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Humans of New York offers up  fascinating photos with intriguing quotes from humans – of New York. Since I can’t top that, I decided to offer something new – Animals of New York. I’m not nearly the photographer those folks are, but I’m trying to learn. Enjoy these shots of Animals of New York – and please – offer your captions in the comments. I’ve suggested a few — but I know you can do better.

 

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Even though I've already written a Mother's Day post, but I wanted to add some thoughts on calling. And a prayer!

I’m a stay-at-home part-time working mom — have been for over 25 years. To tell you the truth, this calling has not looked at all the way I thought it would. For many years, I argued with God, “Lord, you picked the wrong woman for this! I was planning to be a full-time working mom who taught English to eighth graders. I have a gift for that!”

After giving birth to our first child who was anything but what I expected when I was expecting (can you say “colic” — we couldn’t back then, nor were we allowed Mylicon drops:-), I quickly realized how much more competent I was as a schoolteacher than a mom. I didn’t like the fact that mothering seemed to spotlight my pervasive sin and reveal my gross insufficiency.

God did not, however, seem to think he had chosen the wrong woman for the job; in fact, he used my own deep doubts to grow a passion for other moms who struggle in this most complex of callings.

Pregnant with my third child, running on a treadmill (where I conceive some of my wildest ideas), I decided I wanted to start a Moms Group. Before you think how wonderful I was, please note that this group was originally designed for me. I wanted some older, wiser women who had three or more children to share their godly counsel. (Or, really, just tell me how to cope with the overwhelming demands.) I asked my pastor’s wife for help — by “help” I meant “you do it” — wise woman that she was and is, she kindly assisted in starting it but encouraged me to continue. I still think she and God were in on this setup together:-)!

Ultimately, this group became a place of “rest and refreshment in the gospel.” We invited the women we met at the playground or preschool, dance recitals or dentist’s offices. And here I was, the mom who struggled with my sin and failures, a coach and encourager to other moms.

In her new book, Running on Empty: The Gospel for Women in Ministry, Barbara Bancroft writes about why God might use us in areas where we feel so ill-equipped:
“Although God regularly uses people who are educated, trained, and experienced to move his kingdom forward, those whose confidence is in their abilities and experience can easily forget their need for Christ in the everyday of ministry. If we rarely question our abilities, it is tempting to rely on them to accomplish our goals instead of relying on the Spirit to work through us.” Loc. 144

She goes on to say, “we will not be ready to do the work God has prepared for us to do until we know how to rely on nothing but the finished work of Christ.”

With children aged 19-25, I am now a veteran mom. I’ve been “educated and trained” — through potty-training, middle school bullying, trophies and tardy slips, deep grief over friends lost to betrayal or death, young adult hopes and dreams crushed and lived….At times I have relied more on my own wits and determination to figure out what to do; others I have spent hours on my knees pleading with God to work powerfully.

Though I forget it every day, I now know that mothering hope is truly in Christ’s finished work. He has died for all mothering sins; he has raised us to new life. He has declared us good, and that is more than enough. Because of his labor of love, we are free from condemnation. Freed to live and love.

A prayer for mothers:

Lord, we pray for mothers everywhere. Whatever we have done or not done today, in our lives, as moms, let us know that you cannot love us more and you cannot love us less. Help us truly understand that it is all up to you. Thank you for your provision — for forgiveness from our sins, for the Holy Spirit who whispers wisdom and hope, for your unrelenting commitment to make us more like Christ. Draw us to rest in your truth; draw us to hope in your grace. In the name of your Precious Son, Jesus, we pray. Amen

This was the year I hosted a "camping adventure" themed birthday party for Jackie, who was turning 4. When my homemade backpacks (paper grocery bags)  spray painted with gold and then hand-lettered with each child's name didn't get me that m-o-t-y award, I should have known it would never happen. That's the bday girl reaching into the sand with me to find hidden treasure. She turns 23 tomorrow!

It seems to hit seasonally.  Usually around May or June, which would be difficult enough with kids’ stressing over exams and piano recitals and final push choir rehearsals for tour, not to mention the years one of ours is graduating from something, which, with four spaced two years apart, happens fairly frequently.  But then you add what I call the ‘birthday’ season, when each of my children turns another year older – May 10, June 1, June 10, and August 10.  And what happens is the ever-elusive-mother-of-the-year award, which I had really thought lay within my grasp, slips away.

You should understand that this is not a local, national, nor global award.  It exists simply in my mind and is for me alone, to gain or to lose, based on my motherhood performance.  There is a point system – I get so many points for helping a child through a major crisis without losing my temper or showing my fear.  More points for not yelling when all four plus their friends have managed to empty all of the cabinets of the dishes and leave them on the counter, dirtied, mere inches from the dishwasher which strikes me as their appropriate destination.  Even more when we make it through a major life event with something resembling family shalom, everyone present and accounted for and actually happy for the person whose moment it is to shine.

But then.  In the midst of these busy months, something happens.  Choir and bell rehearsals crash my fantasy family vacation by lasting from 6 – 11 p.m. every night.  We arrive at the DMV missing one of the 99 forms you now have to produce to get your learner’s license.  And, the one that always puts me over – one of my children brings me an item of clothing that needs to be hemmed for the performance – 15 minutes before departure time.  And the points slide away faster than warm chocolate brownies placed on our island after dinner.

As you can see, it’s a tough way to live, and I imagine none of you knows what it feels like to set up a system of judging yourself that always leaves you holding the bag designated to be placed over your head so no one can see what a messed-up mom you are!  Thankfully, I found a way to win.  Well, I should say, a way to win was shown to me.  It turns out there is a Judge who has already judged me, and He declares me delightful – yes, even as a mom.  He molds me and shapes me, sure, and works even all that worry and wasted effort to His glory.  When I screw it up – by setting up a point system for motherhood in the first place, He so kindly, so gently, draws me to Himself and says, “Elizabeth, come rest in me.  Try out my way of doing things – it’s really easy.”  Because not only is there now no condemnation in Christ Jesus, there is greater love and delight from the One who knows our harried hearts and has already declared us more-than-a-mother-of-the-year.

14Sing, O Daughter of Zion;

shout aloud, O Israel!

Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,

O Daughter of Jerusalem!

15The Lord has taken away your punishment,

he has turned back your enemy.

The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you;

never again will you fear any harm.

16On that day they will say to Jerusalem,

“Do not fear, O Zion;

do not let your hands hang limp.

17The Lord your God is with you,

he is mighty to save.

He will take great delight in you,

he will quiet you with his love,

he will rejoice over you with singing.”

Here's what it looks like before it is topped with whipping cream!

Story Feasts are an essential part of each Living Story Bible study, so it makes sense to share some favorite “Foods to Feast By” on this blog (but don’t expect me to go all “food blogger” on you — as you will see by the amateur iphone photos:-). If you have a feasting food you’d like to share, please let me know in the comment section, and your recipe may be featured here.

Here is the story and the recipe of our version of “Mick’s” Chocolate Pie, the best chocolate cream pie ever.

It was the day after 33 hours of travail, a ludicrously long pitocin induction that brought our first child into the world — they did stuff like that in the late 80’s….and I was starved. My meal of choice?

A guacamole burger and a slice of chocolate cream pie from Mick’s, a favorite Atlanta restaurant.

Mick’s version was no stiff, plasticine cafeteria chocolate cream pie. This heavy pie held a deep double chocolate custard firmly set in a chocolate wafer and butter crust, slathered with fresh whipping cream and topped with chocolate shavings. (Sorry for the repetition of chocolate in that sentence, but chocolate is never redundant!)

You can bet my husband delivered this calorie-packed reward to me bedside! I have an old picture, but the pie is out of focus because my husband was actually focusing on my fluid-filled face, which I’m not humble enough to reveal here:-)!

If Mick’s Chocolate Cream Pie was the food I wanted to feast by the day after our first child was born, you can imagine how thrilled I was when its recipe appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. According to urban myth, a disgruntled former employee stole the recipe and sold it to the paper.

Whether that story is true or not, I couldn’t wait to make my own Mick’s pie for a feast. One Friday afternoon, I hurried home after a full day of teaching, excited to prepare this famed recipe for my friends. I had already purchased the supplies, so I launched into prep, following the instructions precisely.

As you will see, it’s not an easy process, but the rich taste is well worth the labor! An hour later, I had finished: chocolate pie crust — check; chocolate filling — check; whipping cream ready to be whipped — check; chocolate shavings ready to top whipping cream — check….

Only then did I notice one essential instruction that should have been at the beginning (in my version it is:-) — you know the part where it tells you the baking time or chilling time? Oops. 24 hours. About 3 hours later, it was time to serve the — chocolate soup. Every single person lapped it up, and a few wanted seconds.

Technically, this is not a chocolate cream pie -- it's a chocolate ice cream pie made for a birthday, and usually the entire pie is covered with whipping cream and the smiley face is chocolate, but they look similar...

Technically, this is not a chocolate cream pie — it’s a chocolate ice cream pie made for a birthday, and usually the entire pie is covered with whipping cream and the smiley face is chocolate, but they look similar…

Future versions were chilled 14-24 hours, and the Turnage’s Mick’s chocolate pie became a family feasting favorite. Eventually my girls took up the pie mantle and added their signature smily face drawn with a finger traced through the whipping cream. One of my daughters even decided it would be her feasting food for Thanksgiving because she doesn’t like apple pie (which my older daughter makes). (Did I mention that from the time they were about 10, every child had an assigned dish to make (with some help:-) for Thanksgiving? I’m just not one of those big-hearted women who likes to spend the whole day in the kitchen by herself while everyone else has fun!).

I dare you to try it. Make it for a mom for Mother’s Day — or, if you’re a mom, see if you can get your kids to make it for you! (Not recommended if you have children under 10!)

Oh, and CHILL AT LEAST 14 HOURS — 24 IS BEST!

Turnage’s Mick’s Chocolate Cream Pie

Ingredients:

Filling

1 1/4 C. sugar                    4 C. whole milk

7/8 C. flour                        4 egg yolks

1/8 t. salt                           1 1/4 C. choc. chips, melted

1/2 C. cocoa                      1/2 t. vanilla

1/4 C. butter

Crust: 

1 1/2 C. crumbled choc. wafers (Best are Nabisco ice cream wafers in sundae section of grocery — our grocery only carries them certain times of year, so we stock up when they have them.)

2 T. conf. sugar (or regular)

4-5 T. melted butter

Topping:

heavy whipping cream: 4 oz.

candy bar for chocolate shavings: I sometimes use Ghirardelli squares.

Make the pie crust first so it can start chilling:

  • Stir sugar and butter into crumbs until well-blended.
  • Pat into 10-inch pie pan.  Refrigerate before filling.

The pie:

  • In an 8-quart cooking pot, mix sugar, flour, salt, and cocoa. If you’re really ambitious, sift them first. Slowly add milk and stir well.  Cook over medium-low heat until scalded (film begins to form on bottom), always stirring.
  • Separate eggs. You want the yolks. Beat yolks.  Slowly stir in 1 cup of hot milk mixture.  Add this back to the rest of the mixture in pan and continue stirring and cooking over low heat. (If you’re really ambitious, use the whites in another, healthier recipe:-).
  • Melt chocolate chips (I put them in a glass measuring cup in the microwave on medium heat, stirring after 30 second intervals, but you could also do the glass bowl over small cooking pan filled with water method — if you don’t know what I’m talking about, google it).
  • Add melted chocolate chips to pan mixture; continue stirring and cooking on low heat until thickened.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Add vanilla and butter; stir. (Sometimes I forget this part, so I’m bolding it).
  • Pull that chocolate wafer crust out of the frig, and refrigerate 12-24 hours.
  • Before serving, place whipped cream on top and garnish with chocolate shavings.
A rainbow rising over Scenic Highway on another day.

Scenic Highway is in a ditch. Or, is that, Scenic Highway is a ditch? Ditch, as defined years ago by my teenage daughters refers to a difficult-to-repair mess, such as a hopelessly bad hair day, as in, “My hair is in a ditch.” 

Perhaps you’ve seen dramatic photos of the portions of this — well — scenic highway in Pensacola, Florida, that collapsed after a mostly unexpected deluge dumped 26 inches of rain in a 24 hour period and zinged over 50,000 strikes of lightning.

Late yesterday afternoon, I turned onto this highway, the only route out of our neighborhood, and was met by one of those huge portable digital road signs:  “Road Closed, 1 mile,” it said. For 22 years I have driven on this gorgeous stretch by the bay, often four or more times a day, taking my kids to school, running errands, going to church. It never occurred to me as I was driving on it that it could drop out from under me.

As you probably know, many landscapes and lives have been rearranged by this week’s storms — tornadoes have ripped through Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama, leaving at least 38 people dead and many more homes wrecked. A University of Alabama swimmer died saving his girlfriend from a retaining wall felled by the storm. This morning, weather.com is leading off with a photo of a road in Baltimore that sank under the weight of the storm.

What do we do when a hunk of road drops 40 feet into the bay? What do we do when a jail explodes because of the issues with gas in the aftermath of the storm (this news just in)? What do we do when the landscape of our lives is wrecked?

There are no how-to or 4-step solutions for living with such hard stories. There is, however, a gospel call to live with hope. Here are a few thoughts about what that looks like:

  1. Grieve with the hope of the “one day.” We can weep because Jesus wept. We can grieve because Jesus is a man “acquainted with grief” (Is. 53:3-4). Even as we weep, we know there is a day when there will be no more tears. There is a day, when, as Sally Lloyd-Jones writes in the Jesus Storybook Bible, “everything sad will come untrue.” (Rev. 21:4).
  2. Remember our rescue stories. Yesterday, as I was feeling sad about Pensacola’s losses, I revisited stories I wrote about our previous recoveries from hurricanes. One told about how our son wanted to be a “workerman” like those repairing our house. We gave him a toolbelt, and with a little help from family and friends, he built a fort in the next-door spare lot cleared by the hurricane.
  3. “Restore broken things” (Title of a classic by Scotty Smith and Stephen Curtis Chapman).
  • Pray. The first and most obvious thing we can do is pray. Honestly, to me, a woman of action:-), that effort sometimes seems paltry and small. God doesn’t seem to view it that way. We lift our prayers, and we wait. And one day we may see God restoring — not always in the way we would (surprise, surprise:-) — but by doing something beyond our imagining (Eph. 3:14).
  • Act. What particular ways might God be calling us to be part of “making all things new”? Cooking, cleaning, comforting? Or, if we are the ones suffering the effects of the storm, our restoration act might be receiving the kindness of others.
  1. Look for signs of life around you. It’s a gray and gloomy day, but outside my window, birds of every color and variety are coming and going, pecking a hole in my neighbor’s yard worthy of a digging dog. They are feasting away after a day of fast (I’m just guessing here:-) and they remind me that one day…

“The Lord will make for all people a feast of rich food…”
“He will swallow up death forever, and he will wipe away tears from all faces.” Is. 25:6, 8

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