Saturday, January 30, 2010

Mystery Object Revealed

Okay, I won't keep you in suspense any longer...mystery object turns out to be a...

Chile Grinder!!!!

It IS Mexico, after all, life revolves around chiles!
Those little red things are 'piquín' chiles (very spicy!) and are
quite popular here. So someone has come up with
a good way to process them into chile flakes...chiles
go in the hole and then the little stick is inserted
to grind them up...

Friday, January 29, 2010

Mystery Object

Miguel came home today with a gift from some was a mystery object to me at first. I should have known what it was, but I just couldn't put two and two together...let's see if you are more with it than I am today! lol

Quesillo (Flan)

I was thinking about what special dessert I could make for Miguel today, but of course, I would run out of flour right when I get the urge to bake! I could have just run down to the little neighborhood store around the corner to grab a kilo of flour, but then I'd have to dress the kids, get out in the cold...that's when I thought of quesillo (flan), which is pretty much Miguel's all-time favorite 'postre' (dessert). So that's what is in the oven now...

Here's a picture from the archives!
October 2005-Venezuela
Petra María (fellow missionary in Venezuela)
made me this lovely quesillo
for my birthday that year!

Petra makes the most beautiful quesillos...
mine are not nearly so pretty!

So, here's the easiest recipe ever for a good can prepare quesillo in a double boiler on the stove-top or baked in the oven. I don't have a double boiler, so I just bake mine in the oven. I will write the recipe as if for a double boiler, but will add the directions for the oven option at the end.

Quesillo (Flan)

1. Stir 1/2 cup of white sugar in a heavy saucepan or skillet over medium heat until it is melted and caramel-colored. It is easy to burn, so it is best to stir constantly, especially once the sugar begins to melt.

2. Pour the sugar mixture into a double boiler pan.

3. In the blender or with a whisk, mix together 6 eggs, 1 can of sweetened condensed milk (397 g or about 14 oz), plus the milk can filled with regular milk. Once blended well, pour over the sugar mixture in the double boiler pan.

4. Add water to the double boiler and cook at medium heat for 1 hour. It is done when a knife comes out clean. Remove from the double boiler and cool before turning out onto a plate.

Oven Option: Pour the sugar mixture into a round glass* pan or a glass* loaf pan. Pour milk mixture into the pan over the sugar mixture. Place into a larger glass* pan and put into a 350 degree pre-heated oven. Pour boiling water into the outer pan to a height of about 3/4 to 1 inch, thus creating a "double boiler" effect. Bake for about an hour or until knife comes out clean. I don't usually turn the quesillo out onto a plate using the oven option, we just cut and serve it right from the pan. :) To be honest, the quesillo doesn't usually last long to enough to make it worth dirtying another dish! LOL

*Glass pans are preferable, but you could probably use metal...just seems like the glass works better for the flan...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Crossroads or a Bridge?

An exciting new ministry opportunity has been presented to us this week and boy, has it provoked a lot of thought and discussion in this house! Last week we decided to strongly pursue a tribal church-planting ministry because that is what continues to tug at Miguel's heart...this week, leadership has asked us to consider working in a new support ministry. This new ministry would put us in the center of creating a sending organization for Mexican missionaries (or other Latins). This ministry is undoubtedly something that highly attracts our attention because we also have a heart for building and strengthening the relationship between ex-pat missionaries and their Latin colleagues. Miguel would be working with promotion and representation (among other things) and I would work part-time out of the home office (me? with an office?! I think I'm still in shock!) in a secretarial/coordinator type role. I think I even found a good childcare solution already! :)

But...our question is, is this a crossroads or a bridge? If we decide to take this ministry road, does it mean we are turning our backs on the tribal ministry role? (We aren't getting any younger, you know!) Or would working in this ministry for a couple of years be the bridge that carries us into a tribal church-planting role further on down the road? Is this God's provision of a dynamic ministry for us at this time or merely one of those ministry opportunities that come along and would be good to do, but are to be declined? Like one of my sisters said, perhaps this is a glimpse of God working on our behalf behind the scenes while we were still in such doubt and discouragement regarding our future...aarrgghh! Why does this have to be so hard?!

I think that our conclusion is that for now, we will join this new venture (perhaps re-evaluating at the end of the school year) and continue to ask God to lead and guide...all the while continuing to pursue unity and cry out to God together. I pray for clarity of thought for Miguel, he's the one with the burden of these decisions, anyway. All these questions still swirl in our minds, however, as we continue on the adventure of life.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Seasons of Marriage

This is a picture of Miguel and I taken last summer...we played frisbee in the park (which would explain my ruddy complexion) and enjoyed the trees and green grass (if you've ever lived in this part of the country, you'll know why that's such a big deal! lol)...

I recently heard about a book written by Gary Chapman called The Four Seasons of Marriage...I think I want to read it! This book suggests that marriages tend to move back and forth between seasons of warmth, openness, and closeness and seasons of detachment, discouragement, and uncertainty. Having just recently celebrated 14 years of marriage, the idea of the seasons of marriage makes a lot of sense to me...besides, what a relief to know that it's a natural part of married life! (I have suspected at times that it was just me...)

Using the analogy of seasons in marriage, I guess you could say that we've been going through a time of fall and winter (uncertainty, distance, discouragement) for the last few years...seems like it's been a struggle to survive life in general sometimes...the arrival of four children in 7 years, a rough time of it as we served in Venezuela, family instability stemming from too many moves, my struggle with depression especially after our 4th child was born, a change in mission fields (Miguel tends to feel somewhat 'exiled' from his home country)...all these things and more contributed to a sense of failure in ministry and a struggle to keep our heads above water as a couple, so to speak.

And yet God uses these times in our lives to grow and mature us in the areas we need to work on the most. In fact, sometimes I wonder if God didn't just put us into a great big 'time-out' just so that He could prepare us for further ministry! One of the images I loved best from The Shack*** was when Mack was working with the Holy Spirit out in the garden, digging up deep roots and talking about some difficult areas in Mack's life...the realization that the entire garden was a picture of Mack's life and the gentleness with which the Holy Spirit helped Mack dig up those roots in order to plant something even more beautiful touched me. God has not been harsh in dealing with me, on the contrary, He is gently directing me to those areas of my life He would like to change...

Recently, it seems like there have been hints of Spring in our marriage...a softening in the grip of ice and frost here, a few green shoots poking their heads through the snow openness and acceptance in our relationship in place of the defensiveness and 'high emotions'. I sense genuine change in both of us, a humility that wasn't there before.

For our anniversary this year, my gift to my husband was one of Trust...a pledge to honor and support his ministry decisions, whatever those might be. I aspire to the example of Sarah in I Peter 3:1-6...

Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that,
if any of them do not believe the word,
they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives,
when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment,
such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes.
Instead, it should be that of your inner self,
the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit,
which is of great worth in God's sight.

For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful.
They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah,

who obeyed Abraham and called him her master.
You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.

We all know how God moved to defend Sarah during those times that Abraham faltered in his faith and made some bad decisions...and yet I tend to waiver in my trust in God and allow fear to control and paralyze me, short-circuiting my relationship to my husband. I am not here to talk about my husband, however, but to take responsibility for my side of the equation, that God calls me to live out my life in faith and trust regardless of my not 'give way to fear' as is my tendency. Another good reminder of why I need to continue to focus on my relationship with God and continue to put down those spiritual roots to stabilize and nourish me in times of trouble and drought.

We still have very little idea of what lies ahead for us or where God will lead us next...but I believe that as we work on the foundation of trust and cry out to the Lord together from a place of unity, those details will fall into place. These are exciting times!

***Yes, yes, I know there was controversy about the book, but it is a good story and I certainly don't base my Christian life or doctrinal beliefs on any novel...

Creative Fun

I have finally started my own collection of stamping/scrap booking materials...I made this card (it's a flat card, doesn't open) to hang on the wall beside her bed. There wasn't really any specific reason, a "just because I love you" kind of card. She loved it! It's fun how creative you can be with pretty paper and a few stamps. :)

Friday, January 15, 2010

How to...

...use the potty in the winter...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire

I recently picked up a copy of Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire somewhere and I'm about halfway through it now. I'm taking it slow, letting it soak in (I usually blaze through books, but there are some books that need to be savored slowly). This is an amazing story and has been very thought-provoking and challenging to me in several areas...neat how God brings things into our lives to bless, encourage, and move us to change.

If you aren't familiar with this book, it's written by Jim Cymbala, the pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle in New York City and is basically the story of how this church has grown over several decades to be the church it is today (or rather, in 1997 when this book was written; I think he's written at least two more books with similar titles since). Pastor Cymbala also shares his thoughts on current ministry trends and other subjects relating to ministry in the church. His experiences with the inner-city in Brooklyn resonate with me because I think it's quite similar to overseas or cross-cultural missionary work.

Early in the book, Jim Cymbala shared that during his first few months at the Brooklyn Tabernacle he was literally depressed by the ministry challenges and didn't necessarily want to even be the pastor there. One Sunday night as he was preaching, he broke down and embarrassingly couldn't even continue preaching. Instead, he called for the few people that were attending the service to come pray with him at the altar. He said that as they began to call upon the Lord, the Spirit of God came down on them and began stirring their hearts. So much so that one of the ushers even confessed to having stolen money out of the offering plate! Pastor Cymbala says it was their first spiritual breakthrough.

He continues..."That evening, when I was at my lowest, confounded by obstacles, bewildered by the darkness that surrounded us, unable even to continue preaching, I discovered an astonishing truth: God is attracted to weakness. He can't resist those who humbly and honestly admit how desperately they need him. Our weakness, in fact, makes room for his power.

In a parallel vein, people are not put off by honesty, either. I didn't have to keep up a ministerial front. I could just preach God's Word as best I knew and then call the congregation to prayer and worship. The Lord would take over from there.

How I treasure those early humblings. Those experiences showed me that I didn't need to play the preacher. Jesus called fishermen, not graduates of rabbinical schools. The main requirement was to be natural and sincere. His disciples had to depend totally upon the Lord and his power. In the same way, I had to stop trying to act ministerial--whatever that was. God could only use Jim Cymbala the way he is. What a breakthrough that was for me as I learned to trust in God to use my natural personality. God has always despised sham and pretense, especially in the pulpit. The minute I started trying to effect a posture or pose, God's Spirit would be grieved.

What I could do, however, was to get even more serious about studying. I began building a biblical library and giving many hours during the week to digging into God's Word. But another John Wesley or G. Campbell Morgan I would never be--that was obvious. I had to find my own style and stay open and dependent on God."

Good reminders for both Miguel and I as we continue to wonder what is our place in ministry, exactly? Our primary ministry is in the process of changing and we're not sure what the future holds. We've already discovered many weaknesses and we have moments of wondering how God can use us when we are so prone to failure in many areas of our lives! Good reminder for us to humbly and honestly admit how desperately we need Him. How desperately I need Him!

Later, Jim says he received a promise from God of blessing for the church if he and his wife would lead the people to consistently pray and call upon the Lord. As they have actively pursued calling on the name of the Lord as a church, God has fulfilled this promise (although he does emphasize that the 'success' of a church doesn't depend on "attendance, buildings and cash", but on whether "that church is proclaiming his (God's) Word to people he loves under the anointing and power of the Holy Spirit to produce results that only he can bring about.").

Jim quotes Charles Haddon Spurgeon in saying,

"The condition of the church may be very accurately
gauged by its prayer meetings.
So is the prayer meeting a grace-ometer,
and from it we may judge of the amount of
divine working among a people.
If God be near a church, it must pray.
And if he be not there, one of the first tokens
of his absence will be a slothfulness in prayer."

Jim notes that after Jesus drove the money-changers out of the temple, Jesus seemed to be saying that "The atmosphere of my Father's house is to be prayer. The aroma around my Father must be that of people opening their hearts in worship and supplication. This is not just a place to make a buck. This is a house for calling on the Lord."

The book continues..."The feature that is supposed to distinguish Christian churches, Christian people, and Christian gatherings is the aroma of prayer. It doesn't matter what your tradition or my tradition is. The house is not ours anyway; it is the Father's.

Does the Bible ever say anywhere from Genesis to Revelation, "My house shall be called a house of preaching?"

Does it ever say, "My house shall be called a house of music?"

Of course not.

The Bible does say, "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations." Preaching, music, the reading of the Word--these things are fine; I believe in and practice all of them. But they must never override prayer as the defining mark of God's dwelling. The honest truth is that I have seen God do more in people's lives during ten minutes of real prayer than in ten of my sermons."

I like a book that challenges me in my own spiritual walk with God. I like a book that challenges me to think about how I am living out God's truths...the passages in the book about prayer, especially, have been convicting because I don't think that I can truly say that I am a Woman of Prayer. Oh, I talk to God a lot, here and there, throughout the day or night. But I can't say that I spend a significant part of my day in prayer, or that I am faithful to pray for this or that request for long periods of time, or that I pray with passion and power. In fact, I think that most times, my underlying thought is that of 'what much difference can this one woman's prayer make?'. I know that I have a tendency to underestimate the power of my prayers...

For example, this last week we had to address some issues with both Micah and JD...and it ocurred to me that although I am not praying faithfully for my kids every day. On Sunday, Miguel's brother Ivan called from Venezuela in a very drunken state and I realized that I haven't prayed faithfully for my dear brother-in-law who struggles with addictions and alcoholism.

I long for God to use me. I long for Him to manifest His power in my life. I long to truly believe His promises and truly live out my life as if I DO believe. I think that I, too, could use a fresh wind and a fresh fire.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Tagged-36 Questions

I've been tagged! Angela over at Unveiling Radiance tagged me with this!

1.What is your current obsession? I have always enjoyed reading, but these days I am also dabbling in painting, card-making and photgraphy...

2. What are you wearing today?jeans, t-shirt, and cardigan with flip-flops

3. What’s for dinner? I haven't thought that far ahead...quite likely leftovers, maybe pizza left over from last night's pizza and game night (we actually have leftovers because not as many people came as we thought!)

4. What’s the last thing you bought? groceries at Walmart

5. What are you listening to right now? Rojo, oh wait, the kids are putting on an Odyssey tape...

6. What do you think about the person who tagged you? In general or for tagging me?! lol JK, Angela has been a friend for a long time and even though we live quite far apart, are probably better friends now than we've ever been...

7. If you could have a house totally paid for, fully furnished anywhere in the world, where would you like it to be?probably Venezuela, we'd love to have a nice house and farm in the country for Miguel's parents to live...

8. What are your must-have pieces for summer? t-shirts, flip-flops, cropped pants

9. If you could go anywhere in the world for the next hour, where would you go? maybe a nice, warm beach in Australia? It's cold here this morning!

10. Which language do you want to learn?since we'd love to work in a tribe, it would be whatever tribal language we were learning at that point, with Bible translation in mind...

11. What’s your favorite quote? other than favorite verses out of the Bible, don't think I really have one...but I heard a good one the other day, something like "Be kind, everyone you meet is in a great battle." I think people are struggling more than we know...

12. Who do you want to meet right now? Jesus...I long for His return!

13. What is your favorite color?I am really quite partial to red, I think, although I usually choose green tokens when playing games...

14. What is your favorite piece of clothing in your own closet?right now, it's my zipper hoodie things! I have three and they have been quite handy this winter...

15. What is your dream job?missionary and I already have it!!!!

16. What’s your favorite magazine? I really love Discipleship Journal and wish we could get a subscription of our own

17. If you had $100 now, what would you spend it on?probably on groceries and some special snacks for the kids

18. What do you consider a fashion faux pas?I not certainly not one to offer advice in this area, but I would say wearing clothes that don't fit right and make you look funny (example: muffin-tops because of tight, low-cut jeans)

19. Who according to you is the most over-rated style icon?not sure, I'm not really 'up' on current styles, although I would say that I think Hollywood is definitely over-rated in general!

20. What kind of haircut do you prefer?something very easy to care for, right now short is good

21. What are you going to do after this?fix pancakes for breakfast

22. What are your favorite movies?Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia (why oh why does it take SO long for the next one to come out?!), family-friendly movies, some science-fiction, action/drama...

23. What are three cosmetic/makeup/perfume products that you can't live without?Dove soap, foundation, my natural deoderant spray

24. What inspires you?missionary stories, great stories of people who have overcome, Beth Moore, good music

25. Give us three styling tips that always work for you? I agree with Angela that: (I think this is a dumb question so I'm trading it for my own.)

New 25. What makes you feel most alive? a meaningful quiet time with God, a good emotional connection with my DH, Miguel...sharing a cup of coffee with a friend, meeting a need, a good phone conversation with my Mom or sisters, a good book...

26. What do you do when you “have nothing to wear” (even though your closet’s packed)?throw things, rant and rave...then choose something I at least feel comfortable

27. Coffee or tea?definitely coffee!!! In fact, need a refill now, be right back...

28. What do you do when you are feeling low or terribly depressed? wallow in self-pity, sleep, mindlessly read shallow novels and then come to my senses and call out to God! I'm a talker, too, so talking to a good friend or sister is good, too...

29. What is the meaning of your name? I've always heard that Rebecca means "peacemaker", but now that I look it up, it's coming up with "to tie" or "knotted cord", weird. I think I prefer "peacemaker". Ann means "gracious, merciful".

30. Which other blogs do you love visiting?I think I need to start a blogroll, there are so many...of course, I will name Unveiling Radiance since Angela was the one who tagged me, missionary women blogs of which there are too numerous to mention here, WOTH's CoffeeGirl Community blog, In Real Life with Jamie Jo, etc...

31. Favorite Dessert/Sweet? I really like dark chocolate

32. Favorite Season?I love fall with it's cooler temperatures and beautiful, rich colors...

33. If I come to your house now, what would you cook for me? Venezuelan food, arepas con carne mechada and beet potato salad and lemonade...

34. What is the right way to avoid people who purposefully hurt you?distance, guard your heart, set up boundaries

35. How do you calm yourself down when you are agitated or angry?according to reliable sources, I tend to get noisy, such as when working in the kitchen! And I talk to myself...then I come back around and pray...

36.Who is the modern ideal girl..the one who knows how to shop, dress and enjoy or the one who is simple but manages the house, kids and herself well? definitely the latter...

Whew, I'm done! I have no idea who to tag, I guess if you are reading this, consider yourself tagged! It's fun to learn more about each other...

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Fourteen Years

January 3rd was our Fourteenth Wedding Anniversary! It's hard to believe that we met 17 years ago and have been married for's a picture of us when we were dating...

Someone asked me the other day how we met and wow, did that bring up a lot of memories! It's good to go over those memories sometimes, though, and remember what it was like to be madly in love and wondering what the future would hold for us. I'll have to write about it all someday, it really is quite the story!

We made a trip to El Paso between Christmas and New Years and it was exciting to hit Hobby Lobby and pick up some stamping/scrapbooking supplies (1/2 off!)...I have dabbled in card-making here and there (and hope to get better with practice!), but hadn't really built up my own crafting supplies, so it was fun to collect a few things. Here's the card I made Miguel...the book excerpts are a romantic portion from The Prisoner of Zenda...Miguel liked it and I could tell because he has it displayed on top of the bookshelf!