31 December 2011

The Year of Eucharisteo!

A year ago I’ve given the year 2011 a name… The Year  of Rebuilding Relationships.  Three hundred and sixty five days later I’m looking back.  Did I accomplish my goal for the year?  I’m not quite sure.  There is still so much more to discover, improve, rebuild in my family relationships.  But that is life, isn’t it?  Always more.  

I try to think what this year would have been like if I didn’t name the year.  If my goal wasn’t to rebuild relationships. If I wasn’t crying out to the Lord to restore my relationship with Him, what He indeed did through the Fall Hello Mornings Challenge. Throughout the year the name was before me.  Every time I was tempted to blow it all, the Lord gently reminded me of my goal and I could press forward.  
As I look back I saw the changes, the softer hearts, the compassion, the growth. God bestowed grace upon me, and did amazing miracles.  

And I’m longing for more grace, more favour, more miracles. 

Abundance of miracles, in an abundance of grace...
Isn’t my God a God of grace who delights in miracles? 
How can I experience more of His grace, more miracles, more of His joy?
Joy, as a fruit of the Spirit, is one of my biggest challenges.  I remember studying Joy in Psalm 16.  Struggling to understand the true meaning of joy.

I’m by nature a fun girl, someone who can laugh easily, seek joyful moments.  
Seeking the Lord’s pleasures apart from my pleasures and still be joyful and at rest?

Allowing the Lord’s joy to guide me through night seasons?

Being joyful in all things - quite a challenge.
How do I find this joy of the Lord?

How do I wake up to joy and grace, miracles and beauty;

all that is the fullest life?

How do I exchange a life lived in emptiness, for a life lived to the full?
I desperately need the code to the heavenly vault of joy and miracles.
And then I read it in Ann Voskamp’s book. It’s all there in Jesus’ example.  
What did Jesus count as all most important, hours before His death and the miracle that would follow?
“And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”  Luk 22:19
“He gave thanks”

And I quote from the book:
“In the original language, “he gave thanks” reads “eucharisteo.” 
The root word of eucharisteo is charis, meaning “grace.”  
Jesus took the bread and saw it as grace and gave thanks.  He took the bread and knew it to be a gift and gave thanks. 
But there is more… 
Eucharisteo, thanksgiving, envelopes the Greek word for grace, charis. 
But it also holds its derivative, the Greek word chara, meaning “joy.”

Charis. Grace

Eucharisteo. Thanksgiving

Chara. Joy  
And the result?  The miracle.  The miracle of Jesus enduring the cross for the joy set before Him.
Is it possible that Eucharisteo - thanksgiving - always precedes the miracle?

Could this be?  The code to the heavenly vault of joy and miracles, could it be Eucharisteo?
But this is a hard word?  Can I really do this?
And then I realized this is the Name for the year 2012.  This will be my goal.
Eucharisteo. Thanksgiving
In the year to come I want to practice this “Greek word with the hard meaning and the harder meaning to live - this is the only way from empty to full.”  
From an empty life, trying in myself for a fuller life; to a life overflowing with grace, joy and miracles, through thanksgiving.

In 2012 I will embark on a journey of naming the gifts of God bestow on me in everyday life.  Throughout the Bible, to name a thing, is to bless God for it and in it. (Alexander Schmemann)
In 2012 I want to cling to God’s Goodness, through thanksgiving; 

Experience the grace and joy of the fullest life; 

Wait in anticipation on the miracles that will follow.

For of all the things our minds can think about God, it is thinking upon his goodness that pleases him most and brings the most profit to our soul.”  (Julian of Norwich, quoted in Richard Foster)
It is my prayer that you all may enter 2012 with great expectation in the love, grace and truth of the Lord! 
With much love

What would you name your Year?  You’re welcome to share in the comments below. 
Read more about Name the Year here and here

27 December 2011

Happy Birthday King Jesus!

Birthdays are big with us.  Currently we have 10 birthdays a year in our home, and some months up to three birthdays, which make it very exciting celebrating months!

Thus the days preceding Christmas day, the birthday of the King of kings, I was desperately seeking the Lord for fresh ways to share with our family the true meaning of Christmas.  A way to celebrate the Birthday of all birthdays and familiarize it to our children. I longed to separate Christmas from everything common and commercial and make it a special God honoring event!
God is faithful!  A few days before Christmas Ann Voskamp shared 10 Ways To Celebrate Christmas Morning.  As I opened the posting, I could feel the anticipation, the knowing something special was going to happen. Rightly so - the first way just naturally fit into our birthday tradition.  A Birthday cake for the King - with a twist - for breakfast!  
Christmas day in our home is very, very relaxed. 

We visit with family on Christmas Eve, but on Christmas day, we are just together as a family, enjoying each others company, getting little ones back in their familiar routine, after sugar spikes and a few very busy days. But I often felt we are so relaxed and relieved after all the Christmas celebration, we missed out on sharing the true meaning of Christmas.  A birthday breakfast feast would be the perfect way to create a special atmosphere, honoring the King of kings and spark conversations with the children around the true meaning of Christmas!
Heidi-Mari and I immediately started to plan our special Birthday Breakfast Feast for the King of Kings.  The whole festive season we wanted to bake a Panettone, an Italian Christmas cake and a favourite of Christo. We already had the ingredients, but just couldn’t find the time to bake it.  So we decided on a Panettone for the birthday cake.  

The breakfast feast, with the birthday cake would be completed with a very special Mango and Pineapple smoothy, 

wheat free muesli, with organic Bulgarian yoghurt, flavoured with fresh fruit and honey, french toast, espresso and forest berry tea.

Heidi-Mari made a new overlay for our table cloth, and I had the most beautiful flowers, Christo treated me with at the Cape Flower Market a few days before Christmas.  

The cake, colourful decorated with cream cheese frosting and fresh berries, and our self painted nativity scene would be the center piece on the table.

We laid the table with our best cutlery, after our guests left on Christmas Eve and went to bed exhausted, but with great anticipation!
On Christmas morning little children woke us up in great excitement, it was time to open the presents. They enjoyed every moment of it and while they played with their new cars, Heidi-Mari, CJ and I did the final preparations for our breakfast feast!
What a blessed morning we had around the breakfast birthday feast! The birthday cake and nativity scene wasn’t only the center piece of the table, it was the center of conversation.  Never before did we experience a Christmas morning so filled with the grace and love of God, sharing the true meaning of Christmas on a level each one of our family could relate to and understood.
The rest of the day was filled with peace and relaxed conversations.  
This is only the beginning of a tradition of a breakfast birthday feast on Christmas Morning!  I can’t wait to see what the Lord is going to add to this, over the following years, as we seek to bring Him honor on Christmas Day!

I would like to share with you our special birthday cake recipe and enter it in Heidi-Mari’s Fortnightly Baking Fun Challenge.  

The theme for this fortnight was Colour and our special birthday cake not only looked colourful, but also filled our day with special God honoring colour!

Panettone is a traditional Italian bread usually served at Christmas time.  It gets much of its flavor from butter.  It also get flavor from the candied fruits it contains.
Makes 1 Panettone
2 ⅓ cups all purpose flour or 3 cups plus 2 tablespoons spelt flour
¾ cups plus 2 tablespoons milk, barely warmed
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 egg
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup cold butter, sliced
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
¼ cup diced dried apricots, steeped in just enough water to cover
¼ cup dark raisins, steeped in just enough water to cover
¼ cup golden raisins, steeped in just enough water to cover
¼ cup diced candied orange peel (see recipe below)
Candying Orange Peel
Lightly candied orange peel makes a delightful and intense flavoring for dessert souffl├ęs, biscotti, panettone, and cakes. 

To make 1 cup: 
  • Peel 3 oranges in rough strips.  You’re not zesting the oranges, but taking off the whole peel, including the pith, all the way down to the flesh of the orange.  
  • Put the peels in a saucepan with enough water to cover and bring to a boil.  
  • Boil for 10 minutes, drain off the water, add fresh water to cover and boil for 10 minutes more.  Drain off the water. 
  • Add 1 cup of sugar and 2 cups water to the saucepan.  
  • Bring to a slow simmer over low heat and simmer very gently for 40 minutes.  
  • If the syrup evaporates too much and you notice that the liquid is very thick and syrupy, add ¼ cup water and continue simmering over very low heat.  
  • The peel is done when the white pith is translucent and waxy looking.  If you’re unsure, bite into a piece - it should be sweet and not bitter.
  • Let the peel cool in the syrup.  
  • Pour peel and syrup into a clean jar, making sure all the peel is covered with syrup.  
  • You can use immediately or store for months on a kitchen shelf. (We candied ours last year and stored it in the fridge.)
Method for Panettone:
  • Combine the flour, warm milk and sugar in a bowl.  
  • Sprinkle the yeast over the mixture and let soften for 3 minutes.
  • Add the egg and mix for another 3 minutes.
  • Add the salt, mix and cover with an upturned bowl or plastic wrap, and let rest for 20 minutes.
  • Add the butter and the orange zest.  
  • Knead the dough by hand for about 7 minutes or with a standup mixer fitted with the dough hook on medium speed for about 5 minutes or until all the butter has been absorbed and the dough is smooth and shiny and you can pull it up into a translucent sheet or ‘window’ (the windowpane test).
  • Turn the mixer to high speed if needed to get the dough to slap against the sides of the bowl.
  • Drain the dried fruits (very important) and mix them and the orange rind into the dough.
  • Cover the dough with plastic wrap pressed against the surface fo the dough.  
  • Let rise at room temperature for about 3 hours, or for about 1 hour and then overnight in the refrigerator (what I did) until it increases in volume about 50 percent.
  • Press down the dough, shape it into a ball, and push in any protruding fruit to prevent it from burning.  
  • Place the dough in a paper ring so it will hold its shape. You can buy traditional paper holders or improvise one with some brown paper and scotch tape - like I did.
  • Cover the dough with plastic wrap touching the surface and let rise for about 2 hours at room temperature, or until doubled in volume.
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F or 190 degrees C.
  • Bake for about 1 hour, or until golden brown on top and 185 degrees F or 85 degrees C in the center.  
  • If the top starts to brown to much before the panettone is done, cover it with aluminum foil. 
  • Let cool on racks.
250g cream cheese (plain and smooth)
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese and sugar in a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for about 10 minutes or until smooth.
Spread the panettone with the frosting.
Decorate with fresh berries.

I would love to hear your fresh, new ways of celebrating the Birthday of Christ the King! Please feel free to share in the comments below.

With much love

Then the angel said to them,
"Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings
of great joy which will be to all people.
For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior,
Who is Christ the Lord.
And this will be the sign to you:
You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths,
lying in a manger."
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host
praising God and saying:
"Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!"
Luke 2:10-14

18 December 2011

No More Sloppy Mornings!

In September I embarked on a very challenging journey.  A challenge with thousands of women around the world, to Maximize Your Mornings, by starting the day with Bible Study, Prayer and Exercising, for 90 days.
                                                 Inspired To Action Button

… And it changed my life.  
Let me start with a confession: I don’t wake up early in the morning to spend time with the Lord!

After having had 8 babies (and even before), I wasn’t always in the routine of giving the best time of my day - early mornings - to the Lord.  The main reason, because early mornings isn’t MY best time of the day.  I’m a night person, I’m not a naturally ‘early bird catches the worm’- kind of a person.  Add to that countless nights I had to wake up for my babies, and I could very easily excuse myself from not waking up early to spend time in the Word and praying.
In September I learned about the Hello Mornings Challenge over 90 days.  I immediately entered the challenge - it was only minutes before entries would close!  I sensed the Lord was smiling on me and I was in anticipation, like looking forward to a ‘date’ with the Lord.
My excitement increased when I received the group list during which 1 700 women from more than 15 countries were divided in 105 groups.  The ladies in each group would be accountable to each other to check in every morning.  

Now since I’m not an early riser, I not only missed out on special time with the Lord, I also missed out on a smooth running morning.  I would wake up as my children wake up, obviously the little ones first.  The baby would call and be put with us in bed, and I would enjoy some more snooze while baby was nursing. Excellent excuse to stay in bed longer, isn’t it?  The little ones would rise one by one, and all depending on how the little ones behave and how long it takes for them to get irritated with Mom in bed, I would be forced to get the older children out of bed.  I need my cappuccino, and Christo his expresso, before we can face the day and that is one of the older children’s first chores of the day.  But since Mom and Dad don’t model early rising, the older children aren’t early risers either. So getting them out of bed is a mission in itself, which drive me up the falls.  In the meantime it is becoming late, Daddy has to get at work in time, my oldest son is actually ‘scheduled’ for some study with Dad before breakfast and the little ones are now really irritated due to low blood sugar levels, all due to a sloppy morning routine.  
This was the point where I got persuaded to do the Hello Morning Challenge, together with the Maximize Your Mornings eBook, which challenges moms to stop waking up TO their children and start waking up FOR them.
Now rising early for your children isn’t just a mindset, though it is a good beginning point. In my case my sloppy morning routine, was due to a sloppy evening routing!  Oh, I love the quietness after all the children are in bed.  This is when I can write blog postings without interruptions, read my favourite blogs and take care of e-mails, but it results in getting in bed way to late.  And that brings another bad habit, not having time with my husband.  I would be on the computer even before he return from putting the older boys in bed, and then he would get on his computer and by the time we shut down our computers it is way to late for sharing in each others’ day.  
About 14 years ago we threw out our Television, due to the un-productivity of just sitting in front of it and change channels every now and then.  But with my current evening routine I was quickly falling for a similar bad habit. Being on the computer all night long, under the impression I’m doing something, but actually my time was stolen by an empty space.   
I fell for the lie, that my husband and I were spending time together while we were on our separate computers.  I remember the many peaceful evenings, before we had our own laptops, we would read, each his own book, but chatting to each other in between, discussing interesting or controversial issues in our books. I thought we were still there.  My wise husband showed me the difference between us ‘being together’ on our computers in comparison with ‘being together’ reading uplifting books.  On the computer we are actually in conversation with the world out there…  Even though I’m busy writing in pages, an e-mail will pop up and I will open it, or I’ll get a FB comment and hop over to FB or I’ll read one of my favourite blogs, start reading the comments and before long I’m in a secluded world of my own, often not even able to hear when my husband talks to me, or when I do hear, I just quickly have to finish this… or that… You get the picture?
So to get back to Maximize Your Mornings, I had to change my evening routine, to get to my morning routine.  I didn’t open my computer (as the next obvious thing to do) the moment my children were all tucked into bed.  I wait on my husband and we got back to basics.  I even got to read a few books over the past three months, which filled my evenings with peace.  I’ve noticed I’m almost in a rush when I get on the computer in the evenings - no winding down. 

So we got in bed earlier, put out the light earlier, and I was able to wake up earlier.  What a refreshing time of the day!  How could I ever have thought I’m not a morning person?  I love the quiet of the early morning; the freshness of a new day; looking forward to the peace as a result of spending time with my Lord. The anticipation of His revelation through His Word: the crying out in desperation, focused prayer - knowing my Lord is listening; the time to journal again, spilling out my overflowing thankfulness to His faithfulness in my life and openly share my heart desires with my loving Father; or just be at the Feet of Jesus, some days no need to say something, some days nothing left to say….
Over the past 90 days I got addicted to my early mornings.  Even when I don’t get enough sleep at night, due to sick children or an occasional late night, I’m still able to rise for my appointment with the Lord.  I remember listening to a teaching CD of Evangeline on Motherhood, and she passionately declared, “I’m in a love affair with the Lord.”  Oh, how I desperately longed for such a relationship with the Lord.  I’m not there yet, but I can sense moving into a new season with my God.

The Maximize your Mornings Bible study covered the Fruit of the Spirit.  Wow, did the Lord change my heart and believes and engaged me in serious battles with the flesh - what a journey.  But that is what it is all about.
And my nursing time with the baby?  That was often my biggest challenge for early morning quiet time.  Since I’m very easily distracted, I argued  that it would not be worth it. How could I focus with a baby crawling all over me? I did try in the past.  
This time was so much different.  Maybe the planned bible study with the Hello Mornings was the reason; maybe knowing thousands of women all over the world was awake with me; maybe the accountability to my group motivated me. Maybe my  changed attitude made the difference.  At least once a week baby Michael would wake up the moment I sat next to my Bible.  I would pick him up, and just kept on with my Bible Study, journaling, prayer while nursing.  It was amazing how he didn’t distract me.
And my morning routine with the children?  It still sometimes run wild, when I get carried away in my Bible study, or get a revelation or just don’t want to leave the peace at Jesus’ feet, BUT I leave the room also with Jesus’ peace inside of me and that influence my behavior (most of the time :-)).
The 90 days of Fall Hello Mornings Challenge (LOL - in the Southern hemisphere it was spring, but I can live with that) has just come to an end - BUT the 2012 Winter Hello Mornings Challenge is NOW up and running!

And here is my challenge to all my South African Blog Readers:  We were only two South Africans in the previous Challenge.  Can we change that for the next challenge? Can we put South Africa on the map and join thousands of women around the world in leaving sloppy mornings behind us and reach out to maximize our mornings for the Lord’s glory? Greeting the morning with a smile and start waking up FOR our husbands and children?
When you join the challenge, you can choose three possible ways to check in each morning. Either by e-mail, Twitter or Facebook. Depending on what method you choose, and what time zone you are in, you will be divided into a group.  Let’s have at least a couple of South African groups?  Our challenges are so different from those of women in the rest of the world.  For a start it will become a bigger challenge to wake up, when the night’s start to become longer, with the opposite happening for women in the Northern hemisphere.
Please sign up today for the next Hello Morning challenge, which will start the 15th of January. I did…
Hope to see you in one of the many South African Groups. Call if you have more questions or need help with registration!
With much love
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