Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Day 22 :: Baked Goods are always a blessing (Best Brownie Recipe)

One of the easiest ways to bless someone might be to simply bake some treats and take them to a friend, a neighbor, your co-workers.  And not just during times of sickness or if there's been a birth in the family, although meals at those times are needed.  What about the people who are always the ones to bring the meals to others?  Maybe they could use a little sweet surprise in their day.  Giving someone something 'just because' might be the thing they need to feel encouraged and loved.   Again, it's going out of my way to think of others before myself and serve them in love.

Brownies and cookies are a wonderful treat to give, but breakfast baked goods are also a great treat to bring.

Pumpkin Bread at this time of year, especially, is a big hit.  And this recipe is one I shared in my 31 Day series last year.  

Whole Wheat Banana Bars are great for breakfast, but can also be a good snack.


This Cranberry Chocolate Coconut Granola (my sister's recipe) looks delicious and would be so pretty wrapped up in a bag with some twine or in a jar with a cute label.

This brownie recipe is so easy, and most of you probably already have the ingredients in your pantry.  The point is not to wow someone with your baking skills, it's to simply bring a small gift of food to someone to let them know you were thinking of them.

The Best Brownies

6 ounces unsweetened chocolate (or 18 tablespoons cocoa powder and 6 tablespoons oil, melted)
1/4 cup butter
4 eggs
2 Tablespoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 375F.  Butter and lightly flour a 9x13-inch pan.  In a heavy bottomed saucepan melt the butter and chocolate over low heat, watching and stirring often.  When melted, remove from the heat and cool.

In a mixing bowl, put the eggs, vanilla, salt, and sugar, and beat well using an electric mixer for 8-10 minutes.  Stir in the chocolate mixture gently, then add the flour, stirring only until blended.  Spread evenly in the pan and bake for 25 minutes.  Remove and let cool.  Let settles for a few hours, then slice.

source:  Fanny Farmer Cookbook

This is Day 22 of a series:  Made to Pour, Living a life of Blessing

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Day 21 :: When you don't know who to bless

Thinking about 'being a blessing' can be pretty overwhelming.  Does anyone remember that little song, "Make me a blessing"?  It's really a prayer, asking God to help us be a blessing to someone who needs something.  I googled this song to try and find the words, and I was surprised to find that there are many songs with this same title.  The one I've pasted here was written by Fanny Crosby.  

I like the fact that the desire here is to bless others out of the Spirit's leading.  This is what I talked about last week in a blesser being someone who walks in the Spirit and displays the fruit of the Spirit's work in interactions with others.  

What I fear is overwhelming to some of us, though, is the wondering.  Who am I going to rub shoulders with today that I can bless?  The prayer, 'Help me, Lord, not to miss out on someone who might need encouragement'.  While looking for someone to bless is part of it I think we might be missing something.

The reality is that we have people in our lives everyday who need us to bless them.  Searching for someone to bless is not the point of being a blesser.  Being a blesser is about recognizing the people that are in our lives and living out the love of Christ to them on a daily basis.

We each live within a sphere of relationships:  family, roommates, neighbors, co-workers, friends.  It's within this sphere of daily relationships that I often find myself neglecting to bless.

Like my neighbors. When was the last time I went out of my way to serve them or to include them in my life?  Friends from church or other social settings.  Can I invite someone over to have a conversation, instead of just liking and commenting on their photos on Facebook?  Or my family who live far away.  In what ways can I continue to build those relationships and encourage, support, and love them when our lives only cross paths a few times a year? My husband and kids.  This is where it really gets me.  Yes, I take care of them--cook meals, make sure everyone has clean clothes--but am I actively finding specific ways to be a blesser to the people who are most precious to me?

Okay, so now that list was a little overwhelming at first glance.  How in the world do I bless all of these people when I have so many other things to do?

It's a dying to self.  This is why blessing others is so hard for me.  I like myself.  I like my time, my things, my comfort, my relaxation, my ideas, my whatever, you fill in the blank.  Doing what is important to me is easy and if I'm not careful I can get so caught up with myself without even realizing it.  

Everyday I have to put myself aside and allow God to fill me and honor others before myself.  

It's what I tell my girls all the time when they aren't getting along, "Think of others before yourself", "Do unto others as you would have them do to you,"  "Serve each other in love."

This has to happen in my marriage, with my kids, my neighbors, my friends, the people at the store, the homeless man on the side of the road, the people who irritate me, my enemies if I have them. 

Is it hard?  Yes.  Will I fail?  All the time.  

But I have the greatest example of one who blessed in this way.  

Jesus, the servant of all, who in every way thought of others as more important than Himself. And by His humble service He blessed.

This is Day 21 of a series:  Made to Pour, Living a life of Blessing

Monday, October 20, 2014

Day 20 :: The blog post that YOU are going to write

On Saturday I introduced you to some people who have been blessers in my life.  By no means did that list contain all of the people that have blessed me throughout my life!  In fact, as I continued to think about it, many more individuals came to mind.  It's fun to look back and remember how God has used various people throughout my life to impact me in one way or another.


If you haven't taken a minute to think through the blessers in your life, I'd encourage you to!  It's a great exercise and you'll come away from it with a thankful heart.

Before I press on in this series with who we are supposed to bless and how we do that, I thought today you should write my blog post!  I need your help with my definition of a blesser.  It certainly doesn't cover everything, and I'd love to have your input on how you feel blessed, or what you do to be a blessing.

Once again, here's the definition I made up:

We're focusing now on the second aspect of this definition--blessing other people.

In one word, or one sentence, I'd love to have you answer one of both of these questions today:

1.How would you define a blesser? 

2.What does a blesser do? 

Feel free to comment here (don't worry if it doesn't appear right away. I approve all comments so you'll have to check back later), or simply comment in the comment sections on Facebook.

Thanks for your help!

This is Day 20 of a series:  Made to Pour, Living a life of blessing

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Day 18 :: Meet some amazing blessers

In coming up with practical ways to bless others, I started thinking through the people who have blessed me.  And when I thought about the practical things they did that blessed me, I had to ask myself:  Why was that a blessing?

If I want my life to be a blessing to others I probably need to start blessing in the ways that I have been blessed.

These friends of ours...I can't even begin to tell you all the ways they have blessed us over the years.  From monetary gifts, to a camera, to bags of goodies on my front door after having babies, taking our photos, talking through major life issues, watching my kids, driving out of their way to visit us, teaching me to be more relational...I could go on and on.  Friends who give of themselves over and over again are a blessing.

Friends who empathize in life's most challenging circumstances.  These kinds of relationships are rare, but so valuable.  It's easy to find people who will listen, but people who let you hurt instead of trying to fix your problems--this is what my friend did for me, and she blessed me.

These relationships span over years of time.  I married into these friendships (some aren't pictured here) and can I just tell you that they have loved me as if I was with them from the beginning?  They call on our birthdays, they visit no matter where we live. When my brother died, they gave, called, texted, and drove hours just to attend the viewing so they could hug me.  We laugh, cry, talk, and share a lot of life with these people and they bless me over and over again.

These friends represent those who have blessed me by the lives they live overseas.  I spent six weeks with this couple and their family one summer, and they allowed me to participate in their cross-cultural lives.  They challenged me, pushed me, and asked me hard questions.  Just being an observer to how they lived was a blessing.  Countless others through the years have been blessers by the ways they have poured into the people around them.  Although I don't see you all often, some of you only every few years, please, know that by living in obedience to the Lord you bless me.

Oh, these ladies.  The one on the left helped me to deliver Mason, and then just a little over a year later she held my hand, cried with me, and took extra special care of Jennavieve while she was in the NICU for two weeks.  And, the nurse holding Jennavieve is the one who sat with me during my labor with Jenna. She was amazing.  Not only did she offer quality medical care, she also took my camera later on that day and snapped hundreds of pictures for us.  Nurses have become dearer and dearer to me as I've given birth to my babies and I'm so grateful for the way that they love on me and my kids.

Family blesses time and time again.  I married into this one and I am so thankful.  They love me, my husband (of course!) and my kids.  We share joys, trials, and silly moments.  I know that they pray for our family and that in itself is a blessing.  My in-laws give and give, not just to us, but to countless others around the world.  Their lives have impacted many and their faithfulness to the Lord impacts me often.  Do you know what else blesses me about family?  The fact that other people give to them.  When I hear how someone invited my mother-in-law over when she's alone makes me thankful.  Friends who give of their time and resources to support my sister-in-law and her family as they prepare to move overseas--those people bless me by their sacrifice for my family. 

I couldn't find a very recent picture of my own family (we've added three children among us since this one), but the ways in which my parents and siblings bless me are boundless.  Watching my parents handle challenging circumstances encourages me in my own walk.  My sisters' interest in my life makes me feel loved and cherished; they remember the details.  The love that they all pour on my kids is something I never could have imagined.  And, again, it blesses me when I hear how people are serving them.  Like the time a friend watched my sister's children so she could have a much needed morning to herself.  Or the boss who showered my sister with a generous Christmas gift.  The young families who bring meals to my parents "just because".  Blessings extend beyond the immediate recipient. 

My husband (I'm going to talk about him later on) but I can't let him go unnoticed here.  I was completely in love with him when we got married, but that has only grown deeper over the years.  He gives sacrificially every day.  He pushes me to be a better person.  He loves our children.  And even in the face of great discouragement, he doesn't give up.

These pictures are just a few of the many who have blessed my life.

This list doesn't include the strangers that bless me with their smiles, their compliments on my children, their willingness to hold the door for me when my hands are full.

And the lady that I saw yesterday who was visiting her son.  By the little bits I heard from their conversation as I ran past, it sounded like they hadn't seen each other in a while and they were just catching up on what was happening in each of their lives.  It just made me smile to see a mother-son relationship in action.

I think there's a common thread here:  serving.

The people who have blessed me throughout my life are people who have served me or someone I love out of the love and generosity of their heart.  This takes humility, selflessness, sometimes sacrifice, and always love.

So, I ask you today: who has blessed you?

This is Day 18 of a series:  Made to Pour, Living a life of blessing

Friday, October 17, 2014

Day 17 :: The key to being a blesser

I barely made it onto the girls' basketball team my senior year in high school.  I'm pretty sure the only reason I got on the team was because I was a senior.  I had switched schools that year, so I was the new girl, and what they didn't know was that I had been point guard on the team at my previous (very small) school.  So, there I was a former MVP, sitting the bench and panting my way through every practice.  I couldn't keep up with the suicide drills, I missed most of my lay-ups (which meant 10 push ups for every miss) and I could hardly walk by the end of each practice.

My coach was great, though.  Every time I slowed down or wanted to give up, she pushed me harder.  I remember one day she took me out of the gym and made me run the halls of the school.  She ran beside me the whole time, screaming in my ear "Keep going!  Breathe!  If you can control your breathing you'll be fine!"  Somehow I made it through those practices and at our end of season sports banquet, not only was I in the best shape I've ever been in, I was awarded "Most Improved".

While I was humbled in many ways during that basketball season, what still impacts me to this day when I run is what the coach said about my breathing.  Steadily breathing in and breathing out--that was the key to running.

And so it is with living a life of blessing, this pouring out of myself to God and to others.

It's life in the Spirit--the indwelling, filling and empowering Spirit of God (Romans 8).

As I walk in the Spirit, alive in Him--breathing in--, the greater ability I have to pour--breathing out-- and so bless others.

Do you know what I have found, though?  Sometimes I hold my breath.  I might be reading my Bible, praying, growing in my walk with the Lord--all wonderful things.  But I can get so caught up with myself, my family, and what's happening in our lives that I forget the other element of breathing: letting out air.

I long to be so driven by the Spirit at work in me that holding my breath isn't an option anymore.  Whether it's pouring out on those closest to me or to strangers, I want to live my life in such a way that others are impacted for Christ.

Last weekend I shared a definition that I made up to fit in with this series, here it is again:

What does this look like?   Practically, being a 'blesser' can take on a lot of different forms.  And I'm going to touch on some of those in the next few weeks.

But being a blesser doesn't begin with doing stuff.  It starts in my heart.

It's the fruit of the Spirit at work in my life, displaying itself in every encounter with the people around me.

Breathing in the Spirit and breathing out that which the Spirit has done in my heart.  This is the key to being a blesser.

This is Day 17 of a series:  Made to Pour, Living a life of Blessing

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Day 16 :: Blessing the Lord is living a life of obedience

We're halfway through October, and so halfway through this series: Made to Pour, Living a life of blessing.

A little wrap-up:

Blessing the Lord is a kneeling of my soul to acknowledge God, fixing my soul on who He is as God, praising Him even when I don't feel like it, when life is hard, and when I'm waiting on Him for some kind of blessing.  

To summarize:  blessing the Lord with all that is within me is continually living a life of praise and worship to God out of my belief in Him and love for Him.

"Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name" (Hebrews 13:15).

But I think there's something else.  I think blessing the Lord is not just my sacrifice of praise to Him, I think it's also me living a life of obedience to Him.

The greatest command  given to God's people:

"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might" (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).

That phrase, 'all your soul' is used again.  Blessing and loving with all of my soul.

And what did Jesus say about loving Him?

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments," (John 14:15).

Love for God and obedience to God are inseparable.

I can bless God, or praise Him, in every circumstance, but if I'm not obeying Him I don't think my whole soul is really involved.

For me, this is the harder part.  It's easy to praise God, speaking back to Him what I know is true, even when life gets hard.  But to constantly and completely obey God in every way is much more challenging.  And it becomes more difficult for me when I have to obey Him as it relates to my interactions with others.


"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:37-39)

"Made to Pour" is what I titled this series.  The first part was about pouring blessing on the Lord.  For the remainder of this series I'm going to shift gears and talk about pouring blessing on others, or as Jesus labeled it: loving others.

One of the reasons I chose this topic is because it's something I'm currently learning.  I fail all the time to truly love those around me, blessing them.  But it's something I want to keep working on.

For the next 15 days I hope to flesh out some of the lessons God has been teaching me.  I'll be honest, I have nothing written, just a lot of thoughts floating around in my head.  I pray, though, that as I write out what I've been learning God will impress these things more and more in my heart and my life will truly be one that pours out to Him and to others.

This is Day 16 of a series:  Made to Pour, Living a life of blessing