There is Coming a Mighty Season of Full Restoration {...thoughts on grace and gospel...}

I wish I could communicate to you the sweetness of tonight.  I am living a dream I have not earned and do not deserve.

{experiencing community through the sharing of a meal is one of God's best gifts - one Christ died to give us!}

As The Preacher and I fellowshipped with our young friends tonight, we talked about their upcoming wedding ceremony and the way they want it conducted.  We also talked about how our daughter Sarah and her husband Jonathan and their two baby girls spent the first night in their new home directly across from us.  Right next to that home, lives my other daughter -  her identical twin sister Hannah and her husband Justin and their precious little boy.

As of today, the Preacher and I have three of our four grand babies across the street.  

After a sumptuous dinner of paella and bread and wine, after fellowship and prayer and winding up this couple's final pre-marriage counseling, we invited them to walk across the cul-de-sac with us, and join us in praying a blessing over Jonathan and Sarah's new home.

They had already built the first wood fire that fireplace has seen (after removing the old gas logs) and we all gathered in close and spent some time in prayer.  Tim and I were surrounded by our natural children, by a young couple that we love as though they were our own children - they truly are spiritual children - and our grandchildren.

Friends, I don't care who you are....that is a moment.  That is the fruit of lives lived fully committed to the Gospel of the finished work of Christ.

I had Justin grab this candid shot for me - as the prayer was winding up in the dimly-lit room, the vintage console record player was playing some long-forgotten swing tunes, and my Preacher and our soon-to-be-married young friends, and our children and grandchildren stood chatting...and by chatting, I mean they were literally recounting the blessings of God and basking in the sweet presence of the Lord that already fills that home.

Then, the four of us - my Preacher, our friends, and me walked (walked!!!!) back up to my home and we gathered dishes up in the kitchen, and said our goodbyes to them on our front porch, as the waterfall made its ever-soothing sounds in the background.

Their wedding day is only two weeks away, so this night was beyond poignant and special - complete with my giving the bride a very special gift...something very personal, from me to her....something so perfect for her.  {wink, wink}

I wish I could show you how it felt to say goodbye to those young house guests...and then to stand in our own doorway, arms around each other, looking across the street at the glow of the lights in the two homes of our two grown daughters and their husbands and children.  To peek in the window to our left and see Hannah and Justin busy putting Timothy to bed....and then to look straight across and see the embers of the Howe family fireplace glowing still, as they put their baby girls to bed for the night.

"All this, because two people fell in love"....that's only HALF the truth.

"All this, because God is good and He gives manifold grace upon grace upon grace."  That about sums it up.

This is the kind of goodness God wants to lavish upon you, if you will just believe the Gospel.  Your works of obedience will not earn you this depth of lavish blessing.  It will be by grace through faith.  We Atchleys...Howes....McConnells....Trenthams....we are not His favorites.  What He has done for us, He will do for you.  The sweetness we experienced tonight, He wants to pour out in churches all over this city and around the world.

The grace of God enables us to live in community well, friends.

Tonight was a good, good night...and just the first fruits of a sweet, sweet life.

I have not earned it.  I do not deserve it.

But here I am.

On Mother's Day and Honor's Wounded Blessing {...for MOST, this relationship needs some healing...}

That day when I humbled myself and acknowledged that my mom had always loved me.

{...even with her own wounded places, and now me with my wounded places, and I am certain my grown children all have their wounded places...}

That day when I humbled myself and acknowledged that my mom had always loved me every bit as much as I love my own children. That day when I realized that I didn't have to re-parent myself, that it wasn't all about me anyway, that my mother was allowed to raise me the best she could with the knowledge she had.

That day, years ago, when I owned up to the fact that, regardless of my perceptions, or her mistakes, or our collective brokenness, there was never a day when I was not loved by her as much as I loved my own babies.  Never. a. day.  

That was the day I grew up....exponentially.   

That was the day I appropriated the kind of Gospel that gets up inside my brain and renews my old patterns and transforms my thinking and re-writes history. That was the day I walked free. That was the day I stopped being the victim in a universe that revolved around my imagined (and real) offenses.

That was the day I, myself, became a woman capable of living in healthy community with the family of God, as well as my own family.  That was the day I, myself, became a leader.

It was pretty revolutionary.  And I am the Queen of Understatement.

Seems like almost everyone has "mother issues" these days.  I wonder if it isn't almost fashionable to bash mothers and mothers-in-law.  

On the side of compassion - if that is you, if there is some woundedness in that relationship, you are not alone.  In my experience, we are the majority.  And we can minister and administer such grace to one another!

But when there is bitterness?  When you are "the victim"?  When there is resentment and when the relationship takes on a punitive tone?  (when, in your mind, you are finding ways to put a parent "in her place", or withhold in the relationship) Sometimes, there can be a deep disconnect with the concept of femininity itself at the root of all the complaining.

Consider that.

It ain't healthy, that's all I am going to say.  When my female-ness makes up half of the image of Very God - it becomes high time to respect femininity, even in its fallen state.  There is a lot of strength and good to be found there.

That day I quit judging my mother, and found fresh respect for myself.  For all women.

For you, the "that day" I speak of, can be today.  Whether you are sixteen or sixty, you can truly find yourself with a new lease on life, when you choose honor in what may at one time have been a difficult relationship.  And may I add, whether that parent is living or dead.  In fact, if they are gone and beyond the sound of your voice, it might be more important for you to hold a space of honor for them in your heart, always.

It's one week away, friends. Mother's Day is a week away.  Never forget: the road to true prosperity is paved with authentic honoring of your father AND your mother. I love how God didn't leave our momma out of the command.  

Mothers everywhere...adoptive mothers, biological mothers, spiritual mothers...may I tell are not an afterthought. Given any kind of halfway normal family dynamic (assuming your mother didn't send anyone to the hospital in a fit of rage) and especially if your mother was as wildly imperfect as I was (and am) as a parent, God totally expects a mother's children, grown or not, to honor her.

                                       (this original, as well as a giclee, is available in my shop)

Do You Love What Christ Loves? {...Christ loves His Church...}

(..the front door of our church, where I am a devoted member of the body and bride of Christ..)

"Joseph, a Levite and a Cypriot by birth, the one the apostles called Barnabas, which is translated Son of Encouragement, sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles' feet." (Acts 4)

Can I share with you why Barnabus - that wise, generous, encouraging leader of substantial means - why he went through the apostles in his giving?

Ask yourself: why didn't Barnabus just give directly to people he knew were in need?  He was a grown man, he owned property, he had worked hard, he had means, he didn't have to let anybody "be the boss of him".  I am certain he knew that church leadership was flawed, sometimes.  So why did this great man - obviously very wise - why did he go through church leadership?

Because Barnabus was a leader. And true leaders will never cut and run...and they will never exploit your emotions or your pocketbook...and a true leader would never exploit their means or their  influence. 

In short, Barnabus lived in the fear of the Lord.  Barnabus did not want people to look at him and think, "Wow. Barnabus is amazing. And if he ever needs anything from me, he's got it."

Barnabus wanted people to look at the Bride and think, "Wow. The church is amazing. The Bride is incredible - and this thing God is doing in the earth is worth my sacrificial offering of time, talent, and treasure, too!"

Short testimony: We have lived this at Harvest Church.  I won't say who, or when, but not so long ago, a family in our church was blessed to rent a large home they could never have otherwise afforded...because a couple in our church came to the leadership of Harvest and told the leadership FIRST that they wanted to rent their beautiful home to a certain family for the same amount they were used to paying for what was a dump, by comparison.   

It is an incredible story of provision and blessing, and it was done in a very book of Acts style. To this day, there are no strings attached on this home, or the family renting it. It was just quietly done. And it went through leadership, because this couple would rather others look at the Bride and gasp at HER beauty.

Of all things God made, animal, vegetable, and mineral...people are His favorite.  And of all the people of the earth, His church is His very favorite.  

How are you spending your time, talent, and treasure?  A beautiful Bride is the glory of her Groom - she makes His praise glorious.  Me, all by myself, I do not constitute "the bride of Christ".  You, all by yourself, and however much Jesus loves you (and He does...far more than you know...) you do not constitute "the Bride".

Why not invest in what Christ died to obtain?

Naked Cake { pan - NO mixing bowl...}

I confess.  I'm a cake eater.  And a bread eater.  And I don't make a bit of it with almond or coconut or __________ flour.  I bake with regular unbleached wheat flour.  Or sprouted wheat flour, if I am baking bread.

I have also been diagnosed as hypothyroid - years ago.  I refuse to be tested for food allergies, because I am certain they'd find some!  {...please, no hate mail...}

For me...not for you...for me...I am in a position of needing to be able to eat what is set before me, and to "sanctify it with thanksgiving".  I live my entire life on mission, and I must believe that if I can "eat any deadly thing" as Jesus said, and it not harm me, I have to continue to believe that I can eat what is lovingly prepared and set before me by the body of Christ in any country - third world or first world - and still maintain optimum health.

By faith.

I can't afford to be tested - and I don't just mean money.  The so-called results would so get up in my head, and I need my head to be able to simply trust God.

That's just me.

And so I share with you...with those of you who shamelessly eat their gluten, like this very own recipe for Naked Cake.

When I first saw Naked Cakes hit Pinterest, I was in love.  Do a Pinterest search on Naked Cakes, and behold the beauty that awaits you!  I absolutely had to come up with my own spin...

And did I, ever!

This cake is delicious.  This cake is one-pan.  This cake does not even require a mixing bowl.

Not even lying to you.  I would never.

So gather your ingredients:

You'll need:

a 3 quart hard anodized, non stick saucepan {...and don't even think of trying to use a regular non stick.  Been there, experimented that, and it didn't work...}

2C all purpose unbleached flour
1 TB baking powder
1 tsp salt
11/3C sugar

sift these dry ingredients together, straight into your saucepan (!!)

 Then add:

1/2C butter, softened
1 1/2C vanilla flavored creamer (as in - for your coffee!  I use the all natural kind...)
2 eggs
1/2 tsp pure vanilla (I just added it to my creamer)

Cream all the above together, incorporating it all thoroughly.  I use a simple hand-mixer.  If it seems a bit dry, add milk, a tablespoon at a time.

Pop it straight into a 350 degree oven for 45-55 minutes.  I'd watch it carefully at 30 minutes - the hard anodized pan really aids the baking process.  It's done when a toothpick comes out clean.

Let it cool for 10 minutes.  Run a knife around the edges, to loosen.  Then....turn the whole saucepan upside down over your prettiest cake server:

(just fresh from the oven...)

(plated up...)

(sprinkled with powdered sugar, my favorite homemade jam from my good friend Mary, and garnished with daisies...)

Absolutely easy, absolutely beautiful, absolutely delicious naked.

(the cake, I mean...)

Let It Go {..."your momma isn't to blame", and other thoughts about moms and Mother's Day...}

(my precious momma and daddy, on their 50th wedding anniversary in 2013)

Passing judgement on a parent (in this case of this particular post, your mother) is one of the biggest - if not the biggest - block to your own success and prosperity.

That is a bold statement, but I can back it up.  I can back it up personally, anecdotally, and Biblically.

In this blog post, however, I am going to call on a heavy hitter in the world of small business.  I am going to let her speak to this issue, as part of an ongoing mini-series, heading towards Mother's Day.

If you own a creative small business - if you are a solopreneur, and you haven't yet heard about Marie Forleo...

...well, it's waaaaay past time that someone told you.

Years ago, I heard that she wrote a book called "Make Every Man Want You" but she wrote it as a life-coaching book, and then purposefully let it masquerade as a book dispensing attraction-advice to women.  I was beyond curious.

I bought the Kindle version, two years ago.  And I didn't buy it because I wanted to make every man want me.

I wanted to see how this girl could make a hot topic become her "Trojan Horse" to carry what in fact, was her real message to the masses.  And she was spot-on.

Simply by adding a hot-button title ("Make Every Man Want You") she managed to package a boring product (self development) in such a way as to drive sales and get her core message out to a wider audience.  That book put her on the map.  Brilliant.  Girlfriend is genius.

But it was chapter 7 that made me sit up and take serious note.  Chapter 7 is titled, "Secret 4:  Your Parents Didn't Screw You Up (and Even if They Did...)"

One of Marie Forleo's secrets to success was to stop feeling sorry for herself - in short, to stop trying to re-parent herself.  One of her biggest secrets to her skyrocketing success has been to stop spinning the "I was abused" story.

I quote Marie in her own words:

"We live in a society that is conditioned to blame the state of our lives on what our parents did or didn't do to us growing up.  Either your parents were around too much and controlled you or they weren't around enough and left you with "commitment issues".

One of my biggest breakthroughs, which completely transformed my irresistibility and my ability to have success, was really understanding that my parents didn't screw me up.  Until my mid-twenties, I believed I had a dysfunctional family and a mildly abusive childhood.  I was completely comfortable blaming my own inadequacies and failed relationships on my parents.

I would tell men I dated "poor me" stories about how bad my mother was and how she screwed me up.  I dubbed her a neurotic "clean freak" and held resentment against her for constantly making me pick up after myself.  While I didn't have as many stories about my dad, I nevertheless...silently begrudged him for failing to save me from my mother's mean ways.

What a total crock!

My childhood was neither dysfunctional nor mildly abusive.  The only dysfunction that occurred was in my bratty little mind.  I told those "poor me" stories based on memories I put together as a difficult teenybopper who did not like to be told what to do...

I had no awareness of how challenging it is to be a parent, or the complexities and demands that come along with caring for and raising a family.  Like many children, I was untidy and self absorbed and I needed discipline.  Looking back with my adult eyes, I'm 100 percent certain I did things that drove my parents nuts....The memories of my childhood as dysfunctional are not at all accurate.  They were recorded in my mind by a much younger version of me - during a time I was upset and having temper tantrums.  I had a child's perspective, which, by its very nature, is limited and incomplete.  I "recorded" my mom's parenting as somehow dysfunctional and abusive.  Until I brought awareness to it, I brought that story with me forward in time as though it were true...

If you're holding on to a story that your parents screwed you up, you severely limit what's possible for squash your irresistibility because you are not yet behaving as a full, adult woman.  Instead of being an authentic, unique individual, you're stuck being not like your "bad" parent.  Rather than living an expansive're living life in reaction to your parents.

...All of this drama is eroding your well-being..."

Can you imagine the courage it took for Marie to say all this publicly?  To own the fact that her perspective on her upbringing was warped at best? And then to fix it?  Publicly?  I don't know if Forleo is a church-going woman, but I rarely see that kind of courage, even in God's house.

Marie goes on to acknowledge that, obviously,  some people truly have been abused (I'm talking bruises, broken bones, or sexual abuse).  Even then, Forleo's advice is to forgive and move on.

In short, in all but the most abnormal of home situations, none of us has a reason to spin the story of "abuse".  And if we choose to spin that story, we hurt no one but ourselves.

When I was growing up, I had issues with my mom.  My own mother, today, would acknowledge that some of my issues were legitimate, because she struggled with acute, suicidal depression when I was a child.

But like Marie, one of my biggest breakthroughs was when I decided to stop spinning my "poor me" story.  One day, as a young mother of two identical twin infant daughters, I was alone with my thoughts...which almost never happened, back then.  I was pondering some things that happened in my childhood, and frankly feeling sorry for myself.

The Holy Spirit spoke to me in that moment and said, "Stop.  You will never rise above what you identify with.  You can identify with feeling unloved, or you can identify with the truth."

I can honestly say that I broke free right then and there.  I haven't had a perfect perspective since then - there have been rare hours or days when I try to revert back to spinning a "poor me" perspective - but overall, I released my mother (and my father) and chose to acknowledge that my "take" on my  upbringing was slanted at best...and at worst, I realized how I erroneously felt that it served me to selfishly cast myself as the victim.

But nobody stays "the victim" and succeeds.

Friends, let me put it this way:  if I can honestly say that my upbringing was good, and my mom is amazing, and she did the best she could, and I honor can you.  So can you.  Trust me on this.  In all but the most extreme of circumstances, you can absolutely choose to drop the role of victim.

And Biblically, the road to prosperity is paved with honor.  We simply must choose to honor our parents, if we want to truly thrive.  One thing is for sure:  if you want...if you really, really want your child to one day weigh you in their balances and find you coming up terribly short?  If you want that, then go ahead...weigh your mother or your father in the scales of your finite understanding, play the role of perpetual victim, and bemoan every way they came up short.  Then, by all means, do everything in your power to not be like her/him/them.  (Because after all, that makes it all about you, see....victims are totally comfortable with that, even when they parent.  They are always parenting their inner victim  child, rather than making the hard choice to do what is best for their actual child.)

Go on and tell your spouse all the ways your parents messed up - help him or her "understand" you.  Its the best way I know to guarantee that your children will one day do the same "for you".

A Vitamix Recipe: "Really Easy Grape Juice With Chia Seeds" {, really, really, really easy...}

{brief caveat:  I made this juice using a Vitamix.  I think it would turn out just fine, no matter what kind of blender you use, but I did get great results with our trusty Vitamix.}

Take a bunch of red seedless grapes...well, if you have a Vitamix, they don't even have to be seedless, but the seeds do tend to be bitter.  Toss a couple of clusters in your blender along with 8 ounces of water.

Press play.

I mean, blend it.  Put about a tablespoon of chia seeds in your glass, and pour the blended grapes over that.  Let it sit for just a few minutes, to incorporate those seeds.

Here is what you end up with...and it is so, so good and good for you:

Still juicing my way through this gorgeous book, and each recipe is pretty much more awesome than the last.  One of my best buys this year!

As The Next Generation is Home Educated {...another slice of life...a regular Thursday in this 'hood...}

Remember this?

Beauty really does spring from broken places.

There were some dark days in my 22+ year home educating career.  There were some dark years.  But we also had so, so many days like this:

My iPhone buzzed about ten minutes ago.  This is going on, next door, even as I type.  My daughter Hannah sent me the above little video clip of her going over Timothy's memorization assignment for this week - today, she happens to be including Timothy's cousin (and my very enthusiastic grand-girl) Aidyn Esther.

I die.  I die from pure delight, I resurrect, then I die again.

These moments are what makes having a career in teaching your own children at home so, so worth the cost.