Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Dessert-of-the-Month: September

I made Russell's dessert for the month a couple of weeks ago, but I am squeaking in here at the end of the month to blog about it. It's still September for two more days, though!

Back when we were brainstorming ideas for the year of desserts, Russell made a sweet request for September, in honor of his wonderful wife, since her birthday falls in that month. He knew that her favorite birthday dessert (usually) is a Strawberry Cake that our mom has made for many years. I ended up making the cake for Jeanette's birthday this year, and oddly enough, she didn't ask for that cake (she wanted a caramel cake)! I waited a week or so after Jeanette's birthday, to spread the cake wealth a bit.

Around the same time that I was planning to make the strawberry cake, I saw this post on a friend's blog (she is the one I "borrowed" the whole dessert-of-the-month idea from in the first place, too). As I compared her recipe for strawberry cake with my mom's the cake parts were basically the same, but the icings were different. Also, she recommended making them as cupcakes, which I thought might be a fun idea (and also allowed me to share some of the cupcakes with some friends). I decided to try the strawberry cream cheese icing recipe and used my mom's recipe for the cake part. They turned out yummy, so I hear!

Here's Mom's recipe and you can find the alternate recipes on the other blog:

Strawberry Cake

1 box white cake mix
1 small box strawberry Jello
3 eggs
1/2 c. oil
1/2 c. water
1/2 c. chopped strawberries.

Mix first 5 ingredients for 5 minutes on medium. Add strawberries. Put in pan(s) and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes (follow directions on cake mix for using different type pans).

For the icing Mom uses:
1 bag confectioners sugar
1 stick margarine
1/2 c. chopped strawberries

Mix together the ingredients, adding more sugar if needed. It is not a thick icing.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Thirteen point one!

I know that if you are my friend on Facebook, you already got the news that I finished my first half marathon this weekend and have seen some of these pictures. But I couldn't ignore my blog and wanted to document this very big event in my life!

I'm not going to lie . . . it was not an easy walk for me. About half way through, maybe a little before that, I noticed that my right hip was hurting, and by mile 8 or so, I was stopping every so often to stretch and definitely had to slow my pace by the last couple of miles. And I wanted to cry and quit a couple of times. But, I persevered (thanks to a well-timed text that simply said, "Press on" and to prayers that I know were being lifted up for me).

I was so thankful for my friends and family who were cheering me on along the way, either in person or via text and prayers. Believe me when I say that I could not have done it without you! I especially want to thank Debbie Cox for being the "snack lady" and cheerleader extraordinaire who met us at mile 5 and mile 10 with some nourishment and enthusiasm. Also, a big thank you to my family for being at mile 12, over by Titans' stadium. It was very fun to see them all at the end of Victory Drive, and get some hugs before turning the corner to ascend the hill onto the Gateway Bridge and finish the last mile and a tenth.

I am still wavering in between "next time" and "never again" but I am really glad that I did a half marathon. I now know that I can do it and it feels good!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday Favorites: Nashville

I don't know why I haven't thought of posting about this before, but it will be an appropriate topic for today, the day before the NASHVILLE Women's Half Marathon! I went downtown to the convention center to pick up my race packet last night and am so excited for tomorrow morning to get here. Hopefully I will be able to sleep tonight . . .

So, one of the things I'm excited about with this half marathon is that will take me through some of my favorite parts of the city. I have spent a lot of my time in the downtown area, either working at Lifeway or taking Daniel to school at Hume-Fogg. I'm a city girl, so I love getting to go to downtown Nashville often. The half marathon starts and ends downtown at the Country Music Hall of Fame at 4th Avenue and Demonbreun Avenue.

We'll go down by Centennial Park, where the Parthenon is located (or a replica).
And then we'll go over to Belmont Boulevard and go along that street with wonderful old homes and will swing by my alma mater.

Once we pass Belmont, we'll head down Music Row toward the Roundabout and say hello to the famous "naked statue" called "Musica."

Once we get back into the downtown area, we'll head across the Cumberland River and do a loop around LP Field, where the Tennessee Titans play. When I drove over by there the other day to get a feel for the last couple miles of the course, I got excited without any other people around, so I can imagine (and hope) that with all the spectators and race excitement on Saturday, it will help me to stay motivated to go across the Gateway Bridge and finish the last 1.1 miles of the race.

I have now lived in Nashville longer than I lived anyplace else, so even though I still have my East Coast/Yankee roots, I am proud to call this city my home.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The final countdown

It's the week of the Nashville Women's Half Marathon! Race Day is Saturday! That fact brings many different emotions for me and I thought I'd share a couple of ways that you can support me in this endeavor this week:
  1. Pray for me, and for my friends (Ruth, Sondra, Libby, and Tiffanie) who will be walking or running, as well as the many other people involved in this event. Pray for cool temps and no rain on Saturday. Pray for us to get adequate rest this week (I have a busy week and will need to be purposeful about going to bed on time). Pray for us to not be too nervous as the day approaches. Just think about all the ways that anxiety and nerves can manifest themselves and pray that those won't happen.
  2. Cheer for us on Saturday, either from the actual race course, or in your heart at home. I know it's early to be out and about on a Saturday morning, so I don't have high expectations for seeing people along the way, but if you're so inclined, here's a link to the map of the course. We're going to try to be walking a 15-minute mile, so we hope to finish in about three and a half hours (give or take a few minutes). I won't know until I pick up my race packet what time we'll be starting to walk (they'll start us later than the runners), but if you plan to come out, you can touch base with me on Friday and I can give you a better time estimate.
I mostly feel very excited about this adventure and know that there will be so much going on around us on race day that it will keep me motivated and energized. I'm ready to feel what it's like to cross the finish line and put that 13.1 sticker on my car!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

2011 Scripture Memory #18

It's September 18th (and almost the end of the day) and I have known that I needed to write a post about the next scripture memory verse for three days now, but other things have gotten in my way. Also, I can't honestly say that I remember any of the previous 17 verses, much less the five other points of the gospel from camp. So, I feel defeated and like I shouldn't even post about memorizing scripture because I haven't followed through on it very well. How's that for some honesty???

But, because I know in my heart that the reason for even trying to memorize scripture is so that we can grow in our relationship with God, and because I believe that God uses any effort to know the Word more, I will persevere and I will continue to post the verses. If for no other reason than I am NOT willing to let Satan have a victory here, here's the next verse (#6 in the Six Points of the Gospel from Crossings Camp):

"That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,”
and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified,
and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved."
Romans 10:9-10, NIV

We are called to trust Jesus as Lord of our lives.

I vividly remember hearing Carolyn Jenkins say these verses at a youth event when I was helping with the youth group at First Baptist Church, Nashville, during college. I had already personally made this confession of Jesus as Lord, but the simplicity of the gospel in those verses stayed with me and give a good word picture to help us remember. And tonight, I am thankful to have this reminder that Jesus is Lord and I will continue to trust Him as Lord of my life.

Monday, September 12, 2011

An old favorite


Over Labor Day weekend, some friends posted on Facebook about a Walton's marathon on television, so I searched through our channels until I found it. It brought back memories of when my family would watch the show when I was growing up and I got caught up in watching several episodes that day. In fact, I also figured out that episodes are shown every weeknight, so I've been getting a "Walton's fix" all week!

Tonight, I was watching one episode while I ate supper after I came back from my walk. I really needed to take a shower, so I looked at the clock and decided to try and get a quick one before the next episode started. As I was drying off, I had to laugh, because I remembered another little tidbit about when we used to watch The Walton's on Thursday nights.

My sister and I would play outside as long as possible in the spring and summer and then would have to rush to get our showers before we could watch TV that night. The ante was upped when we got a bean bag chair (notice I only mentioned one chair). The deal became that whichever one of us girls got finished with our shower first, she could sit in the bean bag chair. I can remember my dad calling up the stairs to tell us that the show was starting and one of us would inevitably still be in the shower. Also, I'm pretty sure my sister was able to take a faster shower than I did most nights (and get to sit in the bean bag chair) because she didn't use soap! Or maybe she was just smaller and it didn't take her as long to soap up and rinse off. Either way, we'd end up in the den together, watching The Walton's.

Good night, John Boy!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering and Believing

Remembering about where I was on 9-11-01 when I first began hearing the news of the attacks:  In the car on the way to my part-time job in Adult Events at Lifeway Christian Resources.

Remembering how I felt throughout that day:  Sickened by the images and the realization of what had taken place, fear of the unknown of what was happening to our country, sadness for those who lost their lives and for those who lost loved ones, protectiveness for my first-grader, gratefulness for the first responders who did what they were called to do to help.

Remembering the places that were familiar to me and remembering the people in my circle of influence who were affected:  The World Trade Center buildings were places I had visited and viewed from across the Hudson River, and there were at least two guys from my hometown who were among those who lost their lives that day. I had not visited the Pentagon or been to the place in Pennsylvania where the other plane crashed, however, the fact that they were on my home country's soil made them part of my history.

Remembering that there are people today who put their lives on the line to help others, either as firefighters or police officers or emergency medical responders. I am thankful for their service to their communities and for the commitment and sacrifices they make each day.

Remembering that for ten years, our country has been sending troops overseas to fight the war on terrorism. There are people serving today, like my cousin, who were still children and teenagers back in 2001, yet are willing to go and serve our country because they understand the importance of the freedoms we have here and want to protect those freedoms for us and for generations to come.

Believing that God was still in control, even when things were chaotic.

Believing that God heard our prayers and was still with us in the midst of the tragedy.

Believing that time would still continue to move forward and that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

On the night of 9-11-01, after spending the day in front of the television and the evening with my family and with fellow parents at a PTO meeting, I was winding down and trying to calm my mind before sleep. I was working through the Bible study, Breaking Free, by Beth Moore, and one of the focal passages in that study is from Isaiah 61:1-4:
"The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.
They shall build up the ancient ruins;
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations."
These verses gave me comfort that night ten years ago and I pray that they would continue to give comfort to all of us as we remember and believe.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

World Trade Center (1973-2001)

I asked my father, DeLane Ryals, if I could share an excerpt from an essay he wrote in the days following the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. I appreciated the history he gave, as well as his memories of living across the Hudson River from those buildings for many years.

When I came to New York in 1962, the World Trade Center was but an ugly rumor on the drawing boards.  The Village Voice opposed the “urban removal” that would disperse an electronics trading district to clear a corner of lower Manhattan for the WTC.
The next time I noticed, The WTC was a hole in the ground.  Some skeptics wondered whether its tall buildings would fall into New York Harbor from the sheer weight of the new structures.  “No,” engineers assured us, “Manhattan is a slab of stone.  As much weight of soil and stone would be excavated as the weight of the superstructures to be raised on the site.”

In the early 1970s I was living in central NJ and watching the Twin Towers rise across the Hudson.  Curiosity got the best of me, and one weekday morning I walked onto the construction site.  Talk about our “open society”, I boarded an elevator; no one stopped me or questioned the legitimacy of my being there.  A lift delivered me to a sky-lobby about 50 stories up, where passengers would transfer to other elevators rising to the 110th floor(except the 110th floor did not exist).  The towers were constructed simultaneously, but one tower was taller, sooner, so it was possible during construction to look down on the shorter of the two taller.  On completion, Tower One (north) rose to 1368 feet while Tower Two reached 1362 feet.
Beneath the WTC was a terminal for PATH (Port Authority Trans-Hudson) trains from NJ.  This became a commuting route between my house in NJ and my office on Manhattan’s West Side.  A lasting impression of the WTC was of rush hour, as thousands of commuters emerged from the PATH trains and ran up the dozen escalators to jobs and appointments in the Center and the Wall Street financial district.

The garage of the North Tower was bombed on February 26, 1993. The toll: 6 persons died; more than a thousand were injured.  That catastrophe was a dress rehearsal for the terror and devastation wreaked upon the WTC on September 11, 2001.
A young man who had grown up on our block in Glen Ridge, NJ, was killed that day.  Missing were countless sons and daughters, parents, friends and neighbors.  Some of them woke up in New York, Connecticut, or New Jersey and made their way to work in the WTC on that Tuesday morning.  Others caught flights at Boston’s Logan Airport, anticipating about 6 hours of flying time to California. But hatred boarded those flights in the person of those who commandeered the airliners and rammed them into the WTC, while their co-conspirators attacked the Pentagon and Somerset, PA.

Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on us!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

No condemnation

I love it when God "layers" lessons for me. This happens pretty often and I still am amazed at how purposeful God is in how he teaches and guides me. I'm so thankful that He does it in a loving and gentle way.

One example of this happened on Sunday. I go to the worship service during the first hour and the sermon was on the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15). I went to my Sunday School class after worship and what do you think the teacher said that the lesson was on that day? You guessed it:  The Prodigal Son from Luke 15. It was so cool to have the background of the sermon so fresh in our minds and the teacher did a great job leading the discussion to build on the whole experience of the morning.

One theme that came out was the truth that in the parable, and in our lives with God, the Father, when we have trusted Jesus as our Savior (are "in Christ"), there is no longer any condemnation for sin. If you know the story from Luke 15, you remember that the father in the parable never had condemnation for his son, but instead showed him abundant grace and compassion. Our teacher even read Romans 12:1-2:
"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death."
As a Christian, if you really stop and think about those verses and the truth of them, you can't help but have gratitude and appreciation for God's gift of grace. That means that the only ones left doing the condemning are Satan and ourselves (to ourselves and to others).

I was reminded of these verses from Romans again in my Jesus Calling devotion:
"Enjoy the warmth of My Presence shining upon you. Feel your face tingle as you bask in My Love-Light. I delight in you more than you can imagine. I approve of you continuously, for I see you cloaked in My Light, arrayed in My righteousness. There is no condemnation for those who are clothed in Me!" (p. 262)
And if that wasn't enough, God gave me one more layer through another blog/devotion that I read called "Encouragement for Today." I love how God does that! And I'm pretty sure He'll keep doing it, since He knows me better than I know myself and knows that I need the reinforced lessons. He's good that way (among many!).

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Learning to ride shotgun

As a parent these days, I am having to learn to ride in the passenger seat (literally and figuratively). Here are some lessons I'm learning, some requiring repetition:
  • The car only has one gas pedal and brake pedal and they're not on the passenger side of the floorboard. I honestly don't think that I've put my foot on the phantom pedals more than maybe one time, but each time we've been in the car when Daniel is driving, I am getting a lesson in letting go of the controls . . . and that's not easy!
  • My role is increasingly becoming that of a coach and advisor, and it works better if I wait until my advice is asked for before giving it.
  • I have become a real, live, in-car GPS and I don't speak in a British accent.
  • Some people's depth perception is different than other's (I'm just sayin').
  • Other drivers in this town (OK, on any road we've been on) are just plain crazy! I'm definitely more afraid of our safety on the roads because of what other drivers will do more than I am afraid of Daniel's driving abilities.
  • There is going to come a day, very soon, when my son is driving solo (sans parent in the car). That's going to be a hard day for me in some ways, but mostly, I am looking forward to it. He will be ready and will be safe driver. I just hope we go many years before he has to tell me about blue lights coming up behind him or has to call and tell me, "Mom, the important thing is that I'm not hurt."

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Sister Birthday Wishes

Happy Birthday, dear Sister!!

I love you and your sweet babies!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day Memories

Happy Labor Day! I have always loved this holiday, even though I don't think I really understood until I was grown up what the history of it is and that it wasn't originally about cook-outs and getting one last hurrah in before the summer ended.

But for me, Labor Day weekend has always been a time of getting together with friends and family and I have lots of happy memories connected to this holiday.

For one thing, my sister's birthday has always come near or on Labor Day, making it an even more perfect reason to have a celebration. Also, when we were growing up in New Jersey, we didn't start school until the Tuesday after Labor Day, so our family would often go to my grandparent's house in Maryland for the long weekend.

Part of the Labor Day weekends spent in Maryland included our immediate family going on an overnight camping trip to "The Ranch" (a rustic campground owned by two or three couples) with several other families from my mom's home church. Many of these friends were long-time friends of my parents and my mom's family and the event had evolved into a huge camp-out with at least two huge tents, as well as some campers. The adults would sit around and play games and tell stories while the kids ran around playing in the creek and having fun being together. I remember going frog hunting there and having frog legs with our campfire breakfast (tastes like chicken). I also remember getting up in the middle of the night to go to the outhouse (waiting until someone else also had to go, so I didn't have to walk out in the dark woods by myself). I don't remember how many years we went there on the Sunday night and Monday of Labor Day weekend, but those were fond memories.

After I got married, we started meeting up with our friends, Leanne and Doug, in Hot Springs, Arkansas, over Labor Day weekend (half-way point between where they lived in TX and our home in TN). We would rent a condo and meet there on Friday night (late, since it was a six-hour drive). On Saturday, the guys would usually be parked in front of the TV so they could watch all of the college football games and Leanne and I would find things to do like shopping, scrapbooking, and non-stop conversations. We'd go out to eat in Hot Springs for dinner on Saturday, but also enjoyed making meals in the condo. One year, Leanne and I went to experience the historic bath house in Hot Springs, kind of like a spa. It was always a weekend that we looked forward to each year and was a tradition for us for several years in a row (Jeanette and Russell even got to join us one year, and I think we also brought Daniel with us one time, too).

Daniel and I, along with my parents and sister and brother-in-law also spent some Labor Day weekends in Hot Springs with my Uncle Bud and Aunt Vickie (and cousins) and got to have some time on the lake in their boat. Two memorable things from those visits were me trying to get up on a jet ski after falling off (no pictures, thank the Lord) and the time my cousin was driving the boat and sent Daniel and me airborne. We were in some kind of tube thing being towed behind the boat and my cousin would drive fast and then make a quick turn, causing the tube to go flying. Sometimes we'd be able to hang on, but this one particular time, we hit a wave and it tossed me and Daniel up into the air and sent us sailing several feet out into the lake. When I got finished flipping over in the water and came up for air, I realized that my face was hurting. I thought I'd fallen on top of Daniel, but when I looked around, he was a few feet away. We swam back to the boat and climbed up and Daniel said, "Cool! Let's do that again!" I had some different sentiments and only wanted to get back to the dock. The next morning I had a black eye and all we could figure was that the impact of my face hitting the water was what did it. Fun times!

I know that Labor Day weekend traditionally is the end of summer and that is sad for some people. For me, though, I see it as the early beginnings of Fall, which is my favorite season. So bring on the changing leaves, pumpkins and cooler temps. I'm ready for Fall!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Putting one foot in front of the other

This could be subtitled:  "Why I Am Choosing to Walk a Half Marathon"

If you asked me that question on about mile 8 or 9 of a training walk, I'd probably be wondering the answer to that myself. But once I finish the walk and get some nourishment and some cool air blowing on my face, I can give a better answer.

Back in 2001, I think it was, I witnessed my first marathon in person as a volunteer at a water station for the Country Music Marathon. I was completely caught up in the excitement and awe of watching the runners, walkers and wheel-chair racers. At that time I didn't consider it a possibility for myself to complete a race like that, but it was inspiring nonetheless.

A few years later, after volunteering at other marathons and walking a 5K or two, the Country Music Marathon added a half marathon (only 13.1 miles) and more people I knew began to participate. The thought crossed my mind that I might consider doing it myself, but I still wasn't ready to commit the time or money.

Fast-forward to 2011. A friend from church was running the CMM half and I organized a few people to go cheer her on (we missed seeing her, which was a bummer). Being back along the course cheering the racers reminded me of the excitement that surrounds a marathon, and I started thinking more seriously about how I might want to do it someday. The clincher came when the friends I was with (and watching) started all talking about signing up for the Nashville Women's Half Marathon later in the year. Some of the proceeds from that race go to charity, which made it more appealing to me, and there aren't as many people involved as the CMM.

Well, it's now later in the year and I am three weeks away from walking my first half marathon! I have learned a lot during the training process, both practically-speaking and personally about myself.
  1. I had to get to the point where walking a half marathon was something that I wanted to do for myself, to see if I could do it. I had to want to do this bad enough to pay the money and commit to the training.
  2. I have had some fear and anxiety during this process, mainly before I would walk the distances that I had never done before. God has helped me through each of those times and has given me tools (scripture, music and sermons/teaching on my ipod, prayer) to get me through it.
  3. I have discovered that I need short goals to go for as I reach for bigger ones. For example, when I walked my first 10-mile training walk, my route took me from my house to Target and back. When I crested a hill and saw the Target sign, it got me motivated to go all the way to the sign. Then when I turned around, I knew I could get back to the Shell station, and then from there it was just three more miles. I actually said to myself, "I can do this!"
  4. I am more motivated and have more fun when I can walk with someone else, although for most of my training walks, I've been by myself. I look forward to the race day when there will be LOTS of people around me!
  5. I have surprised myself with my perseverence and determination. There have been times when I wanted to quit, but something kept me going and I was so glad!
  6. Hydration and nutrition are ESSENTIAL on long walks. On one of early longer walks, I didn't bring enough water and had not learned the trick of brining a snack, so I wasn't doing so great at the end of that walk!
  7. Good shoes and socks are also a must! I have done some minor damage to my feet by walking in sub-par shoes (they might be fine for shorter walks, but don't "go the distance"). Some of the wear and tear on your feet is unavoidable, but I am looking forward to a good pedicure after this is all over!
  8. I have needed help from others who have done this before and who know more about training than I do (did). I have been able to get through my subsequent longer training walks because I have taken advice from others and have worn the right socks, slathered my feet in vaseline and brought adequate water and snacks. It makes a WORLD of difference and if I hadn't asked for tips, I'd still be back at mile seven!
  9. I am going to need some cheerleaders along the way. Like I said, I've been doing a lot of the training on my own and have done fine, but I will welcome friends to come to different points along the course on race day (Sept. 24) and cheer us on. And at the finish line too!
  10. This is a BIG deal to me. Once I bit the bullet and paid my money, it became real and I was in for the long haul. So getting to the finish line is going to be a big accomplishment in my mind and I can't wait to see what that feels like. And I really want one of those "13.2" stickers for my car!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

2011 Scripture Memory #17

Happy September! I always like this month of the year and am personally glad to see August behind us once again. Bring on the cooler temps! Come on, Fall, we're ready for you!

OK, now that I've gotten that out of my system, here's the verse I'm highlighting this month. It's the fifth verse from the Six Points of the Gospel from Crossings Camp this summer.

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast."
Ephesians 2:8-9

Salvation is a free gift by grace.

By grace, through faith. That's such a wonderful truth to ponder any day of the week, every month of the year! Let that sink in a little bit.

And I know that I need a reminder daily that this free gift is nothing of my own doing, so I can just put my pride and boasting away. I'm so thankful that my salvation isn't dependent on my own ability to be good and righteous, because that's just impossible! Thank you, Jesus, for doing for me what I could not do for myself!