Sep 25, 2011

Celebrating 35 years of grace...

*I told "our story" on here two years ago.  I thought it was worthy of republishing today, our 35th wedding anniversary~not because we are anything special, but because it truly is a story of God's grace and love.

September 25, 1976 was a beautiful, sunny fall day, with a hint of summer still lingering in the air. It was also our wedding day, and rather unconventional as far as wedding days go. We were a little older, being 27 and 28, and both of us had been pretty disillusioned from previous relationships, and so when we decided we wanted to get married, we set out to do it simply and "our" way.

We had been high school friends, but had gone our separate ways for almost a decade before we dated seriously for two years. Our little secret is that one Friday night while enjoying pizza, we started playing "footsie" under the table, and, well, the rest is history.

We gave our families exactly 12 days notice of the time and place. We found a preacher, a Reverand Jacobs, who we were told would "marry anybody". He was connected with Kent State University's campus ministry somehow, and we had friends who had used him. We had exactly one pre-marital counseling session with him, which consisted of a little questionnaire he gave us to see if we were compatible. Then we talked about what we wanted the ceremony to look like, and he showed us several formats from a collection in a notebook. As we leafed through them, he told us if we found one we liked but it had "too much God" in it, he could always customize it more to our liking.

We ended up writing our own, changing the traditional vows that say we would stay married "till death do us part" to "as long as our love shall last". We threw in some familiar scripture verses, including the passage from I Corinthians 13 about love. Then we found a friend of a friend who would play some guitar music, and sing some songs from the '70's like "Morning has Broken" and "The Wedding Song". I stopped at a florist on the way to the ceremony and bought some flowers and candles, we had the marriage license, the rings, and we were all set.

Our immediate family and a couple close friends were the only guests in attendance. My parents hosted a small reception in their home, and at my request, my mom made us stuffed cabbage rolls and mashed potatoes, and I can't remember where the cake came from.

We were in the middle of real estate training classes at the time, so we didn't even go away on a honeymoon. Instead, Bob moved into my apartment, which he tolerated for exactly one week, and then we put an offer in on our first little house.

Thus began the journey of our lives together. While we started out thinking we were in full control of our destiny, little did we know that God had a plan for us. Because as you can see from the above description of how we started out, even though we knew better, we were not really acknowledging God's presence in our lives or inviting Him into our marriage. Neither of us were living our lives to God's glory. We just wanted to live happily ever after, but we had no clue how to achieve that.

Looking back, it was really nothing but a recipe for disaster! It always is when we try to put ourselves at the steering wheel. I share all of this because today we can look back and see God's amazing grace has been at work in us in spite of ourselves.

During the first year of our marriage, God put some friends in our lives who invited us to church, a different denomination from the one I had grown up in and felt alienated from, and it was there that God wooed me back to Him right away. It took Bob another year or so. I'll never forget the night the pastor called him and asked if he could come and visit at our home. Bob's answer made me want to crawl under the floorboards: "you're welcome to come and visit, but don't expect me to join your institution." But this faithful minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ came anyway, and he and Bob hit it off right away. Before long, we were attending an"inquirer's class", which was a non-threatening way of saying "Basic Christianity 101".

Bob began reading the Bible from cover to cover, literally. God was at work in both of our hearts. We were surrounded by a group of people from the new church who loved us and taught us. We began to grow spiritually. By the time we were expecting our first child, we drove a stake once and for all that we were committed to living not for ourselves, but for the One who died to save us from ourselves. We received God's gift of grace in our lives and have never looked back. Scripture tells us that God's paths are beyond tracing out. (Romans 11:33) We don't know how He accomplished this in our lives, but we know that He did it. Left to our own devices, our marriage most certainly would have failed. We are so grateful that He saw fit to save us.
The Wedding Song (There is Love)
by Paul Stookey

He is now to be among you at the calling of your hearts
Rest assured this troubadour is acting on His part.
The union of your spirits, here, has caused Him to remain
For whenever two or more of you are gathered in His name
There is Love,
there is Love.

A man shall leave his mother and a woman leave her home
And they shall travel on to where the two shall be as one.
As it was in the beginning is now and til the end
Woman draws her life from man and gives it back again.
And there is Love,
there is Love.

Well then what's to be the reason for becoming man and wife?
Is it love that brings you here or love that brings you life?
For if loving is the answer, then who's the giving for?
Do you believe in something that you've never seen before?
Oh there is Love,
there is Love.

Oh the marriage of your spirits here has caused Him to remain
For whenever two or more of you are gathered in His name
There is Love,
there is Love.

Sep 20, 2011

One Big Fish Story...

Along with 14 million other Americans, we're still dealing with the reality of unemployment around here.  This is our third round in the last nine years, and in all honesty, it's been the hardest emotionally and psychologically. Financially we are still surviving ~ it's been almost four months so far.  Obviously we can't go on forever without an income, but for now we are ok.  

The first time it happened and lived through it I told many people "we survived but we'd never make it a second time."  Not exactly a statement of faith or thankfulness, was it? When it happened the second time, I said, "Lord, I was just KIDDING!" And again, our needs were met and we survived.  When it happened again this year, I admit I've been pretty stunned.  The previous two times set us back financially right at the time of life where we are supposed to be thinking of saving for our retirement years.  With the economy in the dire shape it's in, it has been a whole new ball game for my hubby trying to maneuver his way through the job search process. Companies are thread bare with the employees they have, yet they are reluctant to invest in additional staff because of the dismal world-wide economic forecasts.  

And so we wait.  We wait on the Lord for His provision.  We seek to discern His wisdom and direction.  We work.  Hubby treats every day as if it were a normal work day.  He gets dressed and into his office early in the morning and stays there until quit time.  He researches, he tweeks his resume, he answers ads, he takes tests, he networks, he applies for positions, and the next day he gets up and does it all over again.  So far, the net has caught no real fish.

Last night I read a familiar Bible story that has given me strength for today.  It is found in Luke chapter 5.  Peter, James, and John, a couple of career fishermen who lived 2000 years ago, were doing what they always did.  They worked all night long in the cold and dark from their fishing boats, casting their nets but they kept coming up empty.  No doubt discouragement set in.  They were already cleaning up their equipment at the end of a fruitless time of labor.  But Jesus had His eye on them.  He told them to go out into the deeper water and let their nets down.  Peter answered him, saying, "Master we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything.  But because you say so I will let down the nets."  

We all know the rest of the story.  The fishing nets were so full they were breaking.  Peter had to signal his partners to come and help him.  And then it hit him.  This man Jesus was more than a teacher.  He was one who could perform a miracle in his time of discouragement and need.  In fact, Peter was so astonished that he said, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!"  He realized that he was small and sinful compared to this big and mighty God-man.

I don't know what the outcome will be of our present frustration, and yes anxiety of our time of not knowing where our next paycheck will come from.  But this I do know:  Our story will end well.  This same fisherman Peter turned fisher-of-men Peter, wrote these words of hope: 

 "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.  This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time." I Peter 1:3-5

Did you catch that? Because of our merciful God we have a living hope and an inheritance that can never be taken away.  Until then, we are shielded by God's power.  We do know how our story will end, and it is all good.  It's sort of like watching a movie that gets scary and makes your heart beat faster at times...but you know the story ends well,  so you can go ahead and endure, even enjoy watching it.  

Said another way:  "Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."  II Corinthians 4:16-18

Sep 5, 2011

can't really call this LABOR...

Most of you know I enjoy playing in the kitchen.  But it has to be clean, and I need to have TIME.  Well, today was the day.  Having no real plans for Labor Day, hubby and I just took it easy.  Well I guess I better speak for myself, since he did trim some tree branches today.  But I was still in my jammies at 2 pm.  Seriously.

Remember that peach pie from the other day?  Well, I still had 4 pie crusts left to use up.  So for our breakfast, I made us a quiche.  It's got to be the best kept secret in the world how easy it is to make these things, judging by the price you pay for a slice at a restaurant.  

There are so many varieties of quiche to be made, but today I just used what I had in the house.  So this one was 8 eggs, beaten, and about 1/4 ~ 1/2 cup milk.  To that I added cut up leftover sausage that was already cooked, some fresh mushroom slices, chopped scallions, and about a cup of shredded cheddar cheese.  For seasoning, I used a little dry mustard and some Tony Chachere's original Creole Seasoning.  Then I poured it into an unbaked pie shell and baked it at 375℉ for about 35-40 minutes.  

This coming weekend I will host a brunch for my daughter-in-love who is coming in from out of state for a wedding.  I will plan on making five different quiches using ingredients such as spinach, kalamata olive and feta cheese, chicken and swiss cheese, ham and cheddar cheese, tomato, green pepper, pepperoni and mozzerella cheese, and  another one like this, sausage, mushroom and cheddar cheese.  My pie crust recipe makes 5 crusts, and I will have the meat cooked ahead of time.  The rest is simple:  I will set out all the ingredients and assemble the variety of quiches.  I will serve the quiches with some fresh fruit. Sound good?

Here's the recipe for the pie crust, which my aunt gave me when I graduated from high school 44 years ago!

Never-Fail Pie Crust

5 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 cups shortening
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg
1 tablespoon vinegar
cold water
Combine flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl. Add shortening and work into the flour with two knives until course, about the size of peas, (or use a pie crust cutting tool.) Into a one cup liquid measuring cup, break one egg and beat slightly with a fork. Add vinegar, and then enough cold water to make one cup liquid. Add this to the flour/shortening mixture and mix into a good consistency for rolling.

Tip: divide the dough into 5 equal sized balls. Work with one at a time, and cover the others with a clean damp dish towel to keep from drying out while you are working. Roll out crust quickly on countertop or board covered with flour. Try not to handle the dough more than necessary--just roll into a circle to the desired thickness and circumference, carefully fold it in half, then in half again, and center on your pie plate, carefully opening up the sections. Press into ungreased plate gently. If there is too much excess dough hanging over the edge of the plate, just cut it with a knife or scissors, and tuck edges under evenly. Flute with fingers.

I decided I wanted to make another pie today to take with us when we went to visit my mom and her neighbor tonight.  I didn't have any more fresh fruit in the house, so I decided to make a chocolate pie.  Using another pie shell that I only had to roll out, I followed a new-to-me recipe. I don't have a doube boiler anymore, so I was very careful when I heated the following in a regular sauce pan, and it worked fine.

Mississippi Mud Pie filling

3 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips 
1/4 cup butter
3 TBSP corn syrup
3 eggs, beaten
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Note:  I removed the pan from the direct heat when I added the eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla

Next, I baked the pie shell for 10 minutes at 425℉ and then I added the filling, returning it to the oven for another 35-40 minutes to bake at 350℉. 

  The baked chocolate filling had the texture of a brownie on the outside, but inside it was more of the texture of a pecan pie filling.

I served the pie with a dollop of cool whip on each slice, sprinkled with chopped walnuts.

 If I thought the entire pie would be eaten at once, I would have just spread the cool whip on top of the cooled pie, hiding all the chocolate, and sprinkled the entire top with the chopped nuts OR chocolate shavings.

 I was not happy with what the extra pre-baking of the crust did to the texture.  It also made it way "over done". So the next time I make this I will not pre-bake the crust.  I also think I will double the pie filling recipe to make the chocolate part a lot thicker, and then I will most likely need to bake the pie a total of about 45 minutes.

So if anyone is counting...I STILL have one pie crust left.  I think I hear a lemon-meringue calling my name!  I can always bring it to a meeting hubby and I will be attending tomorrow night...

Other than playing in the kitchen and the visit to mom's condo tonight, we spent a good bit of the day just reading our books and relaxing.  A very good non-Labor Day!  What did YOU do today?

Sep 4, 2011

So today, hubby and I decided to blow the stink off and went to our local mall to walk around.  "Blow the stink off" is an expression we use when we need a change of scenery or to get an attitude adjustment.  It is a rainy day and we both were feeling a little discouraged over general principles.  So off we went.  Oh my.  We pulled up behind THIS car while at a stop light...

Now seriously, I would be afraid to drive that car around town.  That's all I'll say about it right now.

Once inside the mall, of course we visited the Apple store first.  Yes, we touched all the forbidden fruit.  I made hubby explain all the things that started with "i".  You know: i-Pad, i-Pod, i-Phone, i-mac...I'm sure there is more.  Did you know a MacBook Light weighs just over 2#? Amazing.  It's fun to go to stores like that when there is absolutely no chance of having to make some agonizing decision.

So we did some more window shopping.  As we passed Abercrombie & Fitch I did a double take.  Their website advertises "sexy, casual clothing" but this was too much.  There was a big poster of two guys standing as though facing each other, with their jeans zippers partially open.  The caption read "are you in?" How do they get AWAY with this?

After some more walking and a little snack, we sat for a few minutes on a bench while I took a cell phone call.  In front of a store and directly in our line of vision was a nice looking young female employee who was changing out a sign stand.  She repeatedly had to squat to do what she was doing and each time we saw far more of her backside than anyone would have desired to.  I told hubby I wanted to walk over to her and say "excuse me, do you realize that every time you squat down like that your crack shows?" Now I have to wonder, is she totally aware or unaware of this?  

We finally left the mall and got home.  I feel like one of Beatrice Potter's bunnies returning to my safe little rabbit hole.  Sometimes it really does feel like it's too big and too bad a world out there.