Friday, December 26, 2008

Chocolate and Peppermint Cake for Chirstmas Day

This cake was just as Heather said it would be...a showstopper. It was so easy to make and was a huge success. I think the biggest part for me was making my own butter cream frosting! I am definitely going to make another one before the season is over.

*Favorite compliment (from my sister): "This dessert is so decadent."

Friday, December 12, 2008

Can I have a do-over?

Scrubs, my favorite show, has one episode where a patient that JD is assigned to suddenly dies and he feels so guilty about it mainly because he didn't like the patient. JD feels that because he did not like the patient that he gave the man less attention and the result was that the man died. "Can I have a do over," he asks when he realizes that the man has died. I know, very weird since of humor, but I think its hilarious.

Man, I really feel like that some times. For the most part I pride myself on being a good decision maker, but every so often, I make a hugely bad decision that has seemingly irreversible effects. For example:

-Backed into my best friend's car

- Accidentally clogged ALL of my friend's toilets while helping her to clean for an open house (1 hour before the party started)

-Pranked a car in a church parking lot (we really went all out on the gross factor) = car owner + owner's girlfriend + family members + church members were not exactly what I would call happy

-Rear ended my future husband while racing (yeah, that's how I won his heart, but his parents and mine weren't too thrilled about that one)

-Drove a tractor into the side of a house (haven't driven one since)

-Broke Ginny's Chicken House drive through when I pulled up too close to order while driving my client's van (I just don't even want to revisit that one)

A couple of weeks ago, I was having another one of these moments. It was just a really bad day. To start out with, it was a Monday. Next in line, Jon and I found out our beloved Grandma Pete had gone home to die because the doctors could not do anything else for her. Thirdly, I had just failed my TEAS exam for the second year in a row for my first pick school. (I do believe that the emotional weight of carrying these two events led to the next horrific one.) I decided to fill up my husband's truck that I had borrowed for the day, but put diesel fuel in the truck's gas tank, cranked it up and drove it away.

Now, as one might see, there are just some things that I would have done differently on this day. I will mention just a few small things. For instance, the barely audible observation in my mind hmm, I did not even have to select a fuel type would have appeared in my thought processes much early than the moment when I was driving away. Also, this thought would have appeared considerably louder, and I would have added some bells and big red flags and maybe even a figurative little person with a big 2X4 to HIT ME OVER THE HEAD before I even put the pump in the tank, before I started pumping, before I drove away, and definitely before I started hearing a loud BANG! emitting from my husband's brand new shinny, long awaited, cherished, adored and celebrated perfect red truck.

Unfortunately, it was after the truck was broken down and stranded before I was really asking for a "Do over".

Sometimes, it's down right scary how far gone I can get before I realize the mistakes that I have made. I definitely grieve making them and given the chance would take them back, given the conscious choice, would never do them again or anything like it. I am a perfectionist and it hurts me when others are hurt.

On top of that, I almost feel like I do not even have a choice in the matter. I have done some things in my life that were consciously, deliberately done that God has convicted me about. Those instances of redemption are based on my choices, and although it is difficult to change my stubborn heart, I still can decide to to follow Christ and let him lead me and change me. Its these other decisions that I make that are truly scary and the only way to describe them goes back to the basic question that most parents ask their children, "What were you thinking? Where was your head?" I can honestly say with great fear that I simply do not know.

I have to say that I thought I would outgrow these moments of stupidity with every step of adulthood, but I do not think that that is the case considering I am 29. I am considerably afraid of making the next mistake of this sort, but I guess part of the process is learning that God's grace is sufficient for me and covers over even these episodes.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Exquisite Counselor

Service this weekend was so moving. I always look forward to the services at Seacoast Greensboro (and I'm not just saying that), but this week God's spirit moved in a way that was a spiritual healing. It was like Jesus looked into my soul and saw some hurts and fears that I did not even realize I was dealing with and just decided to heal them and deal with them without me even asking. Like the time in the scriptures when Jesus saw the funeral procession going by and was compassionate and raised the person from the dead without anyone asking him or even knowing what he was up to. Sean Wood is one of my favorite speakers I think because he teaches in such a way that is so close to my learning style. He is always bouncing around the stage and tells stories that paint pictures of the truth that is coming through the scripture. My favorite are the stories about his little girl. They remind me so much of Seri.

Sean taught about Christ as our Wonderful Counselor. The word in Hebrew for wonderful in this title actually means "too wonderful for words". For myself this translated into "Exquisite Counselor" for my own mind. In other words, a counselor that always knows the right answer for your life, every time, no matter how difficult the situation is. Sean also talked about the fact that Christ knows us better than ourselves so its not like getting advice from someone who only knows half of the story or only part of who you are. He had us imagine what is reality but what we forget most of the time, that we had someone with us, indwelling us, so that person, that advisor knows every situation, every struggle that we have been in. Christ really has been with us every step of the way. He never leaves us, never forsakes us, so who better to advise?

Pastor Sean also talked about how we should be brutally honest with this Exquisite Counselor. Just like in a normal counseling session, the counselor can't help you if you are not completely honest with them about how you are feeling and what really happened. I truly believe for us as humans that our confession is very key for our lives, not just of wrong doing or sin, but of ourselves, how we feel, what we did, how we hurt, what our frustrations are...even if they are with God himself. This is the first step of healing, of help. The woman at the well was the story that Pastor Sean used for this truth.

I love Christ's approach to this woman at the well. He knows that she doesn't really know who he is. He knows that she is broken and hurting, like most of us are as Pastor Sean says. However, he doesn't accuse her of what she is doing wrong, but begins to talk about who he really is. He asks her a question that he knows the answer to, but gives a chance to confess, to be honest about who she is. The woman is at a crossroads with Jesus, this man who might possibly be a pious Jewish teacher, and she can either be honest with him or lie and make herself look good or better than she is. She chooses the honest road, even though it is not the seemingly prettier one. Little does she know that this step opens the door for her to have unlimited access to the Exquisite Counselor because Christ tells her that he can provide her with living water.

I have often wondered what "living water" meant. Did it just mean eternal life as in "never to die." I believe now that it means a relationship with God. A mortal's opportunity to have an intimate, undeserved, loving relationship with an almighty God who really knows you inside and out. And this relationship means that beyond the physicality of things, we know what it really means to live, because life really is being with God, existing as he meant us to exist. It means a human's access to the Creator in an every day, every moment, Christ-is-there-to-guide kind of way.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Fairy Chirstmas Lights...

So I just had to write more about the trip to Tanglewood to see the Christmas lights mainly so that I can scrap about it later. The following are just some of the scenes that I encountered that night with the 3-year-old.

Jon and I walk up to the door and ring the doorbell. *pause* The door opens to a little girl who says excitedly, "Uncle Jon!" (I apparently am invisible and to be acknowledged must speak up.) "And..." I say expectantly. Confused silence for a moment from the little girl, then, "...and Aunt Cory." (notice no exclamation point.) It is moments like these when I seriously question why I brought Jonathan anyway.

This moment is made up for when she takes me into her room talking non-stop about everything under the sun including how much she likes my new shoes, purse, jeans, shirt, scarf, etc. (which are not new at all). To my relief, she does remember to take a breathe in between her merging sentences and occasionally puts her little hands on my face, one on each cheek.

Still talking non-stop while Liz and I are getting her dressed to go out, she stops mid-thought and pushes away the shirt her mother is trying to put on her. "Its too cold," she says referring to the shirt. "Put the shirt in the dryer for me, Mommy."

On the way to Tanglewood, "Go faster, Daddy!" However, to our dismay we run into a long line of crawling cars waiting to get into the park. We try to distract her to help with the waiting but eventually she starts crying with frustration from waiting and says, "Fair Christmas Lights are not very much fun."

At the entrance we allow her to get out of her car seat and climb up front with the guys. She is like a child on crack and begins pushing every button that she can reach. Liz and I just look at each other and smile. She's all theirs. At one point, she pushes the moving car into neutral, and after turning the radio down, informs her father that it is too loud. After all this, she somehow convinces her father to let her sit in his lap and handle the steering wheel. Despite the fact that she is 3, she seems to be doing a pretty good job driving. However, when we ask Tommy how its going he says that she keeps trying to make it for the Sienna beside us. Must be road rage.

Once inside the park, she is consumed by the majesty of the lights and wants to get out of the car so that she can play with the light figures of elves, Santa Clause, and other characters. They are just for looking, we try to explain to her. Then I try to think of something to help, and ask her which is her favorite, referring to the light-made horses out in the pasture? She points to the closest one and insists on getting out so that she can ride it. Her parents just look at me like Thanks, Cory. You are really helping us out here. Finally she settles down, with just the occasional suggestion of, "I just really want to play with them." At this point she is standing on Jonathan's seat with her head popping out of the sunroof, while he makes sure that she doesn't fall.

Suddenly, she sees lights of farm animals and starts singing Old McDonald in its shorter version. For instance, "Old McDonald had a -insert animal-, E-I-E-I-O!" Then she starts over, Old McDonald had a -insert another animal-, E-I-E-I-O!" This goes on for some time, each E-I-E-I-O accented with swaying and singing at the top of her lungs. Eventually, she looks to me after singing the first part of the song, and stops for suggestions of animals to insert. However, she is not happy with my selections: "I already did that one," she says with utter seriousness. I suggest another. "No, I already did that one." This time with obvious disappointment and a bit of scorn. I mentally note that if I wasn't laughing so hard, I should be forced to feel shame.

Toward the end of the trail we try to get her back into her car seat so that she will be safe before we get back on the highway. This is not an easy task. It takes three full size adults to make this happen, namely because she is stronger than you might think and because she is hanging onto whatever is within her grasp. So, one adult is gently attempting to push her to the back while she has braced herself between the two front seats with hands and feet. The other two people in the back are pulling (of course gently) and prying her little hands off of whatever she is grasping. An hour later, after several bribes and a few threats, we have progressed to moving her into the back seat portion of the car. The next challenge is to get her into her car seat.

Finally we have her strapped down and safe (from the rest of the frustrated people in the car) and she is devastated and crying and saying that she wants to go again. I try to soothe her by talking about how much fun we had and that I understood that it was hard to leave and say goodbye. Suddenly she brightens at the next turn and points out that there are some more lights ahead. I tell her that those are the Goodbye Lights and that we can wave and tell them goodbye. She is a little sad but reaches for my hand and tells me that we are friends and that she likes me a whole lot.

So with her little hand in mine, we ride through the last tunnel, waving goodbye to the Fairy Christmas Lights.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Great Thanksgiving

Most of the time, as with any holiday, there is some kind of major family drama on Thanksgiving. This year was really different. Somehow, it seemed that everyone tried to relax and enjoy the moment despite all the stress of the economy and all the work that comes with coordinating a holiday.

Jonathan went hunting Thursday morning and I pacified myself with sleeping in after staying up late making 4 chocolate pies and a cranberry salad. I should have taken a picture of the cranberry salad. It comes out so posh-pretty. I made 2 of my homemade silk-chocolate pies and 2 from a mix.

The story behind the pies is that Jon always raved about his Aunt Susie's silk-chocolate pies that she makes every holiday. Well, one year I was asked to take over the tradition of making the pies for the family gathering. I was so nervous about getting them right, but I found a simple recipe and put all my efforts into making them. However, I noticed that they did not look like the ones that Aunt Susie made. I was so disappointed and I almost decided not to bring them to the share. When we arrived, I asked Susie what her recipe was for the pies, and she told me that she made them from the Jello box mix! I have to say, after all the pining I did, I felt a bit cheated whenever I found that out. Well, my homemade pies turn out to be really good. I mean I had people asking if they could keep the rest of the pie and get my recipe.

Well, despite the success last year with my homemade recipe, Jon wanted to go back to making the box mix for his family again. He is not much of a chocolate fan and it turns out that the real thing is just too much chocolate for him to handle. I have to say, that even with the knowledge that Susie made pies from a box all those years, I felt so ashamed of making fake pies. They turned out pretty horrible too. For some reason the mix would not whip out smooth so there were these big visible lumps that appeared after the pie set up. Not to mention that the pies really just tasted like lumpy pudding in a crust. I was so embarrassed and I thought about making an announcement to everyone that it was Jon who wanted the fake pies and that if they remembered last year, I really do have baking potential!

My pride aside, we really did have a lovely weekend. Thursday night was dinner with my parents full of good conversation. I stayed up almost 'til dawn talking with Mum while the boys slept. Liz and family could not make it because Tommy had the stomach virus, but we are going to have a make-up dinner either this weekend or next. Friday we spent out of the stores and at my mother-in-law's house for the first half of the day. I got to play with my nieces and nephew. Then Tommy was feeling better so Jon and I went with the Brown family to take Seri to see "The Fairy Christmas Lights" as Seri calls them at Tanglewood park. We had so much fun despite the long wait. Jon is such a good uncle and held Seri up out of the sunroof so that she had front row seats of the lights.

Favorite moments:

*Shopping on Saturday with Jon
**Late night talk with Mum
***Seri, her little hand in mine, on the way back from the lights, telling me that we were friends.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Bands of Wilmington

Am I the only one that is transported back to a specific place or maybe time when they hear certain songs or music?

Living in Wilmington was some of the best times of my life, but it wasn't just the time...its was the place. There is just something laid back and peaceful about that city. The best way to describe it is the feeling of listening to Jack Johnson, Colbie Caillat, John Mayer and other bands of the like. The mood in Wilmington is reflective, relaxed and carefree as if possibilities or any imaginable outcome were possible. Just like listening to those bands that carry only simplicity, even there instruments and sounds are elemental, in Wilmington there doesn't seem to be any specific demographics in that city accept for honest, or maybe just happy. Its probably just the salt on the balmy wind always blowing across the city, coming off the ocean, but the feeling when you drive in is immediately relaxation. You can just drop pretensions and stress when I40 ends and College Drive begins. It feels like coming back to a home you've never known. Every time I return, it feels like I belong there somehow and I always have.

Maybe that is why God had me move, because after too long, I would never have left. I hope that my journey takes me back there one day...maybe for good. In the mean time, its Jack, John and Colbie to keep me from missing home.

After looking at this house, I am definitely having house lust and possibly considering moving to the Midwest. My husband and I are in the middle of a great financial plan to be completely dept free by the beginning of next fall. One of the reasons to be dept free (among others which I may discuss at a later time) is to buy a house. Just saying that phrase "purchase a house" seems strange on my virtual lips. It sounds remotely as if we were going to stop by Target and drive away an hour lately with our dream home in the back of my Hyundai. Investing in a house to me is a BIG deal. Jon and I have read the Rich Dad, Poor Dad books and follow Dave Ramsey pretty closely. We have always tried to be financially responsible and even smarter money-wise than the generations before us.

Our desires for a home are not exactly the average person's motivations for getting a house either. Jon and I have never been the typical American dream couple that has always wanted to get married, settle down, buy a house and have 2.5 kids. What we really want to do with a house is flip it! So, finding the right one may be a little more complicated than just finding the one that we think we would like living in.

Despite everything that is happening with the housing market, the husband and I think that it is a prime time for us to find a killer deal and in a couple of years will be the perfect time for us to flip it in time for the market to come back up.