy cadence of saying not much? Of bringing up what you read about or watched on the news and not feeling like you are making a political proclamation, but just discussing a current event.

It feels like the conversations I am a part of are all big these days, talking about future plans and current fears and past regrets. We may start off in the safe zone, only to quickly delve into the murky waters of what if and what now. Please understand that this is the place where I tend to be most comfortable, I am notoriously bad at small talk, but the weight of our words seems to be so much heavier lately; the sentences that I am stringing together can truly cut someone deeply, or sway their decision or even let them off the hook. It feels like a huge responsibility.
In today’s society it is easier to offend or get offended than ever, so we can be tempted choose to say nothing, believing that we are keeping the peace. I have been guilty of this, but the truth is that this crazy world needs your words, especially if they are not reckless and reactionary. We need to share our deep thoughts and ideas, and be okay with the fact that everyone will not agree. There is no license here to pound our thoughts on others, but we must, at the very least, be ready to give a reason for the way that we view a topic. Sometimes I can say that I don’t have an opinion on a prevalent issue, but the truth is that I probably have not taken the time to research and form one. That doesn’t mean that I should shout it from the rooftops, but I should wrestle with it until I have a clear opinion.
I don’t understand it, but God has trusted us to emulate Him with our words and actions. Talk about a huge responsibility! He assures us that He is with us in these conversations, and if we will trust Him, we will be guided through. He also promises to give us understanding if we pursue it. I am going to keep going with the deep conversations that seem to be happening more than ever, I’m not going to shy away from them or the people who are behind them, and I’m going to do my part not to get offended when someone sees it differently than me. Will you join me in the quest for deeper understanding, richer connections and thicker skin?

Éclair Torte

 

eclairThis dessert has been around for many years, I have no memory of where I first learned of it, or even when I began serving it. The base has no sugar in it, giving it more of a European taste.

Éclair Torte

1 c water

1/2 c unsalted butter

1/4 t. salt (or use salted butter and leave this out)

1 c flour

4 eggs

1 package cream cheese (8 oz, room temperature)

2 packages vanilla instant pudding (3.4 oz each)

3 c cold milk

12 oz whipped topping (I make my own)

chocolate syrup for decorating

Bring the first three ingredients to a boil in a saucepan . Add flour all at once and stir until a smooth ball is formed. Remove from heat and let stand for five minutes. Add eggs and mix until smooth. Spread the mixture into a greased 13×9 pan and bake at 400 degrees for 30-35 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown. Cool completely.

In a bowl, mix the cream cheese, pudding mix and milk until smooth. Spread the mixture over the cooled puff and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Spread whipped cream over the top, sealing it. Drizzle with chocolate syrup just before serving.

 

Encourage

 

encourage

Our pastor has told us before that he gets some pretty heavy condemnation on Monday mornings, critics of yesterday’s sermon or people with better ideas of how church should be done will often unload on him via email. I can imagine he dreads opening up his laptop at the beginning of each new week. He says the only thing worse than that is to receive it in person before, or between gatherings on Sunday mornings! Can you imagine?

I think we all have some idea of how he feels; does everyone have at least one person in their life who at any given moment, could be releasing harsh words on you as readily as encouragement? You take a look at your phone and see that a call/text/email is coming in from that person and you need to take some time before even touching it. Yuck.

There isn’t much I can do about that person in my life, except limit the access I have with them, out of a need for protection. If it were someone who I completely trusted, maybe I wouldn’t need a barrier, but if it were someone I completely trusted, maybe they wouldn’t need to bash. Right?

There is one thing I can do. I can resolve not to be that person to others. Can I have the self-discipline to communicate encouragement and positive observations when I am reaching out with the help of my phone? Of course I can, but it will take intentionality. If I truly feel the need to correct or critique someone, I want to do that with kindness and if possible, in person.

So when my pastor sees a text message pop up from me on a Monday morning (or any other day, for that matter), I want him to eagerly see what I have to say because he can expect nothing but encouragement from me. Heck, I want that for all my friends.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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