June 10, 2018

Seriously Strawberry Sauce

While we're on the subject of fruit, let's talk for a minute about self-control. As in the characteristic of the fruit of the Spirit described in Galatians 5.

We should talk about this because I exercised considerable self-control in not titling this post "Berry, Berry Strawberry Sauce."

The thing is that this sauce really does taste more like a strawberry than the berry itself. I think it's because of the concentration of strawberry essence in the base sauce, combined with the strawberries themselves. And the best news is that this sauce screams "ripe-from-the-field strawberries picked at the exact moment of readiness" even if you make it with frozen strawberries picked from your freezer in the dead of winter.

Go ahead. Blend up a batch now, and save your self-control for something else. I'm going to use my last reserve of personal restraint and NOT tell you you'll be "berry" glad you did.

Seriously Strawberry Sauce {print}

2 cups frozen, unsweetened strawberries
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
approximately 2 additional tablespoons sugar

Measure frozen strawberries into a strainer set over a medium saucepan and sprinkle with 1/4 cup sugar. Leave to thaw, stirring and pressing into the strainer occasionally. Dump the drained, thawed berries into a blender and puree until smooth. Leave them in the blender. Leave the strawberry juice in the saucepan.

Mix the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of sugar together and whisk into the strawberry juice. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. As soon as the mixture is bubbly and thick, remove it from the heat and cool several minutes. Test for sweetening and add more sugar if needed. Pour on top of the pureed strawberries that are still hanging out in the blender, and pulse several times just to mix. You're not trying to whip this into submission, just to bring the thickened juice and source strawberries into one happy saucy marriage. 

Pour into a covered container and chill until needed. Makes 2 cups (ish).

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June 1, 2018

Dear Daughters: 12 Things I Didn't Know I Needed in a Husband

My dearest daughters,

Just the other day, you were babies, and now you are young women. How or when that happened, I have no idea, but it did, and so now you are getting to the age when you might start thinking about the kind of man you want to marry someday, should that be God's will for you.

When I was your age, I had no idea what to look for in a husband. I knew he needed to be a man after God's own heart, but beyond that I didn't give very much thought to the kind of mate I should be seeking.

I didn't know I needed these things in a husband. But our God of grace gave them to me anyway in your wonderful dad, so now I can tell you that you might want to look for them, too.

I didn't know I needed a husband who would be patient with me even though I am so often impatient with him.

I didn't know I needed a husband who would spend more time reading the Bible than any other book.

I didn't know I needed a generous husband who would put gas in his teenager's car and would never even once make me feel I wasn't contributing to our household just because I "stayed home."

I didn't know I needed a husband who would serve God and his family by serving his local church as deacon and elder and Sunday School teacher and kids' club leader and pastoral search committee member and prayer room volunteer.

I didn't know I needed a husband so truly kind that when he would be out to lunch one day with our children, someone would come up to their table and tell them, "You do know you have the best dad in the world, don't you?"

I didn't know I needed a husband who would tell me I'm beautiful not because he thinks I expect it but because he thinks it.

I didn't know I needed a husband who would go to work every day to provide for his family without ever complaining or grumbling. Even when he was tired... or it was his birthday...or he had to drive through a snowstorm while the rest of the family had a snow day.

I didn't know I needed a husband who would rearrange his work schedule to attend all his children's events.

I didn't know I needed a husband who, when I called him at his office to tell him there was a bat hanging on the window curtain, would say "I'll be there in 10 minutes"--even though the drive home took 15. (Sometimes, Batman wears a business suit.)

I didn't know I needed a husband so steady and calm that his standard response to panicked messages from me would always be "no problem."

I didn't know I needed a husband who, on a cold Sunday morning when I was running behind getting ready for church, would move the dress I'd chosen to wear out of an unheated closet and into the warm bedroom AND make the bed because he knew it drove me crazy to leave it unmade. 

My beautiful brides-to-maybe-be, look first and always for God. He alone can give you everything you need and will never fail or fall short. But if someday, you bring a future husband home to meet your dad and me, I hope he's a lot like the man I didn't know I needed...the man I didn't know to look for. Because a man who is these things and does these things is someone worth finding and holding onto.


**This post may have been shared at some of these blog link parties.**

May 3, 2018

5 Things We Sometimes Have To Do Before We Feel

My sweet daughter has someone she needs to forgive.

She knows she has to do it, but hurt is digging in deep.

The other day, she asked me, "If I forgive, but I don't want to and I don't feel it, does it count?"

I told her it absolutely counted, if she was doing it because she wanted to be obedient to God. I told her that sometimes—maybe most of the time
you do forgiveness first and feel it later. Sometimes a lot later.

When we're walking in faith and trying to become more like Jesus, we have to do what we don't want to do. We can't count on our feelings to motivate or guide us, because they can't always be trusted. Jeremiah 17:9 (CSB) is mince-no-words clear about the dependability of the source of our feelings: "The heart is more deceitful than anything else and desperately sick—who can understand it?" 


Does this mean our feelings are always wrong? Does this mean we should always deny or disregard them? Of course not. God, the perfect Creator Who makes no mistakes, designed us with feelings in all their complexity.

But there is some truth to the advice, "Fake it till you feel it." Sometimes, we have to act in right ways before our emotions catch up.

I struggle with finding a balance here, because I never want my children to think they have to put on a certain persona in order to be loved by God. But I also try to teach them what I'm still learning myself: obedience to God cannot 
be based on what I feel, which changes. It has to be based on Who He is, which does not.

Here are five areas of our lives that sometimes call for the doing before the feeling kicks in.

Love. First on the list because everything else worth doing or feeling grows out of it. God is big on love in action: "Dear children, let's not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions" (1 John 3:18 NLT).

Real love is a choice we have to make every day, many times throughout the day. Love often does before or in spite of how it feels. 

Forgive. If we love at all, sooner or later (usually sooner), we're going to have to forgive. Anytime we're close enough to someone to love them, we're also close enough to hurt them and to be hurt by them. And this hurt requires forgiveness. 

God minces no words in His Word about the priority of forgiving: "if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins" (Matthew 6:15). But because feelings of hurt and betrayal are so often tied to what needs forgiving—and because these are such powerful, lingering emotionsthey're often what we feel. Forgiveness, then, has to be done in spite of these and in the midst of them. 

When my daughter asked me about this, I told her, "Forgiveness has to look like something. Sometimes, you do it first and feel it later." I encouraged her to pray and ask God what forgiveness would look like in the particular situation she was facing. Would it look like praying God's blessing on this person? Would it look like being willing to talk to this person? Would it look like getting a mental grip on negative thoughts about this person and deliberately rerouting her mind away from those thoughts? Whatever forgiveness might look like, I counseled her to do it without waiting for her feelings to prompt it. (I know...easy for me to say.)

Worship. I went through a season in my life when I did not want to worship God in the assembly; I did not want to worship Him in the gathered body of Christ at my longtime local church home. I'd been part of the worship leading team for a long time, but some changes beyond my control left me feeling hurt and resentful. I carried that hurt and resentment into the sanctuary on Sunday mornings and clutched it to me. I withheld from God the praise and honor He was still entirely worthy of. Finally, I sensed Him gently but firmly asking me, "Elizabeth. Will you worship me no matter what?" 

Once I decided the answer was "yes," I still had to fight emotion that did not miraculously go away overnight. Praise was still a sacrifice. I had to set aside my self-centered feelings (which I knew God still cared very much about) and reorient my thoughts and actions toward the Object and Subject of my worship.

Pray. Prayer is simply talking to God...which is great, except that sometimes, I don't particularly want to talk to Him. Those "sometimes" include but are not limited to: when I don't like what I think He's trying to tell me; when I'm angry at Him (yes, I'm that kind of Christian); when I'm just worn out. If you're thinking these look suspiciously like ALL THE TIMES, you're right. All the more reason I have to force myself to pray anyway. This is where the prayer P.A.T.H. I follow (praise God, admit my sin, thank God, and ask for help) is so useful; it shows me a way to go to God that isn't dependent on my feelings. Often, I start in rote ritual along this path
saying the words and thinking the thoughts in robotic or resigned fashionbut find that my heart and emotions have joined the journey by about the halfway point.

Rejoice with those who rejoice. I really hope I'm not the only person in the world who struggles here. There's no way for this not to be ugly, so I'll just say it: a lot of times when something good happens to someone else
especially when it's a "something good" I wish would happen to meI don't feel particularly happy for that person, and I most definitely don't feel like celebrating with them. (I told you this was ugly.) Jealousy and envy are what I feel, but what I need to do is say, "I'm so happy for you!!!" and send congratulatory messages and balloon emojis. Not to put on some fake act, but to live beyond myself, to do right for right's sake, to put others first.

Amy Carmichael, m
issionary to India, said, "My feelings do not affect God's facts." I'm so thankful for this. I need God to be steady and unchanging and sure and constant. And the fact is that God tells us to love, forgive, worship, pray, and rejoice with others whether we always feel like it or not. 

The beauty, though, is that when we sacrifice our desires
or lack thereofto Him and choose to do obedience, we usually find the truest feeling of all: the joy of Abba's favor.

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I'm so honored and grateful that this post was featured by Aimee Imbeau on the Grace & Truth link party. This post may also have been shared at some of these link parties.

Grace and Truth Link-up https://aimeeimbeau.com