Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Mmm mmm, Apple Pie

With (finally) a chill in the air, Christmas music playing on Pandora, Starbucks workplace decked out for the holidays, I've found a recent fascination with experimenting in making pies. Apple pies, to be exact. And let me tell you what, it's been a delicious experiment!

So I thought I would share with you all. Don't try to drool too much on your keyboard, probably not so good for technology.

I found a basic recipe for apple pie online, because the only time I've ever made pie (which was probably one or two, I can't even remember), has involved taking a pie out of a frozen box and placing it in an oven. I found a recipe that sounded pretty good, and then added my own zing to it.

Have a look, and try the recipe out! It's super easy, and incredibly delicious. A perfect touch to the end of that scrumptious fall dinner.

What you need:

-2 pie crusts (9'' recipe pastry dough)
(Note, I have not experimented yet in making my own crust, so what I did was buy a pre-made crust that was already in the pie pan, and also bought a package of Pillsbury pie crust. It comes in a small box, and there are two pieces in there as well, you just roll it out. This is what I used to make the lattice work on top of the pie)

(Image from Google)

-7 or 8 Granny Smith apples (the nice green ones, they taste delicious in pie!)

- 1/2 cup unsalted butter

- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

- 1/2 cup white sugar

- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar

- 1/4 cup water

- 1 teaspoon vanilla

- 2 teaspoons cinnamon powder

- A dash of salt

- A few dashes of each: allspice, nutmeg, cloves (I have a horrible habit of never measuring seasoning, because I hate bland food, so to me, the more seasoning the better. Play around with how much of each you want to put in, but in general, just a few quick dashes of each should do.)

Okay, now you're ready to put your pie together!

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

3. Make sure that you have your pie crust ready in the pie pan.

2. Get to coring and peeling your apples! AKA, cut out all of the seeds, and get the skin off those suckers, then slice them up. As for size of the slices, I wouldn't slice them super thin, and I would also avoid leaving them in huge chunks. Go for a nice size in between.

3. As you slice your apples, begin layering them in your pie pan. Now, the first time I did this, I just threw them into the pan, and it worked out fine. The second time, I made a sort of circle pattern and layered up with the apples. As long as you fit your apples inside, and there aren't huge gaping holes in between, you should be okay.

4. Your apples should be finished, and as you layer, you will make a nice mound on top of your pie crust. Don't worry, it will settle down after it is baked.

5. Now, in a medium sauce pan, heat up your butter, and melt it.

6. After the butter has melted, mix in your 3 tablespoons of flour to make a paste.

7. Next, put in your white and brown sugar, and the 1/4 cup of water. Bring to a boil. This is going to start looking and smelling delicious.

8. As you are bringing it to a boil, add in your vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves. Continue stirring.

9. After mixture has come to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

10. Roll out your second pie crust dough, and cut into long strips for the lattice top of the pie (the criss-cross pattern)

11. Do the lattice top by weaving one over the other, all the way across the pie. It's very easy to do, and looks fabulous! Be sure to leave room in between strips, you will need that to pour the mixture into/over.

(Image from Google)

12. Gently, and slowly pour your sauce over the top of the pie and lattice crust on top. Let it sink into the holes and down the sides. (Tip, put a baking sheet beneath your pie, it's bound to bubble over or drip down while preparing or baking...this makes a much easier clean up). Pour the entire mixture down over the pie. It seems silly at first, pouring it over the pie, but trust me, it's delicious, and cooks the crust into a scrumptious top, and gets all of the apples spiced, too.

Ready to go in the oven!

13. Put that baby in the oven to cook! Cook for only 15 minutes at 425 degrees F, then lower the temperature to 350 degrees F, and cook for 35 to 45 minutes more.

14. Take out, let cool. (Or burn your mouth on the freshly baked goodness, I did...and I don't really regret it, it was just so tasty!)

15. Feast on your delicious masterpiece!

And there you have it, delicious apple pie!!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

For the Moments I Feel Faint

(Image from Google)

More than just some catchy Relient K lyrics, these words capture a deep current in life. There are always moments when we feel faint. When we feel discouraged. When we feel as if we have failed. Moments when we aren't sure just which was is up, or where we're supposed to go.

For whatever reason, today I realized that this week has been one of those weeks for me. Moments where I feel faint. Where I feel dried up, and like I'm wandering through a desert, searching for the oasis to quench my thirsty soul. But it somehow eludes my grasp.

A week packed with a busy work schedule has probably lent a helping hand to that, sprinkled with a cold, and topped with the heaviness of missing teammates, and people that I spent a lot of quality time with over the past year.

Today as I sat driving in my car, the weight of it all just seemed to rest on my shoulders. There are always days like this. When my own strength is not enough. When I'm just not feeling it. When I feel like I'm wandering in a desert.

But you know what?

God is still good. He is enough.

While I was driving, a song by Kutless came on the radio that reminded me of one of my favorite passages in Daniel about Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego. The song says over and over "even if..." and it reminded me of how when confronted by an irate king, "Rack, Shack and Benny" (the beloved Veggie Tales names that have forever stuck with me) refused to bow before the king, even with their lives on the line. They boldly declared to the king that God was mighty enough to save them from the fire, and EVEN IF He did not, He was still God, and that they would still not bow before the king.

(Image from Google)

Even if.

Those words ring so loud and clear to my heart today. Even if. Even when I don't feel it. Even when I feel alone. Even when I don't feel well physically. Even when things don't go right.

God is still God, He is enough, and He is good.

I am resting in that truth tonight, and letting God revive my soul in the way that only He can.

What are you facing in your life that just seems too big? That makes you feel like you're alone and wandering through the desert? I know I'm not the only one facing tough things. A lot of times, we search to see if other people struggle too, and Satan wants us to feel isolated and alone, and that we are the only ones struggling. Not true.

(Image from Google)

So I want to boldly declare that even as I struggle, God is good, He is faithful, and He is mightily at work. In my life, and in yours.

Through the hurt, the pain, the disapointment, He is at work in your life, you are His beloved.

Even if...He is still God.

(Image from Google)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Wedding Bells are Ringing!

Or are they Christmas bells? I mean after all, Christmas music is already playing in stores (and work).

No, to be clear, they are wedding bells! I had the joy of being able to attend a friend's wedding this past weekend. It was a glorious day, perfect weather, incredible people, the works. Splashes of a country theme, twinkling lights, cool weather, I was hooked.

Granted, there are always those pangs of loneliness that accompany going to a wedding by yourself. You see all the couple "awwing" and remembering their special vows, and everyone seems to have someone. Oh the joys of being single at times. Thank goodness for amazing friends that were there that I was able to spend time with, talk to, and laugh with.

All in all, it was such a joy to see them walk down the aisle, say their vows to each other and watch them step into a new season of life together!

I also had the great joy and honor of creating their "guest book," which was actually a pencil portrait of one of their engagement pictures. It was a fun project, and being able to see it fill up as people filed in for the ceremony was special.

Check out the progress of the piece, and the beautiful wedding!

The beginning stages.

And the final stages!

The finished product, and a picture of it after it was signed by the guests!

Some snapshots of the special day!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

His Words to YOU

All Scripture is God breathed. It is for you, it is for me. It is for today, tomorrow and every day.

 I love that God has brought Scripture to life for me in a different way through hand lettering. Being able to compose the words on a piece of paper and have them spring up off the page to me, reminding me of what this life is really about.

In between a few other artistic projects that I am working on (to be revealed later!), I have had several Scriptures laid on my heart for myself, and for others. And so, I put them down on paper!

These are the three most recent ones.

I pray that they breath new life into your heart today!

 Psalm 48:8...It is God who makes us secure, forever. 

Joshua 1:9...Always a good reminder for us, to be strong and courageous, because He is with you. 

Psalm 37:3-4...Trust in the Lord. A personal message to me, reminding me that my trust needs to be in God alone. 

Little Big Gifts from God

I'm sure we can all recall the beloved childhood Disney movie "Aladdin." Complete with magic genie, three grand wishes, bad guys, and of course, Aladdin gets the girl. It all works out, everyone is happy, I mean who doesn't like three wishes of whatever they want granted to them?

Sometimes, I think we (myself included) think of God like a magic genie. When we're "good enough" we sneak in there with our "Oh hey, God, this would be super great if I could just have this thing....you know, because I've been good and all." We probably don't say it in so many words. But I know that I have been caught in my heart posture looking for satisfaction in things, even asking God for it, instead of just going to Him for HIM to fill me up.


God also does give good gifts. He is our Father, and He delights in us.

He DELIGHTS in you. 

Let that sink in a minute. Delight is such a heart warming word. God, the creator of the universe, finds delight in each and every one of us. He dances and sings over us, He fills our hearts with His love, and, with His blessings.

I think that there is definitely a balance to be had, and that we have to be mindful of what we are asking God for, and the meaning behind it. Are we seeking HIM first, or things first? "Seek first the kingdom of heaven..."

But, God does bless us. He surrounds us with His love, His favor, and His gifts. And lately, He has blown me away by surprising my heart with little big gifts. Just putting a smile on my face, and delighting my heart. Things as simple as a good cup of hot coffee on a chilly morning, to time driving up to Mount Lemmon and being able to have quiet time with Him in the cool, fresh mountain air. 

My Abba has just left me speechless and in awe with His heart for me. I've been stressing out and worrying about things, and when I finally lay them down at His feet (multiple times), He has completely blown me away.

Case in point...when I was back in the states, I had no idea what to do about a job, where it would come from, if I was going to be able to make enough money. God has provided not one, not two, but three amazing jobs for me to work at. These jobs are providing community and a way to reach out to people that I would not have otherwise been able to reach out to. 

I was reminded of just how blessed I am to have three jobs when people remark about how difficult it is to find just one job at times. It is a crazy schedule working three jobs at times, I won't lie. But I am beyond blessed to be employed, and employed in three jobs that I truly enjoy.

Another gift, last Saturday my church had it's first annual "Jubilee" celebration, thanking God for how He has blessed us. It was a sweet time of fellowship, amazing food, and a fun time square dancing. I am blessed by the people that surround me in my church body. 

And another huge gift that God gave me this week, He provided an amazing deal on a reliable car. He truly has the perfect timing. He even threw in there that it is a manual car, which I love driving manual. He knew exactly what I needed, and showed up. 

I am completely overwhelmed by His love. By His goodness. How He delights in me. 

And it's not just in those big things, or in material things, it's everywhere. The sunrise, sunset, a cool breeze on a warm day, twinkling stars, conversations, birds chirping. He sings His love to me, to you in all these places.

What are the gifts that He has given you today? How does He delight your heart?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I'm Overseas...

...in Tucson.

Possible? Yes.

Case in point, visiting an Iraqi refugee family today. It brought so much joy to my heart. Literally even walking around the apartment complex to get to their house, I smelled Africa- which is hard to describe, but if you've smelled Africa, and you smell it somewhere else, you know it...somewhat of a burning trash/cooking food/earthy smell...if you had to put a name on it. I also saw someone carrying a trash can on their head to a dumpster, which is also a flashback to Africa (not so much the trash can as someone carrying something on their head).

But really, it was being welcomed into a home of a family I had never met before. Sitting on a couch in their living room, visiting with them, laughing, asking questions. They always offer you a drink and or food, really, it's not an option, it's them offering their heart to you in hospitality. That's something that I saw worldwide, and wanted to bring back to America with me.

(I can't even count how many sodas we had in Africa...but I do enjoy Fanta!)

(Flashbacks to beautiful Africa)

(Also, I think the number of cups of tea that I consumed overseas far outweighs my consumption of soda. Any time you went into anyone's house, you were given tea, and multiple cups. Oh, you're full? Have some more tea!)

(Smiling faces of beautiful kids around the world. Tonight brought me this joy once more.)

That sense of open generosity. Open hands. Treating every person that walks through your door with respect and love, offering your heart to them.

So for about an hour and a half today after work, I got to "go overseas" right here in Tucson. I was able to sit in a living room with a family, hear another language being spoken, pick up on hand gestures like a grand charades player, see Al Jazeera on the TV, and be honored with great generosity and hospitality by people that I didn't even know.

It was such a blessing to my heart. I absolutely love moments like those, and it makes my heart excited to step across cultural boundaries within my own town.

I heard from an apartment manager today the difficulties she faces in looking after all of her tenants, and the things that she wishes she could do for the families there. I saw her express deep appreciation for all the help that she receives from people coming in to play with the refugee kids, who build relationships with the families.

There is such a great need, right on our doorstep. Our own neighbors are looking for love. It's right there, but how often do we step across that divide?

I know that I want to do it more often. If you haven't ever met a refugee family, or kid, I would highly encourage you to try and do so. See if your community has a refugee program. You would probably be surprised at what you find.

But it's meaningful connections like that that mean so much. Not only to the people that receive it, but to us as well.

We are blessed to be a blessing.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Swingin' in a Hammock

Remember the other day when I was talking about how God gives me little gifts sometimes that just light up my heart? This morning He gave me a few more. As I gathered with a handful of other women from church this morning for a breakfast, prayer and fellowship time, I felt God just leading me by the hand into a cozy morning with Him.

One gift from Him, sitting around a wooden table, cool morning breeze blowing in, eating a yummy breakfast with women that I care deeply about, just talking about life.

Another gift, drinking a warm cup of coffee on this gorgeous, crisp morning.
(picture from Pinterest)

Another gift, being able to sit out on this lovely hammock and have my quiet time surrounded by my beautiful sisters in Christ. It took me back to time in Cambodia, where there truly were hammocks everywhere. Everyone had a hammock, and they used them a lot. You just sit back, and let life sink in. You let the beauty sink in.

This was my view this morning. Absolutely gorgeous morning!

This is what the view took me back to...

Darling, beautiful Cambodia.

It took me back to a month on the World Race where life was very simple, and it was beautiful. And as I sat there, swinging in that hammock, praying to my Abba, God swept me off my feet.

He told me, "Be still, and know that I am God. Be still, Sarah, and know that I am YOUR God."

God truly captures my heart in the beautiful simplicities of life, and I wish that every moment of my life I slowed down to just be with Him in the midst of it. I know that it is possible, but very seldom do I let myself do it. After traveling for a year and experiencing life with a fast, yet slow pace, I've found the American lifestyle of "go go go" and being busy just to be busy and not actually doing something to be overwhelming. And yet I still find myself getting caught up in it. 

The distractions surround us constantly, beckon us with shiny mechanisms that promise instant gratification. Technology, media, TV, books, networking. None of these is inherently bad, but it can be dangerous to be consumed by them, especially when we get so caught up that we forget who we really are, and more importantly, WHOSE we are.

So this morning was just a beautiful gift from my Abba, letting me breath in and remember His steady love as I sat swinging in a hammock on this cool morning. 

Be still, and know that He is your God, and He loves you. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Offering Hope

This past Sunday I had the great honor of painting during worship at my home church, Hope Community Church. Our pastor had asked me if I would be willing to do this a few weeks prior. My response, "OF COURSE!" I was enthusiastic and extremely excited to be able to share this with my church family.

I haven't done worship painting in front of a church before, so that was a new experience. But actually painting and drawing during worship, was not. While on the World Race, I had many times where God laid a particular image or word on my heart and I found myself scrambling for a sketchbook and a pencil or marker, whatever was at hand, to get it out on paper. It was an incredibly intimate time, and a new and unique way that God began to speak to my heart during worship.

I began to create with Him during worship. I felt His heart beat with each stroke. With every word He spoke through the movement of worship and those around me. He began to reveal His creator's heart to me in those times, and still does.

I began to pray about what God wanted me to paint for His body. What message He would have me share through art that day. And He responded.

So, on Sunday I toted my easel to church, paints and canvas in hand. I set up on the stage, the canvas facing out towards the church so they could watch me paint. I squeezed out the color onto a palette, and waited for the music to begin.

Everything kind of disappears for me when I begin to paint or draw. It all drops away. The music is there, and my heart is singing as my hand finds the canvas. Some asked me after if I was nervous, which in reality, I wasn't at all. I kind of forget that people are watching me. Truly, my hearts desire is to paint to please the one I love, my Abba. To hear His heart in the messages He has me paint, and pray that it touches just one other person.

Our church just finished up going through the book of Ephesians, and we were covering the section that talks about the relationship between parents and children, and masters and children. When I first began to pray about this, the image that kept coming to the front of my mind was an open hand, outstretched. I couldn't get it out of my head. So I pressed into it, and that is what I ended up painting on Sunday.

God's open hand, outstretched to us. He is inviting us into Himself, into His love. He invites us into obedience to Him, because He knows the outcome. He knows the fruit and reward that follows obeying our parents, and obeying those in authority over us. We may be in difficult situations within those, but ultimately, God sees the big picture, and He knows what fruit comes out of it, whether we realize it or not. He invites us into that abundance, though. His abundance.

He invites us to do the same, to open our hands. To open our hands in obedience, to open our hands to others. To shine His light in our homes, in our workplaces by living with open hands and an open heart.

That is my heart behind this painting, and the words that God laid on my heart for it.

I love being able to share this gift with others. I don't want to share it to get a pat on the back saying "oh, you're a good artist!" or "good job!" Truly, I do this because that is my time with Him. Art makes my heart come alive. Art is a way that I can communicate to others the message that God puts on my heart for them. It is a way for me to say to you, YOU MATTER. You are worthy. You are valued. You are beautiful.

And while many believe that art is just a secular force, I will battle to my dieing day that God is very much alive in art. He speaks from His creator heart. And I will share that as long as I can, communicating His messages to you. It's all for His glory, always.

How has God called you to proclaim His glory? What gift has He given you to share His heart with others?

Trust me, YOU have something that the world needs. YOU have a specific way that you can share God's heart that no one else can. And it may be simpler than you think. Yes, you. I'm talking to you.

It may be something like roasting your own coffee for church on Sundays, offering one cup of hope at a time, like someone from our church body is doing.

Maybe it's listening to others in a time of need and comforting them because you yourself faced something difficult in your life.

Maybe it's cooking dinner for your family.

Maybe it's doing your job with 110% of your efforts.

Maybe it's gardening.

Literally, it can be anything. But you have something special on you that the world needs. Will you share it? Will you share God's heart in a way that only you can today?

Let's change the world by being exactly who God made us to be. How about it?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Raindrops on Roses

While most of the country has been bathed in cooler weather, surrounded by vibrant fall colors, and enchanted by the delicious season of fall, Tucson has remained the veritable hot box known as the desert. Now, this is not really that normal. Yes, we're generally still a bit hotter than most in the country, it shouldn't be in the 100's still. Or the 90's. This is October! Right?

What I want to see (taken in Monessen, PA a few years back)

What I do see...which, okay, it really isn't THAT bad, I love the mountains. But it's always the same color.

My dreams of warm apple pie, crisp mornings, piping hot beverages that warm the hands and heart are only that- just dreams. Until we get a lovely cold front, I continue to blast my air con (air conditioning...air con is a term I picked up in Asia. Thanks Philippines.) to gain any relief from this heat.

Please cooler weather, will you come?

I've tried to maintain a positive attitude about it. But when I heard that there was a slight chance of rain for today and tomorrow, I prayed to God for the rain to COME. Literally, wrote it in my journal. My soul just thirsts for a nice rainy day, and a relief from the heat. Even a little nibble of fall to hold me off until the real season comes (although it's not quite the same as east coast fall, it's a temporary relief from the scorching desert heat).

The weather reports were saying that we had a chance of rain this evening. But I wrote it down in my prayer journal as I just sat with God early this morning, asking for some rain. I closed up my journal, and left for work. I grabbed a cup of coffee on my way, and then all of the sudden as I'm driving down the road, a huge raindrop splashes across my windshield. And another. And another. Soon, it's literally down pouring, but I can still see the sun rising in the mirror behind me.

All I could do was smile and laugh. Laugh with joy and just shake my head at my wonderful Abba who would give me such a beautiful gift this morning.

Making it rain, making it pour on my way to work, in this one little patch of road.

And it actually rained off and on all throughout the day. Every time I looked out the window saw beads of water dripping down the window pane, and heard the gentle pitter patter against the glass, I smiled.

Yes, my Abba is a God who gives good gifts. Simple, little gifts some days that just mean the world to me. Like making it rain on my way to work. Breathing cool life onto my skin, and soaking the ground with his love.

A gift he gave me a few years ago...this ice was on my car windshield and back window. Literally formed exactly like this, I had never ever seen anything like it. It was absolutely breathtaking!

 Some may argue that it was just a mere coincidence. But I know better. I know that He had me where I needed to be at just the right time to delight my heart this morning. Because He knew that that was exactly what I needed.

Do you know that He'll do the same for you? Don't be afraid to ask Him for the little things, to ask Him to whisper His love to you in simple, but extravagant ways that touch your heart. You may just be surprised at how He shows up!

Some gifts He has blessed my heart with...

 Who doesn't love to see a flower that stands out among the crowd at Disneyland?

 I love being at the beach. Can't resist the water!

 Flowers always seem to captivate me. God is so creative!

 And come on, seriously, how adorable are these guys?? They were in West Virginia.

 I also can't resist blowing dandelions. I love the simple pleasures of life.

 Gorgeous view of the Rockies from a plane a few years ago on a trip home.

And of course, a good cup of hot tea.

What gifts has God given you today?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Hand Lettering

If you haven't noticed, hand lettering has been a recent fascination of mine. I've always loved to experiment with my own "fonts," you know, the kind when you're a kid and you attach a little ribbon with a heart dangling on it to every letter. Oh you didn't do that? Oops.

Well, in any case, I did those kinds of things, added curl upon curl to letters, making the infamous "Curlz" font look straight as an arrow. Yes, the more elaborate and ornate, the better. I even tried my hand at calligraphy for a while, which I still love to this day.

While my curl tendencies may have subsided, and I not longer attach a dangling heart to each of my letters, I still love lettering. I adore writing things out on paper, making a fancy title, addressing an envelope with some flair, making signs, and anything else you can think of.

One day in the recent past (read as- last month), I had the afternoon free. I've been trying to draw something every day lately, or at least spend 20 minutes working on an already existing piece. That day I had no other piece to work on, so I decided I wanted to try and script a verse. Matthew 10:31, to be exact. I put a movie on my computer, and started drawing away. One more movie went by, and I was finished.

This was the start of something new. From there, I lettered just one word, Chosen, which I explained in a previous blog  why this word is important to me. 

I was then requested to do a larger version of "Worth," the Matthew 10:31 piece. So I set out to recreate the verse in a larger size. Here's how it turned out. 

Then I found that it was time for my best friend's birthday party, which was Audrey Hepburn themed, so I did a Breakfast at Tiffany's sign to welcome guests to the party! The itch to keep doing lettering kept growing stronger and stronger.

I'm also working on a wedding sign for an upcoming wedding! This is just the sketch of it, I'll be working on the final product this week. 

And this week, I just felt my soul drawn back to making hand letterings of Scripture passages. So I did Psalm 28:7, and Jeremiah 20:9.

And last, but certainly not least, last night I made this card for a bridal shower! Even though I work at a card store now, I still love making cards for people. 

So there you have it, folks. My recent obsession with hand lettering. Be on the look out for more verses soon. It's something that I find soothes the soul. Like curling up next to a stone fireplace with a cup of hot coffee, looking out at the first snowfall of the season. (Not like we have that here, but I do miss that feeling) Being able to pen out the Word of God is special to my heart. And of course, getting to make other pieces as well.

Hope you enjoyed a little peak into one of the latest art themes has been for me!