Wednesday, February 29, 2012


The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
James 5:16

One of the most memorable sermons I've heard was on prayer. An illustration was given of a man who arrived in Heaven and God took him to a warehouse that was full from top to bottom of all kinds of different containers, boxes, and cases. The man asked, "What is all this?" God responded, "These are all the things I wanted to give you; you just never asked for them."

This particular sermon really struck a cord with me. At the time, I was at a crossroads in my career. I taught English at the middle school level for seven years, but I knew something needed to change. I was just uneasy and restless. I wanted to stay in education, and still work with students, just not teach English. I had all these "requirements" in my head of a job fit for me. The only problem was that it didn't exist. After hearing this sermon on prayer, I thought I'd give it a shot and start to pray for what I specifically wanted. Every morning, I would walk into my empty portable, sit behind my cold desk, and pray for this "job." I remember looking down at my desk calendar and thinking, "This request is so FAR out there! I'm praying for something that doesn't even exist! This is crazy." My daily prayers began in September, and I knew I had a long road ahead. But I did it everyday.

That next Spring, I received an email from my principal to come see her. If you are a teacher, and you get one of these emails, you know what I mean when I say that I began to sweat! I started thinking of all the things that I could have done wrong or if I was in trouble! As I walked slowly into her office and sat down, she began to tell me about a position that the district was creating to reach the at-risk students, to be their "school mama," an advocate to those with no one on their side. And she offered me the job. I was speechless, to say the least. I remember returning to my portable almost in tears. This was EXACTLY what I had asked for. Wow.

Now, the change did not happen without its challenges. This position required a masters degree, which I wasn't planning on getting for a while. But I finished my degree three weeks before my 2nd daughter was born. (Now tell me that's not God's perfect timing!) I also had a lot to learn about what all this position involved. It was a huge learning process! I realized I didn't know as much as I thought I knew. But one thing was for sure, this was totally a God thing. Now, I am able to help students in a way that I could have never done as a classroom teacher. Don't get me wrong, I'm not always successful. Many of my students fail, academically and in life. They make bad choices. They do illegal things. Some are there one day, and gone the next. But there are success stories, like the boy who has passed his tests for the first time after he and I worked so hard in tutoring. Or the girl who started 7th grade with a horrible attitude and wouldn't smile or respond when I told her said "Good morning." Now, as an 8th grader, she smiles and gives me hugs and asks how my day is going. In fact, just today, a boy stopped by my office just to show me that his arms, that WERE NOT decorated with gang signs, and that today I wouldn't have to wipe the ink off his skin. Those are the small victories I'm talking about. And without fail, every year, there are students who inquire about my faith, Christianity, or the Bible. And its these times that I know why I am here.

There are days when I'm not 100%, and I don't want to face the busy day in uncomfortable shoes. Sometimes I just want to stay home and snuggle with my girls. But I have to go back to those lonely mornings in my portable that were spent in prayer, and remember there is a reason why I am placed in these kids' lives. If I have to spend my days away from my own kids, I am comforted in knowing that God has me right where He wants me, and its all part of a greater plan.

I encourage you to ask for what you want, be specific in what you want, and do it fervently without ceasing. If God wants to take you there, He will. He has it all there just waiting for you to ask for it. Prayer is powerful. Prayer can change your life. Prayer is heard.

Monday, February 13, 2012

C is for Cookie

I love to bake, and my husband loves to eat. My favorite thing to bake are cookies. Even on a rainy day, cookies fill my house with sunshine! For years, I have tried--and failed--at sugar cookies. They were either too crunchy, or too sticky when I tried to roll it out. But alas, I found the perfect recipe for fluffy, soft sugar cookies that are super easy to make from

Here's what you'll need:

1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
5 1/2 cups flour
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
3 tsp. vanilla
1 cup sour cream (the secret ingredient)

Combine salt, baking soda, and flour in a mixing bowl. Set'll need it later. In your awesome Kitchen Aid mixer, cream butter and sugar. Then add the eggs and vanilla, and finally the sour cream. (Honestly, what was the world like before the Kitchen Aid mixer?)

Grab the bowl with the flour mixture and slowly add it to the cream mixture. Key word: SLOWLY, unless you like to look like Martha Washington after you cook, then you may add it all at once. And just warning you, this dough is delicious. Try to save some for the cookies.

Lay out wax paper on your counter top, and here's a helpful hint: spray it with non-stick cooking spray, then dust it with flour. The spray will help the flour stick to the wax paper. Genius, huh? Grab about a fourth of the dough, sprinkle the top with flour, and roll with a rolling pin. You'll want to roll it out to about 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick.

Yes, tomorrow is Valentine's Day so I did hearts...awwwww!

NOTICE: the uncooked cookies are on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Always cook your cookies on wax paper. I also spray the wax paper with non-stick cooking spray so I am 100% positive they will not stick.

Bake these babies at 375 degrees for 7-8 minutes. They will not look done, but take them out anyway. Do not cook them until they are golden! They should not be brown anywhere.

Let cool for about 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. If you wait longer, they will stick.

Now for the fun part...ICING!

Check out these nifty little things:

My mom found these at Crate and Barrel, and OMG they are awesome! Just take the lid off, fill with icing, choose the tip you want, and VIOLA! (I know my friend and fellow baker, Trish, is foaming at the mouth right now! Trish, you gotta get these!) You can find them at

I like icing that dries so that I can put the cookies in cute little bags or stack them in a Tupperware container. So there's the 411 on the icing:

2 3/4 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vegetable shortening
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
food coloring of your choice

Beat all ingredients well. The icing will be very stiff. I added milk until I got the consistency I wanted. Then poor it into your nifty icing applicators. First, outline the outside of the cookie. This acts as a ledge so that when you fill in the middle, it won't drip off the sides. Next, put some icing in the middle. Using the back of a spoon, smooth it out evenly. Let the icing dry for about 30-45 minutes.

Every kid in my daughter's class got 2 cookies with their initial. It's simple. It's cute. It's yummy.

So I'm sending you on your way, my friend. Bake, decorate, eat, repeat. Don't forget your shades because the sun will surely shine on you!

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Hunger Games

Before I even get to the book, I have to tell you how I first came upon The Hunger Games. I work with at-risk students at a Title 1 middle school. One particular student had a locker down the hall from my office so I saw him several times a day. To say this nicely, he was one of those students that not many teachers or students cared for, but he was slowly growing on me. One day, I saw him carrying a book, and I asked him what he was reading. It was The Hunger Games. When he realized I had never read it, he exclaimed, "What?! can borrow my book. You have GOT to read this book! It's awesome!"

Now, if you know anything about middle school boys, you know that they are not very passionate about reading, so I needed to seize this opportunity. That night, I began reading The Hunger Games, and not only was I hooked from page one, but it also gave this needy boy and myself something to talk about. It was a common ground for us.

Okay, now onto the book...

The Hunger Games is one of the most action-packed, thrilling stories I have ever read. It's like a modern-day Robin Hood, but the protagonist is a young teenage girl named Katniss. I started this book without any prior knowledge of it, and that's how I would recommend for you to start it. But I know not everyone out there is a reader, so if you want to know more read on. If you want to read the book, well, here comes the spoiler, so stop reading now!

For real, I'm about to tell you all the juicy details, so stop reading if you want to be surprised!

Okay. I warned you.

Here's the rundown:
  • The story takes place in the future in a country called Panem.
  • Panem has 12 districts. District 1 is known as the Capitol.
  • The main character, Katniss, lives with her sister, Prim, and her mother in District 12.
  • The story is told in first-person point of view through the eyes of Katniss.
  • Katniss is a teenager and hunts with Gale, an older boy also from District 12.
  • District 12 is a very poor district and many die of starvation. Katniss and Gale hunt for survival and also sell their game to other District 12 citizens. Hunting and selling food is illegal.
  • Every year, the Capitol hosts an event called The Hunger Games.

The Rules of The Hunger Games
  • The purpose: to remind the country not to rebel. And its also very entertaining. Its like reality TV.
  • "Tributes" (a boy and a girl) from each district are chosen to represent their district and compete in the games.
  • Only one person can win the games. The last one alive wins.
  • Katniss's little sister, Prim, is chosen for District 12; however, Katniss volunteers to take her place. The male tribute from District 12 shall be Peeta Mellark, the baker's son....and he has a crush on Katniss, but Katniss is pretty much oblivious to this fact.
  • The Games take place in a man-made, undisclosed area, where the climate, vegetation, and wildlife are all controlled by the Capitol's Gamemakers.
  • The winner of the games shall receive unlimited amount of luxuries for themselves and their family. Not to mention, a great amount of supplies for their needy district.
  • Upon being chosen, every tribute is treated like a celebrity. They are given their own make-over team, and a camera crew follows them until they either win the games, or die trying.
  • The games are broadcast to every district in Panem. Each district cheers on their tribute.
  • District 1 and 2 are the power houses. They train all teenagers for the games.
So the games start. Katniss is basically on her own. She spies Peeta, who has teamed up with some of the other tributes, and Katniss immediately feels betrayed. She eventually finds Peeta, who is near death and camouflaged in the mud. She rescues him, nurses him back to health in a cold, dark cave. This is where the love connection happens, and because Katniss knows all of Panem is watching, she plays it up. She wants to be the favored tribute. The one everyone cheers for. And it works.

Eventually, Peeta and Katniss are the last two. But, as you read earlier, only one wins. Will Peeta's undying love for Katniss overcome his will to live? Will Katniss have the strength to kill Peeta?

This is where I stop. Can you feel the suspense? There's soooo many twists and turns in this plot! Oh, and I forgot to mention that Gale, Katniss's hunting partner, also has a little thing for her. There's love, violence, action, and suspense. Chicks and dudes will love this book. The moment I read the last sentence, I immediately grabbed my car keys, and went out in search of Book 2, Catching Fire.

The best part about reading The Hunger Games is that I got to relive each scene with my student. He would ask me everyday where I was in the book until I had finished it. He became one of my favorites (yes, teachers have favorites!), and The Hunger Games was a starting point for him to gain trust in me. We were eventually able to talk about other things, like his grades, attendance, and behavior. This book goes down as one of my all time favorites, not only for the great story it tells, but also for the opportunity it gave me to help out a boy in need of love, attention, and an advocate.