Category Archives: Home Life

Grandma’s Recipe

There’s something satisfying about being bonded through food to someone you love. Several years ago I happened upon a recipe for banana pudding in one of my cookbooks. It delighted me to see adjustments written next to it that said, “Grandma’s way.”

20160528_140939I started making the pudding. First it was a Fourth of July tradition, then the kids started asking for it more often. Pretty much every time I made it I thought about how happy it would make my sweet grandma to know her great-grandchildren loved one of her specialties.
Time passed. Our family is growing. Soon after our daughter, Sarah, married, I found out banana pudding is one of her husband’s favorites, and my making of the treat increased in20160517_153924 frequency. That’s why our youngest son’s girlfriend, Ariel, discovered it. It delighted me when I offered to bring it to her graduation party, and her eyes lit with pleasure.

Again, it’s that connection thing. My grandma loved people through food. The family even teased her that she had some kind of a disease that required her to keep people feed. She was a good-old-fashioned-homemade-simple-country-kind-of cook. Nothing was fancy. Everything was GOOD. And there was always PLENTY of it.

Now those who are part of us get a little of Grandma’s lovin’ through my cookin’. (Hear the southern click in? I am from Oklahoma originally.)

As a mom of three boys, I soon discovered there is something to the old adage that food is a way into a man’s heart. My husband loved it as I learned favorite recipes from his side of the family, too. Traditions have grown from that–like homemade cinnamon rolls to start a holiday morning (or just because it snows).

For the gluten-free set, I’ve found my mom’s apple crisp to be a hit. For birthdays it’s a toss-up whether the one celebrated wants the “famous” Moldenhauer chocolate cake, a recipe from Jerry’s mom, Fencine, or my famous banana cake, a recipe from my mom. (Then again, David still votes for banana pudding no matter what!) When I make Grandma’s chocolate gravy for breakfast, I make homemade biscuits from a recipe from my brother, Curtis.

Then there are my own discoveries. Like the “holly” (Challah) bread which I learned to make, in part, because it pleased my Jewish neighbor, Bernice. It was a childhood favorite for her back in New York. My daughter, Sarah still loves to braid the dough, something she’s delighted in since childhood.IMAG0704

My grandma was well-known for her pies. Sarah and I spent hours covered in flour when she was little. I showed her how to feel the dough to know how much flour was needed, and how to “work” it as little as possible to keep it flaky. She now claims to make better apple pies than I do. (Her brothers agree; her father doesn’t. Smart man.)

Isn’t it all about relationship? I love making food that triggers a memory of someone I love. Grandma, Fencine, and Bernice are now all with their Lord, but I love watching the new people in my circle of love as they connect to a circle of those who have passed on and left their recipes of love for me to share.

Now . . . for those of you on Facebook who requested the recipe, I share this family treasure. (For more on the step-by step process, visit this post, which doesn’t have ingredients, but does show pictures and further explain the process.)

Grandma Eunice’s Banana Pudding

In large serving bowl:

Layer vanilla wafers and bananas

Cream together in medium sauce pan:

1 C sugar, 2 eggs, 3 heaping T flour

Add the following and place on medium heat:

3 C whole milk

Stir pretty much constantly!

When pudding thickens and begins to boil, keep stirring and add:

1 t real vanilla, 2 T real butter

When butter is completely melted pour over wafers and bananas. Crumble some wafers on top and line round wafers around the sides if you want just ’cause it’s pretty.

(If you’re making this for Ariel, Sarah, or David, go for more cookies and less bananas. If you’re making it for Stephen, go lighter on the cookies and heavier on the bananas. Then again your special people might like it however you do!)

Confession: Grandma used margarine and imitation vanilla, but even the best recipes can use a little tweak. ;o)

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My 2015 Christmas Miracle (Part 1)

SS CollectionToday I’m telling a secret.

Talk about biting the lower lip to keep the old trap shut! Now it’s finally time to share!

It started with a little tap-tap on the shoulder and grew into something more.

Unexpected.

Miraculous.

God’s majesty and provision is ever-present. But maybe sometimes He likes to show off for His kids in a really personal way.

Or maybe it’s not showing off. Maybe it’s simply LOVE.

Here’s the big news. It is totally a “God-thing.”

My latest book releases Christmas week!

Called Soul Scents~A Spiritual Journey in the Son’s Embrace, the devotional set offers 52 weeks of week-day devotions. The writing spans more than a decade of my discovery of a God Who is more graceful and loving than I ever dreamed. Meeting Him in this way truly changed my life, and I can’t begin to describe the joy I feel at sharing with others what He has shown me. Offering this series is like offering the most precious treasures of my heart.

God is not Who I once thought He was.

He is so much more and so much better than I ever dreamed.

His love has depths I’ve yet to plum and heights I’ve yet to climb. His grace is bafflingly beautiful. But what I have grasped is more than enough to re-shape my schemata of life. I pray Soul Scents is a tool the Lord uses to do the same for readers.

Each day this week I’ll share a tid-bit about the miraculous journey to Soul Scent’s Christmas release and why it’s the project of my heart.PMApprov1-01

Watch for details on the first book in the series, Soul Scents: Awaken, which releases Christmas week offering devotions for the first 13 weeks of 2016.

One of the things I’m especially excited about is Amazon’s Kindle program which will allow us to offer the digital version on periodic free days. What a wonderful way to get the word out about Who He is and the love and passion He has for us!

Two *Free* days will be scheduled for Christmas week so readers can begin the spiritual journey with Soul Scents the very first day of 2016.

I can’t wait to shout from the roof tops (or at least the blogoshere) how God orchestrated what I’m calling my Christmas miracle. Tomorrow’s post goes way back to the beginning!

Marriage Reflections

20140704_205157-1No disrespect intended to those couples who say the best years of marriage were when they had nothing but love, staring into each others eyes in that first, tiny apartment, only peanut butter and jelly in the cupboard, but as I celebrate 26 years of marriage I’m thinkin’ the best years are yet to come.

After all, as love grows so does joy. And if those bare cabinet days don’t separate, they bind. Tight.

Reflections are strange sometimes. There is much good to celebrate today–and I do–but I find my musings today have taken an unexpected twist.

I’m thinking of what we DIDN’T do instead of what we did.

In those years of lack and hardship we didn’t blame each other.

When one of us struggled–with life, faith, forward movement–we didn’t give up on each other.

When people came against us, throwing conflict and discontent into relationships we didn’t allow them to divide us.

When grief sometimes silenced one of us, even immobilized for a time, we didn’t push each other to get over it.

When there were problems we didn’t ignore them. We also didn’t rush the fixing process.

When one of us succeeded we didn’t get jealous.

When life grew hard we didn’t look for greener pastures.

When opportunities came for a spouse we didn’t hold them back. We also didn’t let opportunities rob us of our priorities for each other and the children.

We didn’t compare our jobs or roles or claim we worked harder than the other.

We didn’t expect the other person to be our only person. We also didn’t expect love to grow between us without giving it a lot of attention.

We didn’t assume the other person made hurtful choices out of a desire to hurt.

We didn’t set unrealistic expectations of each other.

We didn’t do any of the above perfectly. And, perhaps most important, we didn’t expect each other to.

Early on my sweet Jerry taught me the value of trusting each other’s heart. When I was (much) less than perfect in my efforts to love him, or when I struggled with choices he often told me, “Honey, I trust your heart.”

Over the years I learned that if we had that core belief–that the other person always, at the heart level, wanted the best, we could weather a lot of stuff. Mistakes became simply mistakes instead of a premeditated attempt to wound. Conversations became about understanding perspective instead of assuming conflict and duking it out.

I (eventually) discovered that I often let my anger grow toward my husband not because I was truly upset but because once I got hurt I imagined what he was thinking or feeling toward me. As I made assumptions my anger and self-justification escalated. Soon a full-blown battle was raging inside of my head. When I learned to ask Jerry if he was actually thinking those things his look of shock taught me that I could imagine far more conflict and condemnation than he came up with on his own.

So, as I grew, I didn’t make assumptions about what he thought or felt. Instead, I trusted his heart and asked questions to clarify.

We’ve weathered a lot of stuff, my man and me. We’ve seen more joy than any couple edit j adn p 1 (2)deserves, and we’ve had more disappointment and pain than we ever wanted to experience or would invite again. But when I think back to early days I don’t long for something we’ve lost. What we had then has only grown and reshaped itself, not disappeared.

I’m sure there are things we DID do that helped our love mature, but I can’t help but believe it was the things we didn’t do that kept our marriage from self-sabotage.

And so it is maybe largely in part to the “didn’ts” that I can’t wait for the next year of marriage and the next and the next. I think since we didn’t give into blame on those empty cupboard days (and I’m not just talking finances here) that as our days are rich they will be richer. We won’t take the good for granted because we know the bad. And (I hope) we won’t let the bad send us as quickly to despair because we have walked hard days and come out on the other side together. Stronger.

One.

So it is with great gratitude I celebrate 26 years of NOT doing and wait in eager anticipation for the love and joy to come.

Why Does Empty Nest Last So Long?

Blueberry wholewheat pancakes for Dad, Stephen, and me. Chocolate chips melting in Sam and20140630_084216 Seth’s. Even after Dad left for work we lingered at the table. They teased me for offering hot drinks from the Keurig. Said I always pushed it on them these days. I’ll never understand why the men of this family can’t fully appreciate the joy of a steaming cuppa.

Seth needed to get on the road, but still we lingered. Stephen commented on how it would be Thanksgiving before he had time at home again. Sam said he needed just a little bro time before everyone scattered, so the three of them donned tennis shoes and played football in the cul-de-sac like they used to when they were little.

I didn’t watch, but my ear was tuned to their return, the creak of the screen door, the deep voices bantering about their “perfect” plays.

All three of them teased me about the food we loaded into Seth’s ancient red car, but it will save him grocery money, and I have plenty to share. Seth tells me it’s enough. No more. But he’s been on his own long enough to see the value in dollar signs.

Healthy food. At least that I can give.

I don’t know where I got the idea that empty nest was a one time event. That once the last left everything hurt for a while and got better.

It’s not an event. It’s a season of marathons. The first leaves, and it hurts. Then the next and next, and they all hurt. And then before someone else leaves one comes back, but not to stay. And when you just get used to the latest transition, there is another. Sometimes one moves out the week (or day!) another moves in.

Then suddenly the house is empty.

I was excited beyond reason to pick Stephen up from college a few weeks ago. A mom anticipates with such fervor! But soon he leaves for his summer job, which ends the day before his fall job at the college starts.

Thanksgiving break is an eternity away.

Fleeting. Every moment flies abroad. You can’t hold on so you try to live inside the moments. To fully embrace the treasured gifts of time.

But as the moments flee you are caught inside, reeling, turning, turning, turning inside time’s bubble. And you have to find a way out.

To set your feet in the new now.

Lounging in the family room, daughter and husband reluctant to leave despite their exhaustion. But it’s hard to leave when we’re all there.

It’s so rare we are all there.

family shotIt is difficult to be productive. A few times last week before Sam’s graduation I got that feeling I had right after Bernice died, when the energy inside is suddenly gone and you can do nothing but sit for a while and stare at the walls.

Everyone acts like I should be fine because the youngest will live at home another year to take advantage of free local college.

But he is a revolving door, to work, school, friends, activities. This homeschooling momma isn’t needed for academics or much else, her input more interference than help as he steps into manhood.

And when they are all gone, whether for a day or a semester, the house is quiet.

So quiet.

Jesus whispers that He doesn’t want me to think of it like I’m alone. That I’m never really alone.

But I miss the Jesus arms that hugged me through the arms of my sons, the Jesus eyes that met mine through those big green ones of my daughter.

Sometimes I wonder if hubby will ever get home from work. His Jesus arms heal, too.

I want them to go. To grow up healthy without their mommy hanging onto them. I want them to20131228_112151 fly free and conquer their worlds. To find meaningful relationship and grow into adults and new families of their own.

I want to conquer my world, too, this new world where they don’t need much from me. Where I have expanded space to pursue my dreams.

But that, too, is slower, harder than I thought it would be.

At least so far.

Sometimes it’s actually fun when hubby is home. We find we can do whatever we want. Two. Without responsibility to anyone else. The kids call us teenagers when we curl up in our own bed, hooked on a Netflix series they wouldn’t watch.

But while hubby works that pesky quiet invades. It’s not just in the walls it’s roaring in my head and in my heart.

I’ve given myself permission to grieve. Maybe it’s time I give myself permission to stop grieving.

But I’m not sure I know how.

A Momma’s Heart for Her Graduate

1As a little boy you told me, “I’ll always want you to hug me, Mom.” You were frustrated because your big brother had just said I hugged him too much. Not only were you concerned my feelings had been hurt, but you couldn’t imagine not wanting hugs.

I said I wouldn’t hold you to the promise once you were 11 or 13. But you never changed. That sweet little boy who loved his momma’s hugs let me hug him through those insecure preteen years. Even in front of friends you’d hug me good-bye. You were never too cool for love.

Recently as you watched (and grieved) your older siblings leave the nest, you promised to hug me at least once a day. It was your remedy for my tears, I think. And you’ve kept your word. You’ve always been good at loving, Sam–and letting others love you, too. Some people have to learn to love, to say kind words, to hug, to lovingly tease, but not you. You make loving look easy.

20140718_165152Your faith, too, seems as natural to you as breathing. I’m sure during the hard times you were like anyone else, questioning the pain. Two hip surgeries and the struggle to return to your passion as an athlete tested it for sure, as did the times money was tight, and we didn’t know how to give you what you needed. But I don’t remember you having deep questions or anger. Mostly I remember you speaking faith to me when I struggled with my own. Fear would close in on me. I’d wrestle with God, reminding Him of the needs I couldn’t meet. Then you’d waltz in with your natural smile, put your arm around me, and say, “Don’t worry, Mom. God has this.” It makes me grin to remember the twinkle in your eye when God would solve the problem, and you’d say, “I told you everything would be okay.”

It’s delightful to see you hit a home run, write a creative story, or earn academic awards, but it’s your passion for God and people, your faith, your love, that bring me the most joy. Your favorite time of the week is volunteering in kids’ ministry at church. I love that you’re considering this as a career. I love that you chose to raise money to go on a mission’s trip this summer. I can’t wait to hear all about everything God does in and through you.11083920_10153255545128179_7517803830470359130_n

This year you have truly stepped into a new place, successfully completing two semesters at college while still in high school, working an insane amount of hours at your new job, and keeping up with a demanding varsity baseball schedule. I worried and fussed about all the demands upon you, but I shouldn’t have. You handled it. There were times you were exhausted. I wanted you to quit work or at least ask for time off, but you persevered, building a savings account and enjoying paying your own way. Just another part of manhood you’re stepping into. I’m proud of you. Of your perseverance, hard work, and determination.

As I prayed about this special day, this day when you are honored as a high school graduate, I asked the Lord what 10He saw. My pen flowed across journal pages thinking about how you bring such joy and love into this world. How you notice beauty. Offering uplifting words. (It’s a good thing you also have your daddy’s ornery streak and quick humor to help balance all that sweetness!) Love making people happy. I felt like the Lord told me to let you love life and help other love it and not impose upon you my hyper-active need to work and succeed. That you would be one of the lucky ones who could be productive without having to first get stressed out. That’s pretty cool. He also reminded me that you are becoming a wonderful communicator. I can’t wait to see where that goes.

Then He brought three men from the Bible to mind, all communicators. The first is your namesake, Samuel. Like Samuel you have been learning to discern God’s Voice from a young age, and like Samuel God will increasingly speak to you, and you will be able to share hope and wisdom with others as you listen to what God says and speak when He nudges you to speak.

The second one who came to mind was King David. Like you, he was a worshiper. He was passionate about God and God’s people. He noticed and celebrated beauty. He was creative. Somehow David was a fierce and manly warrior while maintaining a tender heart that produced the Psalms, some of the most beautiful poetry ever written. You have a heart like David, and the Lord is making you a strong, mighty man while protecting that heart that bring Him and others such joy.

The last name I wrote in my journal was Paul, again your namesake. Paul was passionate about God’s grace. His understanding of grace continues to affect how we see God and ourselves over 2,000 years later. Though one of the most powerful leaders of the new church, Paul struggled with a weakness. He asked God three times to simply take it away, but God told him to look to Him, that His grace would be sufficient for him. Like Paul you are passionate about grace. You long to see yourself as God sees you and to help others see themselves the way God sees them. Like Paul you have weakness (don’t we all?), and God said this was okay, that your struggles help you look to Him and rely upon Him in ways you wouldn’t without them.

As I finished my prayer time yesterday I felt the Lord remind me that David was the youngest of his brothers. As the youngest I know you sometimes struggled to find your own place. You had three awesome older siblings you looked up to. You wanted to excel as each of them had. In life. In character. It had to be hard sometimes to forge your own path. You loved them so much and wanted to be yourself even as you wanted to be like them. But you have succeeded, my son. You have stepped into manhood uniquely you even as you share many of the same traits I love about Samuel Moldenhauerthem. And as I prayed yesterday I feel the Lord gave me a promise for you, that He has seen your heart, and He is pleased. That though you are the youngest, like King David you will not be overlooked. He is raising you up to be a man of influence who will impact this world for good.

And so I release you to it, Sam. With pride. Joy. Confidence. I know His plans for you are good, and like God, I trust your heart.

Did God Laugh?

“Have you heard God laugh today?”

The private message came from out of the blue from a friend I rarely hear from. She said she felt she was supposed to ask me that question.

It haunted me.

My days have been serious. A best friend’s husband has cancer. I’m still adjusting to way too much quiet. The voice in my head (NOT the True voice in my heart) says all kinds of mean things to me.

How do you hear God’s laughter?

I believe He laughs. Is full of good humor.

But where do I find it, this God-laughter?

The questions stayed with me for the next few days, which happened to include a wonderful snowfall AND Superbowl Sunday.

snow new deckThis meant big brother drove home from college to hang with the guys.

It also meant lots of testosterone at my house.

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Jerry and I spent a fair amount of time at the kitchen window watching those overgrown boys.

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“They’re like frisky calves.”

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“Little” brother (all 6 foot 1 inches of him) and his best friend piled a mound of snow on our deck. Brother-in-law had the video ready to catch slow-mo action.

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“Big” brother (not quite six foot) awaited the challenge.

 

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Big brother would strip down (covering only the most important parts with clothing)

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Then he would lie on the snow and “little” brother and best friend would bury him.

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And yes I do believe I heard God laugh.

Until next time,

Paula another test (401x192) (2)

A Matter of Perspective

20150130_100222Twisted.

Then untangled.

A matter of perspective.

It started with last weekend’s home improvement project. We’re building a deck. Not being particularly good at that sort of thing we hired a guy who was willing to do the skilled labor but charge less if we did the grunt work.

So we’ve dug holes and screwed down flooring while he frames. The 25 square foot concrete slab fell to our part of the bargain, and it was finally warm enough to do it. Having no clue as to what we were doing, we went to the experts on YouTube. After perusing a few videos we dug in.

ALL day.

Jerry built a frame. I carried bag after bag of 60 pound concrete. (Thankfully our teenager made a brief appearance home long enough to carry about a third of those bags.) Hubby and I took turns stirring, working until our muscles had to have a break, then giving the other person a turn. Neither of us particularly like this sort of work but what makes these projects worse is that we have no confidence in our ability to do them well.

Still, there was a sort of satisfaction at sweating together and seeing something useful take shape before our eyes. I was even a little bit proud of myself.

We ran out of daylight before the project was finished, and my poor husband had some pain that meant he was done. The finishing of our concrete slab fell to me.

In the dark.

I did my best to use the edger like the guy on the video had done. Then I took an old broom and went across the top so it wouldn’t be slick when it dried. I had very little understanding of how it was supposed to be done and couldn’t see very well in the weak light of the porch light, but I did what I could.

Then I drew a heart in the concrete. It’s silly, maybe, but I wanted to put Jerry and my initials in it. We’d done it together, a labor of love. It wasn’t going to be perfect, but it was ours. I couldn’t get the lettering to look decent, so I decided a heart would suffice.

The deck guy inspected our work a few days later. “I’m not going to sugarcoat this. If you’d paid for it I’d tell you to get your money back. It’s not entirely level, and the broom lines are too deep. Still, it’ll hold your stairs, and it’s okay for two people who don’t know what they are doing.”

As I shared his statement with a friend my voice caught. The joy of doing something for ourselves was overshadowed by its imperfections. An attitude of poverty washed over me. Even when we tried to do something new and nice it was substandard.

My friend prayed. As she prayed a new perspective emerged. “Oh, Paula,” she said. “God is proud of you! He loves your concrete slab. He’s not judging it on some predetermined standard. He’s delighting in it because you made it! Just as you would celebrate your child’s artwork and hang it on your refrigerator without comparing it to learned artists, He celebrates what you have created.”

And the joy rushed back.

Gone was the twisted, tangled emotions of disappointment. I again felt the pride of using my own two hands, feeling my aching back and muscles. I embraced the camaraderie of working alongside my husband, partners in improving the little plot of land that is our own.

concrete heartMy thoughts flashed back to my grandparents’ home. Established during the depression they did as many country folk did in their day. They built small, with their own two hands. Added rooms as they could. Poured the concrete for their sidewalk. The broom marks there had their own unique homemade pattern, and I thought they were wonderful. I adored their home because it was love and family and ours.

The 25 square foot block by my garage door may not be as pretty as if we’d paid a professional, but if a professional had done it I wouldn’t remember spending the day shoulder to shoulder with my husband. There’s something about the struggle and the sweat that makes that space a little more ours.

That heart I scratched into the concrete says it all.