Saturday, February 22, 2014


Would you ever see these cupcakes on Pinterest? Probably not. The icing is not homemade, and the chocolate cake batter is from a box. The only thing I might consider was "scratch" about this recipe is that I cracked a few eggs and precisely measured the oil and water. Not to mention that the ingredients are not organic, gluten free, made with cane sugar, or even brand name. They are from Aldi. One of my mottos when shopping for groceries is "Why spend more when you can pay less?" The most crafty thing about the cupcakes could be the thoughtfully placed chocolate sprinkles, or possibly the cupcake liners that resemble a football. But what makes these cupcakes so significant to me? The fact that they made a very special boy who is turning 6 feel loved. You see, when I was walking through Aldi (late at night after the kids went to bed, because I did not want to make them miserable by  going on another errand that day), I had my boy in mind. What is his favorite cake? Chocolate! And even though he says he likes vanilla icing the most, he does not realize that his favorite chocolate cake is made with cream cheese icing. I excitedly picked up some juice boxes and cheesy curls. Choosing cupcake  liners was a tough choice. He likes football, baseball, and most recently basketball. But my mind kept going back to him telling me he could not wait to play football when he was bigger. I knew then what the best choice was. When baking the cupcakes, I did so with care. Remembering his first birthday cake and how his Mamaw fed it to him with her aging hands. His second birthday was bittersweet- his "first Daddy" had died just a few months prior. Three was a big year and hard on me- he turned in his baby cheeks and stuttering words to become a big boy. At four, he was eager to share his birthday with all his friends at the zoo. Unfortunately, he had strep throat for his fifth birthday- he will never let me forget that I did not save him a piece of his cake for when he was feeling better. Now he is six, a caring big brother, and loves as near unconditionally as I believe a person can. 

Previously, my boy had politely explained that a friend in his class had a birthday cake with a "bash" fish and colored icing. My poor boy was so excited about that cake. I told him not to worry, that his Momma would make him feel special at his class birthday party. All kinds of questions started flying out, "Are you going to bring chips? Superhero napkins? What will my cake have on top? Will you surprise me by riding in on a dirt bike?" He has quite the imagination and needy expectations at time. But when he saw me at his school Friday, all preconceived notions of what his Momma would bring (and arrive on) did not come to his mind. Instead, he felt loved and important. He was proud to share his special day with his friends. He excitedly served each one their cupcakes. Assuring that everyone was taken care of before he sat down to enjoy his. 

I could have given him exactly what he had asked for. I could have searched for the perfect napkins or had a baker to make him an outrageous cake. But, I truly did my best with planning. I would not be telling you the whole story if I didn't share what God had shown me through baking these 24 cupcakes. Many times we just know what needs to happen to give us peace. Am I the only one that tells God exactly what I want , how I want it, and when I want it to happen? I can't come away from a conversation with God feeling peace when all I have done is give him a glorified "honey do list" of my desires. Psalm 37:4 says "Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart." Our translation often jumps to the end of that scripture, and in our simplistic thinking believes that our hearts know best. But without the "delight" we seek first, our hearts will not be filled with the pure desires that God has for us. Much like the ingredients for my cupcakes were simple and thoughtful, God's plans for our lives can be unexpectedly easy with tremendous results. We can't get to the place we need to be, serve where best needed, or even show others God's love without first picking out His recipe for our lives. I have wonderful friends who make cakes to rival the best bakers. Others may have the finances to send the kids home from a birthday party with the newest toys as favors. But if I had set out to make the party about what others would see, how many Facebook "likes" I could get on an uploaded picture of the cupcakes, or how other moms would be so impressed and ask "How do you do it all!", then I might miss out on a blessing- or worse missed out on blessing another person. Instead, I was able to happily bake with my oldest daughter who secretly kept swiping the icing. No stress was involved in worrying about what others would think. I am so thankful for the simple plans that God has for us. I may be the queen of the mountain that should be a mole hill, but still God is there every time I'm ready to climb down. 

O what peace we often forfeit, 
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Broken Bread

"I will not fight You. Take me past the line that my heart draws. 
I will not fight You. Take me beyond the laziness of my thoughts. 
I will not fight. Lead me further than I've gone before. 
I will not fight You. I'm abandoned to Your call."

House is clean and bellies are full. Babies are sleeping. It is now 57 minutes until Sunday- a holy day of rest. In these last moments of the night, I am listening to friends practice praise music for tomorrow's church service. Earlier this evening, I attended the marriage of my cousin and witnessed love at it's start. Just looking at today, all is well. But looking back, because we all do, the year has been a downward battle. On April 22, I put pen to paper to tell the world that I had overcome depression. However, Death came knocking at my door. Well, it wasn't exactly Death, and he didn't really knock. More like seeped through the cracks of my home. Cracks that we had forgotten to patch in the remodeling. Soon, the cracks were ignored as more problems came. There was no time to work, the list of time suckers too long: court appearances after being sued, trying to sell a house that was deemed "unsellable" when it was on the front page news as the location of a death (suicide), bills from two years past that went unfiled and 2013 seemed like a good year for them to surface, tuition for Dallas' school basically... disappearing, stress related health problems. Oh, and there are also the tending of two kids while increasingly pregnant and Chris' full time job that pays the bills.

Emotionally, I escaped to numbness. A place of no action besides the necessities. I became lifeless, physically sick, unenjoyable. Death brought his workers. We were on a first name basis, so they just walked in the front door and joined me in my daily work. Sitting beside me when I {attempted to} enjoy playing with my children. Laying in the bed between my husband and me at night. You would think I might abandon my Bible, God, praising Him, and doing His work. Thankfully, I considered these actions necessities. Right on my to do list {coffee and prayer, dress girls, breakfast, clean rooms, daily chores, laundry, lunch, naps, Bible, errands, supper, paperwork} were the things I had to get done. I have thought about revealing how routine and ritualistic my life had become. Would you believe me if I told you that I put over 20 items on a to do list a day? Not counting for the other long term lists I had. I could control my tasks and the daily commitments I said, "yes" to.

As a new baby joined our family, my hormones skyrocketed. The control I thought I had quickly stood within an edge of a suicidal cliff. Remember Death? He loved my actions. I believe it brought him great joy for my anger to be at a point of recklessness. Many times, the husband took me to the floor, protecting me from myself, saying, "Just quit, Danielle. Please, quit." I wanted to. I thought about it... But his version and my version of quitting were different. I did not want to go through the sticky mess that I had made. I wanted a divorce. I did not want to know what God had on the other side of this darkness. I knew that I was completely out of control of my life. I knew who was in control.

One Sunday, after attending a church service that I did not want to be at in the first place, I walked into my home, the babies cried and I left. Driving and thinking. Asking God, "why?!" but not waiting for an answer. Considering my past and the heartaches, in some ways heaven seemed so much sweeter than the home I left. Mindlessly, I made my way back home with no thought to how I arrived. A quiet voice prompted me to call for my husband, "Come get this gun."  He came and shook his head in disbelief. This wasn't the first time he had to rescue me from myself. I left home again. Hours later I came back to my kids. 

That Tuesday, I admitted myself to Parkridge Valley Hospital. I stayed for four days. Few revelations were reached there. Mainly, I had to let go of my pride. I could not do this alone. I had family and friends that loved me and were willing to help {quite a few missed me from my four day vacation and showed up at my house to a teary eyed husband}. There were professionals that understood mental illness {and offered hope}. My children showed me mercy, that being created in God's image allowed them to show me. I realized my husband was loving me day to day- no one was telling him he had to; he wanted to. The love story of Hosea and Gomer came to my mind often. No, I was not promiscuously living my life, but I was running back and forth and deeper and deeper into a place that had no name in my mind but always appeared satisfying. And every time I came back, the husband was there without judgement. Mercy. 

Some say {with strong opinion and lack of education} that you can pray your way out of depression. But doesn't that put God in a box? Yes, he is Healer, Provider,  Holy, and Just. I know God is capable, and He knows I'm willing to have this thorn in my side removed. But God doesn't always heal in the ways we think are best. Before going to Valley, I sought counsel from a friend. At the moment, I was in an oppositional state of mind. I knew that for some reason God would have me go to a place I did not want to. My words to her, "I do not want Valley to be a part of my testimony." You see, in my "Christian" mind frame, God had given me all the tools I needed to move forward. God's Word alone could have been all. This story, this part of my life, does not yet have an end. Changes have been made, and I can say that the present is where I live. The day to day. Learning to move beyond the necessities. Receiving mercy. Accepting mercy.