My Glory Story

“For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” Habakkuk 2:14

Recently, I read a story in Emily Ley’s “Growing Boldly” that has been resonating with me.  She interviewed her friend Christie about her family and the challenges they face.  After years of miscarriages, Christie and her husband finally had the family they desired, two daughters and two sons.  It’s easy to assume that the miscarriages were the “hard seasons” that Christie and her husband had to endure, concluding that their life would be relatively smooth from this point on.  But the real hard was just beginning when they found out that their oldest son was diagnosed with cystinosis, a rare genetic disorder with only five hundred cases currently in the United States.  After dealing with this diagnosis, they later found out that their youngest son also had cystinosis.  This disease has no cure, only treatments, and the prognosis is terminal.  Christie did not hesitate to share the hard details of her life because she believes that “this is our glory story” and she wants “to point people back to the Lord.”

Read that paragraph again and let the gravity of what this woman is saying sink in.  Two of her sons deal with medical challenges that most of us can’t even begin to comprehend.  Yes, medicine is making advances, but, currently, there is no cure in sight.  She is not bitter or in despair, instead she is motivated to use her testimony to bring glory to God, no matter where this story takes her.

Barb Houston, the wife of one of our pastors, recently shared with our congregation something that God was speaking to her during a Sunday morning service.  She said that it is one thing to know that God is faithful, but that God has more to reveal to us during hard seasons.  She encouraged us to show gratitude, responding with this sentiment during hard seasons.  “I know that this looks very dark, but I know who You are, and You will work in this situation.  You will bring good.  You will deliver, You will heal, You will glorify Your name and I will see it and I thank you!”  By this very action, by choosing to thank God for the tough situations and know that His glory will be revealed, we will not only be strengthened, but we will be a testimony of His glory to others.

  My story has not always been pleasant.  I was repeatedly raped by my stepfather for over a decade.  I hid my shame by stuffing food into my mouth, resulting in weighing well over 350 pounds.  And in the past few years, I have dealt with some hard situations.  Although I can’t change my past, I can choose whether it is my story or my glory story.  If it is my story, I will identify with the brokenness, obesity, hurt and despair.  If I choose to let it be my “glory story”, I will use it as a testimony to declare the goodness of God.  And by seeing the goodness of God in my past, I can rest assured that in the future, no matter what happens, God is good, and His glory will be revealed!

In 1870, Horatio Spafford appeared to be a man who was on a path for a blessed life.  As a successful lawyer, he had invested into real estate in the booming city of Chicago.  In addition, he was a man of faith, married with five children.  But like a modern-day Job, he soon lost everything.  First, his four-year-old son died of pneumonia.  Next, the Chicago Fire destroyed all his real estate holdings, leaving him in financial ruin.  He slowly started to rebuild his life which included helping to rebuild Chicago.  He also chose to invest not only in real estate but also in his faith by helping the evangelist D. L. Moody with some missionary work in Europe.  In 1873, he sent his wife and daughters on ahead to Europe, while he wrapped up some business dealings.  Tragedy struck again, when his family’s ship collided with an iron sailing vessel, killing 226 people.  His wife sent a telegram with the simple words, “Saved alone.”

Spafford turned his story into a glory story while he traveled to Europe.  As his ship passed the same spot where his daughters had died, he penned a poem.  This poem would later be put to music, becoming one of the most famous hymns sung today.  The first stanza ends with the words, “Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul.”

 My “glory story” is not over.  I am still dealing with some of the aftereffects of the last few years.  I still have loved ones who are experiencing some real struggles.  I still have hurts and disappointments that I must work through.  But even if these situations seem insurmountable or out of my control, my identity is not found in these situations.  I am choosing to believe that God’s goodness will be revealed in these situations.  And while these situations may continue to exist, I can say “It is well with my soul!”

Graceful Transitions 2nd Anniversary

“If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.: 2 Corinthians 11:30

This past summer, I purchased a swimming pool for my grandson to splash in.  It’s exactly the kind of pool that I would have loved as a child: a red mushroom canopy on top with a bright yellow base.  I envisioned him splashing with glee in the pool while I sat next to him on the outside, living vicariously through him.  But I forgot one key point: my grandson, like his father as a child, needs some time to adapt to new situations.  In addition to that, he also wasn’t feeling the greatest that week.  Instead of splashing with glee, he whimpered when we placed him in the pool.  He gradually grew calmer, but never really gained any enthusiasm for the idea.  The pool is now packed away for next summer when we will try again.

Two years ago, I began to write this blog out of a place of brokenness, confusion, and uncertainty.  I felt like my life was transitioning in so many ways, some positive and some not so much.  After twenty-plus years of home educating my own children and providing childcare for different families, my responsibilities were changing, and I had more free time on my hands.  I was also navigating some tough situations that affected all areas of my life.  After praying about some different options, I felt led to spend some time writing, both this blog and a book about my life.

Last year’s anniversary shoot, photo credit to Margaret Collins

I remember nervously posting my first blog, wondering if anyone would read it!  I knew I wasn’t an Ann Voskamp who writes poetic prose that makes you pause and reflect.  I also knew I wasn’t a Lysa TerKeurst who can directly address issues of the heart and bring new Biblical insights to light.  Although I admire these writers, I had no expectation of having the kind of influence they have garnered.  I did know that I was an ordinary woman who served a good God who helped me create an extraordinary life despite brokenness and hardship.

Just like my grandson, I was a little cautious in my first blogs, testing the waters with my vulnerability.  Can I really share some of the hard stories of my life?  Do I want to publicly reveal the shame of obesity I carried around?  Do I want to share some of the failures I have experienced in life?  Dare I expose the loneliness that I have battled for the last eight years?

Post by post, I revealed more and more, and found that my little corner of the social media world felt safe.  As I poured my heart out in words, I felt like I gained a new perspective on some of the struggles I have gone through.  Unlike my grandson, I found that, over the course of time, this “pool” of blogging was a fun place to be, where I could express myself through words, sharing with others what God was doing in me despite my faults and shortcomings.

The biggest lesson I have learned is how the shame script had impacted my life.  It had shaped how I viewed myself, how I related to my husband, how I parented my children, and, most importantly, how I viewed God.  Writing and seeing how others have responded to my posts has helped dismantle this shame.  Brene’ Brown says, “If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.”

Readers, thank you for taking the time to read my blog and for your empathetic responses.  My greatest desire through this experience was that my words somehow will resonate with you and minister to you wherever you are in your life!  I am finding that God is using my blog to do far more inside of me than my desire to minister to others.  In this journey of transition and self-growth, I will continue to write with openness and transparency.  I’m still on a journey, and I hope you will continue to walk with me!

Wedding Salsa

“The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us.” Psalms 67:6

My daughter’s menu for her upcoming wedding is one of our family favorites: chicken fajitas with all the fixings.  It has been a crowd pleaser for years: spicy, lime-marinated chicken with peppers, different salsas to fit everyone’s flavor profile, and creamy queso on the side.  I wouldn’t say my recipe is unique, but the key is using my homemade fajita seasoning, Terry’s grilling skills, and freshly grated cheese.  With the wedding only nine months away, I am prepping ahead of time.  I promise none of this prep involves the possibility of food poisoning, but instead canning some homemade salsa for the wedding.

It’s amazing to me how far one $12-box of tomatoes can go when it comes to canning.  I have made 12 pint jars of corn salsa, 10 pint jars of regular salsa, and I still have a lot of tomatoes left!  I plan on quartering the rest of the tomatoes, brushing them with olive oil, then grilling them over medium heat until they blister on all sides.  Next, I put them in a glass bowl and cover them with plastic wrap.  Once they are cool enough to handle, I take the skin off and remove the seeds.  Finally, I pop them into a freezer bag and then into the deep freezer to use later in stews, chili, and soups.

 I want to share my Corn Salsa recipe with you.  I found this recipe a few years ago and have since adapted it to make it my own.  It’s an amazing combination of sweet and spicy heat, with charred corn, poblano peppers and tomatoes.  This was the first recipe where I used coriander seed.  When crushed, this tiny seed packs a big punch with its bright lemony flavor.  This is not a salsa that induces self-control.  I know several people who have devoured a jar of this salsa in one sitting.

Photo credit by Terry Collins

Grilled Corn Salsa

  • 6 ears of corn (about 3 cups)
  • 1-2 T. olive oil
  • 5 c. tomatoes (about 3lbs.)
  •  2 large poblano peppers
  • 1-2 jalapenos, de-seeded, ribs removed, and finely chopped
  • 1 c. diced red onion
  • 1 1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 6 oz. can of tomato paste
  • 1/4 c. of freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • 1 1/2 t. cumin seeds
  • 1 t. coriander seed (crushed in a bag with a rolling pin)
  • 1/2 t. red pepper flakes
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. pepper
  • 1 c. fresh cilantro, chopped

Preheat grill to medium heat.  Husk and de-silk the corn.  Brush with olive oil.  Place on grill for 2-4 minutes each side until they get a little char, rotate ears until each side is slightly charred.  After ears cool, cut corn off husk.  After you have 3 cups, set it aside.

Place poblano peppers on grill on medium-high heat.  Grill each side until it blisters.  Take off the grill and place in a bowl, covering it with plastic wrap.  When they are cool enough to handle, take skin and most of the seeds and rib out.  Finely chop and set aside.

Blanch 3-4 tomatoes at a time in boiling water for 1-3 minutes until the skin breaks open.  Place immediately in ice-cold water to stop the cooking process, then drain.  After all the tomatoes have been processed, remove skin and seeds.  Dice into small pieces and place in a large stock pot.

Add corn, poblano and jalapeno peppers, onions, tomato paste, vinegar, lime juice, sugar, and all the seasonings except the cilantro.  Bring to a boil on medium heat.  Once it reaches a boil, turn down the heat to simmer and let it simmer for 12 minutes until the liquid slightly reduces.  Add cilantro and cook for another two minutes.  Taste, and adjust salt and seasonings if needed.

If you want to can this in a water bath, make sure jars, lids and seals are all processed correctly.  Place in jars leaving a little headspace, seal, and place in a canner with boiling water a few inches above the jars for 15 minutes.  If they properly seal, you can store for 12-18 months.

I recently saw a meme that made me laugh.  The meme was a picture of people running and the caption says, “Quick!  It’s the forty-five minutes a year when tomatoes taste incredible!”  We are on minute 44 of the 45 minutes, so if you have a lot of tomatoes left, give the corn salsa a try!

Aging With Grace

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, out inner self is being renewed day by day.” 2 Corinthians 4:16 ESV

My great aunt, Lucille Feldkamp, my grandfather’s sister, was one of most beautiful ladies I have ever met.  I didn’t know her well since she only visited during major family celebrations like golden anniversaries and birthdays that marked a new decade.  Her ivory hair framed her pixie face, her eyes twinkled like my grandfather’s, no lines etched the porcelain skin of her face, and she walked into a room gracefully.  I don’t remember her saying much, but her few polite words were always accompanied by a smile and an expression of gentle interest.  I saw their quiet watchful eyes as she sat next to my grandfather, and I wondered what interesting stories the two of them could share with the family gathered around them.  I remember my aunt asking Lucille’s daughter, Delores, what was the secret to her mother’s beauty regime.  She responded that she had no idea, except that her mother always wore hats when she gardened.

My Great Aunt Lucille and my Grandpa, Jerome Walter.

Recently, I was lamenting the truths of aging: the beginning of hot flashes, dry eyes, thinning white hair, and the increase of age spots on my face.  As I lamented, my friend, Bonnie, reminded me of God’s grace, and “wasn’t one of His gifts that we age slowly over the course of time” instead of hitting an age where everything suddenly falls apart.  It stopped my complaints and I have been pondering that for a while, asking myself what are the gifts God is giving me as I age?  The answers I have found are characteristic of the goodness of God.  They demonstrate His generosity, His faithfulness, and His sense of humor.

As far as his generosity, despite my years of obesity, I feel the strongest I have every felt in my life, in addition to having the most amount of flexibility.  The years of obesity could have caused an utter deterioration of my joints, resulting in the need for knee or hip replacements.  Instead, all the weight I have lost has given me a new lease on life.  I spend time racing across my yard to see a bird’s nest, make future play dates with children to splash in puddles, hike with friends, and practice flexibility through Pilates.  I have even attempted to climb a tree, something I rarely did as a child.

His faithfulness is expressed in His willingness to use my words to encourage others.  Twenty years ago, a wrinkle-free and glowing Sherry would have written a blog full of judgmental opinions and acid responses.  Fortunately, although I was prideful in a lot of areas in my life, I lacked confidence in writing, so I never pursued a blog.  God allowed me to forge my own path in pride and experience some failures that led me back to His arms.  He then set me on a different path paved with His word.  Now, I recognize that my age spots, wrinkles, and white hair mark time spent maturing in life experiences.  I can now reflect on my past through God’s eyes instead of youthful pride.

Finally, God has a sense of humor reflected not only in his design of the platypus, but also in my hair.  For all my life, I have had to contend with wavy hair, otherwise known as frizzy, but not quite curly hair.  I desperately wanted to have curly hair like the actress, Minnie Driver.  I would even stop women in public whose curls I deemed perfect and tell them I loved their hair!  My prayers have been answered now that I am in my late forties.  For the past year, my hair has been coming in curly at the roots, to the point that I have had to learn to use different products and techniques to manage it.  I would no longer define my hair as wavy but full-blown curly.  I believe that God answered my prayers through hormonal changes.

Aging does not have to be something we dread.  Yes, we will have wrinkles, move slower, and have thin graying hair.  But these aspects of aging do not have to define us.  Upon reflection of my great Aunt Lucille, it wasn’t just her physical beauty that impressed me, but it was also the fact that she was kind to those around her.  Recently, I spent some time talking to her daughter, Delores.  She shared with me how much her mom embraced the concept of being a homemaker.  She loved gardening and the kitchen was a place where she shined.  She created memories for her family in the meals and desserts she prepared.  Her family has even created a cookbook of their favorite recipes with notes from children and grandchildren explaining why these recipes meant so much to them.  What a beautiful legacy that Lucille gave to her family.  Her inner beauty inspires me to age with grace and dignity!

Butter and Beauty

“One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after:that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” Psalm 27:4 ESV

Chef Sara Moulton recently shared a story about Julia Child on the podcast, Cherry Bombe that made me laugh.  Years ago, Julia Child was at a culinary conference focused on the benefits of healthy eating during the height of the anti-fat trend.  A panel of experts had just spoken about eliminating all fat when cooking and the marvels of breeding pork to be lean.  When the moderator turned to the crowd for any feedback, Julia made a poignant statement in her recognizable voice, “I just don’t understand what is so terribly wrong with butter.  I just love butter!”

 Her words were a lifeline to me during my recent ailment when I couldn’t taste or smell anything.  I ate only because I could feel hunger pains and I needed nourishment to help fight the illness.  When temperature, texture, and color become your only identification with food, oatmeal is warm mush, cherry tomatoes are red wet balls, and coffee is hot brown water.  But Julia Child’s statement about butter kept me going, reminding me that food did have flavor and, someday, my senses of smell and taste would return, and I would, once again, be able to enjoy it.

Photo credit to Terry Collins

This temporary loss made me appreciate God and His creativity and goodness found in the world He designed.  He filled our world with colors, sounds, textures, smells, and flavors that appeal to us and bring enjoyment to our lives.  He could have made the world black and white, where everything we touch is smooth and hard, and smells and taste are one note.  Instead, He paints the sky with citrus colors dusted with blush pinks at sunset, designs birds to sing cheerful morning music, allows spiny hedgehogs to roam pine-scented forests, and gives us salty, rich butter to cover our toast.  I recognize that senses help us take in information about our world and can provide a form of protection for us.  But God had a bigger plan for us; He created beauty in the world for us to see, hear, taste, smell, and touch.  This beauty enriches our lives and points us toward a creative God.

The Bible is full of passages that, through our senses, invite us to learn more about God.  In Psalm 19:1, we are told that “The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the works of his hands.”  In Psalm 34:8, He challenges us to “taste and see that the Lord is good.”  Our testimony and praise “spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere,” according to 2 Corinthians 2:15.  1 John 5:14 states, “the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.”  Finally, we can be assured that God is doing a work in us because Isaiah 64:8 declares, “you are our Father, we are the clay, and you are the potter, we all are the work of your hands,”.

Twenty years ago, if I had had the privilege to serve Julia Child a meal, she would have asked me the same question about butter.  I was trying to make healthy choices when I prepared vegetables for my children, serving them slightly steamed mixed vegetables with just a dash of salt.  My children obediently choked down their flavorless vegetables, never declaring their goodness.  As I have grown in my culinary skills, I now recognize the importance of fat, such as butter or good olive oil, because it provides flavor and balance to foods.  I would still be nervous to cook for Julia Child, but she wouldn’t need to ask me why I thought butter was so terrible!

Just like butter helps to make vegetables a little more palatable, we need beauty in our lives to get through hard moments.  We need to watch sunrises, taste mint chutney, listen to Vivaldi’s concertos, feel the warmth of plush, cozy throws, and smell cinnamon rolls baking in the oven.  Beauty gives us a reason to pause, reflect, praise, and thank God for His multitude of blessings.  Hannah Anderson, in her book All That’s Good: Recovering the Lost Art of Discernment, says, “for when we seek whatever is lovely, we are lifted above the paltry urgencies of this life and given a vision of the next.  When we seek whatever is lovely, we are drawn to the One who is altogether lovely”.  Beautiful things are all around us to enjoy, but I have a responsibility to seek those things.   Just maybe, having my senses impaired for a brief period was a gentle reminder of the importance of drawing closer to the lovely One.