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Thorn in My Flesh

thornRecently a friend called while my guy was taking a nap, so I went outside to talk to her for a few minutes so that he could sleep. While talking, I started pulling weeds in our backyard and stepped on a branch from the rose bush and a large thorn sunk deep into my heel. I gingerly pulled it out and went on with our conversation, surprised at how much my foot hurt. Within a few hours my heel was swollen and I was no longer able to put any weight on it. My guy kept offering to take a look at it, but I am stubborn, and insisted that it was no big deal. Fortunately, he ignores my attempts of bravado, and did some surgery on my foot, pulling out several small pieces of the thorn. The whole incident made me notice a couple of things.

1. I don’t like for anyone to see my when I am down. I prefer to go off by myself and hope that time will take care of it. Vanity.

2. I really don’t like to admit that I need help, even from my guy. Pride.

3. A tiny pin prick in the skin and a small thorn in the flesh can change both your walk and your attitude. Sin.

We all have thorns in our flesh, and these certainly aren’t all of mine, but the physical reminder was so obvious I had to pay attention. Last night I woke up with one of the worst headaches I have ever encountered. Normally I would suffer alone, but instead I alerted my guy and for the second time in just a couple of hours, I asked for his help. Both times he wasn’t just willing, he was glad to serve me. I have so much more to learn.

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12: 7-9

photo: nefchronicles.wordpress.com

Fallen Chocolate Cake

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I wanted to take something deeply chocolate to a friend’s house the other night, and he needs his food to be gluten-free, so it was a good excuse to finally make this cake. I saw it in Bon Appetit magazine a couple of years ago and tucked it away, I really like the idea of it being an obviously fallen cake. It was dense and fudgy, not overly sweet at all, and really needed the whipped cream to offset the richness of it.

Fallen Chocolate Cake

1/2 c unsalted butter

3/4 c plus 2T sugar

10 oz bittersweet chocolate (61-72% cacao), coarsely chopped

2 T oil

6 eggs

2 T unsweetened cocoa powder

1 t vanilla

3/4 t salt

1 c heavy cream

3 T powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 9 inch springform pan and dust with sugar.

Combine chocolate, oil and butter in the top of a double boiler, with the bottom pan filled with simmering water and allow ingredients to melt while stirring over medium heat.

In two bowls, separate 4 eggs with whites in one and yolks in the other. To the yolks bowl add cocoa powder, vanilla, salt, 1/4 c sugar, and remaining two eggs and whisk until smooth. Gradually add yolk mixture to chocolate mixture, blending well.

Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites on high until frothy, add 1/2 c sugar and beat until firm peaks form. Gently fold in egg whites into chocolate mixture in two additions and folding only until incorporated. Scrape batter into prepared springform pan and sprinkle with remaining sugar.

Bake 35-45 minutes, until the top is puffed and starting to crack  and cake is pulling away from the pan. Allow to cool completely in the pan, the cake will collapse in the center as it cools. Mix the remaining ingredients on high speed until soft peaks form. Mound the whipped cream in the center of the cake.

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Wireless

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My guy and I were on a trip to Spain last week, we traveled from the northernmost tip to the South border of the country and saw so much beauty, met some wonderful people and ate delicious Mediterranean food. Before leaving home, I made the decision not to have full access to the internet while we were gone; I reasoned that it was too expensive, and my guy would have his phone so I really didn’t need it.

After the first 48 hours of reaching for my phone, only to find that exactly nothing had changed on it since the last time I checked, I settled in and got used to not being plugged in all of the time. I was actually wireless for the first time in quite a while. What I realized is that when you aren’t looking at your phone so often, you see little details that often get missed, like smiling people as you walk by and flowers growing in random places. And when I arrived at our hotel or someplace that offered wifi, I was grateful for the time that I had to use it and was much more intentional with my time.

Although I missed having unlimited wifi, I remarked at some point in the trip that it would be so great if we all had spotty coverage and limited access back at home,  because we could all slow down a little and see more around us. It was right about this time that our luggage got lost. For three days. That was about a quarter of our trip. With not one suitcase. We visited one complete city for three days in the same clothes the whole time, our bags never made it there. I guess I needed more help in the area of patience and slowing down, and this did the trick. Although it was difficult to go without, we noticed that we got up and out each day very quickly. All you do is shower and put yesterday’s clothes back on. Our life became greatly simplified. When we finally caught up to our luggage, we were so grateful to have access to our clothes and accessories. But I noticed something, we were no happier with our suitcases than we had been without, just as I was no more satisfied having wifi than I had been without it.We were in a foreign land together, seeing things we had never experienced before. And the details really didn’t matter at all.

 

What is Wealth?

enoughAs we were graduating from college, we kept hearing of friends being offered big jobs with high starting salaries and sign on bonuses and suddenly there was all this pressure, not to find a career, but to land the perfect situation. My guy was then my fiancee, and with his shiny new Business degree came big expectations. It’s interesting how quickly we moved from wanting to make a difference in the world to desiring the biggest and the best. For years I viewed wealth as an elusive vapor, something to be captured and held onto tightly and only available to a select few.

Twenty five years later, on the other side of all that, the perspective is so different; I can look back over the years and see what was important to us and our true markers for wealth at various stages of life. When we were first married, we bought the only brand new car we have ever, or probably will ever own. We made big purchases without looking ahead and pushed for promotions. Wealth looked like recklessness and freedom.

Then we had a house full of kids, a mortgage and all that comes with those commitments. I can remember walking through our peaceful home in the middle of the night, checking on children and feeling rich, like we were going to be caught squatting in somebody’s house, living someone else’s life. Wealth was clean laundry and a freezer filled with meat.

As our children grew and my guy climbed the corporate ladder, it was easy to get caught up in the next big thing; where would his career take us next? We shrugged off the questions and focused on staying in one particular part of the country and committing to relationships and ministry. Wealth was mourning and celebrating with loved ones and raising children who were healthy, happy and safe.

Today we are in a season of wealth that is so different than all the rest. Our children are the people who are moving on and making big plans, and trying to determine the importance of success and happiness. Today wealth looks like a full dinner table and the satisfaction that we have done enough. That we are enough. And that we have more than enough.

 

Photo credit: Rebecca Green

 

Simple Lunch

image.jpegMany days I eat a quick pb & j midday but if I take just a few extra minutes I can really treat myself. This is a perfect lunch for me. Grilled every vegetable I could find in the fridge, then mixed in some farro and orzo I had prepared earlier. Those grains take a half hour to cook, so I make 3 cups of each and mix them together, then add to anything that needs substance – salad, soup, veggies. If this were dinner, I would add grilled chicken, shrimp or sirloin. I often grill too much meat for dinner so I have extra on hand, just like the grains. I Lunch can still be quick and simple, but so much better than a sandwich!

All Day in Bed

imageSounds glorious, right? It’s on the list of things the experts say to do for your marriage; get a hotel room and stay in bed all day. We went one step further, flying to a romantic city in Spain first. Except there was a catch, we were forced to spend the day in bed because my guy was too sick to go anywhere.

We are in Barcelona for a couple of days, then leaving for northern Spain for twenty four hours and on to southern Spain for the rest of the week. We had very little time to see SO MANY things in Barcelona, our first day here we walked more than 11 miles just drinking it all in. That’s who we are, even on vacation, we don’t sit much. Or really at all. And then sickness set in, forcing us to cancel tours and plans, and sleep a lot and watch Spanish television.

It was a good reminder that we need to slow down and relish this gift of vacation, time away alone together in Europe. Seeing everything a city has to offer isn’t necessarily the most important thing to do. Lying with my sick guy yesterday, I was reminded of a simple truth spoken years ago: I don’t care where we go, as long as we go together. Those marriage experts would be so pleased.

Stand Out

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When you look at the flowers at my front door, what stands out? Those big round yellow ‘look at me, look at me’ flowers? They will practically attack someone as they walk past to come inside.

When I choose the flowers for the front, I go for color, not worrying about keeping things matching or working together, I just like a burst of everything available. These guys fit the bill.

But take a look at the bottom, those little dark pink ones peeking out. These are my favorites this year. I love the deep green in the waxy leaves and the size of the tiny petals.

I like the fact that they suggest that you consider them, instead of assaulting you as you walk by.

I want to be more like that; not necessarily the first one you notice, but the ones that requires time and observation to appreciate.

Those big bright flowers only last a day or so each, throwing their petals to the ground as they die a dramatic death and who cares? There’s another one coming up right behind it.

But the gentle ones at the bottom live so much longer, shaded beneath their hulking neighbors, and when one goes away, there may be nothing but green leaves there for a few days.

Missed. Felt.

As I pass through this time on earth, I want it to count. Not all flash and brilliance, but subtle and known.

you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. James 4:14

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