Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tempt my Tummy Tuesday: Caramel Frosting

My all time favorite cake frosting is a homemade caramel one that my grandma and mom have topped angel food cakes with my entire life.  It makes the kitchen smell so caramel-y wonderful!  And, the taste...oh, the taste compares to nothing else.
The next best thing to having it cover my all time favorite cake, is to make graham cracker cookies with the leftover frosting.  A.maz.ing!

1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
4 Tbsp. milk
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
Melt butter in saucepan.  Stir in brown sugar.
Cook over low heat for 2 minutes.
Add milk; bring to a full boil.  Remove from heat.
Cool to lukewarm without stirring.  Add powdered sugar; beat well until spreadable consistency reached.  Thin with more milk if necessary.

Tempt my Tummy Tuesdays

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Gentlemen...and Ladies...Start your engines!

It was not just another day at the track today.
For, today, I was in the driver's seat!
With the family there cheering me on, and encouraging me when I needed it the most to make it through the nervousness I had early on, I had a chance to drive 6 laps around Atlanta Motor Speedway in a real NASCAR car.
It was unlike anything else I have ever experienced.
There's a lot of horsepower in those engines...power just waiting to be seen, heard, felt.
I felt a mixture of emotions, beginning to end.
enjoying the day with me
Nerves, excitement, anxiety, sheer adrenaline, exhilaration, fear, awe, enjoyment, satisfaction...
The driver instructor in the car with me had nothing but good things to say about how I drove the power packed machine around the 1.5 mile racetrack.  He gave me a thumbs up on several laps when I hit the marks...and kept the car right where it was supposed to be on the track.  (Insert big smile from me here.)
I had a sense of being totally out of control inside moments of confidence and pride for being behind the wheel.
I had a sense of being in control inside moments of being so totally out of my element.
I'm proud of myself for doing it...my knees were shaking as I came to a stop and switched the engine off.
watching Mama drive
The finish line was crossed, so to speak.  I did not know I had it in me to drive a car with such power at such speeds.    
It was a good day of driving.
A birthday gift that I'll never forget!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

flower vs. weeds

"For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ."
2 Corinthians 4:6
Every summer when I am away for any amount of time, the weeds seem to sense this and take over the flower gardens.  This year hasn't been as bad as some, especially compared to last year, but somehow they thrive in the heat of the summer days with little to no rain.
When I arrived home from Alaska, I tried going out a little at a time and pulling weeds, but the earth was so dry it was quite a task.  I knew I wasn't getting the roots out, so I decided to postpone my efforts until it rained again.
On Friday of last week, a red Magic Lily appeared by our garden hose, just outside of our garage.  I snapped a few photos with my phone in my excitement over having a flower blooming in a spot where it has never before bloomed.  Six years and not once has this flower ever appeared in this spot.  There are some in the yard, but they haven't bloomed in two years now.
Only after I took the photos, did I realize that I haven't made my way to that spot in my weed pulling endeavors.  I almost took a few minutes to clean up the area and take new photos, but I stopped.  I saw the word picture God was trying to show me in that moment.  That is how I am to live out my life...a flower amidst the weeds.  He desires His children...He desires me...to be a light in a dark and "weedy" world.  He has given me His light to shine wherever I am.  When people see the Light, the darkness fades away.
Noticed, too, was this.  In the midst of the weeds, the glorious red petals stood out.  I didn't take note of the weeds because of the beauty of the flower.  The flower held my attention.  Only when I lost focus of the flower, the messiness of the weeds caused concern.
Isn't that how it is when we are focused on God and in communication with Him through reading His Word and prayer?  The concerns of this world take a second place to His presence in our lives.  He doesn't always remove the difficulties or cares of the world around us, but they do not stand up against His awesomeness.  He will take first place.
I love the quote I once read in Max Lucado's book, Facing Your Giants, "Focus on giants -- you stumble; focus on God -- your giants tumble."
Hoping to take the lesson of this flower and watch the weeds fade and the giants tumble in the light of God's presence in my life.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Guest Post: "Me Time?"

Earlier this summer my blogger friend, Dorie, from "These Grace Filled Days" and "Homeschooling Just Next Door" asked me to write a guest post for her to be published over at "Growing Your Homeschool".
Today is the day!  I am so excited and thankful for this opportunity opened up to me.
Thank you, Dorie, for the invitation to guest post for you!
Please drop by and visit their blogs for encouragement along your homeschooling journey.

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, He got up, went out,
and made His way to a deserted place. And He was praying there.
Simon and his companions went searching for Him.
They found Him and said, “Everyone’s looking for You!”
And He said to them, “Let’s go on to the neighboring villages
so that I may preach there too. This is why I have come.”
So He went into all of Galilee,
preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
Mark 1:35-39

A conversation that I had last week with another homeschooling mom finally gave me the best answer to the most asked question I have received over the past 4 years of homeschooling...
"How do you spend all day, every day, with your kids?"

Often following this question is a statement about needing "me time". I have always just spoken from my heart that spending time with my kids is a joy and it is what God desires of me right now.
I am then usually asked about when I have "me time". I speak of having a wonderful support system of grandparents and friends who watch the boys time to time. I do not feel a need for time away from my kids every day. I actually really miss them when they are with someone else.

Now, though, thanks to one simple statement from my friend, I have a great answer to the question about being with my boys all day long, but I also have a new perspective on "me time"...
"The Bible doesn't mention anything about 'me time'."
Not in the sense that we use that phrase, anyway...

Read the rest over at "Growing Your Homeschool"...enjoy!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Same one?

The drive up Hatcher Pass this summer reminded me so much of my first and only previous drive there...cloudier, rainier, and colder than I could ever hope for when trying to explore a new place in Alaska.  I headed my team in this direction, hoping that we could enjoy seeing Independence Mine together for the first time.  We did not drive up that far in 2009, so I was looking forward to something new.
I knew even if the weather didn't hold out as we reached the upper elevations, the drive up would offer great visuals.  Especially when crossing the Little Susitna River.
Honestly, my favorite memory of the scenery of July 2009 is this photo of Fireweed growing along the river's edge...

I was pleasantly surprised when I stood once again at the Little Susitna River's edge and found this...

Same beautiful Fireweed?
I think so....just a month earlier than in 2009.
It's probably blooming right about now.
Hardy little flower...with the endurance of a champion.
As you can tell from the missing mountain peak, the weather didn't hold out in the elevations above us for a good look at Independence Mine.  Some did get out and walk around, but I could not get myself out of the van in the pouring rain, with snow still on the ground, and cold winds blowing all around.   
Maybe next time...

Thursday, July 19, 2012

a level path

"They will come with weeping;
they will pray as I bring them back.
I will lead them beside streams of water
on a level path where they will not stumble..."
Jeremiah 31:9

Being back home has been wonderful in that I am with my family again (and sleeping in my own bed and not standing in line for a shower), but in all other regards it has been difficult.  Coming home knowing that there is more ministry to be done in Anchorage and more teams to prepare for to do that ministry has been hard on me mentally. 
My heart is there and here...here and there. 
I cannot be both places. 
When in one, the other holds something special that draws me back toward it. 
Each day that I was home, my body seemed to readjust to the time just a little more, but my mind was still on what was happening in Alaska.  Each day I felt as if a little more weight was being added to my load instead of being lifted. 
Until Sunday.
That morning I was on the verge of tears most of the morning.  My heart longed to be in Anchorage worshiping with my friends there, preparing for the new teams, and resting in God's goodness that got us through each week of the ministry.  People were joking and carrying on about silly stuff while I knew certain children were going to wake up hungry in just a few hours and perhaps be fending for themselves for most, if not all, of the day.  It just didn't seem right. 
I knew that the evening service was our team sharing about Alaska.  My emotions were so everywhere, how was I going to handle leading my team in this feat that seemed so overwhelming at the moment?
To top it all off, we sang two songs that morning that we sing each week during GraceWorks chapel. 
As the praise team led the congregation in our final song of the worship service, I broke down in sobs.  Not just the normal few tears that will readily flow as I sing of and to the God who loves me more than I deserve or can even imagine.  Emotionally filled sobs. 
I had to let go and it hurt.  But as I let go, I could feel God filling me with His presence and His grace.  As I prayed that He would help me to be here more effectively and show me how to live here again in a place that seems so distracted from His work and so closed to hearing about Him and His goodness (and I am talking about the "Bible Belt", folks), I knew He was hearing my pleas.  
As I was praying, I heard the chorus to the song being sang around me..."Through the calm and through the storm...In every high and every low...Lord, you never let go of me."  I was reminded through these words that God has me right where He wants me.  He's got my back.  The low seems great and longstanding, but He is God and He is good and He's going ahead of me and making my path level where He wants me to be walking.
When I read this verse in Jeremiah tonight, I was reminded of Sunday and how God met me where I was...lonely and longing for something more...and He filled me with the best thing ever. 
More of Him.
He is all I need.
I'm just at the beginning of this healing process, but it has begun and even though I'll never be the same again, I know I will be better than okay in the end.    

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

So long for now...

Post written early morning of July 10th while in the airport awaiting my flight.
I am at the airport and ready for take-off. Today was a long, busy, wonderful day! I was hoping to see Denali before leaving and this morning she was shining in full glory.  Such an awesome sight to behold from Anchorage!  One day I will see the mountain from a closer distance...all in due time.
Today I was given the privilege of helping train the new park host that will be in the park I've been in the past several weeks...first couple of weeks as a guest watching and learning the ins and outs of the kids and the park itself, then as team leader for my church group who came and served here last week.  It made my day to be busy and to be back in the park with the kiddos I have come to love so much!  Such cute smiles and big hugs...lonely hearts that need a Savior and hungry stomachs that need food.
Today in the park the kids were excited to see me again.  It was nice to have a familiar face among the new team of strangers.  The TX did not remain strangers for long, however.  They dove right in to their lunch serving and playing games with the kids.  The kids warmed up to them in no time.  Even the new host, who had just arrived in town on Saturday, was right there at home after a few minutes.  God's plan was in action and it was a blessing to see how it was all coming together.  She told me as we were packing up, "I've got this."  The unknown was now known and the fear was gone that it would be too much.  God equips those He calls!
At four o'clock as we were packing up, the tears welled up as my time had arrived to say "so long" to the kids and my friends from TX.  I gave hugs over and over again and was doing okay until someone told me to look and see that the little boy who spoke no words but only grunted and pointed was waving goodbye to me.  Oh, it was such a blessing to see him wave to me.  I didn't know if he understood until that moment.  In that little wave, God gave me my answer.  It is a moment to remember.  If I close my eyes, I can still see him leaning on that tree, almost trying to hide, as he looked me in the eyes and waved to me.
It is very difficult to leave now with so much more work that there is to do.  So much more love that is needed to be shared...but my time is done for this summer.  I have to be okay with that.  In my mind I know God has worked it all out for His glory and He has their best interest in mind even more and better than I do.
He's God and He's good!
I was able to spend the evening hours with my friends from Katy, TX out and about in Anchorage.  They went out to Wild Berry's and then moose hunting so I loaded up my luggage with them and they dropped me off at the airport before returning to the church for the night.  It was the perfect way to end my time in Alaska this summer...with people who understand my heart and will carry out the task before them as I would if I were there alongside of them.  Although jokingly hoping for the volcano to erupt as to close down the airport so I could stay, we knew it wasn't going to happen.  A little time with friends is better than no time at all!  We made the most of our two days together.  In Alaska, the days go long, so it was easy to get in good time together.
So, although my body is still on Alaska time and my mind is fluttering between Anchorage and home, I am at peace.  God has done great things, is doing awesome things, and will continue to do amazing things in His people of Alaska and in the hearts of those who come to serve Him there.
So long for now, Alaska...

Saturday's Sights

Monday, July 16, 2012

NBC in the Park: Day 5 Finale

Friday, July 6th

We had free time this morning, so a few of us not doing sandwiches or working for Mr. Billy went to the Alaska State Troopers Museum downtown.  It was fun seeing the boys so excited as they looked at the photos, badges, newspaper articles, and other memorabilia they had for people to view.  We had about an hour to spend there and the boys made sure they saw every square inch of the place, not missing a thing!  Alex and Tim were sworn in as honorary Troopers by a retired State Trooper, Mr. Howard.  They thought that was so cool...just like being a Jr. Ranger at all the National Parks last year.  Mr. Howard's stories and accounts of his years as a State Trooper were fascinating to say the least.  My favorite was the one where a person reported finding a body by a river's edge in the Mat-Su Valley.  Upon investigation, Mr. Howard said that what he found made him step back at first.  The body, dressed in pants, button-down shirt, socks, shoes, a tie, and a baseball hat, had a snout!  It was found that some boys who lived up the hill from the river dressed up a bear carcass and left it there for someone to find.  Oh, the humor of mischievous Alaskan boys!   The boys' favorite story was about Mr. Howard chasing down a snowmobile and discovered it was a dog with his paws up on the handlebars instead of a person.  Fun times at the museum!  
Badges adorned, we left for chapel.  On Fridays, chapel takes on a new form with a slideshow of all the teams photos from the week and a report from a member of each team on what took place in their park.  The stories and the photos are just a little taste of what all really takes place during the long hours of our time in Alaska, but hearing them is inspiring and makes me long for more days in Alaska with GraceWorks.  The video gets me each week...tears flow freely seeing how God uses each team to bring smiles to the children's faces and hope to the adults' lives.
It still amazes me how God can take me, a sinner saved by grace through faith in Jesus, but with many weaknesses and faults remaining, and use me for His glory to spread His truth and joy with others who need to hear of Him.  I am amazed by His goodness.  I am in awe of His greatness.  I am humbled by Him using me in Alaska.  He is so good!

After chapel and lunch, we headed out for our final day with the kids. Starting out, we didn't think about the end, we just went in like any other day and did our best to share Jesus' love with the people who God sent to us. I had to excuse myself for a little while for staff meeting, but made sure that I was back with a few minutes to spend with the kids before the weekend. Goodbyes are hard, but thankfully, I didn't have to say any today. I am coming back on Monday with the new team. :)

Dinner at the church and then we were off to cook and serve at the red team's park party. Set up went smoothly, hot dogs grilling and people eating in no time. It was fun to see our boys enjoying the work of serving others their food. Then they jumped right in and had fun right alongside of all the other kids in this "new" park. It was a good time had by all!
After our park party responsibilities, Scott took us on a ride we'll not soon forget. We were all a little delirious from exhaustion, so things were just funny. Add a few close calls and some wrong turns and things were really funny! He wanted to show us a "hobo sign" that he saw on the way to the dump with Billy the other day. As we finally made our way on the right road to the sign, there was a homeless man trying his best to get into a dumpster just in front of the sign. We missed the photo opp, but the memory remains with the sign we did get some photos of as we drove by.

We had to drop off our van in exchange for another for the weekend. After switching vans, we had a few final moments of moose hunting. We tried our normal Northern Lights route, but didn't see any moose. Scott turned down the road that leads by the post office and to the airport the back way. About halfway down, there's a road to the left that connects to the Lake Hood road. On that road we saw a female moose. She came really close to the road and even walked down the road a ways. Fun memories were made in that van ride!

Long, good day!

NBC in the Park: Day 4

Thursday, July 5th
Our morning was spent divided, with part of us went grocery shopping to fill bags for a few families in our park community and the guys and boys going to do yard work at a few homes in our park community.  Service projects are always a favorite part of GraceWorks for me.  Keeps me busy and thinking of others instead of myself.
The afternoon at the park was just as fun as all the others.  A little girl who attached herself to Scott the second he came into the park last evening was asking for him, but he was helping Mr. Billy at the church again.  I promised her that he would come back and say goodbye before we left town.
The reality is setting in that our days are numbered with these adorable faces.  My boys, at separate times, came to me and mentioned that we only had one more day at the park and how sad they were about it.  My heart went out to them for I so understand how they feel!  They are wanting to return to Alaska and they aren't even finished here this week, yet. :)
We had our free night this evening and decided to try and get in at Moose's Tooth.  The wait at 5:15 was for 1.5 hours...we decided to go elsewhere and ended up at Sourdough Mining Company for dinner.  Walked right in and were seated and exiting the restaurant at the time we may have been just seated at MT.  It was a wise decision to leave and hope to get there some other time.  We walked over to Wild Berry's across the parking lot after dinner and enjoyed the free samples of chocolate and seeing the chocolate waterfall.
The team returned to the church in time to have two of our members back for their flight-seeing trip.  The rest of us played Phase 10 in the fellowship hall.  What a night of card playing we had!  So fun with lots of laughs.    It was fun, too, being there to hear about the flight-seeing stories once they returned.  I so want to go up one year again...Scott K. took my flying in 2010 and I loved it!  Seeing Alaska from the air adds its own element of beauty to the already beautiful State...mesmerizing! 

After everyone went to bed, I began working on t-shirts and other prep work for next week's teams...and did some laundry so that I would be ready for the weekend and staff shirt Monday.  Not only is reality setting in that our week is almost over, reality is hollering that my stay in Alaska for the summer is quickly drawing to a close as well.
Must continue to make the most of every single minute!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

NBC in the Park: Day 3

Happy 4th of July!

I have now been in Alaska on the first day of summer and enjoyed the true midnight sun moment and been in Alaska for the 4th of July, complete with fireworks set off in downtown Anchorage at midnight the morning of the 4th.  I did miss out on the normal 4th of July festivities...cookout, watermelon, hot weather...yeah, especially the hot weather!
Another hike in the morning for some, I stayed back and worked on some staff stuff and Skyped with our Pastor back home, and lunch prep duty for others.
The afternoon found us back in the park with several fewer children due to the holiday activities with family and in the city.  However, we were blessed to have as many as we did and we enjoyed our time together!
The evening in the park was our community park party where everyone in the community is invited to come out and enjoy hot dogs, chips, punch, and games and hear the Gospel message.
We had a good turnout considering it was a holiday.  God gave the words to speak to our team member whom shared with the crowd how God changed her life.  It was a moment where all distractions seemed to disappear and God's message of love was spoken and heard.  A.ma.zing!
With God it is not about how many people come, but how we treat them and what we share with them while they are with us.
Another wonderful day!