Archive for July, 2008

A Little Help With Something?

*Update*
Click here for more information about Kay Arthur’s message at Deeper Still.

Hey, you darling things! I don’t usually write you twice in one day but I’ve got a quick favor to ask that will only take a second. There’s an email letter circulating around from a “Beth” concerning a message my (and your) friend, Kay Arthur, gave at Deeper Still. The letter is not derogatory. It’s just that I didn’t write it nor would I have. I’m not sure how people confused the “Beth” who wrote it with me since she makes reference to all three speakers in the first paragraph but, somehow, it’s circulating as my take on Kay’s message. If you happen to hear of it or receive it in a forward, would you graciously help us quell the rumor? We can’t afford to give most rumors a passing glance or we’d become completely distracted by them. The only reason I’m making mention of this one is because it involves someone else that I deeply respect. Thank you so much, Siestas! Boy, am I ever glad I have you at a moment like this! I’ll close comments on this one because…well…because I think that’s what God’s telling me to do. Sure love you!!

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To My Beloved Staff at Living Proof Ministries

My Dear Co-laborers in the great Gospel of Jesus Christ,

As I near completion on this titanic 18 month project and it appears that “It’s Tough Being a Woman: A Study of Esther” will sure-enough become a reality, I am overwhelmed by the gift God has given me in you. And just sit there and take this spotlight for a minute and don’t interrupt me. I keep thinking about how you cheered when I walked into our celebratory lunch yesterday after the last lesson had been written. I now want you to sit down and let me stand to my feet, as tall as I can, and cheer wildly for you and your faithful God.

You are the most excellent band of women-warriors I have ever known in my life. And I am so happy to report that I have known many. You work HARD – especially when Houston Bible Study is in full swing – with so much love for one another and such joy that I sometimes can hear you all the way on the third floor. (NO, DON’T STOP! It makes me laugh with you every single time.) People think it would be easy to work for a ministry but you and I know different. We’ve been called to kindness and graciousness even when somebody we serve has a chronic case of PMS. We don’t get to do business like the world even when we ourselves are simply in a bad mood. Day in, day out, when hard drives crash and toilets overflow, you honor your God. What more on this earth could I say in honor of you?

Thank you for so much prayer, for such hard work, for weekday lunches that tickle me, inspire me, energize me, and keep me – a hopeless sanguine called to the isolation of writing – in constant touch with a whole passel of women. Thank you for being a safe place for me to have a nervous breakdown when I’m right at the end of a project, sleep deprived and stressed,and don’t know if I’ll make it. I will never forget last week. There I was trying to keep a stiff upper lip and lead staff prayer time when, out of nowhere, a sob came up from my chest that I literally could not stop…and we group-hugged. One at a time. Even those who really aren’t into that kind of thing. I am laughing so hard I can hardly type and fighting back the tears at the same time. It wasn’t funny at the time but, somehow, it is a precious snapshot now of how we live our work lives. We serve at all our various posts, but in heart at any given time Monday through Friday, we are a group of very different personalities and backgrounds bound together in a tight group hug. God used your empathetic tears, powerful prayers, and encouragements to give me that last little push to finish a long project strong. And with terrific joy. You are my best friends. Oh, that our porches would be next to one another in Heaven.

Please hear me clapping for you.

Man, I love you so much.

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Summer Bible Study Gathering IV

Hey, You Darlin’ Things! It’s that time again: our Tuesday for Siesta Summer Bible Study and this is Gathering #4! Please take a few minutes to watch my greeting to you via another very professional, highly technical taping (I know LifeWay must be getting nervous). There is much more on the video than what I’m writing here but, as we’ve done before, I just want to make sure you have your discussion questions in print. Please also note that we have yet another contest. You’ll find out far more about it on the video greeting but I thought it might help to have the eligibility requirements here. You’ll find them at the bottom of this post. The prizes are things you simply do not want to miss. Hint: they may be things you cannot live without…but I can.

I love you guys like crazy and I love loving Jesus with you. Hang in there, stay in the Word, and let’s finish strong!!! Here goes:

Three Discussion Questions:

From Week Five:
1. Take a look at the bottom of p.103, starting with the question, “What word in Numbers 11:4 (NIV) is used to describe their desire for meat?” Discuss a number of specific ways craving something is different from wanting it. While you’re at it, continue a discussion Melissa and I started on a walk a few nights ago. We were talking about how you can tell you’re getting out of control with something when you start trying to be secretive about it. What do you think?

2. Take a look at the top of p.108 under “Personal Reflection.” I loved this line of discussion starting with this question: “Have you ever tasted or brought back fruit from a future promise that had not been fully realized?” Discuss that whole first paragraph.

From Week Six:
3. Turn to p.125 and reread (one of you aloud to the group) the excerpt Kelly included by Charles Spurgeon. What are a few things we often try to do rather than refer our doubts straight to God? Then, read John 2:1-5 and note how Mary approached the pressing problem. As you conclude today’s gathering, have a brief time of prayer, letting those that feel comfortable praying out loud simply state their need or problem to God in one statement, something like this: “Lord, there is no more _____________________.” Or, “Lord, I am ____________________________.” Then simply tell Him that you’re trusting Him to do something about it. Try to resist fretting over it this week but keep watching for Him to turn some water into wine.

I pray for Christ to show up in such a profound Presence in your gathering this week that nobody can miss Him!

NOW, about that contest:

THE INCOMPARABLE PRIZES: In keeping with our kitchen theme (please see video), the prize will be a compilation of several kitchen gadgets or serving dishes out of my own kitchen that I have never used, several of which are still in the box. Can you resist these kinds of prizes? I don’t think so.

ELIGIBILITY:
*A group of five or more Siestas who meet face-to-face on our Tuesdays. (We LOVE our groups meeting on-line and totally dig our solo siestas but I needed a way to narrow down the contest.)

*Perfect attendance at all four gatherings. In other words, every woman who met the first time in your group has come for all four gatherings. Way to go!

HOW TO WIN: Be the first group to sign in AFTER your gathering to say that you’ve had perfect attendance. Please identify your group to us (city/location) then watch for us to confirm the winning group in the COMMENT section. We’ll also tell you how to contact us with an address to receive your prizes. Please make sure you tell us how many are in your group because I will GLADLY send something out of my kitchen for each of you. The times on the comments are recorded so the first one will automatically win.

Whew! This contest is so great that I wish I could enter it myself! But I’m afraid I’d have to win it all back.

P.S. Thank you for remembering that your comments are meant to follow your gatherings! You’re the best!

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Things Once Spoken

Four summers ago Curtis and I were wrapping up our time in Northeast England. We had volunteered to spend five months there working with teenagers. On our last Sunday at Thornaby Baptist Church, our dear friend Maxine presented us with two gifts in front of the congregation of about forty saints. I was doing an ugly cry and was desperately in need of a Kleenex. I kept turning around to face the other way because I was so embarrassed. Then in a moment that brought a bit of comic relief, we opened up the gifts to find these:

I started giggling immediately because I was a bit confused and I knew everyone was going to wonder if I was pregnant. At that time in our marriage we didn’t have maternity insurance and we were not even talking about having a baby. Maxine realized that I was a little embarrassed and announced, “Amanda is not pregnant!” Actually, she called me “Amander” but I always loved that. There was a quick consensus that Curtis and I must be pregnant in the spiritual realm, meaning God had spiritual fruit and offspring that would come forth soon. I refused to believe that the father-son figurine was a prophecy of any kind. ;)

Later I realized that Maxine and I had been talking about Willow Tree figures one day and I had mentioned that I thought the one with the pregnant lady was beautiful. I had seen it at my friend Jennifer’s house. She remembered that conversation when she saw the figurine and wanted to bless me with it.

We took the figurines back to America with us, but we didn’t display them right away. I did not want any visitors to our house to think I was expecting. At some point during my pregnancy with Jackson I got them out and proudly displayed them at long last. It would be some time before Jackson was as old as the little boy in the second figurine, but he was a boy nonetheless.

Nowadays Jackson Jones is looking a lot more like the little boy in the picture. He’s definitely not a baby anymore. Around April I noticed that I had stopped identifying with moms I saw with babies in strollers. I wasn’t one of them anymore. It was such a strange feeling! We had graduated on to little-boyhood.

My heart is kind of pounding right now because I am so excited and blessed to be able to say that at this brief moment in time, both of those little Willow Tree figures are true of our family. A prophecy given to us four years ago has come to pass! We are expecting another Little Jones around February 12, 2009. Today I am 11 weeks along. We had an OB appointment this week and got to hear the little heartbeat. He or she seems to be doing well in there! I have so much to say, but it wouldn’t be that fun to stuff it all in one post. I will save some for later.

By the way, I went into Baby Gap for fun after my appointment and I was blown away by the cuteness of all the fall clothes for baby boys. Oh my word. Pregnant Girl almost cried over this. I am so ready to shop in the 0-24 month section again. I’ve missed it so!

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Minneapolis Recap


LPL Minneapolis from Rich Kalonick on Vimeo.

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Friday Fun

Very snappy, ladies! Thanks to Royana Thomas and her group!

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Malapropisms

OK, this should be a fun one! I just learned a term for something I’m painfully familiar with but didn’t know what to call it. It’s “Malapropism” and I learned what it meant from a delightful little book called “Tales of a Crazy Pastor’s Wife” by Laurie Berry Clifford and Margie Berry Fogal. (Thank you for sending it, Margie! I loved the cards from the Believing God girls!!) I’ll offer their definition of it: “Malapropism (n): The unintentionally humorous misuse or distortion of a word or phrase; the use of a word sounding somewhat like the one intended but ludicrously wrong on the context.” They throw a couple of examples on the table like “polo bears” and “neon (aka: nylon) stockings.” One of the authors identifies herself as an avid malapropist and explains that, when she was a child, she used “underpass” for “underpants.” Killed me. I know we have some malapropists out there (or KNOW SOME!) and I’m dying to hear from you. Keep it short so we can read them all and CLEAN. Let’s hear it, Siestas!

Heading out first thing in the morning to Minneapolis where I’ll meet up with Trav and the team for a Living Proof Live event. Please pray for the Spirit of Christ to fall in great affection and great anointing. I can’t wait to see you Minnesota girls! And I was devastated to hear that it is humid there, too. I had such HIGH (no pun intended) hopes. No matter. I’m heading north anyway. Hair today. There tomorrow.

I love all you guys so much.

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Summer Bible Study Gathering III

Hey, my dear Summer Bible Study Siestas! I’m so enjoying our journey together! Hopefully you’ll be able to watch the (very rough, one-take, ridiculous-but-full-of love) video greeting, but I also like to make sure you have the discussion questions for each week’s gathering in print. Here they are!

We have four discussion questions for your Tuesday gatherings. The first two are from Week 3.

1. On p.62, Kelly quoted Michael Wells: “Satan will tell us what’s true, but he never tells us the truth.” Let’s have some examples of that. How has Satan ever told you something that was true but wasn’t the truth?

2. Kelly’s discussion about King Hezekiah and the attack on his faith on p.66 reminded me of a quote that I’d recently seen in the devotional classic, Streams in the Desert. “Genuine faith puts its letter in the mailbox and lets go. Distrust, however, holds on to a corner of the envelope and then wonders why the answer never arrives.” (p.168) What envelope have you been most prone to hold the edge of?

The last two are based on Week 4.

3. Reread the first couple of paragraphs from Kelly’s intro to Week Four on p.76 concerning people-gods. Then, look up Phil. 1:9-10 and read it together. How can these two Scriptures become a huge help to us in finding the balance between loving people and idolizing them? This came after I did the video: We did something in our small group that I found very encouraging. We shared some examples from our personal lives of idolatrous relationships that, with God’s intervention, actually transitioned into healthy relationships. These transitions are often rare because the relationship was fed by the idolatry and often can’t exist without it. Have any of you experienced one of those wonderful occasions when a relationship endured that positive transition? If so, share it!

4. Lastly, review p.87 and reflect on the whole Leah and Rachel madness. Reread the bold-print section at the top of the page. What are a few costs of desperation that you yourself have paid? And what is the solution?

I’m so honored to study with you, Sisters! Keep it up! We’re halfway through our summer series and God is faithfully keeping us from falling!

I love you dearly,
Your Very Own Mama Siesta

PS – Don’t forget that comments are meant for after your gatherings, if you don’t mind! Thanks, Siestas!

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Tuesday’s Common Meal!!!

Hey there ladies! Howdy from Atlanta! Here is this week’s Common Meal. The main dish is Pioneer Woman’s Chicken Spaghetti. If you haven’t made this already, it really is a wonderful recipe and not to mention, it is very convenient for a group gathering. Convenient and good wins brownie points. I am listing two desserts to choose between: Barefoot Contessa’s Apple Crostata and Kimberly Meyer’s Banana Pudding. Kimberly Meyer is a super-employee at Living Proof and when I first tried her banana pudding, I passed out in ecstasy. Both desserts are wonderful, but obviously with the banana pudding, you won’t have to roll out a pie crust. And lastly, because I love you ladies with my whole heart, I want to add something for those meeting around brunch or lunch-time (in place of the Chicken Spaghetti). I am adding my favorite Mini Cucumber Sandwich recipe. I must admit that I am a sucker for Cucumber Sandwiches. I don’t particularly enjoy bridal showers but one thing I always look forward to is the Cucumber Sandwiches. As soon as the hostesses start making us play games like pin-the-tail-on the-Groom, I run to the Cucumber Sandwich Table. And if there aren’t Cucumber Sandwiches, I find my way to the exit door. A fun fact for you: when I got married a few months ago, I requested to have zero bridal showers thrown for me. No, I am not anti-social, I simply have played one too many bridal shower games. Enough banter…on to the recipes!!!

Pioneer Woman Chicken Spaghetti

2 cups cooked Chicken
2 cans Cream of Mushroom Soup
2 cups Grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese
1/4 cup finely diced Green Pepper
1/2 cup finely diced Onion
1-4 oz jar diced Pimientos, drained
3 cups dry Spaghetti, broken into two inch pieces
2 cups reserved Chicken Broth (from pot)
1 teaspoon Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 additional cup grated sharp cheddar cheese (for the top of the casserole)

Directions:
Cook 1 cut up fryer and pick enough meat off the bones to make two cups. Cook spaghetti in same chicken broth until al dente. Do not overcook. When spaghetti is cooked, combine with remaining ingredients except additional 1 cup sharp cheddar. Place mixture in casserole pan and top with remaining sharp cheddar. Cover and freeze up to six months, cover and refrigerate up to two days, or bake immediately: 350 degrees for 45 minutes until bubbly. (If the cheese on top starts to get too cooked, cover with foil)

Melissa’s Notes:
What sets this recipe above the average chicken spaghetti recipe is that 1) the spaghetti is cooked in the chicken broth not water 2) the chicken broth is not from a can but is reserved from the actual pot the chicken was boiled in. In my opinion, this recipe lacks without these two elements. The chicken spaghetti feeds approximately 6 people.

Apple Crostata (Barefoot Contessa Parties!)

For the pastry:
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated or superfine sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 pound (1 stick) very cold unsalted butter, diced
2 tablespoons ice water

For the filling:
1 1/2 pounds McIntosh, Macoun, or Empire apples (3 large)
1/4 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup granulated or superfine sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced

Directions:

For the pastry, place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and pulse 12 to 15 times, or until the butter is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the ice water all at once through the feed tube. Keep hitting the pulse button to combine, but stop the machine just before the dough becomes a solid mass. Turn the dough onto a well-floured board and form into a disk. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Flour a rolling pin and roll the pastry into an 11-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Transfer it to a baking sheet.

For the filling, peel, core, and cut the apples into 8ths. Cut each wedge into 3 chunks. Toss the chunks with the orange zest. Cover the tart dough with the apple chunks leaving a 1 1/2-inch border.

Combine the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and allspice in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Pour into a bowl and rub it with your fingers until it starts holding together. Sprinkle evenly on the apples. Gently fold the border over the apples to enclose the dough, pleating it to make a circle.

Bake the crostata for 20 to 25 minutes, until the crust is golden and the apples are tender. Allow to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Melissa’s Notes: This is what some call a “free-form” tart or galette, which means simply that it isn’t baked with the support of a pie-dish or tart-pan. You just fold the 1 1/2 inch border up and crinkle it in about two inch intervals, to partially cover the fruit and then bake it straight on a baking-sheet. Try looking at pictures of similar recipes online if you have never made anything like this before. I think that this dough is pretty forgiving, though. I have made it numerous times and even when I think the dough has failed, it ends up tasting flawless.

Kimberly Meyer’s Banana Pudding
(seriously, it has the ability to change your life)

5 Bananas, sliced
1 14 oz Can Eagle Brand (Sweetened Condensed Milk)
1 Large Cool Whip
1 Large Instant Vanilla Pudding
3 Cups Whole Milk
1 Box of Vanilla Wafers
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
Trifle Bowl or a REALLY deep dish (much prettier in a trifle bowl)

Directions:
-Put entire box of Vanilla Wafers on the bottom of a deep dish.
-Take can of Eagle Brand, 1 tsp. of Vanilla Extract & ½ of the large carton of Cool Whip and blend it all together.
-In a second bowl, mix instant vanilla pudding & 3 cups of Milk.
-Fold the two mixes together by hand (the pudding mix & Eagle Brand mix)
-Pour HALF of this mixture on the layer of wafers
-Put all of the sliced bananas on top of the layer of pudding mixture
-Put the other half of the pudding mixture on top of the sliced bananas
-Finish with the other half of the Cool Whip on top.
- Chill and Serve!

Melissa’s Notes:
I have found that this recipe makes a bit too much pudding mixture, so when I get to the step after layering the sliced bananas, I do not use the entire other half of the pudding mixture. Since I don’t like for it to be too sweet, I use a little over ¼ of it. Just make sure you taste it, and modify it according to your desires.

Mini Cucumber Sandwiches
Recipe from “Southern Entertaining for a New Generation” by Rebecca Lang

Ingredients:

1 8-oz package Cream Cheese, Softened
¼ cup of Sour Cream
¼ teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon fresh chopped Dill
¼ cup finely diced sweet Onion
20 thinly sliced white sandwich bread slices
1 Large English Cucumber (seedless cucumbers) or 2 Cucumbers, thinly sliced
20 thinly sliced wheat sandwich bread slices

Directions:

-In a medium mixing bowl stir the cream cheese and sour cream until smooth. Add the salt, dill, and diced onion.
-Spread the cream cheese mixture evenly over the white bread slices. Top the cream cheese mixture with one slice of cucumber, then top with the wheat bread slices.
-Slice the sandwiches in half diagonally or cut with your favorite cookie or biscuit cutter.
-Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container up to 3 hours before serving.
-Makes 20 Servings.

Melissa’s Notes:
I buy Pepperidge Farm “Very Thin Sliced” bread in the bread section of the grocery store. This brand has both white and wheat varieties and they fit perfectly together for this recipe (buy one loaf of wheat and one loaf of white) Sometimes I add one really thin slice of turkey if I am serving them around lunch-time. Using a really sharp cookie-cutter or a biscuit cutter makes them look the prettiest!

Until next time….Bon Appetit!

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Jude 1:24-25 from the Dalton EMC Siestas!

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