Tiramisu

Ah, one of my very favorite desserts. This is one of the more sensual here in the series      (at least I think so) mainly because of its silky smooth texture.

This recipe, though somewhat exotic sounding, is really rather simple to make. Pre-packaged lady fingers are key, but if you have time and want to be adventurous, there are several recipes online for the homemade kind.

I’ve never added the brandy, simply because we’ve not had it on hand, and it still tastes wonderful. As for the Marsala, be sure to get the sweeter kind – you won’t regret it.

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Tiramisu
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 8 oz. mascarpone cheese
  • 1/4 c. Marsala
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups strong coffee or espresso
  • 1/4 cup brandy OR Frangelico liquer
  • 18 store bought Ladyfingers
  • 2 oz good-quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped OR shaved
  • Good-quality unsweetened cocoa powder, for dusting
Directions

1. Place 6 large wineglasses in the refrigerator to chill.

2. In a large bowl, whip the heavy cream to soft peaks. Add the sugar and whip 10 to 15 seconds longer, just until sugar is thoroughly incorporated.

3. In a separate large bowl, whisk the mascarpone and Marsala together until smooth and creamy. Gently fold a third of the whipped cream into the mascarpone, to lighten. Fold in the remaining whipped cream to combine.

4. Remove the wineglasses from the refrigerator. Stir the coffee and brandy together in a small bowl. One at a time, dip the ladyfingers into the coffee-brandy mixture twice, taking care not to leave them in more than 5 seconds or they may fall apart. Place two or three halves into the bottom of the glass, pressing down so they fit snugly.

5. Spoon a portion of the mascarpone mixture onto the ladyfingers, then sprinkle with the grated chocolate. Top with another layer of ladyfingers, and repeat layering two more times, ending with a layer of cream. Dust lightly with remaining chocolate and a fine dusting of cocoa powder if so desired.

6. Assemble your dessert cups in the afternoon so that the y dessert has plenty of time to chill.

Tip: Halve the recipe to make two generous servings, and, use wine glasses for the presentation

A  little Ray LaMontagne, candlelight, and tiramisu… sounds like romance waiting to happen.

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31 Days of At-Home Date Night Recipes and Ideas

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Marriage.

It’s that thing that defines a major part of who we are. We plan for it, dream about it, and sometimes venture into it without much thought about the ‘after’.

I love being married and have been now to the same man for 13 years. We’ve had our shares of ups and downs (sounds so cliche, doesn’t it?) Really, that’s just a nice way of saying that there have been hard times that have come from without and times when our selfishness and sin have been the culprit.

We married young, I was barely 22 and he 23. We waited six years to have children, for various reasons. We took being able to go out whenever we wanted for granted, not realizing that life after kids would change the face of our dating landscape.

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Seven years and 4 kids later, we’ve gotten rather creative with our date nights. Through the years we’ve had to re-think our vision of what that meant.

Sometimes a bottle of wine, special dessert, and a fire are really all that’s needed to get the other fire started.


 

So won’t you join me ?
For the next 31 days we’ll be diving into how to make our date nights at home a little a little more creative and a lot more fun!

 

We’re living the Dream

The days seem to go by in a repetitive blur – get up, shower, squeeze in some time in the Word before the kiddos greet me at 6:30, make the bed, see my husband off to work, make breakfast, do laundry, dishes, lunch, sweep, breathe, snack, supper, dishes, bedtime, REPEAT.

Doesn’t sound like much of a life, does it? Sure we go to the park, the museum, or the zoo every now and then. We play with friends and eat popsicles ( I make a mean fudgsicle).

But nothing really grand or glorious, or so it seems. 

Most of my friends lives seem this way as well – the Rinse and Repeat of raising babies. Sometimes we wish that we could do more, be more than what we perceive ourselves          to be – ‘just’ the mom, the woman who gives her life blood for her family.

All I wanted when I was a little girl was to get married and have a passel of children. That’s it – plain and oh, so simple. Right now, I’m living out that dream.

But there’s a restlessness, a discontent, a lie, that I’ve embraced.

One that tells me that this is not enough.

We don’t believe that we are actually living the Dream.

Recently a group of 4 blogger went on a trip with the Exodus Road. They wrote about what they saw and the impact watching trafficking in action has had on them.

One post in particular from Heather Armstrong at Dooce.com has had such an impact on me and continues to leave me in tears. The setting is a brothel, and she and an undercover investigator have just sat down with a 19 year old sex-worker.

Here’s an excerpt from Heather’s words:

“Can you ask her what she would love to do with her life if she didn’t have to work here? Would that make sense?”

He didn’t answer me and instead turned to her with a look of curiosity and began speaking in her native tongue. When he was done, she sat there for a very long time in complete silence. I didn’t know if it was because she had never been asked that question, never been given the chance to consider something else. Then she bit her lip in what I think is a universally spoken way of trying to dam up an emotion you might not want someone else to see.

Her answer was spoken much more softly than anything else in our conversation up to that point, and I could hear her voice trembling. The investigator translated:

“She says she would like to have children of her own and wishes she could have enough money to be there and watch them as they grow. But she knows that won’t happen. That’s why she stays here.”
Read more: http://dooce.com/2014/06/24/some-initial-thoughts-from-a-travel-addled-brain/#ixzz38FlaXKsx

 

I’m living her dream. She’s living a nightmare and I’m living her dream.

When I read this and let the gravity of it sink in, I realize a couple of things. First, for me to be ungrateful and discontent is a contemptible affront to the God who gifted me with this Rinse and Repeat life. And secondly, in a sense, I’m dishonoring that girl when I say, that dream may be good enough for you- but not for me.

We need to be so grateful for what God has gifted us with – this life that may seem so mundane, but in reality is truly a dream.


So, I’m going to ask you to do two things with me today. First, pause and thank God for the life that He has blessed you with, and second, pray for those girls whose dreams we’re living.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Ground

It was hot  and the zoo was teeming with people. Between our two families there were 7 children under 7. We’d left the campsite earlier that morning to enjoy the zoo that was 3 times the size of ours back home.

Now I’m the type of girl who gets up everyday, like clockwork, showers, puts on makeup and  gets dressed. Normally I don’t go out without those three things happening. So to go to the zoo with only 1 thing marked off my check-list was totally out of the norm.

But you know, something interesting happened when I set aside my self-consciousness. I saw other women simply as other women. I saw them as moms and grandmothers, sisters and wives.

Not as competition.

When we look past ourselves, past the clothes and the hair,

we see people – we see souls.

I saw the furtive glances, hands tugging at shirts, and arms crossed over bellies baring the marks of motherhood. I saw that most of us at some point are ashamed of who we are.

So, I set that shame aside, looked them in the eye, and offered a smile. In that moment, though we looked rather different, we were on common ground.

We were mothers and we loved.

 

 

An Unraveled Life

The yarn sits in a jumble by my feet. Ivory yarn that was once a scarf for my sister-in-law. I’ve started to unravel it to turn it into something else.

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You see, she never really got a chance to wear it – she died the winter after I made it for her.

And now, 4 years later, I’m taking apart the gift I once stitched and can’t help compare it to the unraveling of life as we once knew. The unraveling of familial relationships –   relationships that will never be the same.

And I’ve felt the pulling and the yanking as the stitches have been undone. I’ve even felt the severing as the knots have been cut away.

I’ve been living with this process for years now and I’m reaping the fallout. The escape into mind-numbing pursuits, pushing sleep away, trying to be all, and carrying the weight of family strain. All the stitches being yanked and undone.

As I hold the yarn, I’m reliving the last few years, all the pain and weight felt again.

But I know that the pulling of the yarn has a greater purpose than just a meaningless pile on the floor. Soon, I’ll gather it up and roll it into a skein. Once that’s done the stitches will be cast on and something beautiful, useful, will begin to take shape.

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So, I beg the Father, do this in the unraveled mess of my heart and life.

Please, to the One who makes all things new,          take my life and knit something beautiful.

With hope, and a glimmer of anticipation, I take up the needles and will turn a dead      woman’s yarn into something useful again.

 

The disparity between works and rewards…and getting past that

We sat in the Connections class this past Sunday evening, listening to one of the men of the church tell his story. He told of growing up in church and in various church schools, coming to Christ at an early age. I sat, fixed upon him as he talked. His story was uncannily similar to my own.

I leaned forward in my chair. He told of being the first born in his family and his natural bent toward following the rules. And with every statement, I related. It was the same life I’d led, even up to the same college.

He then told of the tragedy that happened in his early 20’s. His wife left and there was         brokenness, a divorce. He said that he couldn’t figure out what happened because

 he’d done everything right and bad things don’t happen when you do things right.

He said that he’d thought of God as a “cosmic pez dispenser” – you put the good works in and the blessings come out. He said that this tragedy didn’t fit into that box.

But, he said God had changed his thinking.

The more he spoke, the more I realized that I’d been thinking the same way. Completely      different situation, but the same horribly skewed thought process.

You see, I’ve complained and grumbled about our home for years. Not always verbally, but God knows my heart.

And, finally one day the discontent in my heart spilled out of my mouth and sounded like this:

Why! Why do we live in such a tiny house that needs so much work and you’ve yet to make a way to move!? Why when I’ve done everything RIGHT? I go to church, I stay home with my kids, we home-school, I had children instead of pursuing a career – ALL THE RIGHT THINGS.

Instead of being thankful for the amazing work in our life (salvation, anyone?) I’d been focusing on my works and my reward.

My Works….my works are nothing in light of the Cross. My works are nothing but ash. They’re ash because it is Christ and His work alone that has redeemed my soul.

I’m still thinking through all this. I wish that I could say that my thinking has miraculously changed. But I know that a sin pattern that has taken years to establish is not just going to go away over night.

Thankfully, God’s grace is sufficient for me and His strength is made perfect in weakness.

So, I pray for grace and for His name to be glorified through my feebleness.

 

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God’s Orchestra

We all have a part to play.

I’m just now embracing that we all contribute to the body of Christ. Some sing, some teach, some travel the globe giving aid.

But there are those of us who stand in their shadow and we wonder what light we shine compared to theirs.

Just think of an orchestra. Only a handful of people sit on stage, blending their talents to make exquisite music for us to enjoy.

But have you ever wondered about who makes their instruments? Who makes their bows and keys? Who puts the music stands together to hold their pieces? We never see them but someone did and even if they can play, they aren’t on stage.

What if we took away the audience? Who would be left to appreciate the music – the  grandeur?

We need to come out of the shadows – we all have a part to play.

Instead of bemoaning what we aren’t doing, let’s work on what we can. You may not be able to sing, but you can pray for those who do. And what about where you live? Where you work, shop? No one else has been called to minister to those around you like you have.

You are unique and you have something to offer.

Can you mow your neighbor’s lawn? Pick up their newspaper? Take them a meal? These are all things that we can do in the here and now, right where we are. If we can just get this thought embedded in our brains – every encounter has a purpose and that is to share the Gospel of Christ in some tangible way.

Maybe someday we might shine a light that will be seen by many and may be considered bright in the eyes of men. However, think about this, you and the world may think your light is small, but what does your neighbor, your co-worker, that stranger on the bus think when you love him for Christ’s sake?

We all have a part to play in the body of Christ.

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Putting His Interests Before Mine

Last year a friend of mine, Melissa at QuietGraces Photography, asked me to write for her     series “Construction School for Wivesand this is what God laid on my heart for that month of July.


This month I’m going to be working on putting Adam’s interests before mine. There are so many areas that I thought I was doing this in, but realize that I’m not. So, for the next few weeks I’ll be chronicling this in a journal style. Here goes.

 

12 July 2013, Wednesday

Adam got up before I did and I was grumpy that he didn’t let me shower first. This meant that I came out later and that the kids were up – translating to, ‘no  quiet time’. But God caused me to think. Maybe he needed to get to work early  today, and wouldn’t I have been selfish to cause him to be late just because I wanted my time.

 

13 June 2013, Thursday

I received an e-mail from Starbucks today for 50% off an espresso beverage. There, larger than life, was a white chocolate mocha – my all time favorite drink. The first thought that came to mind was  “I know what I’m getting this week!”. But then I stopped because Adam loves toffee nut lattes. So, as much as it pained me, (I admit it, I AM SELFISH) I forwarded him the e-mail so that he could enjoy the treat.

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                   … In humility count others more significant than yourselves.

 

17 June 2013, Monday

I got up before Adam and was able to get to my quiet time today. But in order to  love him and put his interests first, I put the coffee on before I sat down to read and write. This sounds so simple, but the desire for my wants is strong. I admit I glanced at my journal longingly a couple of times.DSCN09512.jpg

 

18 June 2012, Tuesday

Today my mentor brought by a dozen doughnuts- 3 of which had chocolate frosting. I split two for the kids and left the others in the box. Let me mention two things  – I’m undisciplined and I love chocolate. My husband also likes chocolate. I ate the last chocolate frosted doughnut. I gave in to selfishness. It won out and I gave into sin over a chocolate doughnut. When I put it that way, I want to hang my head in shame. Because isn’t that what sin is, sweet at first, but then leaves a horribly bitter taste on your tongue and a heavy ache in your stomach?

 

21 June 2013, Friday

Today is Friday! Tonight I actually got the dishes done before the kids went down for the night – an amazing feat all in itself. So, I sat down with Adam after some quiet time to watch something. Hadn’t quite planned on what he picked – clips from different late night shows. I admit, they were funny, but not on my top 10 things to watch (come on, what is really wrong with Downton Abbey?)

But, I had to stop and think. Maybe watching Jimmy Fallon’s ” Hashtags”  is relaxing to him. Maybe he needs the levity. So, I didn’t say anything. By God’s grace, I put my silly selfishness aside and sat with my husband and enjoyed the Roots rendition of Simon and Garfunkel.

 

2 July 2013, Tuesday

For weeks now the desire of my heart has been to go to a business conference at the end of this month. I’ve prayed a lot about it, repeatedly laying the decision in God’s hands. My husband and I talked extensively about it because it would mean his involvement on a large scale. In the end he didn’t want me to go. And though I was disappointed, I agreed.

His interests were more important in that moment. I wasn’t thinking about him in my desire to go. Just my wants.

But the surrender wasn’t as painful as I thought it would be. God’s grace is sufficient, isn’t it?

And this morning, after the alarm went off, my husband took me in his arms and whispered to me that there was no one else he’d rather wake up with, that I was his favorite person.

The tension that this desire was creating between us was gone. God had restored unity.


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I won’t pretend that this month was easy or that I have this lesson of putting my husband before myself figured out. But I do know that God has done a work in me that has spilled over into my relationship with others. The extent of our selfishness is great, but God’s grace is greater.

He has promised us that we can do all things through Him and that even means that you and I can put our Husband’s wants and desires before our own.

 

 

Everyday Moments of Glory

I know a girl who is in the throes of wedding planning. She’s tall, thin, and beautiful. Pretty much my opposite. And, Lately I’ve found myself looking at the pictures she’s been posting on FB, longing for those days when I was 10+ years younger and planning a wedding. I remember being tireless, and wide-eyed with what was to come. Now, 4 children under seven and 13 years later, I feel more tired than not, and you’ll often catch me dreaming of sleep, rather than dreaming of love.

I was cleaning the kitchen this afternoon and reflecting on life. I got to wondering, am I living vicariously through her life in those moments because I’m not seeing the glory in the everyday moments of the present?

This morning I stopped and took a snapshot. My son was sitting (once again) on the table against the wall. Instead of scolding him, I stopped, grabbed the camera and caught the moment. The moment of my pausing to think, “That’s my son”.

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So, I will be happy for that young girl who is enthusiastically planning her wedding. But I think that I will camp out in the here and now, looking for and reveling in those everyday moments of glory.

 

When your Past collides with your Present

Thursday night my past and my present collided and I’m still trying to wrap my brain around it.

As I stood next to my husband in conversation with others, I almost lost it. Hysterical laughter was pushing its way out and I had to do everything in my power to push it back.

Le me set the stage. Adam and I had been on our 13th Anniversary ‘stay-cation’ and decided to end our evening at a craft-beer establishment. We weren’t sure what we’d find – a coffee-shop like atmosphere or a seedy bar. We walked through the door and to my pleasant surprise there were picnic tables, board games, and shuffle board. None of which screamed ‘Run for the Hills!’.

We looked to our right, and who should we see but our very own Pastor of Community Connection and a local church planter. As we shook hands and introductions were made, my mind was reeling. Our pastor even introduced us to one of the employees and said that he’d visited our church the prior Sunday.

Lord, how do I reconcile all this?

First, how do I reconcile a pastor being in a craft-beer joint? Which leads me to the second question,  is it okay for us to be there?

But if it’s not okay for him, why is it okay for us?

And now you’ve peeked at the paradox that my brain has been stuck in and it isn’t very pretty.

Now I’m wondering if this is what the Pharisees sounded like when they bad-mouthed Jesus for associating with tax collectors and sinners.

Whose side would I have been standing on?

My mind goes back to the employee that our pastor introduced us to. Who would have invited him to church if he hadn’t gone there?

Now, I’m not saying we should all run down to the nearest dance club or pick-up bar to witness. I’m not even saying that we shouldn’t.  We need to use discernment as to where we go. But for all practical purposes, we couldn’t find anything wrong with that establishment.

What I am saying is, my husband and I would never have met Matt had we not gone there and been introduced to him by our Pastor.

I’m 35, been raised in church, and am still such a novice when it comes to reaching the lost.

Reaching the lost isn’t about supporting missionaries, going ‘door-knocking’ or having a bus ministry.

Slowly, God is teaching me that it’s about loving those around you and sharing the Gospel on a daily basis wherever you are.