Friday, December 29, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Cream Puff Dessert

I made two pans of Cream Puff Dessert earlier this week.

It's one of my favorite things to take to our Mulder get-togethers. It's not too difficult to make and it tastes delicious.

It is kind of a weird process to make the cream puff base, though.

First you boil some water and butter, then add a cup of flour and mix until it's smooth.
You let it cool a bit, and then add four eggs, one at a time.

This is where it gets a little weird. As you begin to stir, your nice smooth batter seems to fall apart.

You find yourself thinking "This can't be right! It looks disgusting and slimy. Maybe I did something wrong."

You stir and stir and stir some more...and finally the batter comes back together and looks a little more normal.

Then you add the next egg and the process starts all over again. Separation. Slime. Stirring, stirring, stirring until you feel like your hand is going to fall off.
 Then it finally gets better.
 After four eggs, you have a nice smooth batter.
 You spread it into a pan and bake for a half hour.
You end up with a puffy base that gets a pudding layer and a whipped cream layer added to it after it cools.
Finally you drizzle some chocolate syrup on right before serving...and enjoy!
(This is not mine...mine is not this fancy and we ate it all before I thought of taking a picture)
Now, I found myself thinking as I stirred this time.

Sometimes we add something to our life and it doesn't feel good right away. It doesn't seem like things are coming together right and we think we've ruined everything. We feel like giving up and starting over, or worse, not trying that again.

Maybe we try a new method of discipline with our children. We know they need it, but they resist. Loudly.

It's tempting to give up and just go back to the way things were before, but if we persist and keep at it we just might get to a new, more pleasant, way of relating to our kids.

Perhaps we want to learn a new skill. We watch videos and read articles and books about painting, or writing, or finances, or underwater basket weaving. We begin our attempts, but it's harder than we expected. The painting is not a Picasso, the writing project stinks, the bank account stays empty, and the basket sinks.

It's tempting to give up and stick with what we already can do, but if we keep trying we may surprise ourselves with what we accomplish. A painting good enough to frame. A book with our name on it. A nice little nest egg. A cute little soggy basket.

When I'm making a Cream Puff Dessert, I have to remind myself that the stirring is important. I can't stop while the mixture is still a slimy mess or the dessert won't turn out right. I have to keep going. I have to remember that something good will come from my hard work.

I have to do that in life, too. I have to remember that something good will come from my hard work.

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest [or a Cream Puff Dessert] if we do not give up." (Galatians 6:9 NIV)

Do you get tired of trying sometimes? How can focusing on God help you to persevere and keep going until you get to something good?

*Cream Puff Dessert (recipe from Sharon Tilstra, many years ago)
1/2 C. butter or margarine
1 C. water
1 C. flour
4 eggs
- Combine butter and water on stove in pan. When it starts to boil, add flour and mix 'til mixture forms a ball. Let cool a while, then add eggs one at a time.
- Spread in greased 9x13 pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.
- Cool.

Topping:
8 oz. cream cheese
2 small pkgs. instant french vanilla pudding
3 C. milk
- Beat cream cheese. Mix all together and spread over crust. Spread 8 oz. whipped topping over all and drizzle with chocolate syrup shortly before serving.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Christmas


It's December 22. Just three days until December 25.

Am I ready for Christmas? No.

I finally got the kids to help me put the decorations on our tree tonight.

There is one measly wrapped present under the tree, and it's for Erin from Blake.

I haven't sent a single Christmas card.

We haven't made Christmas cookies yet.

I haven't freaked out about all of this, but I'm kicking myself for not getting started sooner on the things I could have done weeks ago. Obviously some of this will have to wait until after Christmas next week.

When I went to pick out a background for this week's graphic, I typed "Christmas" into Google images and picked out this pretty picture:

Before I started adding text, I suddenly realized I was making a big mistake.

Pretty Christmas decorations are definitely part of the Christmas celebration, but they are not the best representation of this special holiday.

As a Christian, the nativity scene is the best image for me to use when we focus on Christmas. 

Jesus was born in that lowly stable. Mary and Joseph welcomed God to our world in the body of a tiny human baby. That baby grew up and died on a cruel wooden cross to pay for all of our sins. Amazing!

It's nice to put up a Christmas tree...
See the one pitiful present? It's not all my fault - the kids mostly want money this year.
sing carols, bake cookies, enjoy the pretty light displays, and exchange gifts with friends and family members, but the most important part of Christmas is worshiping God by focusing on His Son Jesus. 
My Grandma Morrison gave me this nativity scene for Christmas many years ago.
If we do that, we can have a truly wonderful Christmas, no matter what does or doesn't get done from our to-do lists.

"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14 NIV)

Are you ready for Christmas? How can focusing on God help you to relax and enjoy the real meaning of this holiday instead of becoming stressed about getting everything done? 

*A few years ago, I wrote a song for Gary and sang it in church for Special Music. Check out my "It Is Well" Christmas Stress Song on Youtube.



Saturday, December 16, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Boundaries



I've been running into the idea of "boundaries" quite a bit lately.

I was listening to some old Hearts at Home workshop CDs and happened to listen to one on Boundaries (from the book by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend).  
As I listened, I realized I don't always have very good boundaries in my life. Two people in the last month or so have mentioned something about me having to "get a backbone." (I was scared to ask them what they meant by that) 

I know other people think I do way too much, even though I feel like I'm never doing enough for others.

Then I watched a sappy Christmas movie one night on Netflix.

"Merry Kissmas" was a sweet, funny movie.
I was intrigued by a scene about one hour into the film.

Kayla arrives bearing catering gifts for Dustin and his cousin Kim. She made 200 postcards to advertise their catering business and sent some emails to her press contacts to promote an event they were doing.

While Kim is enthusiastic, Dustin doesn't seem as thrilled.

"What about the nutcracker artist?" he asks. "Didn't you work on the story?"

"Umm, no, not yet," Kayla admits.

Dustin then asks, "What do we owe you for the postcards and your time?"

"Nothing!" Kayla answers. "I did this as a thank you for all you've given me."

"But your time is valuable and I'd like to pay you for it."

"No, I don't want your money."

"And I don't want you doing free work."

"I'm sorry if I crossed a boundary?" Kayla offers weakly.

Dustin explains, "It's not that you crossed a boundary. It's that you should have set a boundary."

I can't remember hearing characters talk about boundaries in a movie before.

I feel like God is bringing this topic to my attention over and over lately because He wants to teach me more about setting healthy boundaries.

Maybe I shouldn't be writing about this until after I've learned my lessons...but I thought I'd use it as our focus this week in case anyone else needs to work on it, too.

I do many things for lots of people. Usually I enjoy doing those things, but sometimes I do those things because I don't want someone to get mad. Or I do them because it's easier than asking someone else. Or I do them because I think people will like me more if I don't say "no." Or I do them because...oh, there are so many reasons. Sometimes I don't even know why I do the things I do.

It's time to take a good look at the boundaries in my life and make sure they're healthy.

Here's a good graphic I found from Kristi Holl's blog that illustrates healthy and unhealthy boundaries: 
http://kristiholl.net/writers-blog/2013/04/how-healthy-are-your-boundaries/

I'm going to keep learning how to be most like the picture on the left, if that's okay with you.

"For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age," (Titus 2:11-12 NIV)

Do you have any problems with boundaries? How can focusing on God help you to set healthy boundaries that allow you to care for others while taking care of yourself, too?

*If you want to read more about this topic, I found a great article about boundaries here:
https://www.gotquestions.org/boundaries-biblical.html

Friday, December 8, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Making Misteaks

Did I ever tell you I'm a perfectionist?

I catch the pickiest of typos as I'm reading. I notice little details in life that most other people would overlook. I am thinking constantly, analyzing people's words and actions to figure out how I should be feeling, what I should say, and what I should do.

It's exhausting.

The worst part about being a perfectionist is facing the fact that I make mistakes. It seems like those happen more and more often.

In my younger years, my mistakes would throw me for a loop because they surprised me so much. I remember being incredulous one day because I realized that I didn't know how to spell "dilemma" (in my mind it was "dilemna") and I wondered what else I was wrong about.

When I made a mistake I beat myself up for it until I felt I could move on.

Fast forward to 51-year-old me. 

I'm staying with our daughter Erin for the weekend in Lincoln, Nebraska. Tonight I took her dog Charlie for a walk while Erin was out. When we got back to the apartment complex, I got out Erin's key and put it in the outside door. That's funny, it worked before but now it won't turn.

A lady came up the sidewalk as I was struggling with the key. I stepped aside and said something about it being my daughter's and that it wasn't working. "You have to turn it to the right," she offered. She opened the door with her key and let Charlie and I go in before her. We headed up the stairs to 312, but when we reached that floor and got into the hallway I was surprised to see a wreath on Erin's door. A wreath? Was that there before? The number said 312, but suddenly the truth dawned on me. 

The lady from before was a couple of doors down, getting into her apartment. 

"I think I'm in the wrong building!" I announced. 

"That's probably why your key didn't work," she said.

Charlie and I made an embarrassed beeline down the stairs and out the door. We made it to Erin's building and went up the two flights of stairs to her wreathless apartment door.

I felt silly, but there was none of the old despair and shame I would have felt years ago. 

It was dark and these buildings all look pretty much the same, especially after you get inside. It was an easy mistake to make.

We have to face the fact that we are going to make mistakes. Beating ourselves up about them isn't going to do anyone any good. Learning something so we don't make the same mistake next time is more helpful.

Maybe we can even get to the point where we can laugh at ourselves. 

I'm sure that lady in the next building over had a little chuckle tonight.

At least Charlie and I finally made it home!
"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death." (Romans 8:1-2 NIV)

Do your mistakes bother you too much, or can you laugh at most of them? How can focusing on God help you to live more freely and not feel condemnation when you make a mistake?

Friday, December 1, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Information

We live in an amazing time.

I made myself some hot chocolate tonight and noticed this on the bag of mini marshmallows:
"Eat one at a time." Really? They're mini marshmallows. It seems like it might be safe to eat two or three at a time.

Then I started thinking about regular-sized marshmallows and a little game we used to play in youth group every once in a while.

I went to the computer and typed in "Has anyone ever died playing Chubby Bunny?"

Snopes had the answer. Yes! A twelve year old girl had died after choking on marshmallows. (She and her friends started playing before the scheduled "supervised" time for the game.)

 Then I remembered that I had seen "Sea Urchins" on the menu board at the Japanese Restaurant Allison and I had eaten at for lunch today. I had commented "I wonder how you eat those?" and Allie had ventured some guess about removing the spikes first.
(Photo from http://www.msadventuresinitaly.com)

"How do you eat sea urchins?" went into the Google search box and immediately I was looking at lots of links that answered my question.

Now, all of this is absolutely fascinating, I know, but we can get carried away if we're not careful. Once we start googling, it's hard to stop. One answer can generate more questions, and instant answers can make us feel pretty smart about lots of subjects.

We can even do this with spiritual matters.

Instead of going to the Bible and looking for answers, we google it.

"How will the End Times happen?"
"What is heaven like?"
"How do I forgive someone who's hurt me?"
"How long was Noah on the ark?"
"What's the name of that guy that cursed those kids and bears came and mauled them?"

Try it! Instant answers.

We have to realize that our search results may not always be accurate depending on who is writing on certain topics.

We need to be diligent and check what we find with the Bible itself, digging deep and making sure we look at verses in context and know what the Bible says as a whole.

If we do that, we won't just be smart...we'll also be wise.

"The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly [maybe marshmallows and sea urchins?]." (Proverbs 15:14 NIV)

What's the strangest thing you ever googled? Do you use the internet to answer spiritual questions, too? How can focusing on God help you to discern what's true from all of the information available online?