16.12.14

Why Joseph?

As Joel and I approach four months of marriage, I am more grateful than ever to be married to this man. God's design of marriage is a beautiful thing. So I'm not sure why it surprised me--but it did--to think about Joseph and Mary's marriage and to wonder, "Why did they get married in the first place?"

God didn't use the normal setting of marriage to produce a baby--instead, He miraculously caused a virgin to conceive a child. So Mary was pregnant with the Son of God and Joseph was betrothed to Mary, but he was neither her husband nor her baby's father. In fact, if Joseph was never born in some It's-a-Wonderful-Life alternate universe, Jesus would still have been born as the long-awaited Messiah. If Joseph was never born, God's salvation plan for the world would have continued. If Joseph was never born, Mary would have still been required to travel to Bethlehem, since this was also her ancestral town. If Joseph was never born, Mary very well could have raised Jesus as a single mother in her father's house.

But Joseph was born--and God did include him in the Christmas story for crucial reasons.

From the very beginning of time, God created family. He designed marriage and defined it as the union of one man and one woman; He designed children to be born from that union and raised by a mother and a father. This beautiful unit of the family--the "building block of society"--provides a haven of love, stability, and growth, but it also brings glory to God as it pictures the marriage of Christ and the Church and the Father-child relationship between God and us. 

So yes, Jesus very well could have been born into a single-parent home. After all, God is His Father. But Jesus was miraculously born into a two-parent home, through a series of events so perfectly orchestrated and timed, that only God could have brought them to pass. Far be it from me to sum up the magnitude of God's purposes for Joseph, but I marvel at the importance of his role as simply husband and father. Far from being an add-on to the Christmas story, Joseph is a wondrous emphasis on the importance of the family--the man God chose to complete Jesus' earthly family and to illustrate a picture of marriage and fatherhood to the world for the glory of God.

Merry Christmas!



Photo Credit. Used by permission.

10.12.14

Over the River and Through the Woods


Any day spent with people you love is a day for thanks, so our Thanksgiving was doubly wonderful spent with my grandparents at their lake house.  Thanksgiving dawned blissfully peaceful.  We went for a snowy walk along the lake shore in the morning, and then mashed potatoes in the afternoon!

 Grandma prepares the turkey while its delicious aroma draws everyone to the kitchen!

Grandpa carves that bird! 

When the feast was spread out on the table, we held hands and Grandpa led us in prayer, thanking God in his heartfelt, cracking voice for God's gifts in our lives.  We each followed suit, and as three generations thanked God together we shared in our united love for Him.

 After dinner, there were Risk tournaments to be played...

 and pies to be eaten!

 We were able to talk to Mikaela and Joel for a little while on Thanksgiving.  They were spending a wonderful holiday with friends in Maryland, and it was so good to get to share in it with them on that day!

 All day Friday I kept glancing out the window at the storm, and Grandma would ask, "Do we really want to do this?" But we gathered our fortitude and ventured out into a blustery, rainy night to attend the Christmas parade.  We started by warming our hands with coffee and took advantage of a photo op with Frosty!

We were soaked to the skin by the end of the parade, but the Christmas carols and fireworks and memories were worth it! 

 
 On Sunday afternoon, we were able to spend the afternoon with some wonderful family friends who live near my grandparents.  As you can see, they made us feel instantly at home as they always do when we see them!

 
 The next day it was time to drive home the way we had come: over the rivers and through the snowy woods, with stomachs and hearts and memories full of Thanksgiving! 

2.12.14

English Tea Scones


Thanksgiving was a new “first:” the first Thanksgiving Joel and I have spent together! It was a special, quiet, calm morning with just the two of us, followed by a drive through landscape dusted with snow before we arrived at the house of friends, who welcomed us with hugs and smiles and delicious food that reminded me exactly of home (except for the sauerkraut, another Thanksgiving first for me, which I ate with relish).

In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, I experimented with Gluten Free English Tea Scones (also known as English Cream Scones). During my trip to England, I tasted the English version of a scone (and aren’t they the authority on such things?) and was delighted with the toothsome treat I sank my teeth into. It was circular instead of triangular (mere aesthetics, I know, but worth noting nonetheless), and much thicker, fluffier, and richer than the American versions I had sampled and baked.

Once home, I set out to duplicate the English Scone, and found exactly what I was looking for in a little booklet of Yorkshire recipes. According to this booklet, “The essential of a Yorkshire scone is that it is cut into a round not less than 1 inch thick before baking.” This recipe has been the only scone recipe I’ve made since! But for the last six months, I’ve been gluten free, and I wanted to make the same fluffy, tall scone without wheat flour. When Melanie, my sister and expert on all gluten-free recipes, told me that even she had yet to find a stand-out gluten free recipe for scones, I rolled up my sleeves and set to work. The results were delicious, if I do say so myself, and I’m overjoyed to have a good gluten free recipe now.

Whether you’re gluten free or not, keep reading, because I include both recipes here!


Weigh out your flours. This is a far more accurate means of measuring flour in baking, and yields consistent results. This will be a simple endeavor if you're making the regular version, or a slightly more complicated process if you're making the gluten free version!

Add 4 1/4 teaspoons baking powder and 3/4 teaspoon salt

And 1 teaspoon xantham gum if you're making these scones gluten free and stir well.

 These scones are delicious plain, but for added interest, I wanted to add an Earl Gray Tea flavor. Add 3 teaspoons (or more, or less, depending upon your taste!) of tea leaves to 2/3 cup of hot milk and let sit.


Meanwhile, cut 1 stick of cold butter into the dry ingredients.

When the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, add 1/2 cup sugar and stir well.
Make a well in the center and drop in 2 eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla
Gradually work in the milk, bringing the flour in from the sides until the dough is smooth and elastic. Do not overwork. (I chose to keep the tea leaves in the milk, but you can strain them out if you wish!)

Chill for at least one hour.
Roll the dough out to one inch thick
Cut into circles using a 2 inch biscuit cutter or into wedges using a pizza cutter
Brush with a beaten egg...
...and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 425 for 10 minutes (gluten version) or 375 for 20+ minutes (gluten free version) until golden. 

Enjoy!



English Tea Scones: Regular Version
1 lb Flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 stick butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
2/3 cup milk 
opt. 3 teaspoons loose leaf tea
1 teaspoon Vanilla 


English Tea Scones: Gluten Free Version
4 oz Tapioca Flour
3.5 oz Potato Starch
2 oz Coconut Flour
3 oz White Rice Flour
1 teaspoon Xantham Gum
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 stick butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
2/3 cup milk 
opt. 3 teaspoons loose leaf tea
1 teaspoon vanilla



Mix the dry ingredients (excepting sugar) together well. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar. Make a well in the center, drop in the eggs and vanilla, and gradually work in the milk, bringing in the flour from the sides until the dough is smooth and elastic. Chill for one hour. Transfer to a floured surface and roll or press out lightly to one inch thick. Cut out rounds with a 2 inch plain cutter, brush with beaten egg, and place on baking sheet. Bake at 425 for 10 minutes (gluten version) or 375 for 20+ minutes (gluten free version) until golden. 

20.11.14

But I Will Never Run a Marathon



It was mid-day on Saturday, and I was dying.

My lungs were burning, and my fingers were freezing.  My knees were aching and my tongue was parched.  I had run 9.75 miles with the last quarter of a mile looming before me along with the knowledge that I was running beyond anything I had ever run before.  I felt like an explorer of the barren Antarctic or the moon, for that matter. 

Along with my equally crazy friend, Sarah, I am training for a half marathon next year, so last Saturday was another normal episode in the training process.  Normal, except for the fact that I had never run ten miles before in my life.  And two weeks before that, I had never run 8.5 miles before.  And two months before that, four miles was my comfort zone.  And believe me, the idea of running a half marathon is much more enticing than the actual torture part.    

So as I have pushed my comfortable distance just a little farther, as I have pushed my legs a little faster, and my heart a little harder, I have slowly edged forward.  And now, I find myself in the unique position of being beyond my comfort zone, looking back in to that empty box, and not missing any of it! 

My discoveries in my running shoes hold true in high heels as well, so no matter what shoes you wear, here are three reasons you should run through that comfort zone:
  1. A comfort zone that is never challenged becomes a blindness to new possibilities. 
  2. You cannot scale a mountain you have never climbed before without a Guide: Jesus becomes very real at the edges of our comfort zones! 
  3. While comfort is not a sin, God's chief end is not for us to enjoy comfortable lives, but rather Christ-glorifying lives.  Comfort zones can become catch-alls for bad habits, laziness, and pride.

Paul loved his comfort zone of Pharisee-ism  until he was forced to confront how meaningless his comfort really was on the road to Damascus.  From then on, his life was not comfortable, but it was so much more.  Here is his perspective on comfort zones:

"Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.  Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. " {Philippians 3:12-15}

While I consider the fact that I am now becoming comfortable with the idea of a half-marathon, and quake in my running shoes at the thought of the full marathon, why don't we also consider what comfortable Christianity Christ is challenging in us?




“Runner,” © 2013 Alexandra E Rust, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

12.11.14

Gullible


Did you know that Shakespeare didn't actually write Shakespeare? That, in fact, he isn't the author of Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet and every other piece of writing attributed to him? The first time I realized this was when I was taking my SAT years ago. The essay question was on this very subject, and I found it fascinating, but never got around to researching it further. I saw, a few years later, that a movie had come out about the same topic (but never bothered to watch the film). And so a seed of doubt was planted. Based upon two very small pieces of information, I believed that there was definitely reasonable doubt as to Shakespeare's authorship.

It wasn't until last week, as Joel and I looked through the decade-old pictures of a trip he took to Great Britain with his family that I voiced aloud my doubt when we reached the photos commemorating his visit to Shakespeare's house. He looked at me with great amusement, and I realized to my consternation that I didn't know anything for certain. Research was definitely in order.

What did I find? Well, there is indeed loud controversy surrounding who wrote Shakespeare's creations. There's been many books on the subject, organizations formed, movies made, Wikipedia articles created, and more. And yet, the first suggestion of such a trick being played upon the whole world did not occur until 1857--241 years after Shakespeare's death! No contemporary of Shakespeare ever suggested such a masquerade; no written evidence has been uncovered corroborating the controversy; and the leaps of logic required to reach such a conclusion (certain bits of the plays match events in Francis Bacon's life, or Walter Raleigh's life, or--most recently popular--Edward de Vere's life) are hotly contested by academia. Indeed, award-winning scholar William Hunt said, "No, absolutely no competent student of the period, historical or literary, has ever taken this theory seriously. First of all, the founding premise is false -- there is nothing especially mysterious about William Shakespeare, who is as well documented as one could expect of a man of his time. None of his contemporaries or associates expressed any doubt about the authorship of his poems and plays. Nothing about De Vere (Oxford) suggests he had any great talent, and there is no reason to suppose he would have suppressed any talents he possessed [1]."

I had to laugh at myself for so glibly assuming such a conspiracy to be true, and to wonder at the people who are so avidly attempting to rewrite history while blindly ignoring facts, evidence, and truth.

And yet, I shouldn't be so surprised. A very many people do the exact same thing with God and His Word. 

"For since the creation of the world His invisible [attributes] are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, [even] His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify [Him] as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened." {Romans 1:20-21 NKJV}

There are those who--like I did with Shakespeare--need only a few suggestions about evolution and the impotence of a god to believe the alternate theory that the world created itself or that Scripture is a literary gem, but not authored by God. They may not realize that "I choose to believe the Bible because it is a reliable collection of historical documents, written by eyewitnesses during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses. They report supernatural events that took place in fulfillment of specific prophecies, and they claim to be divine rather than human in origin [2]," as Dr. Voddie Baucham so brilliantly put it.

The good news is that many of these people are no more truly educated in the matter of spiritual things than I was about Shakespeare. It may take only a look--only a question put in love, to cause them to reconsider the lie they have so unconsciously believed. It may take only a statement to cause a lifetime of assumptions to vaporize.



New King James Version, © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
[1] Blakemore, Bill. "'Anonymous': Was Shakespeare a Fraud?" ABC News. ABC News Network, 14 Oct. 2011. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.
[2] Baucham, Voddie. "Why I Choose to Believe the Bible." The Ever Loving Truth. 30 June 2005. Sermon Audio. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.
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