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Archive for the ‘cookies’ Category

Happy Saturday, friends. I woke up this morning with two very distinct and very pertinent needs. One was for a serious journaling session, the other for decorating sugar cookies. I’m happy to report that both have been sufficiently satisfied. As is the case with most journaling sessions, I came out of this one with some heady thoughts that needed organization and so a list was born. A list that I’d like to share with you today. A list of general rules for happy living, according to Melinda. While my week was really wonderful, a lot of people I love had seriously rough ones. There was strife and uncertainty, health scares and financial trouble, curve balls and words like knives. Sometimes the bad comes at us like a train and we’re tied to the tracks. We can’t stop it. We can’t control circumstances or people. The only thing we can control is how we react to all of it. And, believe it or not, it’s totally possible to find happiness in the midst of chaos. Here’s how I do it:

buttercream scented candle, ftw.

1) FIGHT FAIR – Arguments happen. It’s the nature of living in a world full of people who see things differently. But you have to fight fair. The past is the past. Leave it there. When you’re fighting with someone, stick to the issue at hand. Don’t bring up every argument you’ve ever had, every wrong you feel you’ve suffered from. Neither of you can go back and change the past. All you can do is work through the problem you’re facing now, hopefully with grace and kindness. Don’t push buttons just because you can, and don’t say hurtful things in the heat of the moment. Hold your tongue. You’ll be glad you did.

2) DON’T HOLD A RECORD OF WRONGS – Let go of things. Forgive people regardless of whether or not they’ve asked you to. The damage caused by harboring resentment is damage done solely to you, not them. We live in a society that promotes anger and hostility towards anyone who’s ever wronged us, but I love and serve a God who shows me compassion and mercy when I don’t deserve it and He requires me to follow suit. Holding on to hurt like that just makes you miserable and misery might love company but I guarantee you company does not love misery. That chip on your shoulder comes across in every relationship and in every interaction. Get rid of it and enjoy life sans bitterness.

3) NEVER LET FEAR BE A DECIDING FACTOR – in anything. Being scared of what may or may not happen, or how you may or may not feel, somewhere down the line is never a good reason for not doing things. Don’t borrow trouble. Take every day as it comes, one decision at a time, and be happy today instead of worrying about whether or not you’ll be happy tomorrow.  Being happy breeds good things and the memories of those good things will help you wade through the bad times when they come. Living is scary, but not living because you’re scared to is even scarier.

4) CLEAN – This one’s a little random, but it works miracles. Swear to God. Keeping my apartment clean makes life so much brighter. I love coming home to clean counters and a bed that’s made. Somehow when my apartment is clutter-free my mind feels the same way. It’s one less thing to worry about and, strange as it may be, it makes me smile to know that my floors are vacuumed and my bathroom is spotless. It’s therapeutic. Cleaning my bathroom is therapeutic. I know. It’s weird. But I think you’ll agree. Give it a shot.

5) DON’T PROCRASTINATE – I’m a huge procrastinator. Always have been. And it’s somehow compounded by a mom who’s the queen of the go-getters. Her promptness and motivation elude me and the shame that comes from not doing things when I should just sends me farther and farther into my delusional world of unproductiveness. Not any more! My new motto is “do things now.” Do things as soon as you possibly can and do them to the best of your abilities. Otherwise you end up living in this weird state of limbo where nothing ever really happens. No bueno.

6) SMILE AT EVERYONE – This one is pretty self-explanatory. It makes other people happy, and making other people happy will make you happy. Easy peezy lemon squeezy. When strangers smile at me, it absolutely makes my day. And I know I’m not alone in that. Let’s remember that love covers a multitude of sins. Sometimes all it takes is the smallest gesture of kindness to turn someone’s bad day around.

7) SURROUND YOURSELF WITH LAUGHTERDon’t underestimate the power of a good belly laugh. Find people that inspire them and hold on tight. The people closest to you should be the ones who remind you that life is funny and laughing at it is the best way to stay sane. A good sense of humor is a necessary part of a happy life.

8) BE PATIENT – Waiting can be one of the most frustrating parts of life, but it’s also an inevitability. We wait in lines at the grocery store, or in traffic, or for a job or test results or a boy (I’m getting a little close-to-home with that one) or for any number of things in this life that take real time. We need to learn how to embrace the waiting. We need to look at it as an integral part of life as opposed to a lack of it. Just because you’re waiting on something doesn’t mean life is on pause. It means that, for the time being, your focus and efforts need to go towards something else. It’s amazing the sorts of things that one can learn and accomplish in the interim. Sometimes waiting can make people angry. Fight that feeling. Be slow to anger, quick to listen, and quick to forgive. In 1 Corinthians Paul gives us a laundry list of all the things love is, and patient is number one on the list. Love is patient. Remember that.

9) TAKE “YOU” TIME – There are a lot of people in this world who go through life blissfully unaware. Don’t be one of them. Take time to think about things. Think about who you are and what you believe and how your actions reflect that. Think about how your actions affect others. Think about the person you are versus the person you want to be and think about how you’re going to get there. The whys and hows are important. Spend some time and effort figuring them out. Face the tough emotions head on and deal with the things that you don’t want to deal with. Truly knowing yourself is so much more rewarding than living in the shallow happiness of ignorance.

10) SING EVERYDAY – For as long as I can remember people have been asking me why I’m always so happy. This is one of the biggest contributing factors. I sing all the time. You should, too. In the car or in the shower or while you’re making breakfast or walking up and down the aisles at HEB. Just sing. Listening to music has the magical power to lift even the saddest of spirits. It heals the soul in ways that are beyond my comprehension. But listening is just the beginning. Participate in it. Sing along whether or not you’re good at it and be grateful that you’ve been given ears to hear and a voice to raise.

And when you have a lazy Saturday or a rainy afternoon and feel like being a kid again (also helpful in maintaining happiness), bake some sugar cookies and decorate them. Because let’s be honest, cookies in fun shapes make everyone smile.

Rolled Sugar Cookies

Ingredients

3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Icing

1 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons milk
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
assorted food coloring

1. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla until well incorporated. Stir in (or mix in on lowest setting) the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cover and chill dough for at least one hour.

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Roll out dough on floured surface 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into shapes with any cookie cutter. Place cookies 1 inch apart on parchment lined or ungreased cookie sheets.

3. Bake 8 -10 minutes in preheated oven until light golden around the edges. Cool completely.

4. Combine all icing ingredients in mixing bowl, separate into small containers to color, and frost to your heart’s content.

An apple sitting on a counter? Whatever. No big deal. But a cookie shaped and decorated like an apple? Squeal! Letting yourself be creative, letting yourself create things in general, brings so much joy. It’s a little piece of you out in the world. Have a happy weekend, everybody. I’ll be back soon with a peach cake that tastes like happiness feels. Get excited.

xoxo,

Mindy

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things not seen

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Things not seen. This seems to be a recurring theme in my life as of late. It’s been the topic of countless conversations. It’s taken up residence in every corner of my mind, squatting and refusing to be evicted as though its constant presence will somehow lead me to resolution. It hasn’t. Well, no concrete resolution anyhow. I think that’s what led me here: the need to process and examine.

I quit my job. I had a good job. I had a real title and a (really great) salary and for the first time in my life I felt like I was on track. Only it wasn’t the right track. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my job. I loved the people I was working with and I love baking but 70-80 hour weeks left me emotionally and mentally and physically exhausted. I was pushing things that really matter in my life further and further down my list of priorities and I justified it with my lack of free time. I quit because I felt God telling me to quit. I heard him calling me to something different, but what I had no clue. I still don’t. I heard two things: quit and wait. So I did and I am. I’m not sure what I’m waiting for. Things not seen, I suppose.

It’s interesting to me how the things in life that seem to hold the most importance, the most weight, the most significance, are the things that can’t be measured or tracked or even studied. Someone recently explained this theory they have about attraction. You know that spark people talk about? That jolt of electricity that draws you to certain people? It has the power to stop me dead in my tracks and to render me utterly speechless. That’s rare. So the theory he posed was that it actually is electricity. Now, I hope I can get this correct, what I think he was saying was that the electrons in our body are sending out this signal, this energy. We also have tiny receptors all over our bodies that respond to the energy emitted by others. The trick is that only certain people’s receptors respond to certain people’s energy. Sparks. We’ve all felt them, been brought to our knees by this powerful yet unseen force. And though we can’t prove it, the feeling it produces can seem more real than anything else in our lives.

It’s the same with God. I could tell people all day long about how real he is in my life. I could try and explain the inexplicable, that I feel loved by a force, by a creator, that I have never seen. I could even point at evidence of his presence in my life, but until you’ve experienced it and felt it in your own life you would never believe me. Because it’s crazy. It’s mystical and other-worldly and makes absolutely no sense. It can’t be proven by research. Things of the heart never can.

I’ve been unemployed for two months now. Two months and two days, to be exact. And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t getting just slightly worried. You see I’ve been living off of money that I had saved up and it’s beginning to dwindle. I’m running out of funds and I need a job. I need an income. I’ve been banking on this nanny position that I really want, but I’m still waiting to find out if it’s a sure thing. And if it’s not, I have a very small window in which to find a job before I become penny-less. That’s terrifying. But I’m not terrified. A little worried, sure, but not terrified. I should be. I absolutely should be terrified of not being able to pay my rent, but for some reason I have this incredible sense of peace about it. I know that the Lord will lead me where and when he wants to.

I’ve had a lot of time over the last eight weeks to dig deep and explore things about my God that I’ve always assumed but didn’t know why I assumed them or even if I was correct in my assumptions. One of them is that he has a very different plan for my life. For as long as I can remember I’ve longed for relationships. I’ve longed for true and deep and real relationships. I love easily. I love greatly. It’s not me and it’s not of me. I’ve tried to use it for me and I’ve often wanted to take credit for it but nothing about the love I feel in my heart is a result or expression of myself. I am deeply flawed and selfish and sinful by nature and it is for these reasons that I’ve neglected that love, and run from it, and ignored it in the hope that it would go away and leave me in guilt-free peace. It hasn’t. I don’t think it ever will. But because I love greatly, I also crave love greatly. In the (not-so-distant) past I’ve let that desire consume me. I’ve let it grow and fester and develop into resentment and jealousy because I wasn’t going back to the source. I wasn’t filling that desire with a love that satisfies. I thought I wanted human love. But human anything is never enough. There’s an innate desire in each of us, whether we recognize it or not, for something much bigger. It was a longing placed in the heart of man to know and be known by our creator. It’s life altering when you finally feel the love of the one you were designed for and by. That happened for me recently. I’ve always known the Lord loved me on a deeper level, but it wasn’t until just a few months ago that I truly felt it in the innermost part of my soul. It’s as if a switch was flipped and this light and warmth began to flood into the deepest parts of me that had never before experienced light and warmth. It was lovely. I began to see and understand that my purpose in this life is not about me at all and that, though my journey through it might look completely different than that of my peers, it was by no means less valid or less special. Each of us has been given strengths and tools that are unique. They help us navigate our respective paths in the best way possible. And just as each gift is different, so is each path.

I’ve been a hear-er for a long time now, but I can’t claim to be all that much of a do-er. In Romans, Paul is very clear about the consequences of hearing and not doing. It is the do-ers, he says, who will be justified in the eyes of the Lord, not the hear-ers. I’ve seen and heard God, but listening and following are two very different things. I think too often in this life we hear God speak but we pretend that it’s not him. We second-guess it, put it on a back burner, justify not obeying by any means necessary. I’m realizing more and more that there are no coincidences in this life and when God places something on our hearts or in our brains it would behoove all of us to stop and not only take note but to act on what it is we hear. Stop the behavior that convicts you. Call the person you’ve been thinking about. Quit the job that God tells you to quit. It’s scary, to step out on faith. It means putting all your eggs in one basket. I’ve put my eggs in a lot of people’s baskets. A long time ago I sat in a restaurant just off campus and  had a conversation I’ll never forget with a boy about eggs and baskets. I think we called them apples instead of eggs, but eggs makes more sense to me now because they imply fragility. At the time all of my eggs were in his basket. Was he trust worthy? Definitely. Was he a good person? Without a doubt. Did he drop my eggs? Absolutely. I was heart broken for a very long time. We’ve all experienced the disappointment that comes from placing our trust in unreliable hands. We’re gun-shy and our scars leave us with a skeptical spirit and a guarded heart. The bottom line is that people are people, and regardless of intent we all fall short at one point or another. It’s why Jesus preached forgiveness so vehemently. We are a broken people in desperate need of an unbroken savior. Unbroken. Without fault. Trust-worthy. God will not drop your eggs. He will not fail you. He will allow you to endure hardships. He will send you down dangerous paths and life will be difficult. But he will not disappoint you. It’s in those dark spots that his light shines the brightest. It’s those moments in which we fully understand our need for a savior and it’s usually those moments, the moments when we’ve been broken beyond comprehension, that the Lord sees most fit to use us. To wrestle with your own sin and mortality and brokenness is, I think, to come to terms with that innate desire for God.

Like every big event in my life, I think there was a very specific purpose for which I was led to my job at the resort. When I retrace the steps that led me there I see the divinity of it all. I think I know what that purpose was. But I’m gonna keep it to myself. It’s our secret, mine and God’s. For now, at least. There’s little to no doubt in my mind about it. I have no proof, it’s unseen, but I would bet money on it and not be scared of losing. Living out God’s plan for your life, truly living in his will, is exhilarating and scary and reassuring all at the same time. My prayer is that I would become a do-er. That I would hear God’s voice and respond with my whole life. Next steps? I’m applying to the Austin Stone Institute. Austin Stone has been my home church since about my sophomore year of college. I’ve grown there and I believe their theology to be more biblical and true than a lot of other churches I’ve visited. This program will give me the opportunity to learn more about why I believe what I believe. It will give me the scholarly and concrete knowledge to back up what I already believe in my heart. It will help me to articulate my faith. And I’m getting pretty excited about knowing my savior more fully. I still need a job. Several people have expressed concern that my new job of choice is nannying, but I think that’s what I’m supposed to do. Besides allowing me to make use of my huge love for kiddos, it also gives me the flexibility I’ll need to bake on the side (because I am by no means ready to give up on baking) and the opportunity to really build a clientele (because moms always need birthday cakes.) And who knows, I could wake up a year from now and have gone in a completely different direction. I have no idea where God is leading me ultimately, but I don’t need to see hard evidence for me to believe. I feel it and and it gives me hope, “and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

And when you need something sweet, these chocolate chip cookies don’t disappoint either. Because this is, after all, a baking blog. Right?

nom nom nom

nom nom nom

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Shortening
  • 3/4 cup Sugar
  • 3/4 cup Brown Sugar
  • 2 tsp Mexican Vanilla Extract
  • 2 large Eggs
  • 2 1/4 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1-2 cups Chocolate Chips
  • 1 cup Pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 375.

Cream shortening, both sugars, and vanilla on high until thoroughly combined. Add in eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Combine flour, salt, and baking soda and pass through a fine mesh sieve. Add to wet ingredients in three additions, mixing on the lowest speed after each addition until just combined. Add in chocolate chips and pecans and mix until just incorporated.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Drop dough by either rounded tablespoon full or small ice cream scoop (I find ice cream scoops provide the best and most consistently sized cookies) onto parchment and bake in preheated oven for approx. 11 minutes or until just golden.

These are my favorite cookies of all time and have won me countless friends and one job. Enjoy them as much as I do.

xoxo,

Mindy

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