Saturday, December 22, 2012

Amazing Dark-Chocolate Truffles

I know they don't look all that appetizing, but let me tell you - I am a chocolate connoisseur, and I am addicted to these things.  Not only are they easier to make than cookies (and make for a very good last-minute recipe), but they are also easier than the usual candy-making process.  They are rich, but not too rich, and you can roll them in cinnamon, cocoa powder, sprinkles, coconut, nuts, etc.  I tried rolling them in sprinkles, coconut and a mixture of cinnamon and cocoa powder.  The cinnamon/cocoa powder mixture is the best one (in my humble opinion).  Enjoy!

Amazing Dark-Chocolate Truffles

2 12-oz bags of semi-sweet chocolate chips                      
1-1/3 cup heavy whipping cream (I actually added a tad more than this)
2 tsp good quality vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
sprinkles, coconut, nuts or cocoa powder for rolling

-Place chocolate chips and whipping cream in a double boiler.  Stir often until completely melted.
-Remove from heat and add vanilla extract and desired spices.
-Pour into a glass bowl and refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours.
-Using a teaspoon, scoop out the truffle mixture, roll into balls and roll in desired topping (great job for a kid).
-Place in mini cupcake liners (makes for easier transportation).

*Depending on the size truffles you roll, this recipe should make approx. 40-50 truffles

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Tales From A Stay-At-Home Mom: "Tell Me Your Sorrows..."

Whether you are a Stay-At-Home Mom, Working Mom or something in-between, you inevitably experience trials on a daily basis.  By "trials" I mean challenges, heartaches, hardships - and sometimes -sorrows.  (There are scores of mothers in Newtown, Connecticut that are experiencing untold, indescribable sorrows today following the horrendous elementary school shooting, as well as thousands across the country mourning with them.)  If you are a Christian, these trials are often magnified by Satan, the enemy of our souls, in an effort to get us to turn away from our faith in Christ.  They might be family trials (which are very prominent at this time of year), health trials, financial trials or spiritual trials.  You might not have anyone you trust to talk to about them, so you hide the pain inside, and the stress and bitterness that results might spew out of you and affect your relationships with your children or immediate family members.  Sister, you are not alone.  Not only are there thousands of other moms who feel the same way you do, but there is a person that is always walking with you, longing to hear you tell Him your story - including your sorrows.  His name is Jesus.  In The Chronicles of Narnia:  A Horse and His Boy, Jesus is portrayed as the Great Lion, Aslan.

I read Chapter Eleven of A Horse and His Boy during a particularly difficult time in my life a few years ago, and God, very literally, spoke to me through it.  Several days ago, the Lord brought the passage to my mind as I was throwing a pity party for myself regarding various trials I am currently encountering.  As I re-read the chapter, I remembered those comforting - yet stern - words He spoke to me through C.S. Lewis, and knew that I needed to share them with you as well. 

Let me give you some background on the passage:  Shasta, a young boy, is the main character.  He is riding his horse through a dark night - so dark that he could see nothing around him.  He has just recounted all of the horrible things that had happened to him over the past few months, and as a result, he is reduced to tears as he goes along through the blackness, all alone atop his horse.  After a while, he realizes that something very large is walking beside him, breathing quietly.  It is Aslan.

    " 'Who are you'?  he said, scarcely above a whisper. 
    'One who has waited long for you to speak,' said the Large Voice.  Its voice was not loud, but very large and deep.
    'Are you - are you a giant?' asked Shasta.
   'You might call me a giant,' said the Large Voice.  'But I am not like the creatures you call giants.'
    'I can't see you at all,' said Shasta, after staring very hard.  Then (for an even more terrible idea had come into his head) he said, almost in a scream, 'You're not - not something dead, are you?  Oh, please - please do go away.  What harm have I ever done you?  Oh, I am the unluckiest person in the whole world!'
    Once more he felt the warm breath of The Thing on his hand and face.
'There,' it said, 'that is not the breath of a ghost.  Tell me your sorrows.'
    Shasta was a little reassured by the breath: so he told how he had never known his real father or mother and had been brought up sternly by the fisherman.  And then he told the story of his escape and how they were chased by lions and forced to swim for their lives; and of all their dangers in Tashbaan [a city] and about his night among the tombs and how the beasts howled at him out of the desert.  And he told about the heat and thirst of their desert journey and how they were almost at their goal when another lion chased them and wounded Aravis [Shasta's friend].  And also, how very long it was since he had had anything to eat.
    'I do not call you unfortunate,' said the Large Voice.
    'Don't you think it was bad luck to meet so many lions?' said Shasta.
    'There was only one lion,' said the Voice
    'What on earth do you mean?  I've just told you there were at least two the first night, and -'
    'There was only one:  but he was swift of foot.'
    'How do you know?'
    'I was the lion.'  And as Shasta gaped with open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued. 'I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis.  I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead.  I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept.  I was the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time.  And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.'
    'Then it was you who wounded Aravis?'
    'It was I.'
    'But what for?'
    'Child,' said the Voice, 'I am telling you your story, not hers.  I tell no one any story but his own.'
    'Who are you?' asked Shasta.
    'Myself,' said the voice, very deep and low so that the earth shook:  and again, 'Myself,' loud and clear and gay: and then the third time 'Myself,' whispered so softly you could hardly hear it, and yet it seemed to come from all around you as if the leaves rustled with it."

Every time I read this passage, I hear the Lord saying quietly, Daughter, tell me your sorrows.  When I know He's there and He cares about me and what is happening in my life, I then feel confident in pouring my heart out to him - negativity, bitterness, whining and all.  He then says, I do not call you unfortunate.  I orchestrated every bit of it - not only that, but I was walking with you every step of the way - even when the darkness was so thick around you that you could barely see your own hand in front of your face. What you thought was happening to your detriment, I was working out for your good.  When you knew you were in danger, I was protecting you from even worse things than those.  When you were hurting and alone, I sent someone to comfort you. I provide strength; I point you in the direction you should go - and yes, sometimes, I must wound you or someone you love.  You might never understand why, but I do.  Who am I?  I AM THAT I AM.  Your Father, Savior, Healer - the One Who Sees.  The Just and Merciful and Mighty God.  I AM LOVE.  And I love you with an everlasting love, even when your circumstances tell you I don't.

Dear Sister, you are never truly alone if God is your Father and Christ is your Savior.  God never lets a single one of your tears fall to the ground unnoticed.  He knew you before you were born; He knows how many hairs are on your head; He knows your heart and He offers to carry your burdens and sorrows.  I encourage you to hand them over today - set your heart free so that He can fill it with His love and comfort.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." - James 1:2-4 (NIV)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Tales From a Stay-At-Home Mom: Not LOST - Just Frustrated.

You know you have a major problem when you're still mad about the season finale of a show that ended almost two years ago.  That's me with LOST - it was my all-time favorite TV series - until the final episode, that is.  I spent a very, very long time watching this well-written, well-casted show, only to find out that the whole, beautifully confusing mess was not in fact a well-crafted tale with a creative and Earth-shattering ending, but a "dream" of sorts in which the characters had to try to work their way out of a purgatory-type place.  They were DEAD the whole time, and because of that one fact, the entire story line no longer mattered.  It wasn't REAL; nothing that happened mattered; the writers sold out in favor of viewer satisfaction.  They did what they deemed necessary to tie up loose ends and resolve conflicts for loyal viewers, but what ended up happening was that they tried a little too hard, losing the very essence of the show in the process (characters and viewers alike were LOST the whole time - until the last episode, that is).  Perhaps some were satisfied -but not me.  I would have been much happier to have seen a real ending that didn't negate the entire lives of the characters; I would have welcomed some frustration and only half the answers; I would have preferred to hold onto the mystery and all that the characters worked for, and still be LOST in the end.

Unfortunately, I can relate my LOST frustrations to life as a Christian.  Some days, (well, most days,) I just want answers, whatever the cost.  Why won't my daughter just sleep?  Why won't my other daughter just listen?  Why did he say those things to me?  How did such-and-such happen?  Why are you letting such-and-such happen?  Since I can't see my whole story and God can, I sometimes wonder why He doesn't just give me a spoiler, a trailer - something that will help me get through tough times.  Instead, He asks me to trust Him to write a better story than the writers of LOST.  My life DOES matter - in fact, God sent His Son to die for me so that I might have life - life in abundance.  If I know from this TV show experience that I would prefer mystery and half the answers (or none at all) as opposed to a bunch of forced answers that attempt to "satisfy" me unsuccessfully, then you would think that I'd be content with remaining in the dark about the story of my own life.  Of course, that's not the case.

Fleshly desires constantly war against spiritual wisdom.  I know that God would never be able to build our characters if we didn't walk through the journey of our lives blindly, in a sense, trusting Him to be our guide; leaning on Him for direction instead of trying to do it on our own; keeping our eyes on the promise of Heaven.  I'm also well aware of the fact that He has given us quite a few answers in His Word.  As for me individually, God will tell me the story I've been longing to hear when I see Him face to face.  The whole story - frustrations, mysteries, joys, disappointments and all - the answers to the whys and hows I ask every day.  However, when I think about standing there before my holy, majestic God, I don't think I will want or need any answers at all.