Gluten Free Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Because it’s my birthday and because it’s almost always better to give than receive, I’m giving you something really special today.

This is the carrot cake my husband and I dream about. This is the kind of cake that will make you invent special occasions just so you’ll have a good reason to make it. My mom made it for my birthday last year. Then she made three of them at Christmas time. THREE. The best part is that it’s gluten free but you would never know it. P.S. If you don’t need to be gluten free, just swap out the gfree flour for regular flour.

Happy birthday from me! Enjoy this one. Or two. Or three… (Scroll down to the bottom for a text only recipe)

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Pre-heat oven to 375°

In a large mixer, mix the eggs and sugar. Add oil and vanilla, mix together.
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups light olive oil or vegetable oil
2 tsp real vanilla extract (gluten free)

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In a separate bowl combine:
2 cups gluten free all purpose flour (I use King Arthur)
2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
Whisk together then add to wet ingredients. Mix well.
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Add:
3 cups grated carrots (I used a food processor)
1/2-1 cup of chopped walnuts (optional, feel free to adjust more or less)
1 can (12-14oz) crushed pineapple, drained

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Carrots and pineapple. It’s practically a salad.

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Mix together and pour into 2  greased round (9 inch) pans OR 9 inch springform pan (I spray them with original Pam), for best results line bottom of pans with parchment paper (trace and cut).

Bake 45-55 minutes (the springform pan will take closer to 55) or until toothpick comes out clean.
*The trick to keeping this cake super moist is to watch the cake toward the end so it doesn’t over bake.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

4 Tablespoons softened butter
4 ounces softened cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar

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Cream together using mixer and then try not to eat all of it before frosting the cake. 🙂

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When the cake has cooled take off the springform ring and invert the cake onto a plate or 10 inch cardboard cake circle.

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My frosting skills are not the greatest, but who cares? This cake ROCKS.

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Serve right away or wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Gluten Free Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Pre-heat oven to 375°

In a large mixer, mix the eggs and sugar. Add oil and vanilla, mix together.
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups light olive oil or vegetable oil
2 tsp real vanilla extract (gluten free)

In a separate bowl combine:
2 cups gluten free all purpose flour (I use King Arthur)
2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
Whisk together, then add to wet ingredients. Mix well.

Add:
3 cups grated carrots
1/2-1 cup of chopped walnuts (optional, feel free to adjust more or less)
1 can (12-14oz) crushed pineapple, drained

Mix together and pour into 2  greased round (9 inch) pans OR 9 inch springform pan (I spray them with original Pam), for best results line bottom of pans with parchment paper (trace and cut).

Bake 45-55 minutes (the springform pan will take closer to 55) or until toothpick comes out clean.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

4 Tablespoons softened butter
4 ounces softened cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar

Cream together using mixer and then try not to eat all of it before frosting the cake.

The World’s Worst Compassion Blogger

A few years ago our family began sponsoring a child through Compassion International. I was at a concert sitting in the front row feeling particularly blessed that night and even though I had heard the Compassion pitch no less than 15 times at other events, this was my night to respond. My husband agreed, and since we had NEVER been on the same page about sponsorship I took it as a sign. We chose a girl since we had sons. In my mind it would go something like this: I would supernaturally mother this daughter from another continent with my generous monthly support. We would pray for her and write her letters every month. The boys would come to love her like the sister they never had and the Glory of the Lord would shine around us day and night, night and day. Um, yeah. Not so much.

Our sponsor child was removed from our family after the first month. Compassion International sent a letter explaining why along with information about another child in case we wanted to continue with sponsorship. It was bizarre. I felt obligated to continue sponsorship because we were blessed and I had received two CDs at the concert just for signing up. I’m responsible that way.

So we began corresponding with the new girl. (When I say “we”, I mean “I”. That’s how we talk around our house.) At first it was sweet. I read about how she loved going to school, and loved washing the cups, and loved Jesus. She thanked us and told us how much she loved us. Instead of feeling blessed by her letters, I felt guilty because my children hate school and we most certainly do not love washing the cups. No we do not. I read her letters to my boys hoping to spread a little guilt and make them realize how blessed they are to be educated (by their mother!) and have a dishwasher to unload. I might as well have read the letter to the wall.

When it was time to respond to these letters I would sit at the computer and stare at a blank form on the monitor ready to share our lives with her. However, my fingers would not type. I couldn’t think of anything to say to her because I could only think about how our lives were so different. We were spoiled rotten Americans living in a house with more stuff than we know what to do with. We were a Dave Ramsey nightmare with debt up to our ears dreaming of trips to Disney World. She lives in a hut in Uganda. What would I even say?

My letters were about our weather, the crops in our region. “Hey, we grow corn in Iowa just like you do in Uganda! Isn’t that great?” I’d think of some scripture to write and tell her we were praying for her blah blah blah. Then I’d upload a photo of my family and hit send.  It was pathetic.

Her letters would come in the mail and I was busy. So I’d set them aside in a pile with mail that needed to be dealt with and filed. There her letters would sit unopened. If I didn’t read her letters, I wouldn’t have to write her back and then I wouldn’t have to feel so guilty about being an American.

As if all of this wasn’t pathetic enough, I began to pray about discontinuing our sponsorship. I mean, we are really bad sponsors. Sure, we have the monthly donation automatically deducted from our checking account, but that wasn’t enough for this girl. She wanted letters.

I made the mistake of reading one of her letters last summer. In it she wrote about how she prays for my family. She loves us. She thinks about us every day. I am her best friend. She hopes I will one day visit Uganda. And just for fun she hopes that she’ll be as fat as me when she grows up. I threw the letter on the counter and tried to wrap my mind around the part where she wants to be as fat as me. Hello! I know I’m fat, but it’s not polite to point it out. I didn’t want to think about the fact that maybe she was just so hungry all the time that she couldn’t imagine having a little extra meat on her bones. It was time for God to let me off the hook. I couldn’t respond to her letter. I could not. I could not get past how it made me feel about myself. Me, myself, me, myself, me, myself…you get the picture.

Finally, I confessed to someone who loves me that I’m a really bad sponsor parent. I told her what had happened and she listened and we laughed together about some of the funny stuff. I wanted her to give me confirmation that I could end the sponsorship. She did not. Instead, she encouraged me to just sit down and write this little girl a letter and move on. I made my case for how I didn’t connect with this girl at all. Our lives are just too different for me to have anything worthwhile to tell her. Why can’t Compassion International have an option for people who can afford to give, but not afford to write letters? Surely there are letter writers we could partner with?

Later that day I prayed and asked God to help me because these letters were haunting me and I needed to be free of them. What do I say? What do I do? Instead of picking me up and shaking me until my narcissistic head rattled, He gently whispered, “What did you need to hear when you were 12?” I tried to remember who I was at that age and how I felt about myself. Then I began to pray for her. I prayed that God would bless her. I prayed that she would know she has value, that she is beautiful. I prayed that she would know that God has called her to do something great for His purposes and she can do all things through Him. I prayed that she would be protected from harm and that the enemy would not succeed in his evil schemes. I prayed that her hopes and dreams would draw her closer to Jesus every single day of her life.

This girl says she prays for me. She prays for my family. She has not given up on me. It’s not her fault that I’m a spoiled rotten American and can’t quite get my act together enough to get over myself to sit down and write a dang letter. It’s not really about her. It’s about me. It’s about me needing to grow up and get outside of myself and what makes me feel good or not so good. Jesus is not letting me off the hook with a mindless donation. Honestly, $38 a month is a drop in the bucket for my family. Truth be told, I spend more than that at Starbucks every single month and we are still a Dave Ramsey nightmare, but we’re working on it.

Yesterday I wrote a letter, attached a family photo of our chubby selves and hit send. As pathetic as all of that sounds, it was a breakthrough. I wanted to run through the house cheering like I do for my boys when they do something I know they were afraid of doing.

Writing a letter doesn’t make me a missionary. I’m still the world’s worst Compassion blogger. I still don’t want to visit Uganda. I still feel guilty about being an American. I’m still pathetic, but there’s hope. There’s always hope. 

“I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers, you did for me.”—Matthew 25:40 NIV

Do you sponsor a child? I’d love to hear how your family does this. Thanks for stopping by.

Do You Wanna Kill a Snowman?

It snowed. Again. And I’m sorry.

I remember those days like they were yesterday. Stuck inside a two bedroom apartment with two rowdy preschool aged boys, it wasn’t a snow day. It was a hostage crisis and I was the hostage.

“Mom! We wanna go outside! Please, mom! Take us outside!” Their demands were simple: Spend 15 minutes pulling on snow pants, boots, hopefully a matching pair of mittens, and a coat. Go outside for 5 minutes in the actual snow, then come back inside and spend 15 minutes taking it all off again, followed by not too hot cocoa and their favorite cookies. No big deal, right?

Maybe not for a 16 year old who got to sleep in. Not for a woman who hasn’t had a good night’s sleep for 3,247 days.

I remember well. I remember thinking how snow days were supposed to look. How we’d build a snowman and take pictures for the scrapbook. How we would build snow forts and take pictures for the scrapbook. How we would fill spray bottles with water and food coloring to color the snow. Or make snow ice cream. So we could take pictures for the scrapbook.

For me, it was always about creating memories for a life I wanted to live, but didn’t actually have the time or energy to live.

My boys are teenagers now. Nobody asked if they can go outside to build a snowman. Today my help was not needed to pull on snow pants and gloves. Yes! Instead, they had to suit up to shovel the driveway and sidewalks. We’ve come a long way. And you know what? I don’t regret not having “better” pictures for our scrapbook. I regret not embracing the time for what it truly was: Loud, crazy, chaotic, exhausting, messy, crusty, unstructured, and truly the longest days of my life. But they were mine and it’s not too late to own them.

It’s not too late.

Today I choose to embrace the life we are living, and as I do, grace warms us like the sun.

God’s Faithfulness in the Hard Places

**Hello! Last summer I had the privilege of  sharing this post as a 5 minute talk in a speaker evaluation group at the She Speaks conference. Today I thought that maybe since it’s like the 432nd day of winter where I live that someone out there could use a little encouragement. I’m saying a prayer for you today. Hang in there. He’s faithful.**

A couple of years ago my husband and I took our two teenage sons to Disney World where we met up with my brother and his family from California.

Like most people, we needed to escape the crazy routine at home. Things like putting our house up for sale, laundry, chores, homework, jobs, bills, dogs, sports. As hard as I tried to put on a brave face every day, I was exhausted and didn’t know how to keep up with my own life. I was sinking.

While we were on vacation, my brother and his wife took us to a wine tasting event at Epcot during their Food and Wine Festival. I’ll be honest, I was pretty intimidated. I didn’t know anything about wine other than whether it tasted good or not.

We sampled a Spanish wine called Las Rocas which means ‘The Rocks’. Since we couldn’t go to Spain, the vineyard rep showed us pictures of where the grapes are grown. What we saw looked more like an Arizona desert than a Spanish vineyard. Then she began to describe the extreme climate…hot summers and very cold winters. She showed us close-up pictures of the soil…pictures that looked like they had been taken on Mars of vines surrounded by slate and red dirt. 

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I thought to myself, NOTHING SHOULD GROW IN THOSE CONDITIONS.

Based on these conditions, the wine should have tasted like some sandy concoction my boys would have made a few years ago. But it didn’t. It was actually very good.

How in the world can rocks, hot summers and cold winters produce fruit that can be made into a beautiful, rich tasting wine that people all over the world enjoy?

Psalm 89:8 says

O Lord God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, O Lord, and your faithfulness surrounds you.

The vineyard rep explained to us that it’s the rocky, nutrient-poor soil that is the key to the grapes that grow there. She said that as the vines struggle to survive in these extreme conditions, they concentrate their energy into fewer berry clusters, to produce grapes with rich flavor.

She explained how the rocks are porous…retaining rainwater and heat so that they deliver just enough water to the vines during the hot summers, and then protect them with just enough heat from the harsh winters.

The rocks give this wine its signature flavor found nowhere else in the world.

About the time I thought my brain would shut down from a science lesson, the Holy Spirit whispered:

I know you don’t see how anything good can come from the conditions you find yourself in right now.

You see rocks everywhere.

You feel alone and exposed.

You long for deeper things than you dare to admit.

You don’t know how you’re going to make it.

But I can grow something rich and beautiful in you because of these conditions.

You need Me more than ever.

Your roots are growing deeper because the deeper soil is full of the nutrients you need to thrive.

You can’t produce anything good without Me. Trust Me to make something beautiful out of this.

His faithfulness surrounds Him.

If God can be faithful to some grapes in a Spanish desert, surely He will be faithful to you and me.

He’s not asking us to trust our track record. He’s asking us to trust His. He has a long history of being faithful to His people even though we don’t have a long history of being faithful to Him.

My circumstances haven’t changed much. My house is still for sale. I’m exhausted. My family needs way more from me than I have to give. I’m still in a hard place, but it’s in this hard place that I am learning to thrive because of a faithful God who has what I need every single day. He gives me His Word. He puts people in my life to pray for me and encourage me and then He asks me to trust Him even when I don’t feel like it because His faithfulness surrounds Him!

The One who turns water into wine is faithful. Even now He is making something rich and beautiful out of your hard places. You may not be able to see or taste it yet, but you can trust Him because His faithfulness surrounds you.

**I think it’s incredibly helpful for others to hear stories of God’s faithfulness to His people. If you would like to share something like that, please leave a comment. Thanks for stopping by!

Rescue Mission Accomplished

She overcame him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb and the word of her testimony…(Revelation 12:11 NIV, emphasis mine)

This past year hasn’t been easy. Honestly, I’m not sure I know anyone who’s had it easy. I’ve been dealing with chronic pain and fatigue. Throw in some chronic disappointment and you have the recipe for chronic discouragement and depression. Yuck. You see, I really believed that all this junk would have cleared up by now…that God would have answered my prayers and taken it all away. Although I know He has heard me, He has not removed these uncomfortable circumstances from me.

This is my first post in three months. Not because I didn’t have anything to say, but because I stopped trusting that I had anything worthwhile to say. I like to offer encouraging, hopeful, hang in there, don’t give up words. Those words are hard to offer when doubt, shame, anger, resentment, self-pity, and disgust are the words most readily available.

Last weekend I got to spend some time at a Captivating Advanced retreat in the beautiful Rocky Mountains in Colorado with John and Stasi Eldredge along with several members of the Ransomed Heart team. It wasn’t just a retreat, it was a rescue. If you have never been to one of their events, I strongly encourage you to do whatever it takes to get to one. I’m telling you, GO!!!

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So much healing took place in those mountains, but before sending us on our merry little way John Eldredge spent some time teaching about the reality of pain and suffering this side of heaven. He challenged us to let suffering expose and access our deepest wounds because they expose where our hopes are primarily set. Ouch. Personally, I’m not a big fan of being exposed in any way, but God would not send me home without giving me a chance to allow Him to deal with this area in my life. Too much is at stake.

For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 2 Corinthians 1:5 NIV

John warned us…”Don’t reject the comfort because you’re mad that it’s not the answer you want.”

Busted.

Near the end of the session I spent some time quietly reflecting with a pen in one hand and Kleenex in the other…

I heard Jesus asking me:

“What if the current physical affliction you’ve been experiencing doesn’t go away? What will you do? How does that affect how you feel about Me?

You must choose.

Choose the idea of a pain free life without Me and the lie that you can make it happen. Or you can choose to trust Me and let Me love you and comfort you as much as you need. Your need is great.

You’ve been believing a lie that you can’t be effective in your calling while you’re suffering. It’s a lie. It’s not true. It’s not even biblical.

You have to choose.

Fight through the pain and follow Me on this path that I have chosen for you right now. You won’t always have this pain or be tired. No. One day we will be face to face and it will all melt away. I’ll wipe away every single tear and you will be free.

You have to let go of trying to understand why and just trust that My love is enough. My grace is enough to carry you. I’ll give you what you need to flourish and produce rich fruit to be refreshing to many thirsty souls. There’s a world that needs you. Don’t sit out any longer. They’re playing your favorite song and I’m asking you to dance with Me. Let Me guide you and lead you. Let Me hold you. Let Me teach you new steps. Let go of the way you thought the plan should work out. Let it go. Release your fear, doubt, and pain to Me. Open your hands and your heart to Me. Let Me fill you. This is where your healing begins.”

And so today I choose to re-engage here in this space. Too much is at stake.

Thanks for stopping by.

The Queen Must Die

It was Sunday morning. I thought it would be nice to serve country style ribs with fried rice for dinner that evening so I took the meat out of the fridge and prepped the crock pot.

My beautiful niece had driven 16 hours across the country with her grandmother the day before. Now she was standing in my kitchen.

“Do you like ribs?” I asked.

“I don’t eat beef.” She answered from the other side of the kitchen island.

“No problem, these are pork.”

“I’m a pescetarian.”

You’re a Presbyterian? Since when?! At least that’s what my brain asked. It took a few seconds to access the part of my brain that knew what a pescetarian was, or at least thought it knew.  Pesce…fish! Got it!

 “Well, we don’t have any fish.” I said with as much coolness as I could shovel.

 “Oh, well I’ll eat chicken if I have to.”

The meat returned to the refrigerator and I turned the crock pot off.

I was shaking now. I don’t know if she could see my body trembling, but I knew I had to get out of the kitchen before I made a scene. The shaking wouldn’t stop. Waves of anxiety and panic came crashing over me. I couldn’t make it stop, even as I got ready for church. I told myself to get a grip.

The controlling pleaser in me raged.  Internally she screamed “Welcome to the Huffaker family food freak show!!!! We’re gluten free and dairy free!!! Some don’t like pork, some don’t like anything spicy, and now this!!! We don’t eat fish. I don’t even know how to cook it! How could she do this to me?”

So ugly. This part of me that’s driven to be everything to everyone even when they don’t ask…or care. This part of me who has mentally whipped my backside for not getting it right. Every. Single. Time. It’s all about me. All of the time. So ugly.

I sat mostly silent in the car on our way to church. Even after I had vented my frustration to my husband, I couldn’t stop shaking. I knew I was in trouble. I knew I needed to be in the sanctuary. Surely the music would help calm me down. I bawled through the first three songs. Then came the worship leader’s invitation to go to the sides of the sanctuary for prayer. I felt the tug of war…I needed to go forward for prayer, but felt embarrassed that I needed to go forward for prayer.

Maybe you’ve been there.

It was now or never. Head down, I left my seat and walked to the side of the sanctuary where I confided that I was having an anxiety attack. I withheld as much detail as possible.  A man and his wife put their arms around me like I was their own daughter and began to pray up a storm. For me. Though I didn’t deserve it, peace washed over me. When the prayer time was over, I went back to my seat with hands raised high worshiping and thanking God for His undeserved grace and mercy where a good spanking might have been in order.

That morning my pastor just happened to be preaching on stress. I took good notes on how Jesus dealt with stress. Jesus couldn’t please everyone. I mean, I sort of knew that…after all, there’s that whole cross thing…but I don’t think I ever thought about the fact that He was OK with it. It seems so unchristian, but then again, Jesus wouldn’t have had a meltdown over whether or not someone was a pescetarian. No he would not.

Why do I think I can do what Jesus couldn’t?

These words are written in my notebook: Nic, kill the approval addiction.

It has to go, this fear of disappointing people…of not being able to be exactly what everyone needs all of the time.

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord will be kept safe. Proverbs 20:25 NIV

{A snare metaphorically is something that allures one from his real purpose and then destroys him.}[1]

My real purpose is to be free to worship God and love people. Seeking approval or fearing I’ll disappoint them is more than a distraction, it’s a trap. Someone has to die. The people-pleasing-approval-addicted-center of the universe Queen of stress has to die before she kills me. The drama she creates is a threat to the ones I love.  It’s time to stop creating hoops to jump through so I can be free to love better. People, real people that I love (like my beautiful niece) need me to be free.

That afternoon brought home a few groceries from the store which included a package of frozen fish for my niece. She explained to me how she liked it cooked and I told her she was welcome to anything in the kitchen that she would need to prepare her fish. I felt like I was going to throw up the entire time I talked, but I did it.

You see, we can pray and beg God to change us. We can ask for forgiveness. We can accept His grace, but then we have to walk in it. We have to move forward and take a risk. We have to feel the weight of not being everything to everyone. We feel it. We take some deep breaths. And then we realize beautiful grace is standing on the other side of the kitchen island smiling back at us, grateful for something to eat. It’s going to be OK.



[1] Hartley, J. E. (1999). 906 יָקֹשׁ. In R. L. Harris, G. L. Archer, Jr. & B. K. Waltke (Eds.), Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (R. L. Harris, G. L. Archer, Jr. & B. K. Waltke, Ed.) (electronic ed.) (399). Chicago: Moody Press.

Why Is This So Hard?

Why is this so hard?

This is a question I ask at least once a day, sometimes much more.

Why is mothering so hard?

Why is selling our house so hard?

Why is being married so hard?

Why is managing money so hard?

Why is taking care of my body so hard?

Why is keeping my house clean so hard?

Why is thinking up something to eat for dinner so hard?

Why is connecting with friends so hard?

And the list goes on and on.  

You see, I’m one of those girls raised in church that loves Jesus. I try hard to follow God’s commands and love people the way God loves me. I’m trying hard to DO what God says.

So why is this so hard?

There’s a guy named Moses who tried really hard to do what God told him to do and he got pretty frustrated. He went to Pharaoh (just like God told him to) and told him to let his people go, but Pharaoh refused to do just that. Instead, Pharaoh made their lives even harder. So Moses had a chat with God…

O Lord, why have you brought trouble upon this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble upon this people, and you have not rescued your people at all. Exodus 5:22-23 NIV

Last summer, after praying about it, my husband and I put our house on the market. Yesterday we bought a new water heater. I love buying water heaters. Said no one ever. We need a new roof because of hail damage. Our insurance company denied the claim. It seems like the moment we started the process to sell our house things have gotten harder. Why is that? I thought being obedient to God would open up some Skittle rainbow that we would use to slide onto our little promised land, but no. It’s hard and it doesn’t make any sense.

I’ve been having a few chats with God lately myself. He didn’t zap me with lightning for asking, “Why is this so hard?” He didn’t send any plagues. He told me the same thing He told Moses.

Now you will see what I will do…Exodus 6:1

If it wasn’t this hard, I probably wouldn’t know it was Him. I might be tempted to think it was because of (gulp) me and that will never work because if it’s up to me, I will mess it up and we’ll be right back where we started.

So we wait. We wait to see what He will do.

What is it that you find hard right now? It’s OK to have a chat with God about it. He loves you. He really does. Pull up a seat right next to me and we’ll watch to see what He will do.

(I love to read your comments and consider it an honor to pray for you if you’d like.)

I’m Not the Breast

Not long ago a friend came to me exhausted, overwhelmed, and ready to give up. She was physically, spiritually, and emotionally spent trying to balance her career with her role as a mother, wife, friend, and the kind of Christian she thought she needed to be.  The kind of Christian who says yes more than no because Christianity is about sacrifice. The kind of Christian who helps everyone even if it means sacrificing those closest to her.

I knew exactly how my friend was feeling because I had been there too. If I’m honest, I still find myself there far more often than I should.

We prayed and invited Jesus into our conversation and He reminded her of a situation in her past when she felt like she was feeling that day.

My friend told me about a time when she had small children and desperately wanted to help a needy younger mother from church. She believed that it was her Christian duty to make herself and her home available to the needy mother any time she needed. The needy mother wasn’t even all that nice to my friend, but she believed Jesus would want her to be available no matter what.

One day the needy mother dropped by with her baby and said, “I have to go somewhere today. Will you watch her for me?” My friend automatically said “Yeah…sure.” Without hesitating, the needy mother handed her baby over and left.

My friend stood in her small living room surrounded by her own small children, one of which was an infant who still needed to be nursed, wondering how she was going to care for all of these children. When the infant she was babysitting started to cry, she did what any babysitter would do. She looked for a bottle to feed the hungry baby, but her needy mother hadn’t left a bottle.  My friend had no way to contact the mother to let her know she had left behind a hungry baby. So she did the only thing she knew to do.

With tears streaming down her face, she held another woman’s baby up to her breast to offer the only thing she could. The baby fussed, not wanting to suck at this stranger’s breast. It wasn’t her mother, but after a few minutes of struggling, hunger and instinct latched on.  Nothing about this intimate moment was comfortable. Everything inside of my friend was screaming “NO! Make it stop!” 

Sometimes we say yes when everything inside is screaming “NO! Make it stop!” 

As I listened to my friend struggle through tears to tell me her story, I could see how the pattern had repeated itself over and over in her life. She wanted to be able to say yes without fear and know that if she said no that she was going to be OK. She needed to know that God would love her anyway and that God would take care of the person she told no. She wondered if she could be liked and accepted without saying yes to everyone.

We cried. We prayed, and in my spirit I heard the Lord prompt me to tell her,

“You’re not the breast. I AM.”

Even as the words were coming out of my mouth I wanted to laugh because they sounded so absurd. I don’t remember ever hearing a Sunday School lesson about God being the breast. What I do remember is being told over and over about how God (El Shaddai) is all sufficient, powerful, provider, healer, peace, faithful…that He is everything we could ever want or need.

There are many references to “breasts” in the Bible. These are usually the verses that get my husband’s attention. Hey, whatever it takes. After doing some ‘Names of God’ searching, I learned that the Hebrew word “shad” (Shaddai) signifies the One who mightily nourishes, satisfies, protects, and supplies His people. Isaiah 60:16 NIV God tells His people that “they will drink the milk of nations and be nursed at royal breasts. Then you will know that I, the Lord, am your Savior, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.” Isaiah 66:11-13 paints a similar picture. God is the one who sustains and comforts.

…to experience God’s sufficiency, we must realize our own insufficiency.–Nathan Stone

That day my friend needed to know it wasn’t up to her to be all sufficient. It wasn’t her job to fulfill everyone’s needs and solve their problems. My friend needed to be reminded that our God is everything we will ever need. He lacks nothing. He loves us. He’s already paid the ultimate sacrifice by sending Jesus to die for our sins. He wanted us to know that it was time to stop thinking we were the breast. We get to be part of how He provides from time to time, but it is all about Him. ALL OF THE TIME. He wants us to have the joy that comes from knowing we’re loved and that no one can take His love away from us.

This encounter with my friend was meant to encourage and strengthen her to let go of the guilt and shame she had been holding on to for so long. It was beautiful to watch Jesus set her free to love others more freely. I had no idea how it would affect me, but it has.

I’m not the breast.

It sounds silly, but saying those words (usually under my breath so my boys don’t think I’m crazier than they already do) when I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders has saved me from a good crushing lately.

If this is something you’re struggling with, I pray that God will use it to free you too.

 

In the Middle of the Chaos and the Crazy

What do you get when you mix a ‘just barely emotionally stable’ blogger with a crazy schedule? Well, let’s just say that the answer should accompany some really lengthy therapy sessions. And a massage.

Anyway, today I’m going to level with you. Life is nuts. It’s that simple. Here’s why:

1. My mother-in-law is moving back to Iowa from Virginia and will be living with us for as long as it takes. She needs a hip replacement. Please pray for her and our family as we make these adjustments. We are not easy people to live with. There are basically two volumes in our house, loud and louder. Seriously, pray. She’ll be here next week.

2. My baby turns 13 next week.

3. I am preparing to attend the Proverbs 31 She Speaks conference in North Carolina at the end of July. Last time I attended the writer’s track and took a book proposal, met with publishers, had my pride crushed, etc. This time I’m attending the speaker’s track and will give a 5 minute teaching in a peer group with a Proverbs 31 speaker for some constructive feedback. I don’t think of myself as a teacher…more as a sharer…so there’s some internal borderline hysterical laughter that hopefully will stay internal during those 5 minutes.

4. I want my mommy. My mommy lives about 2,000 miles away. It’s just not going to happen.

5. Our house is still for sale and I’m so over it.

So that’s who’s writing this morning. You might ask, “Why bother to write at all when things are so crazy?” Because I need to.  Blogging is an inexpensive form of therapy and helps me stay consistent. And just maybe in the process of leveling with you, you’ll have the courage to level with someone else today. Because life gets crazy…crazier. It all depends on your level of crazy.

Here’s some good news though:

Yesterday I was reading in Revelations about when things on this earth as we know them have ceased. Jesus is coming back. He is. I don’t know about you, but I forget. I forget that the way things are right now is not the way they will always be. I don’t want to spend my life living for the future and miss what’s right in front of me, but when I get stressed out and feel overwhelmed it’s easy to allow myself to cozy up to hopelessness. Not a good place for me. The really good news is that I don’t have to wait until the rapture to not be overwhelmed and stressed out. Praise the Lord!

This year I’ve been trying to journal every day. It’s been hard and I’ve missed huge chunks of life, but yesterday I started reading through my journal. A lot has happened since last summer. God has been busy in our lives. Right in the middle of the chaos and the crazy, He has been faithful every single day. Even on the days where the brain fog was too thick to even string a sentence together…He was faithful.

He has been faithful. He is faithful. He will continue to be faithful. To me. To you.

What a tremendous relief!

I hope you’re having a great summer and that it’s not chaotic and crazy, but if it is, know that you’re not alone. The only way we’re going to make it through is with prayer. Please leave a comment. I’d love to pray for you. Thanks for stopping by!

AND…If you like beef enchiladas…I’ve posted a recipe over at my Real Life blog.These are hands down the best enchiladas I’ve ever made or eaten in my life. And I’ve eaten a lot of them. Enough said.

You’re Not Trapped

My seventh grader’s school year ended about a month earlier than intended. It did not end well. In fact, it didn’t turn out like I thought it would at all.

I’ve been trying to home school my sons for a few years. Last fall it became very apparent that my youngest son did not want to be home schooled anymore and I was really OK with that. We made a few phone calls and enrolled him in a local Christian school. It wasn’t easy for me to admit defeat (again), but it was what he needed. It was what I needed. And I really thought it was going to fix everything.

But it didn’t.

Before my boys were school aged I had made a decision to home school them. I knew several other mothers who were doing it and looked like it was a really good thing for their family. I needed to do something good for my family. You see, I was falling apart and not mothering well. My solution at that time was to just do what the good moms were doing and everything would be OK. I tried teaching my kindergartner for about six weeks before realizing something was very wrong. He had a learning disability that I couldn’t recognize. Instead, I assumed it was because I wasn’t doing it right which made my depression even worse. I didn’t know how to get out of the mess I had made.

I didn’t know how to ask for help. Asking for help would alert everyone that I did NOT have a clue how to teach my child. Asking for help would expose me for the mothering mess that I was. I felt trapped. Months went by while I spiraled deeper into depression because I couldn’t fix it.

So now my boys are older, and by the grace of God, I’m not quite the mess I used to be. We have options. We’ve learned some tough lessons along the way.

But it’s still hard to ask for help.

I recently sat down with our home school coordinator and told her how things were going. I told her how my plan to fix everything had failed. I told her that the future plan is to home school both boys unless God provides another solution. The rapture sounds pretty good. I explained how I really just want to facilitate their education. I’m willing to write checks for tutoring or whatever it takes. And then I said the words I’ve been afraid to say to her for 8 years. I don’t like teaching. I don’t. There, I said it.

I waited for her to fall off of her chair or for some denim jumper wearing home schooling mom flash mob to drag me to the dungeon.  It never happened. Instead, she encouraged me by telling me she has friends who feel the same way. Never once did she look at me and say, “You’re right. You can’t do this. You are a failure and I’m calling the school district right now.”

We spent the next hour or so talking about some creative ways to educate teenaged boys while fleshing out the doubt and fear in my heart. It was incredibly helpful.

Now, I wish I had something fantastic to write here about how I woke up this morning with a burning desire to teach my kids and feed their minds with Latin and Shakespeare. That’s not my reality. I will tell you that I don’t feel quite as desperate this morning. It feels good to have admitted that I’m not a hard core educator like it appears most of the other moms in our group are. For the past 5 years I have gone to every single meeting wishing I could wear a t-shirt that says “I Love My Kids Most When They Are At School”. When educational ideas for co-ops were passed around and my turn to volunteer for something (anything) would arrive, I would ask if there were going to be any parties. I kid you not.

And yet, for reasons I do not understand, this is something that God has not released me from. So I need to hang on to that if He has called me to do this, that He alone will equip me to do it. With help. And that the way we educate doesn’t need to look anything like the way other people do it. We’re not trapped. We’re free. Do you know that?

You’re not trapped. You’re free.

I’d like to pray for us:

Heavenly Father, You know our every weakness and still, You call us to do things that are beyond our skill set not to make us look foolish or weak, but so that You can show your power and might. Kill the pride that keeps us from asking for help. You have not set a trap for us, but have set us free to live for You and to trust You with every area of our lives. Strengthen our hands to do the work that You have called us to do. Renew our minds so that we don’t have to spiral downward into depression because we think there’s no way out. I thank you for the encouragement I received yesterday and ask that You spread it beyond this page to every person who needs it. In the powerful name of Jesus Christ, amen.