Monday, July 17, 2017

A Prayer Against Sex Trafficking

I began this year to really pray for those who are enslaved in the sex trafficking industry.  As I myself have 3 children, my heart aches for parents who might have lost children by kidnapping or even parents and families who might have knowledge that their child or family member are in that life but are powerless to do anything about it due to not knowing where they might be.  

As I began to pray for this particular situation, I began to feel that my prayers were missing something.  I first began to pray for mainly the females who constitute the largest number of enslaved victims.1  I prayed they would get freed and prayed they would be found, but I then realized that I was not really focusing on the main root of the problem.  

These women are being kidnapped, because men desire to have sex with them, look at pornography which they are in, or to abuse them.  It is simple supply and demand really.  The women are there and are making money for their captors, because men are willing to pay all day and every day to have sexual relations with them.  If one woman was released, there would more than likely be another woman to fill her spot, because the men are still waiting there in line with their money in their hands.

So, I began to not only pray for the women which were in these situations, but to mainly pray for these men and their hearts.  I began praying for the men to be repentant.  I began praying for the men who were married that they would be remorseful, to stop and be satisfied in the wife of their youth (Proverbs 5:18).  I began to pray that God would give me wisdom of how to pray for this situation better.

Soon after, I came across these verses from Hosea and knew it was the answer for which I had been looking.

"Therefore, behold, I will hedge up her way with thorns, and I will build a wall against her so that she cannot find her paths.  She will pursue her lovers, but she will not overtake them;  and she will seek them, but will not find them.  Then she will say, 'I will go back to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now!'" Hosea 2:6-7, NASB

I found this verse and the commentary below in a devotional book I read every day called Morning Manna by Steve Gaines.

"The prophet Hosea sat with his three children, weeping and in shock.  His wife, Gomer, had abandoned them not only for another man, but for other men.  She had literally become a harlot.  But God told Hosea that He would put a spiritual "hedge of thorns" around Gomer so that whenever she reached out to her lovers, something would go awry, and she would not be able to engage in immorality.  Likewise, whenever her would-be-lovers would reach out to her, their wicked overtures would be unsuccessful....Do you know someone who is straying from the Lord?  Perhaps they are even involved in sexual immorality like Gomer.  Pray that God will put His "hedge of thorns" around that person so that when they reach out to sin, they will not be successful.  Pray that they will return to Jesus, like Gomer returned to Hosea."2

That is what I wanted to hear.  So I began to pray for a hedge of thorns to block these men's paths.

I prayed that a man's car would break down on the way so he couldn't go.
I prayed a women's handcuffs would miraculously fall off, and she would be able to walk out to freedom like Peter in Acts 12.
I prayed for a man to twist his ankle on the threshold of the building which houses these women.
I prayed a man would be rendered impotent so he could not do what he wanted with these women.
I prayed for conviction of sin for these men and for their captors.
I prayed for fleas or lice in the building to protect the women so the men would not want to go in like in The Hiding Place, and the women could be let go.
I began to pray for a hedge of thorns for these men which would not allow them to engage in this sexual immorality.

If God can part the Red Sea, can make a donkey talk, can turn Lot's wife into a pillar of salt, then He can free both men and women alike from the bondage of sex trafficking. 

"Surely the arm of Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear." 
Isaiah 59:1, NIV

Monday, July 10, 2017

Dump Cake

There is nothing easier and more comforting than a good old fashioned dump cake for those summertime gatherings.  It is so versatile, because you can use different types of fruit such as blueberry, cherry, raspberry or use any other type of fruit which you might want in a cobbler.

Dump Cake

2 (21 oz) cans of cherry pie filling
1 (20 oz) can of crushed pineapple, undrained
1 box yellow cake mix
1 stick butter, melted
3/4 cup of chopped pecans
Ice cream or whipped cream, optional

Spread out both cans of cherry pie filling evenly in the bottom of a greased 13" x 9" pan.  

Using a big spoon, evenly spoon out crushed pineapple as well as juice on top of the cherry pie filling.  It may look soupy, but do not worry.  It will get soaked up in the next step.  

Sprinkle yellow cake mix evenly on top of the pineapple then pour the melted butter evenly on top of the cake mix.  Sprinkle the chopped pecans on top of it all.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes until golden brown and bubbly.  Best served warm with ice cream or even whipped cream. 

I used to make a variation of this for my dad after he got diabetes.  He used to love dessert and would eat anything you put in front of him.  However, he wasn't a big fan of sugar-free or a restricted diet!  So, I would make this dump cake with fresh blueberries instead of the cherry pie filling, the pineapple, cake mix, butter and pecans.  Dessert is kind of a no-no for a diabetic, but at least his only had sugar in the cake mix and the natural sugars in the fruit.

So, if you wanted less sugar, you could just add fresh fruit as the bottom layer and still use all of the other ingredients.  It will still turn out super yummy as well!

Enjoy, Andrea

Monday, July 3, 2017

Our Family Trip To California

When I was about 4 years old or so, my parents took my brother and I to Disneyworld.  I remember sitting in the back seat and very often during the trip I would lean up to peer over the front seat where my mom and dad were sitting.  I would ask over and over, "We goin' to Disneyworld, ain't we Momma?" 

Last year, Carl and I decided we wanted to take the family on one last family vacation after Madison graduated high school.  So, we asked Madison where she might want to go.  She said Disneyworld.  We had taken all of the kids to Disneyworld one time before, but this time we decided on Disneyland since it is closer as well as wanting to see Universal Studios as well.

So, we saved and saved, and last week we headed out for our trip to California.  The whole family was back together again!  There is so much I want to share about our trip which would probably take 10 blogs to tell you about so I have decided to give a short recap of some of the highlights.  So, put on your seatbelt.  I would love for you to join us on our journey.

On day 2, we stopped in Daggett, California and took a picture with the family in front of the Daggett city sign.  When Madison was only 3 months old, Carl and I stopped and took a picture of each other while we held her under the sign so we thought it only appropriate to hold her under the sign again.  It truly was the highlight of this day.  She was a little heaver than she was last time I held her under that sign!

On day 2, we passed through Las Vegas and saw one of my favorite things.
A giant Coke!

On day 3, we went to Disneyland.
 It truly is such a magical place for kids.

The kids at Disneyland
May I make a suggestion if you have kids you would like to take to Disneyland or Disneyworld in the future?  Please do it by age 10 or younger.  Any older than that they lose the "awe" of Disneyland.  

We also went to Rainforest Cafe which the kids used to love to go on special occasions like birthdays, but Lauren never remembered going there so that was tons of fun for the kids.
Nathan's shirt was sure reflective!
On day 4, we went to the beach.  My plan was to not only build in more restful days in between our amusement park days, but also to have a budget friendly day with low cost.  We ate out of the cooler, laid out, swam, built a sandcastle and the big kids shopped at the wharf with their own hard earned money.  We headed back to the hotel to change and wanted to head out to Medieval Times for the dinner and tournament.  However, when we got back in the car, the car would not start.  We had to take it in for repair which cost us $1500 and had to rent a car.  We were able to see God's grace even in this since we were in a safe place, it was a more relaxed day, and were able to reschedule our reservation at Medieval Times.  We were glad the car had broken down at the hotel rather than on the way back home in the Mohave desert!
Our Sandcastle
Universal Studios

On day 5, we went to Universal Studios this day.  The highlight was going to Hogsmeade.  Universal did an incredible job of recreating the world of Harry Potter.  You would not believe all of the fans dressed up in costume.  

On day 6, we went to see the sights of Los Angeles.  We went to Rodeo Drive and can I just tell you that I felt like I was in the scene from Pretty Woman where no one would wait on her in the stores.  We obviously looked like ordinary peeps which didn't deserve for the staff to acknowledge us in any way.  I couldn't help but think of 1 John 2:17 (NIV) which says, "The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever."  
Rodeo Drive Baby!
We also went to the Chinese Theatre which has all of the famous people's footprints and stars along the street.  That was really cool.
R2D2, C3PO & Darth Vader's footprints
We also were able to go to Medieval Times this night.  I thought Carl was going to lose his mind cheering for our knight who was the Green Knight!
Medieval Times
On day 7, we went back to Universal again.  We rode some of our favorite rides as well as ate at The Three Broomsticks for dinner.  
Bangers and Mash with a Butterbeer
There was also a lights show on the Hogswart Castle which was truly spectacular.
This picture doesn't do the light show justice.
It truly was a wonderful time with the family, and we had such a good time.  I think all of the kids got to see something they wanted to see.  We were all ready to get back to our own beds and so thankful to God for getting us there and back safely. 

Monday, June 19, 2017

She Gone

Well, it is official.  Madison moved out of our home this week.  This may be a shocker to some of you, and it was a shocker to me as well when I heard her idea for the first time.  She was welcome to stay in our home as long as she wanted, but she wanted to make the choice to move out and live on her own.

I have always been one of those moms who did not like to mix the colors of the Playdough together.  The red Playdough should never get mixed in with the green.  Do you know what I am saying to you?  Those that know me well can totally see that I am that kind of person I am sure.  However, if each emotion I felt this week were a certain Playdough color, my emotions would be a big mixed-up ball of rainbow Playdough!

I have run through excitement for her, sadness, tears, hurt, fear, doubt and back full circle again to excitement.  The first night she slept in her apartment, I was up for at least 3 hours of that night.  I stared at the ceiling.  I got up around 3 am to eat a snack, because I had been up so long I had gotten hungry.  I tossed.  I turned.  My mind would not turn off!  I prayed.  I worried.  I shed a few hot tears.  

I am one of those moms who will stay up until all of my kids are home.  Having two teenagers in my home, sometimes that can be kind of late, but I know I will not be able to sleep well unless I have "all of my chicks in the nest" as I like to say.  How many times has one of my kids come in the door, and I will then say, "Now, all of my chicks are in the nest."  I will then proceed to lock the doors, set the alarm and go to bed.  

That night all of my chicks were not in the nest nor would they most likely ever be again.  The questions would not turn off.  Had I done enough?  Could she afford to live out on her own?  Does she have a good lock on her door?  What if something happened to her?  Did I truly trust God more than my fears? My baby girl was out on her own, and I can say that most of what I felt was fear for her.  I have spent all of my life as a mother protecting my kids from what I thought or knew could hurt them, and now I had no control.  She was truly in God's hands now.

When I woke up in the morning, I was truly exhausted and decided to look at Facebook while I tried to pry my eyes open.  What did I see on there but words of encouragement from my sweet friend, Melissa, who wrote the following words to me.

"...So crazy how fast time goes.  People tried to tell us but I really thought I would potty train FOREVER! You've raised an incredible girl! This next stage of parenting brings with it so many great joys! Parenting an adult, from my perspective, has been character building for me to trust the Lord with what I don't know but it has also been incredibly fun! I wouldn't trade it. Enjoy this process friend, the Lord is with you!"

Tears filled my eyes.  God knew exactly what I needed, when I needed it, and who I need it from.  Melissa and her husband are who would take our kids if anything ever happened to Carl and I.  I trust their parenting and their devotion to the Lord implicitly.  These words permeated my spirit.  God would watch over her just as He always had.  Her age and her location would not change that fact. He would also give me whatever wisdom I needed as I crossed this new bridge of parenting an adult.

Carl moving Madison's stuff

We met Madison at the mall later that same day.  She beamed her beautiful smile, and I hugged her so big and so tight.  When I asked her how her first night was on her own, she said she had a great night in her new apartment.  She also proceeded to tell us later that she had gotten a promotion and a raise that very day as well so she would have more than enough money to afford her rent and other expenses. 

God is so good.  There are those moments in my life when I worry and wonder if He has got me, a particular situation or someone else.  Why do I doubt?  Why do I worry?  I think He just might have Madison and I right where He wants the palm of His hand!

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:34, NIV

Monday, June 12, 2017

Taco Pasta Shells

This recipe is so good it will make your tongue want to slap your brains out.  OK, maybe that is a little extreme, but let's just say that this recipe is super duper delicious. 

This is definitely a family favorite.  I got this recipe from a friend to use as a freezer meal.  You wouldn't think that pasta would make a great freezer meal, but this one really does. 

Taco Pasta Shells

1 pound ground beef
1 envelope taco seasoning mix or 3 TBSP in bulk
3/4 cup water
4 ounces cream cheese, cubed
12 jumbo pasta shells, uncooked (plus a few extra for breakage)
2 TBSP butter, melted
1 can enchilada sauce
2 cups cheddar cheese

In a medium skillet, brown ground beef and drain.  Return meat back into skillet.  Add taco seasoning and water.  Simmer taco meat for 5-10 minutes or until most of the water is absorbed/evaporated off.  Add cream cheese and simmer until cream cheese is melted and incorporated into the meat.  Remove meat from the heat.  Meanwhile, in a large dutch oven, cook jumbo shells in boiling water.  I usually add a few extra shells just in case some shells fall apart or break during cooking.  Cook according to package directions.  Drain the shells and return to pan with the butter.  Toss shells gently with melted butter until shells are coated.  Careful!  The meat and the shells will be hot, and now you have to stuff the shells.  I use a latex glove (not the powdered kind) to protect my hand from the heat.  Take a shell and add a heaping tablespoon of meat into each shell.  If you have extra meat left over at the end you can distribute more meat into each shell until all the shell are pretty evenly filled.  

Place shells in a greased 9 x 9 baking dish.  Pour the enchilada sauce over the shells.  Top with cheddar cheese.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until cheese is melted and shells are bubbly.

Tips and Variations
  • You can use ground turkey instead of ground beef for a lower fat version.
  • You can use fat-free cream cheese instead of the full fat version.
  • You can serve this with an easy corn succotash type dish.  I drain and rinse a can of black beans, a drained can of corn, and 1 cup of salsa.  For the spices, I use cumin, salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste.  I fry it up in a skillet until warm and bubbly.  Easy peasy!

  • You can double this recipe.  One to eat that day and one to freeze.  This does freeze really well.  Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes until bubbly.  It will need to cook longer due to being cool from the refrigerator.

Enjoy, Andrea

Monday, June 5, 2017

Pomp And Circumstance

It is official.  Madison graduated this weekend!  What an incredible experience to watch your child walk across a stage and know all of the education they technically have to complete is done.  What profound knowledge to know that your job as a parent is slowly coming to an end.  What a mixture of sadness and excitement to see her walk out into the rest of her life and wonder what the Lord might have planned for her.

I am excited for her, but I would be lying if I said I wasn't apprehensive or nervous for her future.  She's still my baby.  Not a real baby I can hold in my hands, but she is still that to me in my heart.  

A million questions have been going through my mind.  What if she gets out in the big wide world, and she doesn't know what to do?  Who is going to keep her safe?  Who is going to make sure she comes home at night?  Have I given her the tools she needs?  Have I done enough?

I posed that worry to a friend last week who quickly told me, "Yes, Andrea, you have done enough.  You are a good mom."  I sure hope so.  She is a good girl, and I am super excited to see what God has in store for her!

We celebrated this weekend by having a BBQ at our house after the graduation with family and friends.  My mom and mother-in-law were there so that was super special to us.

One of our friends created this beautiful verse on our chalkboard for her graduation party! 

I need to remember that my plans and hopes for my daughter pale in comparison to the plans and hopes that God has for my daughter.  I look forward in expectation to what God has planned!  They are unknown to us but known to Him.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11, NIV 

Monday, May 29, 2017

What We Take For Granted

Memorial Day is a day where we remember those who have lost their lives serving for our country.  They have given their life so that we can live free in America.  It is also a day in my family and many others for remembering those who have passed on.  

I know my mother and grandmother would always talk about putting flowers on my great grandparent's graves.  Family members who had passed on would be talked about.  It was a day we remembered all of those who had passed on before us not just the people in the military.

This weekend we went to Carl's dad's grave.  Someone, we think the VA possibly or another group, had put flags on every gravesite in the Veterans' section of the cemetery where he is buried.  The scenery was beautiful, and I was just so glad he was there in such a beautiful spot.

I went exploring around which is what I like to do when I go to a cemetery.  I like to see the death dates, the marriages, and the inscriptions on the stones.  It is a glimpse into the lives of the people that are there.

I came around a tombstone and there 3-4 feet directly in front of me was a coiled up rattlesnake, rattling, hissing and ready to strike.  I froze for a split second to register what I needed to do.  Without even thinking about it, I concaved my chest and stomach, arched my back, flanked both of my arms along my sides and backed away slowly.  One slow step at a time.  I wonder in hindsight if I was trying to defend my kids who were somewhere behind me.

I called to the kids to stay back.  Lauren thought I was telling her to stay away from a big bee, because she could hear what she thought was a buzzing sound.  Nathan did come around to see it too.  Talk about an adrenaline rush.

It has been a very interesting week for me.  I saw a dear friend have an accident where I had to call 911.  I walked up within a few feet of a rattlesnake.  This week has really shaken me up.  It really has reminded me how quickly life can change, how life is fragile, and how much I take it for granted.

I take for granted I am going to be ok when I get in the car.  I take for granted I am going to be ok when I walk around the cemetery.  I take for granted I will live to see another day.  I take for granted that I will live a long life when maybe that will not be true at all for me.

Today in the car as we were driving home, Carl and I couldn't help but think about those who have passed on before us and talk about it.  Carl said, "Do you know we have seen a generation and a half pass on since we have been married?"  Then he said emotionally later, "Unless we die together, one of us will be without the other."  

It is sad, when I think about what that means for me in this life.  I can't even go there in my mind.  However, what really matters is where we stand with God in the end.  That is what is eternal.  So, we better be ready and be right with God.  

Hug your family tonight and truly know that you are blessed to have them.  Pick up the phone and ask for forgiveness if you need to set a relationship right today.  You might not have tomorrow to do it.  Tell your parents everything you would want them to know or want to say to them.  As someone who has done this, I can't tell you how much peace this has given me.  Don't take your loved ones or your health for granted. 

"In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind." 
Job 12:10, NIV