BISCUITS! BISCUITS! BISCUITS!

One of my favorite comfort foods would definitely be Biscuits and Gravy. There is something magical about the buttery goodness of a fluffy biscuit smothered in rich gravy chock full of sausage chunks. It melts in your mouth, lifts the spirits, heals all hurts; okay, it may not heal all hurts, but it does help diminish the pain a bit. ūüėČ

For years, I made those standby baking powder biscuits. They served their purpose well.  They were inexpensive; they were easy; they were passable.

Then one day, my life changed. We were no longer scraping pennies together to pay the bills, so with a little extra money in my grocery budget and because of great sales and coupons, I decided to try those Grands Flaky Layers biscuits (of course, they were the Butter Lover’s). You know the ones that I am talking about – the ones that are massive fluffy layers of buttery heaven. I am quite certain I heard the voices of angelic beings singing as I consumed one! They were phenomenal!!!

For a few years, I bought these biscuits because to be quite honest, I could not make them for as cheaply as I was buying them. Then tragedy hit! My children began eating more. The prices went up; the coupons went down.  I could not justify buying them to feed my family of six. After consuming more of those canned biscuits than I should admit to eating, I was in a bind. I loved the taste and texture of the Grands, but I could not afford them on a regular basis. I could eat Biscuits and Gravy less often, but with four girls, I needed the comfort food more than I need to save those extra dollars.  The hunt was on!

I am glad to report that by the time baby number five came along, I had found something that was fairly decent. After a bit more research and lots of trial and error,  I have a biscuit that is easy to make, is light and fluffy, and has amazing flavor! I have learned a few tricks that have changed the way my biscuits are made entirely, including how to get out of making them myself!  Today, I share them with you!

Ingredients:

2 1/4 c. flour

1 T. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp-1 T. sugar (Sometimes, I like my biscuits a bit sweeter. You can use granulated honey here as a substitute)

1/3 c. cold butter (can use shortening, but, well BUTTER, yum!)

1 c. cold milk

  1. In large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and butter. Using pastry blender, cut-in butter to resemble a coarse meal.
  2. THIS NEXT STEP IS VERY IMPORTANT! Chill this mixture. Seriously, I put it in the freezer for 30 minutes! (Often I will make up a ton of this and store the mixture in the freezer, so all I need to do is measure out about 2 2/3 c. of mixture when I am ready to make the biscuits.)
  3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  4. Remove mix from freezer. Make a well in the center and pour in 1/2 of the milk, stirring to slowly incorporate some of the flour as you go. Add remaining milk. Stir til combined. (I DO NOT knead this because the more I touch the dough the warmer it gets, making the cooling step a bit counter-productive.)
  5. On floured surface, pat out the dough to about 3/4″ thickness. Using sharp cutter, cut biscuits. DO NOT TWIST THE CUTTER. Be certain to cut straight down, as twisting will “seal” the edges preventing rising.
  6. Place on greased cookie sheet, or baking stone (my favorite way to bake them).
  7. Bake for 13-15 minutes until golden. Feel free to brush with melted butter upon removal.

 

***Every recipe I try says that it makes 12 biscuits, but they are small wimpy biscuits. HAHA!  I get about 7-8 out of each recipe. Hey, if I am going to eat a biscuit, I want a good-size biscuit!

 

How you top your biscuit is up to you. I could probably eat biscuits every day! Since I can foods (no, I do not live on a farm), in my house is an abundance of homemade jams/jellies; apple, pumpkin, and pear butters; honeys and more. Besides just eating them with sausage gravy,  I also love a biscuit drenched in butter and honey! However, you top your biscuit, be sure to take the time to enjoy every mouth-watering bite. Happy Biscuiting!

 

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I Stand Amazed

With the exception of a few hiccups with our bus route, it was a Sunday like any other Sunday. We rushed around to get everyone out the door on time which is no small feat with five daughters! While I was looking forward to our Mid-Summer Mission’s Sunday, I had a lot on my mind as we drove fifteen minutes down the road to our place of worship. I was thinking about all the things I needed to accomplish: the details needing tending on the bus route, the people I needed to speak with, and the¬†choir special we would be singing.

We arrived at the church with our regular bus riders and a few visitors without a single problem. We even made it in time for the early morning choir practice. I sang paying close attention to my notes and the dynamics of the song then scurried out to visit with a few people before the Sunday school hour began. We listened to the guest speaker and honestly, my mind was elsewhere. “Did I give the teacher the EpiPen?” “Did the oldest get her things loaded for camp?” “Did we make copies of the lesson plans for this week?”¬† Before I knew it the hour was over, and it was time to make my way to the choir room to prepare for the morning service. We chatted with one another as we waited to be beckoned to the platform.¬† A group of ladies sang a lovely special and then we sang a few congregational songs before the choir sang. After we sang and the offering was taken, another member sang a beautiful song. Sounds pretty mundane doesn’t it? Even as I type this, you are probably a bit bored with reading my account which dreadfully lacks vivid adjectives and lively verbs – one important rule in writing! Why write this account in this way? Because, to be honest, that is the way I felt, just kind of “ho-hum.”

The guest preacher for the morning, a missionary who has seen the Lord do amazing things in the Philippines for over 40 years, came to the platform with tears in his eyes.¬† With cracking voice he said, “You get to hear this every single week.” His comment smote my heart! I do get to hear this wonderful music every single service. I am blessed beyond measure, and yet I take it for granted.¬† I get to sing with this amazing choir EVERY. SINGLE. WEEK. , yet I find myself just going through the motions from time to time.¬† What’s worse, I can slip from apathy into criticism in rapid fashion.

The preacher began his message with my spirit already smarting from the pain of conviction. We opened our Bibles to Titus 3 and read verse 3 to verse 8. Verse three is an extensive list of sinful traits that all of us have battled at some point, many of which we are still battling. BUT, verse four reminds us that the kindness and love of God appeared toward man. The author continues in verse five explaining the beauty of salvation through Christ Jesus. That God, in His mercy, did not give us what we deserved for our sins, yet gave us grace instead, something we most certainly did not deserve.¬† Once again, he touched on the very thought he expressed when he first ascended the platform – Amazement! He asked a very important question, “Have you lost the amazement of what God has done for you?”¬† I could have hit the altar at that very moment. I had, in a sense, lost the amazement of what He had done for me! I had been taking for granted the very thing He did that changed my life completely!¬† Not only had apathy crept in, but at times I have been critical of what He has been doing in my life. Quite simply, I had lost the amazement. The things that used to excite me have become the “norm.” ¬†I am, in essence, bored with my Christian life. Why? Is God’s love, grace, and mercy any less amazing than it was the day He saved me? Absolutely not!

What has changed? Me. I have changed.

When I first moved to Oklahoma, I missed the ocean, the mountains, the foothills. Things here were so flat; however, there was one thing I fell in love with Рthunderstorms. The Oklahoma storms were like nothing I had seen! They were breathtaking! Other college friends and I would gather our bedding and squish up in front of the large window to watch the incoming storms. We could not get over the beauty of these storms! They were absolutely stunning. I could not sleep through these gorgeous storms, partly because they were so loud, for the show they put on was not one to miss. Eighteen years later, I can become annoyed when they roll through at two in the morning. I cover my head with my pillow to keep the light from flashing in my eyes and the thunder from drumming in my ears. What changed? This thing of beauty that once captivated me now annoys me.  Did the beauty of the storm change? No. My perspective changed.  It could be that I am just tired from a long day. Perhaps, I have been dealing with a lot of stress. My circumstances are quite different  today than they were those eighteen years ago. My priorities are different. My focus is different, but that does not make the storm any less magnificent.

Is this not the way it is with our Savior? Has He changed? Is His love any less amazing today than it was the day He saved our souls from hell? Of course, not. What happened? I have changed. I have taken my focus off Him and placed it upon my circumstances. I have stopped being amazed. I have even become annoyed with the storms the Lord has brought my way. I no longer bask in the glow of His love, but choose rather to hide in the darkness of criticism and bitterness.

As this dear man of God continued his sermon, he had the audacity to drop another bombshell on my mundane little world. He said, “If you’re still amazed with Jesus, it will show.” Ugh!¬† I wasn’t and it wasn’t!!!¬† I find myself laughing less these days. The perpetual smile that once lit up my face and spread all the way to my eyes is often a remembrance, a shadow of something that once was.

As I sat through the remainder of the sermon, my heart grew heavy. The Lord has been working on my lack of gratitude for months. He has been trying to get my attention in this area of thankfulness, awe, amazement. I have been writing more thank you notes, texting messages of appreciation more frequently than ever before, and even taking more time to thank the Lord for prayers He has answered. Truthfully, I wasn’t getting to the root of the issue. I had lost my wonder over what the Lord has done for me. I am not thankful for the storms , because I have been focusing on the pain they are bringing me rather than on the very God Who wants me to see His face in the very storm I am busily complaining about. He wants me to stand back and watch as He lovingly works things to my good. He wants to use my life to show others just how amazing He is.

Today, I am seeing things with a revived perspective. As the storm clouds gather, I can’t help but stand back and watch with a renewed sense of awe. I thrill to know that He can! My heart revels in the knowledge that He loves me at all times.

On Being a Proverbs 31 Woman

There is a meme floating around that says… “Mommy’s trying to be a Proverbs 31 woman. If anyone asks you what kind of mother I am, you need to rise up and call me ‘Blessed.’ OK?” While I find it quite hilarious myself, it has had my mind whirling. You see, that illustrious Proverbs 31 woman can be quite intimidating. My earthly eyes just don’t see how¬†doing all the things that she does is humanly possible. I remember a time in my own life when I frustrated myself trying to be and do all that she did and was.

Shouldn’t I be¬†her?¬†Yes. And no.

The “Proverbs 31 woman,” as she has been deemed, has many virtuous qualities about her. She is a woman to be looked to as an excellent example of character. She is truly a blessing to those around her. She is indeed rare.

If you take a good look at Proverbs 31 and the purpose behind the giving of these instructions to a wise son, it was not to simply look at all this woman could do, but the words were given to remind him of WHO she was. He wanted to teach his son to look beyond the physical realm and to look with Spirit eyes. He wanted him to see that her beauty lie within her moral excellence. In this aspect, we should indeed be like this woman! God wants to shape us and change us into his image. (Romans 8:29)

I believe that the point of the Proverbs 31 woman is not all that she did; however, it is to teach us the value of virtue. What I mean is, God does not expect us do the exact same things (silk and tapestry do not make for the best clothing here in my little world).  I believe God intends for us to develop her heart.

Honestly, if¬†God wanted you to mimic her every move, don’t you think He would have given you an exact plan? A “to do” list of all the things you need to complete? Alas, He did not give you a checklist, because He created you to be uniquely you, and thus He expects you¬†to operate within the beauty of who He created you¬†to be. He wants to use the talents He has blessed you with to bring glory to Him. He does not want you to mindlessly accomplish tasks. He wants your heart. Let’s face it: your to-do list¬†probably lacks¬†heart -mine is a bunch of chicken scratch.

In this day and age of Pinterest, blogs, DIY workshops, etc. we can learn how to do many of the things this woman did. Anybody up to learning how to make fine linen or how to plant a vineyard? Would you care to join me in a class about how to make coverings of tapestry and silk? ¬†I order Zaycon chicken; does that count as bringing my “food from afar”? I have tried all sorts of things, many of which are on this list! Sadly, I can DO a lot of things and fail to be a Proverbs 31 woman! (Disclaimer: I love to learn new things and try new projects. None of these things are bad in and of themselves.)

I can indeed work effortlessly to provide things for my family, but I can do it with a wrong heart. My heart may be filled with pride as I desire to be the “best” at everything I do. I can be hateful in my actions towards the very people I am supposed to be serving. I can be impatient, mean, and just plain ugly all in the name of “industry.” My heart matters! My character matters!

Some years ago, I did a study on this woman, and as I came through each verse, I found a character trait to follow in each verse. (For example, in the verse listed above, verse 22, I believe He is teaching us to be modest/chaste. By bringing her food from afar, she is showing that she is thrifty and industrious.) I encourage you to do the same. Take each verse and ask the Lord to show what character trait He wants to develop in you. Write it in a journal, the margin of your Bible, or wherever you would be likely to find it again. Study it; pray over it.

Be encouraged in knowing that God wants to develop your character! He wants to give you a beautiful heart! Amazingly, as you yield your inner person to the Lord, you find that the “fruit of your hands” is indeed blessed.

He knew the culture you would live in, the spouse you would have, and the people to whom you would minister. He wants to use you right where you are. These characteristics are timeless. They cross over cultures, situations, and social statuses. ¬†You can be the “Proverbs 31” woman! Focus not upon a list of things you do not know how to do and focus on the character that the Lord wants to develop in you! ¬†Then you can go out and learn how to use that spindle. ūüėČ

 

When Forgetfulness Will Not Come

On a daily basis your mind forgets a tremendous amount of information simply to prevent insanity. As a matter of fact, in about a week’s time, the vast majority of us will forget 90% of what we experienced today. No doubt some of you are thinking, “I’ll forget 90% of today by the time my head reaches the pillow tonight!” You will forget where you put your keys or find yourself asking, “Where is that pen?” You might forget an appointment, a birthday, or an anniversary. You might momentarily forget your child’s name or your phone number. ¬†With all this forgetting, why is it that we cannot seem to forget the things we WANT to forget?

For  much of my life, I had been taught the importance of forgiveness. I had been told of the numerous passages of Scripture wherein we are commanded to forgive (Col. 3:13; Mt. 6:14,15; Mt. 18:21-35, etc.). All of this was true. God has forgiven us of much, and we are blessed when we forgive others. Forgiveness does something for our mind, body and spirit. Learning to forgive another person,  even ourselves, can be quite freeing! Yet with all this teaching on the need to forgive, I found myself struggling with the actual application.

Somewhere along the way, I had been taught that “forgiveness” and “forgetting”¬†went hand in hand. So, as someone would offend me, I would forgive them; however, sometimes, my mind would remember the situation that occurred that brought about the need for forgiveness in the first place. “Oh no! I needed to forgive ‘some more’ because I obviously had not done it ‘right’ the first time.” This scene played out even more frequently when dealing with myself. I would make a situation right with the Lord and another person, yet once again, my ¬†memory would do what it was supposed to do and remember my offense. I thought, “I need to learn to forgive myself.”

Why can I forget where I placed my shoes three minutes ago, but I cannot forget this situation that occurred ten¬†years ago? Why am I unable to “forgive and forget”? What is wrong with me? A few years ago the Lord brought me to a place on the road to forgiveness that changed my world!

Nine years ago this January, my husband and I encountered a fiery trial, of sorts. Close friends of ours accused us of some things that were not true. While there was indeed a problem that needed to be dealt with, the facts were not entirely truthful and additional lies were added to the mix. As I sat and listened to the list of supposed offenses, my world felt like it was crashing  around me.  My blood boiled; my heart raced; my thoughts were unkind. A part of me hoped I would wake up from this horrid nightmare I was having. But alas, we left that meeting with broken hearts.

To say I was angry would be an understatement. I was fuming! I wanted to crawl into my house and never crawl out. I wanted to stay out of the public eye and lick my wounds. I wanted to seethe in my bitterness! ¬†In my mind, I did not see how I could get past this. God gave me a “timeout” of sorts when He allowed me to have a violent stomach virus followed by morning sickness that kept me couch-bound for three weeks. That’s right, to add to my emotional instability, I found out I was pregnant with twins!

After a few weeks of solitude, my husband coaxed me out into the land of adulthood once again. I reluctantly got ready for church that morning and dragged myself to the car. Everything inside of my mind screamed, “Turn around! This is too hard!” With every passing minute, the tears came closer to falling down my cheeks. I am happy to report I survived the morning, came home, and napped for several hours before returning for the evening service.

For weeks, I daily prayed to God asking Him to remove my pain. Every morning, I would wake up with a deep ache in my heart. Yet, I continued to pray.

Little by little the Lord reminded me of my need to forgive and helped me to do just that. ¬†He showed me very practical ways to show love, despite how strange they may have seemed to those around me. Let’s face it: I was grasping at straws! The Lord blessed and things began to even out. I was not so broken; the tears did not flow EVERY SINGLE DAY. But I had a secret – I could not forget this. I found myself asking God to help me forgive again and again, because I “must not have truly forgiven if I cannot forget this.”

The agony of unforgetfulness haunted me.( Until the birth of my last child, I have always had an excellent memory.) I could not reconcile this need to forgive and forget when I could vividly remember so many things. I came to accept that this would be my “thorn in the flesh” and would just have to trust the Lord to help me to eventually forget this whole thing, as well as, several other difficult things in my past.

As life went on and my children grew, I realized that there were huge flaws with this whole “forgive and forget” mentality. How many of our daily experiences truly teach us something? I remember a time when I was ¬†a little girl and I stuck my finger in a live light socket. I still remember the little jolt of energy that ran through my body. Because of that experience, I have never done that again!

Our minds are truly wonderfully created! The Lord gave us the ability to reason. On any given day we learn hundreds of things, many¬†that we will forget and some that we will remember. ¬†We use this knowledge to make future decisions. Using our knowledge of the known, we explore the unknown. In short, we learn from even our mistakes. If we¬†forgot the “hard things,” we would no doubt, make the same mistake over and over again.

So, what of this thing called forgiveness? If I cannot forget, am I able to forgive? YES!!!

We teach our children that forgiveness is treating another person as though they had never wronged you. We teach them not to dwell on the offender but upon the lesson that the offense has to offer them.We want them to learn to lean on the Lord, especially when forgiveness seems impossible. I want them to learn from every experience. As they age, there will be many times that they will not remember the circumstances of the lesson they have learned, but they will have learned. Other times will bring experiences that will not be forgotten. Either way, it is important that they learn. Wisdom will only come by allowing the Lord to teach them through every trial that comes to pass. I want them to be wise. I want them to know that forgiveness does not always bring forgetfulness.

Back to my story above.

The Lord did indeed heal my heart. He helped me forgive those involved in the situation. He restored relationships, and He has blessed beyond measure. While I will not share the details about the entire situation, I will say that I marvel at how God used this situation to bring honor and glory Him as I yielded my heart and life to Him. After years of asking God to remove my pain to no avail, my prayer changed. I actually began asking the Lord to help me to never forget the deep pain of this situation.

Why would I pray this way? Why did I want the pain to be ever-present in my heart? What kind of insane person wants pain? I used to ask myself the same things. ¬†But you see, I have another secret, a dirty little secret: the very things I was accused of doing or being in that meeting, were the very things I found myself saying or thinking of others. I was harsh¬†and critical. I struggled with gossip. Of course, I did not call it that; I called it sweet things like sharing prayer requests or voicing my care and concern. (There are requests to be shared and concerns to be voiced, but my attitude makes the difference on these.) It was ugly; it was gossip. ¬†I, no doubt, hurt many with my attitudes and misjudgments. Having been hit with the full force of this pain, my life was forever changed. I NEVER want to cause another person this kind of pain again. With the Lord’s help, when the temptations arise, I am reminded of that scar.

Have I forgiven? Absolutely! Have I forgotten? No.

I am thrilled to report that all relationships have been restored. Are they the same as they were before? No, but that does not mean that I have not forgiven, it just means that I learned something. I have learned that I was not a good friend to those above, that is another post in itself. I have learned to love through the pain. I have learned to trust the Lord with my heart. I have learned that He truly wants what is best for us. I have learned that if my heart is tender, He will teach me. I have learned that forgiveness is divine and forgetfulness is a bummer when you are looking for your keys – again.

Reaching Out in Time of Death

While I am no stranger to friends and loved ones passing away, I must admit that with the recent passing of the precious man who adopted me and reared me as his own, I found myself a bit overwhelmed. I was often asked, “Is there anything I can do to help you?” I would nod my head and respond with a, “Thank you. I’ll let you know if I think of anything.” I soon realized, I had NO IDEA what I needed!

So many wonderful people offered their condolences, their love, and their time. Some brought flowers or meals while others brought a box of snacks for traveling or other traveling/hospital necessities. It was truly a blessing to see how people surrounded my family and cared for us. These people taught me some valuable lessons! You see, for as often as I have attended a funeral, cried with a friend over their loss, and prayed for countless others in their grief, I had very little to offer in their time of sorrow, or so I thought. I discovered that I could have helped in ways I never even considered.

It has been said that experience is the best teacher, but let’s face it: in this day and age, we learn a lot on the internet! ūüôā So, it is with this thought in mind that I decided to journal my thoughts here. I pray that my experience will help you to be a blessing to another in their time of need. I have compiled lists of practical things you can give and/or do for a person who is dealing with the death of a loved one.

When a loved one passes…

  • Send flowers
  • Send a card
  • Bring a meal, especially on the day of the funeral
  • Offer to watch the children so they can make arrangements
  • Bring a small gift basket
  • Bring Starbucks!
  • Give thank you notes and stamps
  • Share a special memory of the loved one
  • Pick up the phone. I know this one does not sound like a big deal, but it is. In an age of email and texting, making a phone call can communicate how much you care. Call on the day of the funeral, holidays, or special days such as the deceased’s birthday.
  • ¬†Clean their house

For those traveling out of town…

  • Make a travel snack box
  • Give gas money or visa gift cards
  • Give gift cards for eating establishments
  • Make “goodie” baskets for children
  • Purchase a new CD for traveling
  • Give a new book to read while on the road
  • Offer to house sit or clean their home
  • Bring a meal for dinner upon the day of their return. This is one with which I really wished I would have asked for help. After eating “quick bites” or restaurant food for a few days, returning to a home cooked meal would have been lovely.
  • Do their laundry
  • Give quarters for vending machines, laundry mats, and toll roads
  • Do their yard work while they are out of town

When they have family coming into town…

  • Help prepare house for guests – yes, I am throwing in “clean their house” again
  • Locate air beds, bedding, pillows, etc.
  • Offer babysitting
  • Make meals for family and guests
  • Secure a central meeting place for meals and such
  • Do the yard work
  • Assemble guest packets. Include area maps, schedules, restaurant options, hotel rates, a personal note, etc.
  • Offer to board guests

At my dad’s memorial service, the church offered a CARE TEAM. This team was an amazing testimony of God’s love. They took care of so many of the details at the service, freeing us up to visit with all the out-of-town family and guests. The list below includes some of the things they provided, as well as, some of my own ideas on this matter.

The CARE TEAM would be assigned the following tasks to be carried out on the day of the memorial…

  • Provide snacks and water bottles for family before the service
  • Direct florists to venue and stage arrangements
  • Greet and direct guests
  • Distribute “folders” (programs) and direct guests to the guest book
  • Offer a children’s center/child care
  • Set-up before the service
  • Clean up after the service
  • Provide and serve a meal for the family after the service
  • Transport floral arrangements, photographs, guest book, etc. to designated vehicles

Obviously, these lists are not exhaustive, but I do hope they get you thinking about practical ways you can serve during “such a time as this.”¬† This experience ¬†has changed my approach to helping someone through the death of their friend or family member. The most important thing I learned was ¬†it is vital to show someone how much you care. While these lists do indeed give you much to think about and much to do, they are not helpful unless you genuinely care about people.