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When I was a young girl, my Mom showed me a picture of my Nanny (her mother) as a child with her family.  She showed me the people who had committed suicide; the people who were alcoholics, the people who had fought battles and lost.

She looked at me and said: “The cycle stops here. With us.” She told me and she hugged me, she said we were going to be different, that we would succeed where others failed.

I lost her, too.  Just a few years after that conversation.

I sometimes wonder if in her fight to escape she forgot that she also had to fight to live.

There are echos of generational brokenness scattered across our culture.  I’m not talking about “generational curses” that were talked about in the Old Testament. I’m talking about an alcoholic family producing alcoholic children because that is all they know.  Or an abusive husband who raises a son who is an abuser too.

Generational brokenness is everywhere when you start to look.  I see it when I see local stories of families destroyed by two generations worth of bad decisions that cumulate in tragic loss.  I hear echos of it in the voice of a man who shoots his daughter and 6 grandchildren.  I saw it when my father shot my mother and I see it when I look at my husband and my children and I know that we have to fight.

I can’t speak to your story – I can only speak about mine.  And I know that in mine there are generations and generations of brokenness.  I bring alcoholism, suicide and domestic violence with me into my marriage with my husband. He brings alcoholism and bi-polar depression.

We bring ourselves, and written on our spirits are fingerprints of the past.

For better or for worse we are children of the generation before us.

Where then, is our hope?

What then, can save us?

I don’t have all the answers.  I can only guess. But here are a few things I can tell you.

  1. Being aware is crucial – I grew up knowing that my parents were fighting against the bad things they had learned from their parents, just like their parents surely had fought against the bad things they learned from theirs.  Each generation the combination changed.  I didn’t see my parents alcoholism until the last few years of their life, but I grew up seeing their domestic violence (not that I realized it at the time).  I grew up from age 5 knowing the effects of suicide.  Being aware helps you actively fight against it.
  2. You have to actively fight against it – I can only speculate, but I suspect that my parents actively fought against the errors of their predecessors for a very long time until they slowly stopped fighting as hard. And eventually, day by day, they got a little bit more lax, until finally they stopped.  And it was when they stopped that darkness took over and it wasn’t long before they went too far and lost their lives.  Fighting is the only option.
  3. It’s not easySometimes it is exhausting.
  4. Where there is brokenness, grace abounds – God is, thankfully, much bigger than the broken situation we find ourselves in.  Nothing is too shattered for Him.  Romans 8:1 says “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

2 Corinthians 2:17 says “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

I don’t know if I can successfully fight the brokenness I’ve learned from my parents.  But I do know that I’m going to fight it at every corner, at every turn, and work hard to stay aware of it. I’m going to keep myself accountable to my husband, and vice-versa, because together we are stronger.

And at the beginning of every day, I’m going to try to lean on God.  Because it is exhausting to fight, and he is strong.  Life makes me despair, but with him I feel hope.

Ephesians 6:10 reminds me to “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.”

He is our greatest hope.

This year has been a whirlwind of change, the least of which is not the leaps and bounds my child is growing in.  I wanted to write a few memories down, just so I won’t forget them.

  • A few nights ago we sang our bathtime song, which goes “Bath time, here we go! / Bath times a good time, you know! / Bath time, everybody LOVES bath time it’s bath time, you know!” and repeats ad infinitum.  We sang it before bath time like we do almost every night.  After bath, we were downstairs snuggling and playing and I told Justin that we needed to put Benjamin to bed, soon, so we could take a shower.  Benjamin proceeded to look at me and say, “No Mommy, I need shower too, it’s shower time. Shower time, here we go! Shower times a good time you know!”  Sorry, Benjamin, but it didn’t get you out of bedtime.
  • I made whoopie pies for coworkers and as the cakes were cooling I gave Benjamin one.  He enjoyed it a lot – “Yum, delicioso!” After a few minutes, he started whining, and I asked him what was wrong. His response? “I don’t have a cookie in my mouth!!”
  • Did Benjamin get another cookie? Yes, yes he did!
  • I feel bad sometimes, because I work so much and everyone else gets to be home with Benjamin more than I do.  To combat that, I try to take Benjamin with me to social events that would drive me husband crazy.  So the other day we went to a concert in a local park where they were playing 80s music.  Benjamin and I danced and danced and danced. We had SO much fun!
  • During the concert, Benjamin got antsy and wanted to get away from the loud music, so we took a walk. I followed him all the way to the edge of the park, where we played around. At the end of the walk I told him it was time to head back, and we could be like Dora and go “through the woods, across the field, to the concert!” So we did that, and midway through I made the mistake of saying “We need to keep an eye out for Swiper! That tricky fox is always trying to get out stuff!”  So… we get ALMOST to the concert, and he turns to a random stranger and starts holding out his arm yelling, “SWIPER NO SWIPING! SWIPER NO SWIPING! SWIPER NO SWIPING!!”  I was so embarrassed. Apologized. Moved on. Poor lady was freaked out…
  • Last night Benjamin was cranky and overtired.  It was a rough hour before bedtime, but we survived, and I was snuggling with him in our rocking chair before bed. I asked him if he wanted to pray, or sing, and he wanted to pray so we did. I said, after our initial prayers, “Benjamin, who do you want to bless?” He said Frankie (our dog). So we prayed, “Dear God, please bless Frankie.” Then I asked him, “who else do you want to bless?” He thinks for a minute. Lucky, he says, the other dog. “Dear God, please bless Lucky.”  I ask him who else. He says, in the cutest voice, “Me.” Oh, Benjamin, you want God to bless you? “Yes,” he says to me, and my heart swells and gets all sentimental, and we pray a blessing over him too.  I thought how brave of him, to be willing to ask God, but then I realized he doesn’t know any better. He is at the age where he can boldly go to the throne without baggage. What a lesson for me!

 

I just had to share this quote because, well, I think it needs to be read.  And reread.  Sarah Bessey is one of the few reasons I haven’t completely given up on reading blogs.  Some days there’s too much anger and misunderstood words on the internet, and she is a peace to me in the storm.  I love her writing, so let me share what she wrote about the Shikh Temple shooting.

Hard conversations are coming, perhaps legislation, around gun control, about hatred, racism, religion, about our culture’s glorification of violence, our nationalism, and the divisions between us, yes, those conversations need to happen, but not just now: now is the time for grieving, now is the time for loving, for burying, for mourning with those who mourn, for gathering humanity together, and for compassion.

I believe that it is precisely because of my Christian faith that I am sitting my heart down, mourning with those that mourn, grieving and honouring, loving and praying. Love casts out fear, and may the mouths of the faithful be filled with words of Love and hope and peace, never fear.

Thank you, Sarah, for your beautiful words.

(Source)

Today is my first day back to technology for almost 3 weeks.  The vacation was amazing and lovely, and I came to work with 1000+ on my Google Reader and over 600 work emails.  As I work through the deluge of information I came across one scripture listed two different places (here and here).  I really, really, really like the scripture – which is one of the types of scriptures that you’re just going to read over until someone makes you stop and see it for the first time all over again.  Here is the scripture in its entirety:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8, NIV)

There is one other part of the bible in the New Testament that sums up what we should do:

One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 
 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:35-40, NIV)

I like how it’s worded in both portions of scripture.  The second one is much more well-referenced, and for good reason since Christ says it is the greatest commandment.  But the first – to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly – I think it sums up a lot of what we need to do now.  But when I think about how much outrage and judgement I see on a daily basis (not just from Christians, mind you) I think that the first scripture from Micah is a good reminder that we maybe should see a bit more often.  Because loving mercy is hard.  Walking humbly is difficult.  Acting justly – while loving mercy – now THAT is tough.  If we can maintain love throughout it all I think the world would be pretty amazing.

Do you ever have the BEST of intentions, and then something happens so that it JUST. DOESN’T. WORK. OUT.

Yeah, me too.  But luckily (and by luckily I mean my husband saved the day), this story has a happy ending.

I love to bake, but I don’t love to gain weight from eating things I bake… so I generally try to experiment when giving away food.  Luckily I’m a Baptist now so there’s plenty of opportunities for me to bake.  I have been eyeing a Key Lime Pound Cake recipe for some time and thought that the spring BBQ at my church was a perfect chance to try it out.

How I found the recipe is kind of weird – and once you hear the story – ironic.  I was looking at reviews of my bundt pan and someone mentioned how they had made a key lime pound cake in it.  The reviewer talked about how nice it was and how tasty and pretty it was.  My baking senses started tingling and I printed out the recipe.  What I failed to do was note that the reviewer put straight up butter into the pan to get it to come out.  What I also failed to do was take into consideration the 10-cup capacity and the 12-cup recipe.

Oops.

So. After the extra two cups billowed out and snuck down the side of the pan, I thought, hey, I bet I can still save this.  No one will look at the bottom of the cake once I invert it onto a beautiful cake stand! 

The title of this post is “Key Lime Cakeballs” – you can see where this is going, right?

I couldn’t get the cake out of the pan. It wouldn’t even budge.  I started to worry and Justin (my amazing husband) said: Hey, why not just make cake balls? You can do that, right?  Except I had never successfully been able to coat the cakeballs.  No time like the present to learn!  So he looked into the correct way to do the coating (I had not been adding shortening to my melted chocolate chips) and I figured out a way to make the balls.  Somehow the cumulation of everyone in the family working together – me to bake, my father-in-law to buy chocolate chips, and my husband to think outside of the box – we ended up with some of the tastiest cake balls I’ve ever had.  And since they’re picky and strange and I’ve never seen anything like it… I decided to post the recipe for you.  Enjoy!

Key lime cake balls with blue-green sprinkles!

Key Lime Cakeballs
(adapted from this recipe)

Cake:
1 cup softened salted butter
1/2 cup shortening
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon key lime zest
1/4 cup fresh Key lime juice

Frosting:
2 cups powdered sugar
3 tbsp lime zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
water, as needed

Candy coating:
2 packages Nestle white chocolate chips
5 tbsp shortening

  1. Preheat oven to 325.
  2. Mix flour, baking powder, and salt together in a small bowl, set aside.
  3. Mix butter and shortening in large bowl until creamy.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, until just blended.
  5. Add about 1/3 of the flour mixture, 1/3 of the milk, and repeat until both are fully incorporated into the butter mixture.
  6. Stir in vanilla, key lime zest and key lime juice.
  7. Stick your finger in and take a taste because mmm, mmm, mmm!
  8. Bake at 325 until a toothpick comes out clean.  If you bake it in a tube pan (which might be easiest) it will take around 1.5 hours… start testing it at around the 1 hour mark.
  9. Let cool about 15 minutes in pan, then dump it out and crumble it up so it will cool faster. I just put it in a huge bowl and took a sharp knife to the chunks that I had scooped out.
  10. While the cake is cooling prepare the frosting.  Mix powdered sugar, lime juice and vanilla extract, adding water very slowly until you get sort of a runny glaze.
  11. Mix the glaze in with the chopped/crumbled cake until well combined.
  12. Create balls! I used gloves.  I got a lot. Probably around 5 dozen, just depends on what size you use.  Put them on parchment paper or some sort of baking mat so they don’t stick to stuff.
  13. Put balls in the freezer to let them firm up a bit.
  14. While balls are freezing, grab your double broiler (or your glass bowl over a saucepan with water in it) and dump in the chips and shortening.  Mix on medium heat until everything is good and melty.  Do not boil!! Once it’s melted, it’s good enough. If it starts to get firm, heat it back up until it’s thin.  Trust me.  Turn off the heat, but keep the pan on the hot burner if you can do so easily.  I did, and I think it helped keep the chocolate coating warm.
  15. Take balls out of the freezer. Make sure that you have a place to put them once they are coated.  Think parchment paper or baking mat.  Don’t think mouth – that will only work the first dozen times, then it gets more difficult.
  16. Drop the balls one at a time into the warm candy coating.  Here you really need to do what works for you personally… here is what I did: Drop ball in candy coating. Use spoon to cover the ball with candy coating, then pick up the ball out of the candy coating with the spoon and roll the ball onto the edge of a fork.  Shake the fork twice to get excess off. Wipe the bottom of the fork off with the spoon, then set the spoon upside down on the edge of the bowl so it can drip.  Carry the fork over to the parchment paper, setting the fork down on the parchment paper. Take a toothpick and slide it between the fork and the cakeball so it will gently roll the ball onto the parchment paper.  This was the only way I could get the cakeball not to have one side all goopy and gross looking.
  17. If desired, sprinkle a touch of green sprinkles on top of the cake ball.
  18. Eat at least 3 and enjoy.

What do you guys think? Does it sound good? It sure tasted good!

Camping was an integral part of my childhood.  We all loved the outdoors, we were never more at home than when we were in the middle of nowhere.  There was one particular spot that we found when we were pretty young that became “our” spot.  We always called it Cherry Lake.

 Jake, Jennet, Alan and Dad

That was the only year it really snowed while we were there.  I remember pulling up to the campsite and hiding in the car while Alan, Mom and Dad set up the campsite.  While we slept, snow fell across the campground and blanketed the world in white.  This picture doesn’t do it justice.

I remember waking up when we camped there.  It was always so cold in the morning, so I’d be buried deep in my sleeping bag and listen to the rustling of the tent, the songbirds, the crackle of the fire.  I could hear my parents hushed voices and the occasional laugh as they shared their morning coffee.  If I close my eyes I feel myself transport back to those moments, when the world was perfect and at peace.

As we visited and grew older we wandered further and further away.  The following picture is the “Rock Club,” a place just far enough away from the campsite to make us feel independent.  We would wander there daily, hang out on rocks and talk about life, or have adventures in between the cracks.  We would climb to the top of the rocks, and look out, terrified of falling and thrilled at the prospects ahead of us.

 

We went there every year, sometimes twice a year.  I remember being 9 years old, laying on a hot rock and contemplating the grandness of God.  I remember learning to whittle sticks, and trampling through brush to find a “walking stick.”  I remember seeing a water snake for the first time in the lake down the hill.

It was always the most beautiful place on earth.

 

I climbed up this wall once, and got all the way to the top.  On the way back down I felt myself losing my grip, but something pushed me back against the wall.  I believed in angels before, but that experience pretty much cinched the deal.

 

The last time we visited Cherry Lake it was 2002 and right before we moved to Texas. 

 

Ten years is a long time.

Since that time, my older sisters have tried in vain to find our old campsite.  They’ve combed Stanislaus Forest and driven around for hours, all to no avail.  When I visited in 2010 I tried to help them find it and we were yet again unsuccessful.  I told them I’d see what I could do in the future for my next visit.

So I contacted the Stanislaus National Forest Office in Groveland, since that was closest to where we thought the campsite was.  I spoke with a charming lady named Gail who was willing to listen to my story and my plea for help.  She gave me her email address and I sent her a bunch of pictures, and a map of the grounds (as best I could remember).  Then I waited.

She called me back just a short time ago and thanked me for giving her such a fun project.  She said she had some of her park rangers act as detectives – print up the pictures and try to match up the pictures while they were out driving around.  She thanked me for the map I had drawn, and said we had done a good job remembering.

An old ranger, one who had lived there forever, knew exactly where we were talking about when he saw the pictures.  We had always called it Cherry Lake, but the park rangers knew it as Cherry Barrow.  Gail told me if we drove to the Groveland Park Ranger station she would be able to show us exactly how to get there.

I cried when she told me.

 

I’m going back in just over a week – I’m flying to California Monday for Amy’s wedding and after the wedding I’m heading to visit my sisters.  We will go camping, hopefully at this spot, and I will once again drink in the beauty.

I can’t wait.

I haven’t done a “Miscellaneous Monday” in a while, and there’s all sorts of tasty goodness on my blogroll and out in the world today so I am going to share! 

The problem with “Homosexuality” - Justin Lee writes openly and honestly and I really enjoy his thoughts.  He raises some good questions here and I think they merit further consideration.

Counting the cost – Scott discusses the importance of thinking about the “real” cost of self-defense, and the link provided is, in my opinion, essential reading for anyone who thinks they have an opinion on what the media reports on the Martin-Zimmerman case.

Bicycle clutch – You don’t have to read this, you just have to admire the beauty. I am currently using a lunch tote tied up, but this would double as a purse once I’d arrived at my destination! Brilliant!

Old & New Project – A collaborative project for graphic artists to display artwork themed around bible stories.  Some of them are incredible, all of them are interesting.  So far my favorites are Judah&Tamar and Deborah’s Song of Jael. If you want more amazing visual scripture, be sure to check out Jim LePage’s solo project Word.  Don’t ask me to pick a favorite, I can’t, I mean, 2 Corinthians is amazing, Hebrews makes me smile and I can’t forget Titus, 1 Timothy, Habakkuk, Job, ok really, I have to stop, just go. Look. Learn.

Peace like a River – Breathtakingly beautiful honesty. I can relate to this post in a lot of ways and I think a lot us can.

So, did any of these pique your curiosity? Which ones? I’d love to see if anyone else enjoys these as much as I did!

I don’t really even know how to start this. 

Ska music is, and always will be, a part of who I am as a person.  Growing up my parents didn’t like any “new” music, but ska music forced its way into my soul.  It was cheerful and bouncy and never fails to make me happy when listening to it.  Ska music was the catalyst that introduced me to my best friend Amy.  I am forever indebted to ska music for the friendship I have with her.  I’ll never forget the apprehension and excitedness and how hard it was for me to reach out to the pretty girl that sat behind me in class (or was it in front of me? I can’t remember now…) and tell her that I liked her backpack, I liked the FIF patch, and OHMYGOODNESSSOMEONEELSEKNOWSWHATSKAMUSICIS!!  And she liked my hair clip and the rest is history.

I guess some people already know this, but I did not: OC Supertones is making a new album! If they can get funded, that is.  They are one of the classic Christian ska bands from the 90s/2000s, and my personal favorite.  I’m going to be donating to their Kickstarter project, and I ask you very nicely to please do the same?  We have 18 days to come up with another $10,061 and if I had that much money I could give it to them in a heartbeat.  For just a glimpse of what this band means to me, read one of my blog posts where I wrote them a letter.  This was the first ska band I heard, and I can’t even describe how excited I am to know I’m going to get new music from them.

Seriously.

Excited. 

So, go to the Kickstarter page, listen to their new song (here’s a link to some lyrics), and give them 100 bucks. Or $50. Or $25. Or $5. Or a dollar. Just help them, please, a tiny bit, for me, and for the world.

So for lent, all the things I gave up, I failed at.  I did not increase my prayer time, I did not read my bible more.  I did not grow closer to God.  I did not stop checking facebook, I just stopped posting.  I did not cut out my sweets, I just didn’t go out of my way to eat them.  I did not stop watching TV with my son, the whole family got sick and that was all we could do.  With just two weeks left I’m calling this Lent a spectacular disaster.

I suppose, though, that if I look at it honestly – I did become more aware of my utter brokenness.  I am now, more than ever, aware that I fail at being good on my own.  So I guess it wasn’t a complete disaster.  In fact, I suppose, I kind of actually accomplished something in my failure.  Or maybe I’m just saying that to feel better. Who knows?

I guess I’ll just keep being me, and keep trying (and failing) and eventually, maybe, I’ll get the hang of this thing called faith.  If not, it will probably continue to be quite an adventure…

Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing you have made
and forgive the sins of all who are penitent:
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts,
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may obtain of you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
1979 Book of Common Prayer (source)

My prayers are tiny and my soul weary; I look forward to Lent for the renewal of my spirit.

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