Guest Post at CCEF : God is Awake

The resources offered through Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation have been a huge influence on my life. Their books make up a well-used section on my reference library shelf, and the instruction in Biblical counseling my mother-in-law received from their training program has benefited our family as well as a number of lives who have been touched by her personal ministry.

When Twitter friend Barbara Lane asked if I’d consider guest blogging for CCEF, I ran into my bedroom, screamed like a little girl, did a happy dance, picked my jaw up off the floor, took a deep breath, and then humbly responded, “Yes!” via e-mail. ;)

If you’d like, please take a moment to check out my post God is Awake, which I wrote after a long talk with my daughter Tabitha, about finding rest on anxious sleepless nights.

There is a place at the end of the guest post for comments, and I’d love for you to join in the discussion. What keeps you awake at night? What verses speak to your heart and help combat these fears? I’m interested to know your thoughts on how to “put off” fear and “put on” entrusting your cares to God’s infinitely strong and capable hands.

Please don’t stop there! While you’re at, take a moment to peruse the bookstore (their hope-giving mini books on tough topics are a handy size to keep in your purse or in a basket in your bathroom for guests), national conference information, counseling services and School of Biblical Counseling.

Last but not least, if you have been blessed by CCEF, please consider donating to wonderful and life-changing ministry.

Photo credit: “Joy of Holding a Baby’s Hand” by lifecreations via Flickr.

Craigslist Art : Missed Connections by Sophie Blackall

Found the Missed Connections blog on Twitter via @101Cookbooks.

Susan Blackall, a New York based illustrator, finds her inspiration in the “Missed Connections” section of Craigslist. Her artwork makes me want to pick up my paintbrush and watercolors like old times. Enjoy!

“Missed connections inspire me because they’re unfinished stories. I love trying to figure out what wasn’t said… what’s not there… the missing part. Since I have been reading them in this obsessive way, I see missed connections everywhere. I look at people glancing at each other on the train and wonder if they’re going to turn up the next day.

There is a danger of living in a city of millions of people that you can become invisible. There is that feeling for a lot of people that a tiny moment could set your life on a different course. There is that ‘what if’ that is honestly appealing and universal.. that your morning commute might change everything.” – Sophie Blackall, Illustrator

Review: Suntory’s Chocolate Sparkling Soda

Looking for something chocolaty but are not in the mood for candy? This Japanese beverage will quench your thirst and quell your chocolate craving all in one swig.

Slightly amber in color, Suntory’s Chocolate Sparkling tastes like a cross between cream soda and a Tootsie Roll. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, this dessert-in-a-bottle is reminiscent of classic soda-shop goodness. As it is a sweeter soda, it tastes best when it’s served very cold and cut with ice.

Sure, you could enjoy this as a standalone treat while you’re on a road trip… but why not take the experience to the next level? This bubbly would make a great foundation for a decadent ice cream float, complete with whipped cream, chocolate shavings and maraschino cherry.

January Giveaway : Learning Perseverance From Making Tamagoyaki

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again! – Children’s Proverb

One of the hardest things to teach children is to try again when they’ve failed their first attempts at doing something. Failure is often met with tears and protests. Tying shoes, snapping fingers, blowing bubblegum bubbles, riding a two-wheeler without training wheels, and learning the nines-family in multiplication are some of the recent examples that come to mind.

How exciting it is, though, when a child finally succeeds! They are so excited, they want to keep getting it right over and over and over….. well, you know what it’s like to hear a kid whistling the same prolonged note until you have to politely ask them to go outside and see if the birds can understand their new skill :)

Making tamagoyaki, a sweet, rolled Japanese style omelet used for breakfasts and bento, is a skill I haven’t mastered. I haven’t attempted enough times to be comfortable making it for guests, but I’ll get there! I always seem to get impatient and turn the burner up too high when I make eggs.

Representing perseverance in this month’s five-item giveaway is the bane of my existence : a 18×12 cm makiyakinabe or the “roll-bake-pan”. These deceptively cute little pans are coveted by Japanese foodies as they prove to be tricky to find in the States. This one is coated with a dark, non-stick coating. I’m also including a two-set pack of 33cm bamboo Japanese Kitchen chopsticks, two floral linen pot gloves and an adorable cotton pocket apron. At least you’ll look cute while you flop… I mean flip…. those omelets! (I’m not bitter…. really!)

To enter, in the comments of this post, please leave a story about perseverance or thoughts on encouraging others to keep trying when they feel like giving up. You must leave a pertinent comment to win!

My hope is that this giveaway will help others to keep trying whatever it is they are working on, be it making new food, learning a language, trying to pass an important test, getting published or even persevering in grace through a difficult relationship.

NEW!! Up to three bonus entries:

Want to improve your chances of winning? Add these skills to your giveaway repertoire :

  • Add your blogroll and leave the link to your blog with your comment
  • Write a post about this giveaway and leave the link to your post with your comment
  • Tweet about this giveaway (via @mrsalbrecht) and mention it with your comment
  • Please leave your comment and complete bonus entries by 9PM EST, February 3, 2010.

    The winner will need to provide their mother’s maiden name, social security number, and a valid US credit card number + three digit secret code. JUST KIDDING! I will, however, need their name and mailing address which will be kept strictly confidential.

    If they’re agreeable, I’d like to interview the winner and feature them in a future post. I would consider including links in the post to the winner’s blog, favorite cause, home business, etc.

    Winning contestants may not enter my subsequent monthly giveaway contests for a year following their win. In other words, if you win in February, 2010, you cannot enter again until February, 2011.

    From Christine, last month’s giveaway winner: Thank you, so much, Sarah, for the origami paper and books! We are having a blast with it. I am so glad that you included book number one because that is about as advanced as my origami skills are. ;) Maybe one day I will advance to book #6. Thank you, again, so much for the great fun you sent us and for praying for my baby! I hope you are having a blessed day!

    How Do I Talk to My Children About The Earthquake in Haiti? Why Did it Happen? What Can We Do?

    “Did children die in the earthquake?” my seven-year-old daughter Tabitha asked gravely when I told my children the devastating news.

    “Yes,” I said.

    She hung her head.

    “Will the earthquake come to Japan?” asked Aiden, age six, concerned.

    “Not this one,” I replied.

    “But there are earthquakes in Japan, right?” Aiden pressed.

    “Yes. Sometimes there are,” I answered honestly. “Remember the one we had last summer?” He nodded. It was a small one in comparison, but it left us quite shaken.

    Talking to my children about the January 12th earthquake in Haiti was an important but heart-wrenching conversation. With death toll estimates between 50,000 to 100,000, it is even hard for grown-ups to fathom the loss of life.

    Why did it happen? Like most adults, my children wanted to know, “Why?” I asked them a question in return. “Why don’t we live in a perfect world?” The answer is one they can recite off the tops of their heads, but it’s easy to forget in situations like these. It bears repeating.

    A long time ago, God did create a perfect world. When God was finished with creating the Earth, He was satisfied with His handiwork. He said it was very good. Delicious food was readily available. Adam and Eve were perfectly made for each other. Humans co-existed with wild animals. Childbirth didn’t hurt. There was no death. There was no shame. There was no suffering. There was only beauty and an intimate relationship with the Creator. Adam and Eve disobeyed the one rule that God gave to them. By their own hands, they picked and and ate fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Everything changed.

    As humans, created in God’s image, we long in our hearts for perfection and purity. People, even those who do not consider themselves to be “religious”, see pain and suffering and know deep down that it is not how things are supposed to be.

    When Jesus, the Great Physician, was on Earth, He performed many miracles. It was as if He was thumbing His nose at the fall and saying, “I am here to restore the Earth to how it was meant to be.” People with life-long deformities, illnesses and injuries were made whole. A blind man saw. A lame man walked. After twelve years of incurable hemorrhaging, a bleeding woman got her life back. Leprosy was cured. Peter’s severed ear was fixed, good as new. As I have said before, never once did Jesus partially heal someone who came to Him. They were always restored instantly. It was never “take two of these and call me in the morning” or “come back in a month to have your stitches removed.”

    In a world of quick-fixes, where there is an easy-to-swallow pill for just about any ailment, we have distanced ourselves from the idea that pain and death are real. We think of the “fall of mankind” to be like an ancient fairytale. We forget that we are mankind. We kid ourselves to think that if we just recycle enough plastic, get enough anti-oxidants in our diet and make strong buildings that we can live forever. Natural disasters are especially jarring to us because they poke a hole in our comfort bubbles. They remind us that, as much as we’d like to think so, we are not really in control. That any of us are still alive and breathing after the fall is only by God’s grace and mercy.

    We have a responsibility to help. As Christians, we need to help those in Haiti. We can do this by giving, by praying, and by offering our own time if we are able to go and help on the ground. Helping others, though, goes beyond doing something to create a rewarding warm feeling in the cockles of our hearts. Reaching out to those who are hurting and finding ways to gently restore them – not just in natural disasters, but disasters of the soul such as being caught in a sinful pattern – is a way to claim dominion over the fall. Bearing one another’s burdens is a way to show a glimpse of Jesus; of Eden; of Heaven.

    It was simple example, but this point was driven home to by my friend Debi at All Saints, my home church. God said, “Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field.” Whenever Debi pulled up the bracken and weeds from her garden, she would call it “exercising dominion,” that is fulfilling one of our purposes as humans, to “fill the earth, and subdue it.”

    We can prepare for disasters. While we cannot prevent natural disasters from happening, we can do our best to ready for them. We are not fatalists. If we feel the earth beginning to rumble, we can have our children move away from windows and crouch down under something to protect them. We can teach our children ahead of time tips for surviving an earthquake. We can build strong buildings – the wise man built his house upon the rock. We can keep a reserve of food and power supplies on hand in case there is an emergency. We can practice stewardship all the while remembering our fragility and that sometimes, even when we do everything right, bad things can and still do happen in this fallen world.

    We can prepare our hearts. As my children and I read about Haiti’s earthquake, we came across the story of the rescue of 11-year-old Anaika Saint Louis, who later died from complications of her injuries.

    One of the things that brought tears to my eyes and peace to my heart was something Anaika’s aunt, Etiana Jean-Baptiste, said during an interview, “[Anaika] said … ‘Bring me a Bible. There is a psalm I like a lot, which is Psalm 23. She spent all her time reading the psalm. She said, ‘My God, come help me.'”

    Anaika trusted in God even while her body was being crushed down by the weight of the rubble. She did not give up hope. She lost her mortal life, and gained an eternal one. Even though she was a child, she thumbed her nose at the effects of the fall by putting her trust in Christ. Just as a flower dies and its seeds live on, Anaika’s soul can proclaim in its heavenly body, “O death, where is your victory? Where is your sting?”

    The Bible says that God “causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” None of us know the day or the hour when our life will be required of us. We have a choice to live in fear of that moment, or live confidently knowing that our souls are secure.

    As mankind, our bodies are not the only things that suffer the effects of the fall. So do our souls. Yet, God did not leave us stuck under the weight of this rubble. He sent his perfect son as a sacrifice for sins that we can again have the same kind of fellowship with Him that Adam and Eve had in the Garden of Eden.

    When I read Anaika’s favorite Psalm, there was something particularly chilling about it that tied everything together for me. It is the message that was amplified in Anaika’s life and death. It is the message that lives on past the grave. We can honor Anaika by realizing what she held fast to even in her dying moments: Jesus restores souls.

    Psalm 23

    The LORD is my shepherd,
    I shall not be in want.

    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
    he leads me beside quiet waters,

    he restores my soul.
    He guides me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

    Even though I walk
    through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

    You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
    You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.

    Surely goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
    and I will dwell in the house of the LORD

    Drying Alton Brown’s Beef Jerky : Off-Label Use of Lego Duplo Blocks

    Alton Brown’s beef jerky recipe is my all time favorite. I’ve been making it for a few years now. It takes a steady hand and lots of patience to slice up the meat evenly (I usually make 6lb batches), but it’s so worth the time it takes to prepare.

    The most delicious batch I made was with venison. The meat was so deep-red and lean. It sliced beautifully. Veins of fat in the meat can cause jerky to go rancid at a quicker rate — so the leaner the meat, the better.

    Instead of using air filters, I modify Alton’s drying contraption by using metal grid cookie cooling racks. I found that the four-knob square Duplo blocks fit perfectly in the holes of the racks, allowing me to stack the racks with a perfect amount of space in between. The knobs fit into the holes in the grid, stabilizing the racks.

    I like putting an empty rack on the top to keep little fingers from touching the meat before it dries… because the spiced meat aroma is inebriating and, without the deterrent, the jerky gets sampled unwittingly.

    Using plastic wrap, I enclose the sides of the racks and weigh the flyaway edges with butter knives. The cookie racks are slightly smaller than the box fan, so I cover the gap with kitchen towels. I tuck the ends of the towels slightly underneath the bottom rack. These barriers force the air to go up and out through the drying racks, making the most efficient use of the airflow.

    Warning: The following recipe makes the most delicious, addictive beef jerky you will ever taste. Make it at your own risk.

    Alton Brown’s Beef Jerky


    * 1 1/2 to 2 pounds flank steak
    * 2/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
    * 2/3 cup soy sauce
    * 1 tablespoon honey
    * 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
    * 2 teaspoons onion powder
    * 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
    * 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
    * Special Equipment: 1 box fan, 4 paper air-conditioning filters, and 2 bungee cords


    Trim the flank steak of any excess fat, place in a zip-top bag, and place it in the freezer for 1 to 2 hours in order to firm up.

    Remove the steak from the freezer and thinly slice the meat with the grain, into long strips.

    Place the strips of meat along with all of the remaining ingredients into a large, 1-gallon plastic zip-top bag and move around to evenly distribute all of the ingredients. Place the bag into the refrigerator for 3 to 6 hours.

    Remove the meat from the brine and pat dry. Evenly distribute the strips of meat onto 3 of the air filters, laying them in the grooves and then stacking the filters on top of one another. Top these with 1 empty filter. Next, lay the box fan on its side and lay the filters on top of it. Strap the filters to the fan with 2 bungee cords. Stand the fan upright, plug in and set to medium. Allow the meat dry for 8 to 12 hours. If using a commercial dehydrator, follow the manufacturer’s directions.

    Once dry, store in a cool dry place, in an airtight container for 2 to 3 months.

    Some books from my home library you might enjoy: