Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ever present Eagles

It started as a little girl. When I was afraid, I would say the Bible verse to myself...Isaiah 40:31 "They that wait upon the Lord, shall renu their strength, they shall mount up on wings as eagles, they shall run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not be faint." I remember saying this to myself as I went into surgery, as I walked on the stage for orchestra, as I ran a race, as I faced difficult tests in school. I took comfort in God's words about the eagle. I continue to love that verse.

Coming from a family of bird watchers, we would often take trips to the mountains to hike. Spotting an eagle was a rare find. When we moved here to Maryland, I would see an occasional Eagle in flight. I was always excited to see this sight! The spring before Ashley died, I began to see eagles more often. One day Ashley and I saw an eagle perched in the tree beside our house! We were amazed! Another day, we saw several of them in field across the street from our house. We watched them together. I couldn't believe there were so many eagles right in front of me! My eagle watching days had just begun.

Over the past two years, it has been more than apparent that God wants me to pay attention to these magnificent birds! Since I spend so much of my time driving in the car, I tend to see them along the way. Sometimes I see one or two every day. There have been times when I would see no less than two eagles every day for weeks at a time! I wonder if maybe I am just good at finding them? No, I believe God has placed them directly in front of me! He wants me to see them, to admire them, to model their strength. He wants to remind me of his promise. He will raise me up on eagles wings. Sometimes I see them in flight. Sometimes I hear them scream. Sometimes I see them bravely perched on a branch. Sitting tall and strong. They are a constant reminder of God's presence, and of His promise.

One day, as I sat in the cemetery, I told God, "I don't know what to say." I was speechless. I was lost. My arms, my heart, my soul were empty. I felt abandoned, confused, disappointed, frustrated, angry. Just then, there was a rustling in the branches of the tree above me. An eagle, who was perched above me suddenly took flight. He swooped down over the cemetery where I sat. Demanding my attention, it flew off into the distance calling out with loud screams. I knew God answered my cry with a picture of what He had promised me. I was instantly angry at him for proving to me that he was there and that he cared! I was comforted at the same time, knowing I was safe in his promises to me.

When my grandmother died, years ago, my sister sang the song "On eagles wings" at her service. "And He will raise you up, on eagles wings, bear you on the breath of dawn, make you to shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of his hand.." God wants us to be like the eagles. They are amazing birds! I admire the way they command the sky in flight. They are graceful and strong. Their presence in the sky is respected by other birds. They are free! While I admire them in flight, my attention has been drawn to their perch. They stand strong and upright. They have such an impressive presence.

While I continue to be just where I am, taking life only one day at a time. I refuse to ignore the symbol of strength that God continues to remind me of every day. I don't have anything figured out. I am still lost and confused. But, I am thankful that God is the same. Every day.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Gennerations of Fasnachts

Fat Tuesday is what I know to be Fasnacht Day. For as long as I can remember I have eaten homemade fasnachts (raised donuts) this day before lent. My great grandmother, my grandmother, and now, myself made donuts on this day to share with others. As I write this, the aroma of donuts fills my house, and my kids have tummies full of them! For some reason, this year's didn't turn out quite right...I don't know why...that just happens sometimes I guess.

Growing up, my Grammy would usually walk into our home Tuesday evening with a big bag of donuts for us. She would spend the day making them, then she would bag them up and deliver them to family, friends, and to her co-workers. I loved to walk into her house and smell the aroma! One year I happened to be home from school when Grammy was making donuts. I asked if I could help. We spent the day together, mixing, stirring, kneading. When the dough had to rise for a few hours, Grammy gathered herself together and we drove to the nursing home to visit some of the elderly from our church, and her sister, who was sick. After the visit, we came home to roll out dough, cut donuts, let them rise again, and then boil them in oil. Grammy didn't want me to do the frying since I might burn myself. She showed me how to carefully place the donuts into the oil face side down. We watched them rise from the bottom up, waited for a few minutes, then flipped them over to brown on the other side.
Grammy always gave me the assignment of counting the donuts. She always wanted to know how many she ended up with! Sometimes while we were waiting on the dough to rise she would do her ironing in the kitchen while we talked. She ironed everything! She always made good use of her time!
After Grammy died, I have continued the tradition of doughnut making. Since I moved away from where I grew up, I usually had to explain to everyone in receipt of the donuts, the meaning of Fastnacht day.

Grammy left me with several treasures. She fed me donuts, taught me how to make them, and share them....but she also taught me how to manage my time. She taught me the importance of making time for visits to the elderly, sick, and widowed. She gave me her undivided attention in conversation as we spent time together, and she took time to write her recipe on paper...just for me! (which I still have that paper, and use it every year!) Included in each doughnut making day are my Great Grandmother's doughnut cutter, and my Grammy's rolling pin! I think of her every time I use it.

So, Happy Fasnacht Day, my friends. Go, eat a doughnut!

Recipe for Raised Donuts by Susan Stoudt

6c. Boiling water
1c. Instant potatoes
2 1/2c. shortening
2c. eggs beaten
3c. Sugar
2T. salt

combine above ingredients then add the following mixture:
4c. warm water
1/4c. yeast
1tsp. sugar

Then add 9 1/2 lbs. of flour. Knead until not tacky to feel. place in large bowl and let rise for 2 hours.
Roll out dough to about 1 inch thick, cut doughnuts and set them on floured counter top.

Heat oil in a deep fryer to 375 degrees. Place doughnuts face down in oil until lightly browned, then flip them over to brown on the other side. Remove from oil with a fork and place on layers of paper towels to dry.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Paging through my Bible I always stumble across a fluorescent yellow post-it note. It is one from a drug rep back in my days of working in the medical field. The note is pasted on the top of the page marking Hebrews 11. The note has Hebrews 11:1 written on it...."Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see." The verse is also underlined in my Bible. I am certain that when I read this verse years ago I was convinced it deserved to not be forgotten! I believe I marked it then so that I would continue to find it now.

When I first began to pick up my Bible after Ashley died, I remember finding the post-it note. I began to read the verses on the page. It never hurts to read past a verse, and I was thankful I did. Hebrews 11 walks you through a legacy of faith driven people. Although I had read it before, it was like I was reading it for the first time. I was strengthened as I read about the people who went before me. Hebrews 11 pushes one to read Hebrews 12. As I read on I stopped at verse 2. It is also underlined. This verse has become one of my favorite verses in the Bible. Not because it makes me feel good, but because it is the nourishment I require for every new day.

Hebrews 12:2 says "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross..." The verses continue, but the underline stopped at the cross for me. I have every intention of writing this verse on a wall in my house. I need to see it every day. So often, I forget. A friend of mine, my pastor, reminded me that every time I take my eyes off of Christ, I will be lost. I will get burdened by the worries of my life. If I am not focused on Christ, I will focus on something else. Everything else in life will disappoint me. Nothing in life, but Christ alone, will satisfy me completely. These words make sense, and give such peace. Why is it then, that I continue to wander from the truth? The old hymn says it all "prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love..." It is my nature to wander from God. I am a sinner.

Getting back to fixing my eyes on Jesus. He is the author of my faith. He "wrote it." He also perfected it...that means that he completed it without mistake' something I can not do. Christ suffered through his life, which gave way to the cross itself, and his blood that covered it. The cross is not only an object of death, but is also a tangible description of our daily sufferings. Jesus carried his "cross" throughout his life. Jesus was able to endure the cross, because He knew the joy that was set before him. Being God, himself, he left heaven to come to earth. He had been there before, he had seen and taken part in the Glory of the Father.

I am instructed to "Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." (Hebrews 12:3). As I am called to carry my cross each day, I need to focus on Christ. He was without sin, yet bore my sin as he endured the cross. His blood was shed, which covered the cross, he defeated death, and entered the joy that was before him. Since the cross that he carried was mine, and through it, my sins have been forgiven, then the Joy that belongs to him is also mine! I no longer have to pay for my sin, but I still have to pick up my cross (no matter the size) and follow his example. The end result is pure Joy!

The one word that sticks out to me is Endure. Christ endured the cross. The definition of endure is to undergo a hardship without giving in, to suffer, to regard with acceptance or tolerance, to continue in the same state, to remain firm under suffering or misfortune without yielding. (Merriam Webster dictionary). Endurance through suffering is what I am called to do. Luke 9:23 "Then he said to them all: "if anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." I am thankful that Jesus said "daily." He knew that I couldn't just do it once, I am prone to wander. I will fail.

As I carry my cross each day, I am promised joy. I believe this is where my faith comes into play. I am taken back once again to Hebrews 11:1, "being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see." Jesus had seen the glory of the Father. I have been called to place my faith in Jesus, who is Joy, and who loved me enough to endure the cross that was my sin, so that His joy could be mine. He requires nothing less than for me to admit that I can not do it on my own, to believe that He did it for me, and then pick up the cross that belongs to me, and follow His lead. It must be done every day.

This journey is long and the road is hard, but it will be worth it all when I see Jesus and my faith will be sight.