You Don’t Have to Let a Hindrance be a Hindrance…

Geese 225x300 You Dont Have to Let a Hindrance be a Hindrance...Last week I spent a lot of time looking at hindrances and how they can become detrimental to our lives. Yesterday morning as I was heading out the door to drive to my Bible study meeting, a family of geese conducting a reunion in my driveway hindered me from getting out. The irony was not lost on me. Even when I was honking like a mad woman, those silly geese just slowly meandered away as if I was the one hindering them!

I don’t know about you, but if someone is going to share something with me, whether it be about how to work through grief or how to let go of bitterness, I want to know that they themselves have experienced whatever it is they are professing to know so much about. In other words, I want to know they blazed the trail before I trust them to be my guide.

No one I can think of is more qualified to talk about hindrances than the apostle Paul. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, Paul tells us about a few of his roadblocks and they aren’t just insignificant speed bumps. This poor man was beaten, stoned, shipwrecked three times, spent a day and night floating in the ocean, and those are just some of the things Paul went through. I would have to turn this into two posts if I listed them all!

I’m telling you what, I might have been able to deal with a shipwreck or two, but the first time I was stoned, especially by the very people I was trying to help, I probably would have called it a day and quit. But Paul allowed God to use these hindrances to give him even more boldness to reach others with the gospel. (Acts 28:30-31)

Paul didn’t allow his hindrances to become hindrances.

You know what I allowed to be a hindrance in my life for way too long? My past. The ugly parts of my past kept me silent for Jesus Christ. Those painful memories kept me silent in the pews week after week. Most devastating of all though, is I allowed my past to keep me from seeking a deeper relationship with my God.

However, when God used my brain surgery to help me deal with this hindrance in my life, chains were broken and nothing would ever be the same. God knew it was my past that would become the catalyst He would use to reach other broken woman. When I speak at a conference, in my first session I share what I hoped no one would ever know. It is never easy, but I say it anyway.

“The two moths I spent living on the streets, I watched teenage guys beat one another up in gang initiations, I witnessed drug deals go down, I narrowly escaped being bludgeoned with a baseball bat when a supposed friend was having a drug hallucination, and I traded my integrity at times so I wouldn’t have to spend a night on the street corner.”

While those memories are not easy to remember, it is a reminder of how far removed I am from that person. This is the power of God’s grace at work in my life.

Only He could transform that dark time in my life and turn it into a testimony for His glory.

The other morning I was talking to my sister on the phone, like we always do and she said, “If someone had come up to me and told me that one day God would use your story to glorify Him, I would have laughed in their face. But He did.”

Don’t you think Satan knew that too? Don’t you think he hoped I would stay in bondage for the rest of my life? But dear one hear me, greater is He that is in you, than he that is in this world. Because of that fact, we can overcome anything. Anything… Anything… (1 John 4:4)

God used the biggest hindrance in my life to become the bridge that would allow me to share His grace with others and point them to Him. He is the Guide that can lead us to freedom.

“Some things ache for years while God slowly mends us and shapes us into the image of His Son. But, in Jesus’ wonder-working name, you can indeed demand that the hindrance be moved from that hurt like a mountain moved into the sea.  Just a little bit of faith could change everything.” Beth Moore

Paul, when he was still known as Saul, did everything he could to persecute the early church. Upon his orders, Stephen was stoned to death and many men and women were in chains because of him. Then one day as he traveled down the road that would lead to Damascus, Paul had an encounter with God Himself and the unbelief that used to hinder him became the belief that would free him.

Sometimes it is our greatest hindrance that God plans to use to lead others to Him because only He had the power to remove it.

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Does God See Me?

Cart Does God See Me?Yesterday was not a good day…at all. The barometric pressure was doing crazy things, which meant for most of the day I felt like my brain was being squeezed in a juice press and was extremely dizzy and nauseous. It wasn’t until almost 10 o’clock at night that I felt well enough to go grocery shopping.

I had just thrown some mousse in my cart that promised to control my curls when I came across a very overweight man sitting on a bench right next to the now closed pharmacy section. He glanced up at me with eyes that mirrored despondency and then looked right back down. His hair appeared unwashed and his clothes were wrinkled and disheveled.

For some reason, I felt the Lord impress on me to reach out to him. “Hi, how are you doing?” I pretended to be perusing the vitamin shelf.

He lifted his eyebrows and looked around as if surprised I would be talking to him. He then gazed absentmindedly at the few items in his cart and muttered, “It is one of those barely making it days. You know… the kind of just trying to survive days.”

My heart ached for him because I did know how one of “those days” felt like and I told him so. He seemed skeptical. So I explained about my brain surgery and how my life had been plagued with chronic pain and horrific neurological symptoms ever since. I explained that is why I was grocery shopping so late.

He let out a halfhearted laugh, “I grocery shop late at night because there aren’t a lot of people. I don’t have to see how they look at me.” As he wiped the sweat from his brow with his oversized t-shirt, I wondered how many people had snubbed their noses or how many looks of disgust this man had endured before he began avoiding people all together? When was the last time someone had engaged this man in conversation? When was the last time he felt worth something?

I struggled to blink back the tears that began to form. As we continued to converse he mentioned how nice it was to speak to someone who could empathize with what he was feeling. I tried to reflect the love of Jesus and reassure this man that he was important. That in his attempt not to be noticed, I saw him.

As I was driving home, these verses came to mind.  “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb 4:15-16)

Jesus willingly experienced the gamut of human emotions; the fickleness and pain of this life so that He could relate to us. So that on those days when we are just “surviving,” we could find mercy and grace in our deepest moments of need.

I don’t understand why, but we tend to avoid God when we are going through a difficult time. Like that man hoping not to encounter anyone to avoid the pain of rejection, we sometimes distance ourselves from God afraid to cling to the only One who can help us.

The Samaritan woman at the well was going to gather her water during the hottest part of the day. With five ex-husbands and now living with a man she wasn’t married to, she chose to gather her water when nobody else would be there. She wouldn’t have to dodge the disapproving stares or pretend not to hear the judgmental whispers of the other respectable women.

But on one of those lonely water trips, she would meet a Man that had been waiting for her. A Man that would tell her everything she had ever done not in an attempt to shame her, but in an effort to free her with the words of living water. Can you imagine the implication that God Himself had sought her out had in this woman’s life? That while she was doing everything in her power not to be noticed, God saw her.

Guess what? God sees us too.

He intentionally allowed himself to experience our humanity so that He would be able to understand what we are going through. Our hope and healing come from Him.

The Samaritan woman’s story doesn’t end there either. She willingly shares the hope and healing she found in Christ with the rest of her village and because of her testimony many of those people come to know Christ as well.

Our stories weren’t mean to end the day we get saved either. God allows us to go through things, sometimes really hard things, so that we can in turn share His love in an understanding way with those who are hurting around us. It is when we understand that God sees us that we learn to see others.

Every now and then, I get a glimpse of the purpose of my suffering. Yesterday as I spoke with a man who needed a friend, who desperately needed to be seen, I am reminded of that purpose.

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A Fun Alternative to the Traditional Diaper Cake

Diaper Trike 2 225x300 A Fun Alternative to the Traditional Diaper CakeI just threw my sister a baby shower last week. She already has three wonderful little boys so we were all pretty excited when we found out she was having a girl. I wanted to create a unique centerpiece for the serving table that she could also use for the baby, but didn’t want to make a traditional diaper cake. As I searched for something to do, I came across this fabulous idea to make a diaper tricycle. Everything you needed to make it could also be used by the baby.

Shopping List

Here is what you need: A package of size 1 or 2 diapers (you will need at least 60 diapers), 2 receiving blankets (you could do blue for a boy, pink for a girl, or neutral colors if the sex of the baby is unknown), a pair of baby socks, 2 bibs, a bottle with an angled neck (if you can’t find a bottle a sippy cup would work as long as it has an angled neck), some ribbon (this was my favorite thing to pick out), twine or a long piece of yarn, and some large rubber bands (you will need 3).

Making the Tricycle

The directions I followed suggested using a cake pan to form the three tires. I highly recommend using the cake pan. It made building the tires a cinch.

Each tire will be made up of 20 diapers. Make sure that all your diapers are facing the same direction and then using the cake pan add one diaper at a time, overlapping each diaper by about an inch.

Once all 20 diapers are added, gently pull them out about halfway from the cake pan and then center your large rubber band around the tire. Using your fist, carefully make a circular opening in the middle of the tire. Then wrap your ribbon over the rubber band and secure with some double sided tape or a dot of glue using a hot glue gun.

Do this two more times so you end up with three tires.

Then roll one receiving blanket. Before rolling the second receiving blanket, add your long piece of twine or yarn down the middle of the blanket and then roll. Take the blanket with the yarn or twine and feed it through the middle of two of the tires (these will be your back tires).

Place the front tire between the back two tires and then feed the yarn into the front tire in a crisscross pattern and pull tightly and secure a not.

Take the remaining receiving blanket without the yarn and feed it through the front tire.

Place one of your bibs (puddle guard) on the front tire with the neck portion of the bib facing the back of the tricycle. Take your angled bottle or sippy cup and place it upside down with the nipple facing toward the back. The bottom of the bottle or cup is what becomes the headlight. You can use the bib to secure it.

Next bring the ends of the receiving blanket in the front tire up over the bottle and secure it with a rubber band. Once secured, add a baby sock to each end and this is what will form the handle bars.

Lastly, add the second bib that will serve as the seat of the tricycle by attaching the neck of the bib around the handle bars. Using some of the extra ribbon, tie a bow on the front of the bike.

I have attached the link I used to make the diaper tricycle as she thought to take pictures as she was building the bike. I was too frazzled to think of it at the time J

http://www.maidendshade.com/2012/01/tricycle-diaper-cake-tutorial.html

Diaper Trike 1 225x300 A Fun Alternative to the Traditional Diaper CakeI hope you guys love this idea as much as I did! If you have any questions or thoughts feel free to sound off in the comments.

5 Rockin’ Moms of the Bible and the Mother’s Day Blessing Giveaway

1mothersdayblessing300x225 zps0d0ca8fb 5 Rockin Moms of the Bible and the Mothers Day Blessing Giveaway
Today is the beginning of the Mother’s Day Blessing Giveaway!! One mother will be blessed with two months of maid service and a fabulous mother’s day necklace from Rusted Chain Jewelry. All the details on how to enter will be at the end of this post.

Today’s post is all about moms! Here are 5 rockin’ moms of the Bible and what we can learn from them.

Rahab the Reformed: Rahab was a prostitute. She wouldn’t have been nominated for mother of the year.

Yet, she hid the spies on her roof because she believed that the God of the Israelites was the One True God. Because she believed, she saved her family from perishing in the siege of Jericho. Her belief in God changed her life.

She ended up living among the Israelites. She got married and had a son. Her son’s name was Boaz and he would grow up to be man filled with integrity and a man of character.

I think one of the greatest fears we as moms face is that our children will end up making some of the same painful mistakes we made. I at times certainly wrestle with worrying that my kids will end up going down some of the same destructive paths I did when I was a teen.

Rahab shows us though that just because we have made mistakes in our past (even big ones) it doesn’t have to mean our kids are destined to make those same mistakes. Rather, we can allow God to reform our lives and let the power of change only He can bring help illuminate the path that will lead our children to Him.

Hannah the Prayer Warrior: Hannah was barren and full of sorrow. She knew the best place to go with her broken heart was before the Lord in prayer. She knew she would find the grace needed to bear her troubles before the throne of grace. The fact that she shares her struggle with infertility and the desire of her heart to be a mother speaks volumes about the intimacy of her relationship with God. When God ends up granting her request, she then prays a prayer of praise and thanksgiving.

In the bad times she prayed. In the good times she prayed. Prayer wasn’t just something she haphazardly did on occasion, but rather something she did because she realized the importance of communicating with God.

As moms, there will be many times our hearts are heavy. We can become unsure of what God is doing in our lives and in the lives of our children. We are tempted to try and figure things out on our own. We end up intervening when we shouldn’t.  We must learn, like Hannah, to develop a life spent in prayer.

Mary the Willing: Mary, the mother of Jesus, has been esteemed as a saint–perfect even, but Mary was just a woman, much like you and me. She looked forward to being married and starting a family with Joseph.

God didn’t choose Mary to carry the Son of God in her womb because she was sinless, but because she was willing. She would lose her reputation. She would lose the man she loved. She might even lose the relationship with her family.

She knew all these things, but yet was still willing.

Our kids need to see us living lives that are willing to be used by God. To obey Him even when that obedience doesn’t make sense or will cost us something. We can show our kids that the only thing needed to be used by God is a willing spirit.

Jochebed the Defier: Jochebed was Moses’s mother. Moses was born in Egypt at a dangerous time. Pharaoh had commanded all the Hebrew baby boys born to be thrown into the river at birth. The consequence for defiance was death, but when Jochebed stared into the eyes of her baby boy she saw something special in him.

Instead of following Pharaoh’s orders, she hides Moses. When he becomes too big to hide in her home, she puts him in a basket and places it in the river. Pharaoh’s daughter finds Moses and adopts him as her own son. Eighty years later, God calls Moses to lead his people out of slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land.

It is easy as moms to allow fear to creep in and affect our parenting. Jochebed wasn’t afraid to do what was right. She didn’t allow the fear of what Pharaoh might do stop her from saving the life of her son. As moms, we must raise our kids to know God. No matter how unpolitically correct it becomes, we must determine to be moms of faith.

Eunice the Faithful: Eunice was the mother of Timothy. Despite Timothy’s father, who was not a believer, Eunice raises a son strong in the faith who ends up being a vital part of the apostle Paul’s ministry.

Our kids deal with many outside influences. In public school, God and Christianity are openly mocked. TV and media are filled with all kinds of things that are completely contrary to the Word of God. Eunice shows us the power a mother’s faith will have in the life of her children. As mom’s we mustn’t throw away our scope of influence because we are afraid the darkness is too strong. In pursuing our own relationship with God and having a genuine faith, we can allow the Holy Spirit to shine through us. Our kids are watching.

Can you think of any other amazing moms found in Scripture? Are there any moms you know that are living out these principles in their lives?

Now here are all the details for the giveaway:

 

Price Package Includes:

  • Two months of maid service! (If winner does not have a maid service local to her, she will be forwarded the equivalent value of the prize in the amount of $240.

Jeff and Sarah 04 04 5 Rockin Moms of the Bible and the Mothers Day Blessing Giveaway

  • Stunning mother’s day necklace from the Rusted Chain Jewelry company.

necklace 300x300 5 Rockin Moms of the Bible and the Mothers Day Blessing Giveaway

 

Rules:

Giveaway Rules: No purchase necessary. Must be 18 to enter. Void where prohibited by law. Open to US residents only. This giveaway is in no way sponsored, endorsed, or associated by Facebook. By entering this giveaway, you agree to release Facebook, Woman to Woman Ministries and all participating blogs of all liability. If winner does not have a maid service local to her, she will be forwarded the equivalent value of $240. Contest ends at 12:01am EST on May 11, 2014. Winner is randomly chosen by Rafflecopter and will be emailed.

Rafflecopter code:
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List of Participating Blogs:

Woman to Woman Ministries

Jenifer Metzger – Sweet Blessings

Visionary Womanhood

A Mama’s Story

Heather Bixler

Leaving A Legacy – Angie Tolpin

Blessed in Homemaking

The Chuppies

Write the Vision

Beauty in the Mess

Whole Family Strong

Your Modern Family

A Heart for the Home

Abiding Woman

Debi Baker – Treasures Found in Him

Our Goodwin Journey

Live ~ Laugh ~ Love

Awakened Anew

I’m A Lazy Mom

Shari A. Miller

Thankful Homemaker

Book Review: A Beauty so Rare

A beauty so rare 195x300 Book Review: A Beauty so Rare Memorable characters and a great story line are what keep us turning the pages of a new book long after we should be asleep at night. Author, Tamera Alexander, has delivered both in her new historical novel, A Beauty so Rare. From the moment the book begins with Eleanor in a field hospital, during the Civil War, listening to the last regrets of a dying soldier, we are hooked.

Tamera doesn’t shy away from having her characters face difficult situations. Eleanor Braddock, our plain looking but fabulous protagonist, certainly faces her share of hardships. Her father is battling dementia and she is forced to place him in an asylum, her aunt is planning her life to include a marriage of convenience, and her own dreams of starting up a restaurant are quickly extinguished.

However, it is during these difficult moments, that her life begins to take an unexpected direction. Eleanor, while out one day, meets one of the many war widows who are now trying to eke out a living in the city of Nashville. She begins using her own money and limited resources to cook and feed for the needy widows and their children. Although Eleanor would have never chosen this path for herself, she finds a sense of fulfillment she didn’t know was possible.

Unfortunately, this path seems to collide with the plans Eleanor’s wealthy aunt has for her future. Her aunt tries to help Eleanor mix with high class Nashville society so she can secure a match with bank president, Lawrence Hockley.

Complicating things further, Eleanor forms an unlikely friendship with the extremely good looking Marcus Geoffrey who she thinks is her aunt’s undergardener. However, Marcus Geoffrey is much more than he seems. Not only is he a gifted architect and botanist, but is also heir to the Austrian throne.

Eleanor and Marcus’s friendship quickly lead to romantic feelings, but Marcus is engaged to a Baroness back in Austria and will have to return back home soon to assume his responsibilities. Eleanor, on the other hand, needs a husband now as she knows she won’t be able to provide for the cost of her father’s care much longer.

When Eleanor finally goes out to dinner with Lawrence Hockley, she may have found the solution to securing her future. Lawrence, while painfully practical and void of any emotion, seems to be the answer to her prayers, but Eleanor is keenly aware her marriage would be devoid of any love.

Will Eleanor trust God to provide for her needs and continue on in the work she feels called to do? Will she marry the man who can certainly provide for both her needs and the needs of her father or will the thought of a loveless marriage be too high a price to pay?

This hard to put down novel challenges us to trust God in times of uncertainty, to see the people that may be hurting around us, and to embrace the courage to live out lives of purpose. I highly recommend this book….as in go get it now icon smile Book Review: A Beauty so Rare

From the Back Cover:

Pink is not what Eleanor Braddock ordered, but maybe it would soften the tempered steel of a woman who came through a war–and still had one to fight.

Eleanor Braddock–plain, practical, no stunning Southern beauty–knows she will never marry. But with a dying soldier’s last whisper, she believes her life can still have meaning and determines to find his widow. Impoverished and struggling to care for her ailing father, Eleanor arrives at Belmont Mansion, home of her aunt, Adelicia Acklen, the richest woman in America–and possibly the most demanding, as well. Adelicia insists on finding her niece a husband, but a simple act of kindness leads Eleanor down a far different path–building a home for destitute widows and fatherless children from the Civil War. While Eleanor knows her own heart, she also knows her aunt will never approve of this endeavor.

Archduke Marcus Gottfried has come to Nashville from Austria in search of a life he determines, instead of one determined for him. Hiding his royal heritage, Marcus longs to combine his passion for nature with his expertise in architecture, but his plans to incorporate natural beauty into the design of the widows’ and children’s home run contrary to Eleanor’s wishes. As work on the home draws them closer together, Marcus and Eleanor find common ground–and a love neither of them expects.

But Marcus is not the man Adelicia has chosen for Eleanor, and even if he were, someone who knows his secrets is about to reveal them all.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are entirely my own.*

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Yummy Recipe from author Tamera Alexander

savory custard 225x300 Yummy Recipe from author Tamera AlexanderOne of my favorite things to do is lose myself in the pages of a good book. I am all about going paperless and saving trees, but I still prefer to hold a book in my hand, to hear the rustling of pages being turned, and to watch the pages pucker up as my tears fall. Besides, you can’t leave a coffee stain on your Kindle now can you?

One of my second most  favorite things to do is cook and try new recipes. I am currently reviewing A Beauty so Rare by Tamera Alexander and cannot wait to finish so I can post my review. However, in the mean time I have a fabulous recipe to share with you that our protagonist Eleanor Braddock cooks up in the book.

I think this recipe would make the perfect brunch dish on a lazy Saturday morning. Enjoy!

Eleanor Braddock’s Savory Custard

(or Ham and Cheddar Quiche)

From the novel A Beauty So Rare

by Tamera Alexander

www.TameraAlexander.com

Most people think quiche originated in France. Not so. It’s originally a German dish and people referred to them as “savory custards” in the 19th century. Which is accurate since the egg-based mixture forms a luscious-like custard as it bakes.

In my novel, A Beauty So Rare, the second standalone novel in the Belmont Mansion series, the heroine, Eleanor Braddock, is “a cook with a dream.” But her dreams don’t quite turn out like she thinks they will. However, her savories always do!

I hope you enjoy this recipe (or “receipt” as recipes were called in the 1800s) from A Beauty So Rare. For more about A Beauty So Rare and for recipes from all my novels, visit www.TameraAlexander.com.

Ingredients:

1 old-fashioned unbaked pie crust (recipe below)

1 large onion, diced (or sliced if you like larger pieces of onion in your savory)

2 tablespoons butter

1 pound cooked ham diced into cubes (if using bacon, use 8 slices, fried chewy, not too crisp)

8 large eggs

1-1/2 cups heavy cream or half-and-half

1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper, or to taste (I always go heavier on the pepper, personal preference)

1 3/4 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Instructions:

Sauté onion in the butter in a skillet over medium-low heat for about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is golden brown. Set aside to cool.

Chop the ham into bite-sized pieces (or fry your bacon until chewy, then chop). Set aside to cool. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Roll out pie crust and press into a deep dish pie plate. A medium-sized iron skillet works wonderfully for making a savory custard (and is what Eleanor used). The crust comes out divine. I just happened to use a pie plate this time.

Whip the eggs, cream, salt and pepper in a large bowl, then mix in the onions, ham (or bacon), and cheese. Pour the mixture into the pie crust. Cover the pie plate (or skillet) lightly with aluminum foil and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the quiche is set and the crust is golden brown. QUICK BAKING TIPS: The quiche may still seem a little loose when you first remove it from the oven, but it will firm up nicely once removed from the heat. Also, watch that lovely crust so the edges don’t get overly brown. I use a silicone pie crust shield if that starts to happen. Those are a fabulous invention (but foil crimped around the edges works just as well).

Remove from the oven and allow the savory custard to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before diving in. It’s so good, and just like Eleanor Braddock would make. It’s also delicious left over and warmed up the next day.

Eleanor Braddock’s Old-Fashioned Pie Crust

(makes two large crusts)

From the novel A Beauty So Rare

by Tamera Alexander

www.TameraAlexander.com 

This is a wonderful crust that I’ve been using for years. Eleanor would likely have used lard in place of Crisco (since lard was cheaper than butter in her day), and you may too, if you prefer. Yes, lard is still available on most grocery shelves, although I’m pretty sure I just felt you shudder!

This pie crust “freezes beautifully ” as they say in Steel Magnolias (instructions on freezing below), so even though I may need only one pie crust at the moment, I always use this recipe and make a second, and freeze it for later. Makes that next pie (or savory custard) go twice as fast!

1 ½ cups Crisco (or lard)

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 egg

5 tablespoons ice water

1 tablespoon white vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, using a pastry cutter (or two knives will do the job), gradually work the Crisco into the flour for 3 to 4 minutes until it resembles coarse meal. In a smaller bowl, whip the egg and then pour it into the flour/shortening mixture. Add 5 tablespoons of ice-cold water, 1 tablespoon of white vinegar and 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir gently until all ingredients are blended well.

Halve the dough. Form the 2 evenly-sized balls of dough and place each into large sealable plastic bags. Using a rolling pin, slightly flatten each to about 1/2 inch thickness to make rolling easier later. Seal the bags and place them in the freezer until you need them. (If you’re using the crusts immediately, it’s still a good idea to let them chill in the freezer for about 15- 20 minutes. They’ll be much easier to work with.)

When you’re ready to roll the dough for your crust, remove from the freezer and allow to thaw for 15 minutes (if it’s frozen). On a well-floured surface, roll the dough, starting at the center and working your way out. Sprinkle flour over the top of the dough if it’s too moist. If the dough starts to stick to the countertop, use a metal spatula and gently scrape it up and flip it over and continue rolling until it’s about ½ inch larger in diameter than your pie plate (or iron skillet).

Using a spatula, carefully lift the dough from the surface of the counter into the pie pan. (I sometimes fold my well-floured dough in half and then “unfold” it onto iron skillet. Or you can lop it over your rolling pin. That works well, too.) Gently press the dough against the sides of the pan or skillet, getting it all tucked in. Then crimp the edges in whatever way you prefer. And now, you’re ready for that yummy savory custard filling above, or maybe for a fruit pie.

If you make this recipe (or if you’ve read A Beauty So Rare), I’d love to hear from you. You can write me through my website at http://www.tameraalexander.com/contact.html.

Why my brain surgery was one of the best things that ever happened to me!

“There is no way you can start over and move on from this.” That is the lie Satan whispered and my fragile heart believed.

Every time I entertained a small glimmer of hope that healing was possible, flashbacks would come haunt my memories and that vapor of hope would disappear as quickly as it had come leaving the carnage of discouragement in its place.

I was only fifteen when I lost my innocence. I was only sixteen when I ran away from home. I was only seventeen and finishing up my senior year of high school when I found out I was pregnant. This was supposed to be the time of my life when the world was my oyster. When I was blazing a trail, leaving my mark on the world, and embracing my destiny. Instead I bore the scars of a soldier who had fought a war and lost….in every way possible I had lost. I had lost my self-respect, my dreams, my faith.

So I tried to patch my wounds. I was successful in my career, enrolled in college classes, and tried to be Martha Stewart in my home. All those things kept me busy and at times numbed the gnawing pain in my soul, but the wounds were still there… unhealed. I was going through the motions of life, but never really living. I was like this dead tree. Just existing. Taking one painful breath after another. I had all but given up.

Dead tree 150x150 Why my brain surgery was one of the best things that ever happened to me!

That is when I got very sick, was diagnosed with chiari, and scheduled for brain surgery. I knew my life was in jeopardy and I started questioning everything. Just months earlier, I had told God I couldn’t live like this anymore. I didn’t dare ask Him to fix the mess I had made of my life, but I did ask Him to help me heal. And he answered that prayer the day my brain herniated out of my skull. Of course I didn’t even faintly understand that then.

The day of my surgery it was just me and God. I had hundreds of people praying for me, my husband was out in the waiting room, but only God could go through it with me. (I talk about my encounter with God the day of my brain surgery in my post Reflections of a Zipper Head.)

mustard seed 150x150 Why my brain surgery was one of the best things that ever happened to me!You see my healing would have to begin with a mustard size seed of trust. I had to believe that God was not only capable of bringing me through brain surgery, but That He was also capable of handling the rubble of my past. I no longer wanted to just survive. I was sick of repeating the same destructive cycle. I wanted to be free.

Progress was slow, but with each small step in faith I took, life began to course through my veins. I had to leave my career when I was left with permanent neurological symptoms and chronic debilitating pain. I was unable to continue my college studies and my house that I once could so easily keep meticulously perfect, now I struggled to maintain at all.

Everything that I had used as a vice to heal my own pain, God lovingly stripped me of. Until all I was left with was battle scarred me. I had no more accomplishments or achievements to cover up my endless amounts of failures.

“You are enough beloved. I love you. You are mine. There is nothing you have been through that I can’t redeem.” Those are the words God whispered and my fragile heart dared to believe.

I began to study the Word of God with a fervency I had never experienced before. My parched soul couldn’t get enough. And God began to remove the lies I had been clinging onto and replaced them with His truth.

There is no wound that His love cannot heal. ”The Lord has appeared of old to me saying: ‘Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness I have drawn you. Again I will build you, and you shall be rebuilt, O virgin of Israel! You shall again be adorned with your tambourines, and shall go forth in the dances of those who rejoice.’” Jeremiah 31:3-4

There is no limit to His mercy and grace. “For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.” Psalm 100:5

He can redeem the years we have wasted. ”So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust, my great army which I sent amount you. You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you; and my people shall never be put to shame.” Joel 2:25-26

I no longer just exist. He has given my life meaning. He is my life. Every time I stand before a group of woman and share the story of how my chains  to bondage were broken, I silence the lie that I had once believed. My wounds are now beautiful scars. They no longer represent what ugly things I have done, but rather declare the unending love of my Father who never let me go.

Awakened Anew Tree 300x226 Why my brain surgery was one of the best things that ever happened to me!

The Two Token Challenge

Lorikeet 300x200 The Two Token ChallengeWe went to the Nashville zoo last Friday and one of my favorite things to do there is to feed the lorikeets. I love having several beautifully colored birds standing on my arms and watching them drink the sugary nectar.

We waited on line for about 20 minutes until it was our turn to enter the exhibit. I ordered three cups of nectar and handed the zoo worker a twenty dollar bill. He explained that he could only accept tokens for the nectar and that he didn’t have any change to break down my twenty dollar bill. My only two options were to buy twenty dollars worth of tokens or to not feed the birds.

Honestly, I couldn’t afford to waste twenty dollars on tokens and I was so disappointed. I really wanted to feed the birds. There was a dad and his two young children that had been in line behind us. He overheard our dilemma and quickly handed me two tokens to buy one cup of nectar. I tried to give it back to him, but he insisted.

He then knelt down and told his kids, “Hey guys. Daddy gave these nice people two of our tokens so they can feed the birds too. We will have to share a cup of nectar and take turns.” I again tried to give him back the tokens, but he assured me that they wanted us to be able to feed the birds.

Here is the best part. Both kids seemed just fine with the decision their dad had made. There were no complaints. No tears. No meltdowns. It was obvious that these kids were used to sharing and that doing nice things for others was something they watched their parents do on a regular basis.

The gift of those two tokens meant the world to me. That dad had no way of knowing that because of my chiari and muscular dystrophy, I don’t get to go on trips to the zoo very often. He couldn’t have possibly known that I rarely have good days and that this trip away with my family was about so much more than seeing the animals. His two dollars worth of tokens held infinite value to me.

The smallest of investments can mean so much more to the person receiving them. So I challenge you to take the two token challenge with me this week. If you can, make it a family affair. Our kids need to see us actively investing in the lives of others.

Here are a five ideas to help get you started:

card 150x150 The Two Token Challenge

1) Send an encouraging card to someone you know who is hurting or going through a hard time. Most stores have a section of cards that are under a dollar or if you are feeling really creative you can make one yourself. Facebook messages and emails are great, but there is something very special about opening your mailbox and finding a card.

 

cookies 150x150 The Two Token Challenge2) Bake some homemade goodies to brighten someone’s day. We had an older lady that lived across the street from us. She rarely had visitors and no matter how hard I tried to start a conversation, I never could really get her to respond. When the tornadoes came through a couple years ago and the city was without power for over a week, my husband and I were concerned for her. So every night, I would have one of the kids bring her a plate of whatever we had grilled up for supper. That December, she put some gift cards in our mailbox and told us how much that food had meant to her. It was a small investment on our part, but had held great significance to her. It also opened the door to starting a relationship with our neighbor.

kids 150x150 The Two Token Challenge3) Offer to give a mom with small children a break by watching her kids for the morning. When your kids are small and demand almost all of your time, it is easy to get discouraged and overwhelmed. A morning away to share a coffee with a friend or the chance to go shopping alone can be that moment of refreshment they desperately need.

 

groceries 150x150 The Two Token Challenge4) Purchase some groceries for a family in need. With the economy the way that it is, there are probably several people you know that have lost their job or are suffering some serious financial hardships. These can be very stressful times and putting food on the table can be a real struggle. A bag of groceries will not only help provide for a legitimate need, but can also be a tangible reminder that God will provide for them.

flowers 150x150 The Two Token Challenge5) Fill some mason jars with some fresh picked flowers from your garden and deliver them to someone who may not be able to leave their home due to age or illness. When someone is trapped in their house and cannot leave, those four walls can really feel like they are closing in on them. Having something colorful and lively to look at can really brighten their day. Every time they look at those flowers, they will remember that they are thought of and loved.

We never know what someone else might be going through. We have no idea how far a small investment into the life of someone else will go. Let’s look for opportunities to invest ourselves into the lives of those that God brings across our paths.

Please feel free to share if you take up the two token challenge and what you decided to do.

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Why Facet Nerve Blocks may help with the Management of Chiari Pain

 

Brain Surgery 300x224 Why Facet Nerve Blocks may help with the Management of Chiari Pain

I underwent my posterior fossa brain decompression surgery in January of 2009. Aside from being inducted into the zipperhead club, named for the zipper like scar that starts at the top of my skull and runs all the way down to the top of my neck, the surgery did little to resolve my debilitating neurological symptoms and I was still in substantial daily pain. I was spending most of my days lying flat on my back on multiple ice packs.  I rarely left the house.

About three years after my surgery, the pain got significantly worse. I knew something was wrong and after much insistence my neurologist ordered an MRI of my brain. The findings were devastating to me. My brain had once again herniated. I felt like I was stuck in a nightmare.

I was referred to a neurosurgeon in Birmingham, AL. After he looked at my films, he confirmed that my brain had herniated again, but this time it had herniated not because my skull was too small, but because during my first surgery they had taken out too much of my skull and now the hole was too big. The medical term for this is cerebellar slump. It is considered to be a result of a botched surgery.

So now what? There was no way on this earth I would undergo brain surgery again unless my condition became life threatening, which at this juncture it is not. Since the hole is too big, I was still getting a good flow of spinal fluid. However, I was suffering from all the pain and neurological problems that go along with having a herniated brain.

The neurosurgeon told me about some outpatient procedures that might be able to help. The procedures he recommended were facet and occipital nerve pain blocks. The procedure is done by a special anesthesiologist that often works at a pain management center. During the procedure, a combination of nerve numbing medication is injected into several groups of nerves that can be causing severe pain to a specific organ or body region.

I got a referral to a good pain management center where I live in Huntsville, AL and met with the anesthesiologist. He was unsure if the blocks would provide any significant pain relief, but was willing to try. I underwent my first pain block in the spring of 2012. What a difference they have made!

They definitely improved the quality of my life. Instead of spending almost the whole day in bed, I am now able to get up for several hours only having to rest and ice 4-5 times a day. I can sit up for a few hours without feeling like my head is going to explode or my eardrums are going to rupture. They have also greatly helped with the swelling in the back of my neck and help me not to feel like something is constantly pushing against my esophagus.

Since I have made it a personal decision not to take narcotic pain meds unless absolutely necessary, the pain blocks have been a great alternative and I feel a better one as they last me about four months. For those of you considering having this procedure done here are a few tips I recommend.

  • Make sure you research the doctor you choose and make sure he or she has an understanding of what chiari is and takes appropriate safety precautions.
  • A good doctor will require you to have a current brain MRI before even thinking of scheduling you for a pain block.
  • Please allow yourself about a week to recover from the pain block before expecting to feel any relief. This surprised me and at first I regretted having the block done. However, the relief I get from the procedure far outweighs that week of discomfort.
  • Make sure you do not overdo it once you begin to feel better. You still need to take your normal precautions and ice regularly. The blocks are to help manage the pain and will not cure the chiari. You can still inflict harm to yourself by doing things you are not supposed to be doing.
  • Be prepared for some trial and error as your doctor works with you to find where the injections benefit you the most. For me, I get the best results with having the blocks done as high up towards the back of my head as the doctor can safely get to.

I have had so many of you asking me about the procedure so I wanted to write up a quick post to briefly explain what it is and how it has helped me. Please feel free to leave a comment or question. I am only sharing my personal experience with the facet/occipital nerve block procedures and you would need to discuss the procedurse with your doctor to determine if this is something that might benefit you.

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Am I still going to be considered an Olympian?

Ski Tracks Am I still going to be considered an Olympian?Like many of you, I enjoyed watching all the various sporting events of the winter Olympics. Where else is it okay to ski with a rifle strapped to your back or for a man to ice skate adorned in sequins? Since I love a good story (who doesn’t), I particularly enjoyed learning about the back stories of the athletes that competed. It somehow made these super human athletes relatable and real to me.

One of those stories that touched my heart was poor Heidi Kloser. Remember her? She was the 21 year old skier who tore ligaments in her knee and fractured her femur in a practice run rendering her unable to compete in the Olympic Games. Understandably she was devastated and voiced this question, “Am I still going to be considered an Olympian?”

Her father was quick to reassure her that in no way did her injury take away from the fact that she was an Olympian. It wasn’t the ability to compete in that one event that made her an Olympian, but rather all the years of preparation, all the various wins that it took to even qualify, and all the sacrifices she made to compete at that high athletic level.

Aside from the fact I have only ever competed in a high school track meets and would more than likely accidentally shoot a fellow competitor if ever trusted with a rifle, I can relate to the question Heidi asked her father, “Am I still going to be considered an Olympian?” for I have asked similar questions to God.

“Will you ever be able to use someone like me? Do you still consider me a daughter?”

I really used to struggle with those questions. Like Heidi, I felt like before I had even really begun my Christian journey, I sustained too many injuries and had done too many things to ever allow me to be effective or even used by God. In other words, I knew I my salvation was secure but aside from that I felt forced to sit on the sidelines of my own life.

Thankfully God had no intention of leaving me there. About six months after my brain surgery, I began to attend a weekly Bible study. There was one week I really wasn’t get much out of the material which deeply discouraged me because everyone else was claiming it was the most enriching week for them. What was I missing? The other weeks of the study I had felt filled to capacity with truths from God’s Word, but this particular week I had to force myself to even complete my homework.

We were studying our position in Christ. We were a part of His royal priesthood. We were daughters of the King. One of the passages we looked at was I Peter 2:9-10.

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.

It wasn’t until Bible study was over and I was driving back home that the truth of why I hadn’t gotten anything out of the lesson hit me. I just couldn’t relate. I didn’t see myself as a daughter of the King. There was nothing royal about me…just look at my past. I had read those passages of Scripture many times. I just didn’t think they applied to someone like me.

I began to continually go back to those verses of Scripture. I had always just breezed by them before, but this time I read them slowly and inserted my name. It felt awkward. It felt wrong, but I did it anyway. As I continued to read the verses over and over, I began to understand that all this time I thought that somehow I had to earn this royal priesthood. When I lost my way in sin and rebellion, I falsely believed that somehow that had disqualified me from being anything but a second rate Christian.

Someone in the Bible struggled with these thoughts as well. Remember the prodigal son who wasted his father’s inheritance on sinful living? It isn’t until he loses it all that he comes to his senses and longs to return home. He too asks a question.

“Will my father still consider me a son?”

With a heavy heart he heads home. Certainly his father will at least allow him to be a servant in his household. But his father had been waiting with much anticipation for his son’s return. When the father sees his son from afar, he quickly runs to meet him. The father puts new clothes on his son’s back and slides a new ring on his finger. His position of beloved son had never been in jeopardy.

Heidi will more than likely compete again. She will intensely prepare for the next four years for another opportunity to win a coveted gold medal. Her athletic career, while temporarily sidelined, will go on because it isn’t that one moment that makes her an Olympian but all the other moments of training, setbacks, and the daily decision to keep pressing on sandwiched in between.

It is the same for us. We can’t lose our position in Christ because it is He who holds us and He has vowed to never let us go. We can certainly make poor decisions that temporarily inhibit us from experiencing God’s best in our lives, but we are always His.

If you would have told me that one day I would be speaking at women’s conferences, writing a blog about my faith, or sharing my story of how God has brought healing and hope to my life, I would not have believed you. But I am His daughter and He never let me go.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfareand not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 ESV

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