Sunday, September 16, 2012

Silence

Silence is golden, so it's been said.
Better than saying what you have on your mind is to keep things quite, undisturbed.
I do not speak.

As others wield their tongues, and spread what words they may,
Inflicting wounds on others who silently sit,
Body's soul bearing lacerations left by jabs of careless banter -
I cannot speak.

From fear, or dread, necessity or uncertainty
My very being questioned by those who shout aloud as well as those still silent.
Frozen by habits of old, gripped by obligation or responsibility.
I dare not speak.

Provoked by lies or assumptions
Motives called into question - no one questions me.
Will this break her, maybe?
I will not speak.

As I search within myself for what good may come of this silence so long lauded,
I find a voice which has been whispering all along.
Not quite silenced, but stifled.
The day may come when chains are broken, and the truth unspoken will find its day.
And I may speak.

Oh, day I wish for, come but quickly!
Time may be against us.
No claim to perfection, just claims for truth - however it may look.
Soon I shall speak.






Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Come unto me

I am in love with my husband.  Have I said that here before? It's true.  It's not that we don't have our share of misunderstandings, but I inevitably find myself in the arms of a man who wants to understand me, even if he doesn't always succeed. I love that.  And Sunday night, I couldn't have been happier with my choice in a life partner.  I kind of wanted to stand and just ask the congregation "Do you even understand what he's saying?!"  Just because I was SO excited about this truth I have never heard explained before!  Ever.

Now, if you don't know me, let me tell you that I am a daughter of a preacher, the wife of one, and a frequent church-goer since I was in my mother's womb. And still - maybe I wasn't always paying attention - but I had never seen or heard explained what my husband explained from the Scriptures Sunday night.  I don't think I can do it as well as he did, but allow me to try to explain his take on things.  I am too excited about this not to share it, and can only pray that it be taken for what it's worth and not misunderstood.

Matthew 19.  The topic is divorce.  Not a popular one for pastors to take on from the pulpit - easier to avoid.  Well, the Pharisees knew that too. You see, if you look at Matthew chapter 19 you will see that there was a whole multitude of people surrounding Jesus.  He was healing them.  Then the Pharisees came along and thought they'd hit him with a usually avoided subject.  Divorce for any reason, what did Jesus think of that?

Jesus of course responds with his "two become one" statement.  In my wedding, my father, who performed the ceremony, even used Jesus' words from verse 6 "What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."  I can almost hear him saying the words.  

Man should not divorce, in other words.  Ha!  The Pharisees got him, then, right?  They asked why Moses would have then given the whole idea of divorce if it wasn't allowed?  What did he have to say about that?

Jesus then replied by saying that it wasn't meant to be that way in the beginning, but Moses saw the hardness of their hearts, and implemented the practice of divorce.  Then he says something that most people will use as a reason for divorce.  Sexual immorality, as some translations will say.  But if you study the words used by Jesus, he calls it "fornication".  Sexual sin of one not married.

There is something essential that we must remember here.  Jesus had not yet been crucified.  These people knew nothing but the law.  So, Jesus refers to the law.  In Deuteronomy 22, the law talks about how a newly married woman is accused of not being a virgin on her wedding night.  If she is found guilty of fornication before marriage, the practice was that she would be stoned.  Woah.  Extreme.

Jesus was starting to get his point across.  He knew that divorce for any reason was common. He knew that the practice of stoning had long been forgotten.  He was essentially saying, "Wanna talk law?  Let's talk law!"  The man who marries a woman who fornicated becomes a widower upon proof of his accusation.  And actually, since you don't practice stoning any more, you all become adulterers since you marry, divorce and remarry!  It's been said that he's giving them at least one excuse, but he actually leaves room for none, according to the law. No grace in that.  

And the next reply comes from the disciples.  "Well, then, it's just better if no one marries," they said. And Jesus told them that it's hard to receive this teaching - the letter of the law.  Here come the parts I had never understood.

He starts talking about eunuchs.  What?  Maybe I never even thought enough to delve into the meaning before, but once explained, I saw it so clearly.

Eunuchs were those who were castrated, impotent, or in this case, celibate.  What Jesus says in the next verse (#12) is that some will divorce, that is true.  And it will be natural for them to remain alone(eunuchs), make that choice of celibacy and not struggle with it.  There will be some who divorce and are made eunuchs of men - people will tell them they must remain alone forever because of their transgression, and they will never remarry.  There will be some who decide to remain single because they want to pour their lives into the ministry they feel God has called them to do.  And then he reiterates the fact that this is for those who are able to receive it.  Knowing that, in fact, most weren't.

Jesus understood.  There was a multitude there.  Surely, there were "divorcees for any and every reason" around him. There were fornicators.  There were married and remarried people and their children.  Each and every person had heard a staunch and hard interpretation of the law.  No excuses.  I believe the people felt so dejected and guilty at this point that they cried in despair, because the scenario doesn't end there.  

In my Bible, and even in the passage I looked up on line, there is a division between verses. But the next two verses are included in the whole scene. Jesus doesn't leave until the the end of those verses!  So what happened?

The people, realizing they were guilty of breaking the Judaic law, cried out and asked Jesus to at least bless their children. The fruit of their immorality in many cases.  

What did the disciples do?  What we do so many times.  They rebuked them.  

Maybe they said something to the effect of  "Hello!?  Did you not hear what Jesus just said?!  Step back, adulterer!"

But what does Jesus say?

Suffer the little children, and forbid them not to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.  And he laid his hands on them and departed.

Jesus was saying that this is what the kingdom of heaven is about, guys!  Don't you understand by now that no one can keep the whole law?  You need a Savior; you need my grace!  This is what the kingdom of heaven looks like!  The fruit of sin - redeemed - covered in my love and grace!

Oh to be filled with the grace of Jesus!

Oh to say from the pulpit to the casual conversation, "Grace covers all"!  All is such a big little word, isn't it?

All is grace.

When rebuked and reviled by others, come to Jesus -  nothing is too big a wrong for him to handle.  

Come to his amazing grace!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day, Mom!


Ode to My Mother
05/13/12
I tried to find lines of poetry, or a song or verse afore written
I perused odes of motherhood searching for the words to convey what I feel.
But  they all seemed insufficient - these words and accolades.
As if something was missing -
As if all mothers are the same.
And maybe that's what it is that divides their words and mine.
That they've never known you, and I seem to pity them.
For the mothers of whom poems and odes proclaim
May have been wonderful, loving and inspiring.
But none of them was you.
None had your smile.
Your angelic voice.
Your laugh contagious.
Your undeniable flair.
None had your giggle that lights a room
Nor your heart so loving
Your spirit so strong.
Your stamina and strength when times get hard,
Your ability to find beauty in the smallest of things.
Did they know the love only a mother can give?
I supposed they did.
But I have been blessed to know yours,
I could never ask for more!   

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Framed

I seem to recall that I promised a few home decor project-sharing posts. It might not be anything novel to some of you, but since I have had this hanging in my home for a few months, I've had friends ask me how I did it. So, here's a little step-by-step to another frame I was unsatisfied with. I don't have the original "before" pictures of the first frames I did, because I didn't anticipate blogging about it. But I'll include the pictures of them to show that you can use this concept with any frame, really.

This was my first effort. It was done with a frame I couldn't seem to part with. My mom had spray-painted this oval frame purple for me when I was in high school. It had a picture of some flowers in it. Through the years (and a time through the dishwasher!) the frame had faded, and I liked it better, but the old flower picture was too grandma-ish for me to actually hang... but I didn't get rid of it. I'm glad I didn't. During our last move, I had an idea to refurbish it. What I did here was invert the frame to hang horizontally and then I fit a 5x7 framed photo I had that I wanted to put in my new lavender room. I took the glass out of the frame and tied the black, empty frame to the purple one, sure to center it by adjusting the length of the string. I wanted to keep with the dated feel of the frame, so I just tied flimsy bows on the four corners. Then I inserted the glass, picture, and back of the inside frame, securing the string tightly.



When I saw how this one turned out, the wheels started turning on how I could use it on other stuff!


So, this one is done with ribbon. The square frame on the outside was again from another picture which used to hang in my kitchen, but I didn't have room for now. So, why not refurbish?! The outside frame I left as-is, and the inside frame I spray painted and then distressed by,um, melting. Yup, probably not traditional, but since it was a plastic frame, I wasn't sure how I could distress it, so I set it on fire. :) I just watched the flame to make sure nothing ignited and squelched the melting when I had enough of the look I was going for. For the frame, same concept - ribbon tied through empty frames, securing them tightly and evenly, then 4x6 frame centered and glass and picture inserted. Simple!


This next one was a bit bigger. I took a frame that housed an 11x14 photo, it seemed way too big for our place, so I down-sized it this way. I of course emptied it, and then took an 8x10 frame which housed our family photo from a couple years ago and strung the string through a few times until I had the look I was going for. This time, I wanted something taut and sleek.   Here I used the same concept, only I strung the string through the corners creating the triangular shapes I wanted and then back through again so I'd have enough string to support the weight of the pictures.  This particular string is much thicker than thread, but not quite as thick as yarn, but again, you can use pretty much any material.  Which leads me to our step-by-step project.


This is the picture I was dissatisfied with.  I spray-painted the old oak black, trying to fit in with the theme of black, white, and red I have in my dining area, but that old-school blue (which was nice once upon a time when my kids had baby rooms!) just clashed.  So, I took an 8x10 frame that would fit inside the 11x14 opening.

 Then I emptied the contents of both frames and measured the large picture to be cut down to size.  I would caution you to be careful if you, like me, decide to do this with your more precious photos.  I ended up scratching the photo during this step.  So if any of you have photo repair secrets, let me know!


The two empty frames fit nicely inside each other, evenly distanced. 




 This material was taken from an old skirt. I wanted something vintage-y and still clean-lined.  I cut four even strips from the hemline (so I didn't have to sew any loose edges!) And I settled on the four point system to secure these, drawing them tightly and securely to hold the frame. I used super glue, but I think that I could have used any bonding method. Then, I inserted the glass, photo, and backing to the inside frame.  I then wanted to fill the back instead of leaving the empty space to see the wall this time.  I got out my staple gun and stapled scraps of material to fill the empty spaces, pulling them very
 tautly to not leave any slack.  I would have preferred to have a large piece of material here, but since I had made throw pillows out of the other scraps of this skirt, I had to make due.  Because it was scrappy, I then decided to cover the back with a full piece of gray fabric to give it a finished look. I cut the fabric to the size of the largest frame and them folded and ironed the edges in order to create a clean back.  This step can be skipped since no one will see the back, and if you use an entire piece of fabric on the previous step, it may be unnecessary.  But for me... a little OCD and a lot persnickety about details, it's a must!



I hope you enjoyed  this and maybe it can even inspire some to just do an update or two before throwing out things they might have had for many years... or maybe just get things out of storage, which I plan to do more of myself!  Happy crafting, friends.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Fluffy pancakes

I have so much on my heart lately that I scarcely know where to begin, so maybe I'll just post a recipe.

I think I will.

Fluffy pancakes it is. ;)

1 1/4 Cup flour
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 Cup milk
3 Tablespoons oil (I use olive or sunflower)
1 egg

Mix all dry ingredients in one bowl, the wet ingredients in another, then combine. Lightly butter a non-stick pan, pour 1/3 cup of batter into pan, and cook on medium high heat until bubbly, flip and cook for another 45 - 60 seconds. This recipe makes about 10 to 12 medium pancakes and is easily doubled.

For my vegan sister, I have not tried it, but I think that the milk can easily substituted with oat, almond, soy or rice milk, and the egg with apple sauce. I would add a little bit of cinnamon if I did it this way... and probably will try it soon, actually! ;)

So, no mixes necessary for nice, fluffy pancakes!

Berry syrup:

If you (like me) live in a place where you can not buy maple syrup, berry syrup is SO GOOD with these.
I usually buy a bag of mixed, frozen berries, but I have also done this with strawberries or blueberries.

1 cup of fresh or frozen berries to every 2 T of sugar (or 1 T honey).
In a small saucepan, place the berries and sugar and simmer on low heat for 3 - 5 minutes. Serve warm with pancakes and whipped cream. Makes for a lovely dessert!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Steady My Heart

I think I remember saying that I'd be around more often, didn't I? Well, I guess it's not news to anyone, but I'm not perfect. It's funny that by blogging on certain things in life I feel initially happy about sharing, but inevitably it leaves me feeling nothing more than vulnerable.

Exposed.

And for someone who likes quiet and privacy, that can be unsettling. I won't bore you with the mundane details of my life, but things do seem a bit unsettling lately. And my heart longs for something steady.

Thankfully, I can always find it.

So can you.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Change of Plans

Last week I didn't post. I was supposed to be on vacation. I would never want to make the loss of possessions and even loss of life seem less important than my almost frivolous travel plans, but I truly felt the need for a break. So many people have suffered due to this harsh, unforgiving European winter, and I was simply "snowed in" a little with full access to electricity, heat and comfort. For that I am extremely thankful.

We had plans to go on a mini-vacation. Because we had a winter wedding right around Christmas time, it's a challenge to find time to celebrate our anniversary on the actual day, but my sweet husband is always good to find a time to get away in January or February when prices are low. This year, we found a deal that was so unbelievable, we decided to take the kids along with us. We were all completely thrilled to get a break in the middle of the school year, and looked forward to our four-day excursion. But, as you have probably already deduced, that didn't happen. When what should have been at most a 2 and 1/2 hour car ride to the airport turned out to be a 6 hour drive, with snow still coming down, we were forced to make decisions.


The whole thing wasn't traumatic, just disappointing. I found myself constantly saying "At least we're all together, and everything's okay." I knew everyone was a little put-off by the fact that we weren't supposed to have to work that week, and it was difficult to get into the mood to do anything at all, to be honest. So, I did take a little break last week. I didn't do anything but the necessary housework, I didn't get on the computer every day, I didn't cook a big meal every night, I just read a lot, and reflected.




Sometimes plans change. I tend to be the type to over-analyze things, but this time... I don't know why, but I didn't. While it was a little frustrating to lose money on a trip and not be able to go (yes, our plane was actually the one flight that got out on time!) it didn't matter that much to me, oddly enough. When others were asking "Why?" and "What am I supposed to learn from this?" or "What is God trying to teach me?" I for some reason, just kind of sat back, and took it all in. Not that I don't want to learn from the disappointments in life, or that I didn't learn from this, rather, I think sometimes plans just change because life is an evolving, changing thing and we are never really in control no matter how much we like to think we are.

My husband is such a planner. He had everything done and paid for. Things were waiting for us to enjoy our time without a hitch. I love him for being that way. When he does things, they are done right. But not even he is in control. Not really.

It's all about GOD.


And in my life, one thing I struggle with is just trying to find that balance of doing what I can, but relying on God to just do his thing... and be okay with that. This time, I was okay with it. But it seemed like a small thing to me - it's the big things that I want to just take over and demand that things go my way... but maybe the small things will one day become the big things and I'll learn oh-so-slowly, but surely.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Brownies

Since this is the first of my recipe posts, I just wanted to specify a couple things I do. They are optional, of course, but healthier. I always keep my flour at a half wheat/ half white mix. I have found that if you make whole wheat brownies or cookies, the consistency is compromised greatly. But if you mix half and half, the cakes won't fall apart on you. And you only get half the amount of white flour intake! Also, if you want to substitute sugar with honey, just use half of the amount. Honey is sweeter and requires only half as much as sugar. I am going to try to be precise with my recipes even though I am not the type to measure everything while cooking. So, be forewarned... you might find you need to tweak things for them to work for you! ;)

Here are my SUPER easy brownies. They can be a bit temperamental, so keep an eye on them! We like gooey brownies in our house, and they can be very cakey if overcooked.. something I did not too long ago, to my family's dismay! But if you are careful, these are the best not-from-a-mix brownies I have ever had.

1 cup (200g) unsalted butter
3/4 cup (96g) cocoa
2 cups (270g) sugar
1/2 cup (40g) plain white yogurt
1 Tablespoon (10g) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 cups (270g) flour
(Walnuts optional - maybe 1/2 cup?? I just eyeball it)

Melt butter in medium sauce pan on low. When melted, add sugar and cocoa while stirring. Remove from heat and add remaining ingredients one at a time, stirring each ingredient until well-mixed before adding the next. Bake in a greased and lightly floured 9x13 (23x33cm) glass pan. You will get the best results if you use glass, and probably be disappointed if you try this recipe in a metal pan! Bake for 22 - 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven (180 C). Like I said, keep your eye on these as they can be overcooked easily. I usually check them at around 18 minutes, turn them (I have a gas oven) and then decide how long they need from there. In my oven, they usually cook from 24 - 26 minutes. If you like them gooey (like ME!) then take them out when your toothpick is a little "sticky" but not full of runny batter. Let cool before cutting and serving. I like to serve mine within an hour or so of baking so they are cool enough to cut, but warm enough to serve with good old vanilla ice cream!

ENJOY!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Another Good Wednesday

I was tempted to not write today. Since last week I decided to be a more active participant in this Wednesday activity, wouldn't you know that the doubts of insignificance and fears would plague me? But... I will not succumb to those fears again, at least not today anyway.

I just want to share one thought from one verse we read this past week. Ephesians 2:10 seemed brand new to me when I read it this time

We are created for good.

Did I miss that somewhere before? When did I start thinking that just because we are still human that we have to be doomed to fear all the "bad" in this world?

I can choose to do good works, not in my own power, but through Jesus Christ and I can walk in them. Like, in everyday life, a perpetual journey of spreading good. When did this battle become more about me and less about God??

I don't really know the answer to that one, but what I DO know is that for some time now, it has become less and less about me, my works done in my power of lists and rules and expectations, and more and more about God and his love and grace. Sufficient enough to cover anything any of us mortals can throw his way.

Today is another day for good. That's what I was created for.

Have a good day, all!

Monday, February 6, 2012

New categories

I have decided to become a little more faithful in my blogging ways. I'm not seeking any kind of audience, just doing a little more on-line therapy, I guess. So, for those of you who follow along, I thought I'd mention a few new categories that I'll be adding.

First, I'm starting a "recipes from scratch" category. Next month will mark 13 years on the mission field for us, and I have realized that through these years I have learned to make all of our favorite meals by improvising and implementing healthy, from-scratch recipes that take very little time. Granted, more time than it takes to pop open a can or a box, but still little time compared to what you might think if you have the right tools and ingredients! So I'll share my favorite tips and recipes along the way.

Secondly, I'll have a "crafts and projects" category. Many friends have asked me how I make certain things like frames I have around my home, and since it's hard to explain without the use of visual aid, and I live kind of far from many of those who've asked, we'll have a little craft corner here. Don't get too excited, I'm no guru, and your favorite crafty blogs and pintrest will still have to be consulted since my resources here are extremely limited as to what you can get in the States. But what do I have, I will share!

Then thirdly, I will begin a series called "Out of the Shell". I recently had a lengthy conversation with my sister about the journey I've been on and how much I've learned about who I am. If you recall (mom, since you're the one I know has read each and every entry! ;) ), I started this blog with a series called "I am Michal". And I have come to realize that this is only a part of who I am, as I have always just been "Shelly", but slipped into becoming more concerned about the outside shell than the person within. My sister said that I should write a book. I love that she has confidence in me when I do not. ;) But I told her that blog about it, I could. So I will.

I hope that something I write here will be of use to someone, and a little bit of joy might come into your life because we have crossed paths!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Growing in grace...

If you look up in the top right corner of my blog, you'll see a little button for "Women in the Word Wednesdays". I shared with you a bit when I did the 1 John study they were doing over there, at GMG and it really got me back into reading and studying the Bible after a long hiatus. I'm not extremely vocal on certain things, and I am not what you'd call a faithful blogger since I rarely have more than a couple entries a month, but I feel compelled to write today, and possibly take part in this "Wednesday-fest" with a little more fervor.

This time around, we are studying the book of Ephesians. If you've missed it, and you're interested, it's not too late. There are literally two or three verses to write out and meditate on each weekday. You can easily do two or three days in one, if you feel the need to "catch up" and be on the same verse as others. Just click on the link, go to the blog, and print out an easy-to-use study guide, and that's it. All Scripture, and space for your thoughts- nothing added but what you put in.

I think that's what I like about it. Nothing but room for God to talk to you.

Verse-
By-
Verse


And in such God-like fashion, it seems that everything in my life has accentuated one single word lately.

Grace

Isn't that beautiful? It is, if you know what grace means. I have so much I want to say about what the Lord has been doing in my life lately, but I'll not go into too much right now. What I do want to say is that what once caused me a little uneasiness with not knowing how to take this book of Ephesians and some of its "controversial content", has become an explosion of truth, peace and grace in my life. And it's free for the taking.

Grace!

GRACE!!!!

"The exceeding riches of his grace", to be more precise (Eph. 2:6-7) It's so much more than I ever thought it was! "Scandalous grace" as called by some. And I like that. Because it's true. How God extends grace in my life might seem nothing short of a scandal to some, but he is the one who gives it so freely.

Come, and grow in the freedom of his amazing grace!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Coming home

It's a new year, 2012. And with the new year, new beginnings; so I have decided to end the series of "my story" right where I left it. I have essentially answered the questions of "how'd you end up in Eastern Europe?" and "how'd you guys meet?" So I will leave it there, and forge into another stage in my life. Right where I am.

I have taken a bit of a break from technology over these last couple months. I am not a popular blogger, nor the type who checks her email daily (to the chagrin of some!) so it has mattered little to anyone except myself. You see, this solitude though in times past may have been a danger to my well-being, has been reinvigorating this time around! What a relief to know that life goes on even without my checking facebook. Who'd have thought, right?

But this stepping back has been a sort of coming home for me, if you will. If there has been one thing that I have struggled with being a foreigner, it has been feeling at home. No surprise there, right? Even my blog title reflects my deepest struggle. And 2011 challenged me in ways I could have never imagined.

It started out with a phone call from my sister. She was engaged! We were starting the new year right! From Jan 3, to March 8, my mind was pretty much fixated on getting our whole family back to see my kid sister get hitched! ;) It was an exciting time... but then came the blows. One of my dearest friends, and my one coworker would be leaving almost as soon as I returned from my sister's wedding. Oh, and one more thing, we'd have to vacate the house we'd lived in for two years. Nothing new. We'd said goodbye to many friends through the years, and even had to move a number of times. But somehow, it was just different this time - harder. What a blessing those few days of our entire family being together were in mid-March! The moments rejoicing over my sister and brother-in-law's happiness that we all shared were priceless. Who would have known that they'd be what would sustain us for the months to come?

The biggest blow, as you probably know if you've read any of my previous posts, was the news that dad was gone. Talk about being homesick then! After going to my mother's side then returning to my own family across the sea, in a little house that was foreign to us all still... I can not explain my emotional state outside of one word. Homeless. When would I ever feel that comfort again? No place to rest my heart because I didn't know how or what I felt other than numb for a while.

But then somehow, I began to have peace. I started questioning again. I have talked about questioning things before, and that's what I turned to once again. You know, it's funny how many of my friends have told me the same thing. That they have begun to questioning everything we'd ever been taught, and for some, it's brought them to the soothing sea of peace. I'd been led to believe that it was the opposite, you know? That questioning is a dangerous, forbidden thing. But it's not. It can lead to peace. But the pursuit shouldn't end! I have talked to many friends whose questioning has lead them to find peace, yes, but I've talked to almost as many who have talked about questioning leading them to nothing but confusion. And I guess that's the danger some will tell you is not worth the pursuit. But I just happen to disagree. Because I believe that the pursuit of truth might just lead you to more and more questions, but it will only end there if you stop seeking. I can only imagine what might have become of my aching heart had I stopped the search and thrown my hands up in despair after the first flood of confusing questions came! How abandoned and alone I had felt at times! But the one constant in my search has been a love that height, depth, principalities and powers could never separate me from. Though I couldn't always "feel" it - it was there. How amazing is this grace we sing and talk about? Do we really understand? I don't know that we ever will fully, but I have started to rest in it. That grace which is more than amazing; love extended when I'm the one questioning everything about the One who made it all.

So even if you are among those whose questions have not found answers as of yet, and you have just decided you don't know what you believe about it all, I hope your pursuit does not end there. For there is grace, love and peace awaiting you! Come on home, it's all going to be okay.