Perspective in the storms.

by Jennifer Dyer

My heart is heavy this morning.

I’ve spent a lot of time being Diva Goldilocks with a side heaping of Little Red Chicken in the last week. Everything in my house was not Just Right, and I deluded myself that I was having to do everything myself. Anger planted poisonous roots into my soul as I wallowed in thoughts about everything in my life that wasn’t Just Right.

Stress and anxiety pulled at me as Rachel’s newfound OCD behaviors went into high gear. I think she deals with her anxiety by trying to keep her environment Just Right, at least in her eyes, which this week included Chex cereal all over the carpet. The more stressed I get, the more she reacts with increased OCD and sleeplessness, which increases the cycle in all of us.

But last night a dear, sweet friend of mine lost her home and cars in a tornado. I don’t know many details, but the pictures of her neighborhood on the news show only rubble. I know her family made it, but I wonder if they had pets. And if they were able to save anything. Pictures? Clothes? Special blankies? Some people died in the tornado, too. Did she know them? Did I know them?

I just heard another family in our family ministry lost their precious father and two daughters. Other family members are hospitalized. Devastating. Heart rending.

So much loss. So much heaviness of heart.

I feel like such a spoiled brat. My heart squeezes my throat shut every time I think of her situation. My eyes burn with tears. This woman spends most of her spare time praying for others and working behind the scenes to make some big ministries stay afloat. I love spending time with her because her presence is like a drink of cold water in a desert. The other family I did not know, but they are in the throws of devastation. Another family in our ministry lost their home, too.

Now they all need prayer and help. I’m sure many hearts are melting with grief this morning as we see in daylight the devastation of a storm which none of us could control.

And I have put Diva Goldilocks and Little Red Chicken back in perspective. My home is far, far from perfect, but it’s still standing. Instead of focusing on myself and what isn’t Just Right in my life, I should focus on being thankful for what I have and on being mindful of others and their needs.

Pray for Arkansas. Pray for my sweet praying friend. Pray for the other families so deep in loss. There are many relief funds set up. If you wish to give, here is one of the places taking donations. Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas Tornado Relief Fund.

If you know of any other relief funds, leave them in the comments or FB feeds.

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Why Veteran’s Day is important to those with special needs.

by Jennifer Dyer

This morning I attended a Veteran’s Day program at Rachel’s school. I expected Rachel to last maybe five minutes before she became disruptive or upset about the change in her routine.

She sat through the entire program. She stayed mostly quiet. She remained in her assigned spot. She even waved her streamer at approximately the correct moment. Two girls from the mainstream classes sat on either side of her and helped her stay quiet or showed her when to move.

My throat got tight and my eyes filled with tears.

How blessed we are to live in a country where we have such freedoms! Throughout history, those with special needs were considered a burden, a blight, something to be put away.

But not here in the United States of America.

We live in a compassionate society that goes beyond caring for the marginalized. We have an education system to help those who don’t fit into the typical mold. We have people willing to give their time to make life better and even amazing for those who cannot help themselves. Our children are willing to offer a helping hand to those in need.

If it weren’t for the soldiers and families who gave their lives to fight for this freedom and to continue to protect it, Rachel would not be where she is today.

Rachel is blessed. We are blessed.

Thank you for your service. I can never express how much it means to us.

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Graduation cake ideas.

by Jennifer Dyer

It’s graduation season. I rarely make cakes anymore, but this has some cute and easy elements, so I wanted to share. This isn’t the best picture (the cake had an incident on the way to the party), but I can’t access all my older pics at the moment.

If I remember correctly with the cake pictured, one of my dipped strawberries took a dive in the car, so it was smeared with frosting. (But still yum-o.) My hands are shakier than they used to be, so don’t focus on my penmanship. Overall the cake was a huge hit.

I made two 15×11 cakes and put them together and frosted them with cream cheese buttercream. For this cake the only decoration I used was my graduation strawberries and some chocolate diplomas (I bought the mold for those at a cake store.)

For the strawberry hats I used milk chocolate Ghirardelli squares and Reese’s peanut butter cup miniatures. To make the hats:

  • Put the squares on a cookie sheet, plain side down. 
  • Melt milk chocolate Ghirardelli chips.
  • Dip the smaller end of the peanut butter cups into the melted chocolate to act as glue. Place it in the middle of a square. 
  • Let them set up at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

I made the diplomas from purple dipping melts that I bought as a craft store. Use a bit of the dipping chocolate to glue those to your hardened berries. (Try to place the diplomas on about the same height of the berries–something I learned after seeing this pic. Lol.)

I also dipped the strawberries in melted Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips, so the hats match the strawberries.

Here are some tips I’ve learned after making numerous dipped strawberry displays:

  • Make the graduation hats ahead of time. They will keep for quite a while.


  • Instead of rinsing the berries, wipe them gently with a sightly damp towel. I wipe them again with a dry towel to make sure there is no water left. (Water will cause the chocolate to seize up). If you rinse the berries ahead of time they tend to release more water and appear to sweat after being dipped.


  • Dip the strawberries the day of the event. I know it’s a pain, but they get runny if dipped too far ahead of time. If you can find stemmed berries, they tend to stay fresh longer, so you can dip those the day before.


  • Don’t overheat the chocolate. I heat it on 50% power in the microwave in a small mug or little bowl, stirring every 30 seconds. If you heat the chocolate too high, you will wind up with streaking. If your chocolate does get overly hot, just stir gently it until it cools down. (You want to be able to cup the bowl comfortably with your hand.)


  • Assemble everything you need before you start dipping in an assembly line. Dried berries, small bowl with chocolate, cookie sheet covered in wax paper. It goes pretty fast if you do your prep work.


  • Spread waxed paper over a cool cookie sheet. (I sometimes put my cookie sheets in the freezer and pull them out right before I start dipping, especially in the Texas summers.) Set the berries on the waxed paper after dipping. I sometimes stick my berries into the freezer for 10 minutes to help them set up.


  • Be gentle when you pull the berries out of the chocolate so the green stems stay in tact.


  • After the strawberries set up, I use a small spoonful of melted chocolate to glue the already dried hats to the top of the berry.

Here is a pic of another graduation cake I made. If I can find the others, I’ll add them here. 

 Hope this gives you all some great ideas as we head in graduation season!

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Being, not doing

By Jennifer Dyer

This weekend I attended MomLife BootCamp and was blessed to hear from so many moms with hearts for Jesus and for their families.

One of the topics Tracey Eyster of Be the Mom spoke about was being, not doing.

Her talk sparked lots of discussion, and I was planning to go into more of that today.

But in light of the tragic bombing in Boston, I wanted to ask you to join me in “being” at the throne of grace today and asking God to be with the people affected by this tragedy.

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Prayer for tragic Connecticut deaths

I’m writing this on Friday. I was all set to write something about autism, but I can’t. What kind of world do we live in?

“More than two dozen people” killed by a gunman. CHILDREN killed, murdered. Gunned down by a mentally ill man. I’m sure by the time this goes out on Monday, there will be thousands of newer news reports with more up-to-date information.

This is beyond tragic. Beyond devastating. I cannot imagine the grief tearing apart the hearts of the people involved. I want to offer my prayers for the families, the children and the community. Lord, be with them all.

 

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Thanks, Veterans!

This is my grandfather, Leo. He served in WWI and  WWII. I wish I had been more mature during the years he was alive and asked him more about his life. The only  comment I remember him making about the wars was that he wouldn’t have survived without God there with him in the dark places. If he were alive today, I would love the chance to thank him for all his service, which I could not comprehend when I was a child.

Thanks to everyone else who has served us, too.

How about you? Do you have a story of someone who served or a list of those in your family who have served? Leave it in the comments. It would be fun to create a list of people who we all want to thank!

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Vote!

by Jennifer Dyer

I can’t count how many times I’ve heard people say they can’t decide who to vote for, so they aren’t going to vote.

I find this sad because people let a single office race overshadow the fact that there are a ton of other issues and public offices to vote for. It’s not just about the president.

I’m not going to tell you to how to vote, but if you are having problems picking, try focusing on some of the issues about which you feel strongly. I look at issues that line up with what I read in the Bible. Then I pray for guidance. Of course there are no perfect candidates. There are no perfect people. There is a perfect God and He is one one I trust. Since He has blessed us with a country that allows us to vote, I’m going to do my part.

Go forth and vote, my friends!

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Halloween debate: death vs. life

by Jennifer Dyer

While driving through the neighborhood the other day, eldest asked why I didn’t have a graveyard and dead bodies outside our house like so many of our neighbors.

I looked at her in the rear-view mirror. “Do you like those?”

“No. They’re gross. I just wondered.”

I responded with the answer-a-question-with-a-question-technique. “Those things all seem to celebrate death. What do you think God feels about death?”

She shook her head. “He doesn’t like it?”

We went on to talk about how God’s original creation didn’t include death. Sin brought death. Therefore, death must grieve God–we said “hurt God’s feelings.”

It may sound like I don’t like Halloween, but it has its good points. I love giving lots of candy to neighbors and meeting new people. Dressing up can be fun, but I dislike disgusting or demonic-themed costumes.

What do you think? How do you talk about Halloween in your family?

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Halloween media and common sense.

By Jennifer Dyer

Recently, my kids had an opportunity to see Spooky Buddies, another Disney film about those cute little Golden retriever puppies. Sounds harmless enough, right?

Wrong. Yes, we should have gotten a clue from the back cover when it talked about the villain being Warwick the Warlock, but it was rated G, after all. Plus, Warwick the Warlock looked about as harmless as Dr. Doofenshmirtz, the harmless, goofy “evil” scientist from Disney’s Phineas and Ferb. (His “evil” deeds are always stopped by a platypus, in case you have never seen the show…)

Spooky Buddies movie should have been PG. My nine-year-old said it was creepy. Here are some of the things I observed in only a few minutes of watching:

Warwick the warlock—harmless looking, but he still had powers—puts a man dressed as Frankenstein under a spell, rending the man to a zombie-like state.

A group of kids trick-or-treating pass a house not decked out in a Halloween motif. As every other house on the block has been professionally decorated by Disney set designers, the house stood out. One of the kids makes a snarky remark, saying he refused to trick-or-treat there. How dare those people not get into the Halloween spirit? he says.

What?

The “Halloween spirit” I saw portrayed in Spooky Buddies included the notion that spirits and demons, along with a Hell Hound, are granted Halloween night to roam the earth and steal the spirits of puppies.

The puppy buddies, running away from a “good ghost,” consult a medium (another canine) who explains that Halloween is when spirits can roam the earth. She suggests they use her Ouija board to call up some spirits and get some advice.

That was the point we turned it off. A Ouija board in a movie about puppies? And this is rated G?

For more information and parent reviews, check out this review from Commonsensemedia.org.

Here is how we turned it into a positive learning experience:

We discussed Halloween and the glorification of death and evil. Why is it not a good idea? Because death is a result from man’s sin against God. When God created the Heavens and the Earth, there was no sin and no death. Death resulted from the original sin. Death grieves God.

There are many different philosophies regarding Halloween, from avoiding it all together to embracing it, but I told my daughter that we can have a great time dressing up in super hero costumes or as fun, heroic/historic people. We don’t have to glorify death and evil with clothing and decorations.

Furthermore, I will not dress in the average adult woman’s sexed-up costume, most of which contain an equal or lesser amount of fabric found in a dish towel… We can give out candy (the good kind J) to neighbors and get to know them. But we will not glorify death.

How about you? What are some of the ways you talk to your kids about Halloween and evil in general?

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