Thankful Thursday

I am sitting out on my front porch having lunch today and thankfulness has welled up inside me.  I am so thankful for my wonderful porch furniture.  It has been such a joy to sit out here with my tea and my Bible in the mornings and just spend time with Papa.  I am also thankful for a porch to put it on!  I am also incredibly thankful that it is11:45 am and I am outside and I am NOT SWEATING!  For those of you not living inOklahoma, this is a glorious thing.  We broke the long-standing record of days over 100 degrees this summer.  (There were over 50-after that I stopped counting)  I have to confess that I was not rooting for that particular accomplishment, but we made it even without my support. 🙂

Seriously, though, I am thankful for many things today, but I am most thankful for the stretching that I have gone through in the past few months.  This stretching has been and is and will be sometimes hard, sometimes painful, and always outside my comfort zone.  Papa is so faithful to give us what we ask of Him. I asked Him to remove everything in me that would hinder me from knowing Him and walking with Him like Jesus did.  And through it all I have been surrounded by grace.  Grace for the learning and grace for the teaching.  Grace for the victory and grace for the failure.  Grace for the moment and grace for the season.  The Bible tells us that His mercies are new every morning.  What grace!  What love!  And if that grace was the only thing I had, it would be abundantly more than enough with fill my soul with thanksgiving!

What are you thankful for today?  I would love to hear about the blessings in your life!

Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall…

Who do you see when you look in the mirror?  That sounds like an odd question, doesn’t it?  At least that is what I thought when Father asked me that.  I’ve come to learn that when Father asks a question He’s not just making conversation.  So I said, “I don’t know, Father.  Who do I see when I look in the mirror?”  His answer surprised me.  He said, “You see the world’s version of who I created you to be.”

“But Father,” I said, “I thought I was beginning to look more like Jesus!”

“You are,” He replied.  “But you still see yourself through the world’s eyes.”

 Wow.  That sounded really big.  So I asked Father to teach me what that meant.  To begin, He had me write a list of all the labels I had agreed with about myself that came from the world.  Anything and everything.  Every category I had ever been put into.  “Overweight” was one of the biggies, and “single parent”, and “low income”.

 Then Father had me expand the list by writing down all the limitations and lies that were attached to each and every one of those labels.  I have to say that it was almost frightening to see how they were so interconnected and woven together.  Using just the previous three examples, the lies would say that because I am a single parent I will also be low income.  And low income people are often lazy and undisciplined, so of course I am overweight.  And because I am low income and overweight, I will continue to be a single parent.  Lies all of them!  But, oh my!  Round and round and round she goes, where she stops nobody knows!  That was just three examples, and believe me there were a lot more than three things on that list.

 I found that there were several recurring themes amongst the many different labels.  Those were the things I believed most deeply about who I was because they came from so many different sources.  It was important for me to see that tangled web of lies and limitations.  It helped me to unearth some beliefs that I didn’t even know I held.

 But Father is so gracious that He didn’t just leave me there.  He has begun slowly taking me through that list and shining the light of His Truth on every single one of those labels.  Slowly, because it is taking me some time to come out of agreement with some of the lies.  I’m discovering that lies come with lots of barbed strings and they attach themselves in the most unlikely places.  And as we go, He is replacing those labels from the world with Truth about who I am from His Word.

 I asked Father this morning why there were so many things on that list.  He said, “The enemy of your soul has come to kill, to steal, and to destroy.  What better way to destroy you than to steal your birthright and inheritance?  And what better way to steal a birthright and inheritance than to convince the heir that they are someone else?”  Wow.  That kind of puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?

 By going through this often emotional, sometimes painful process with Father, I am beginning to see the me that He created.  The me that is Beloved of God.  The me without limitations.  I’m finding that when I am rid of the world’s limitations it’s much easier to catch a vision of my destiny and purpose.  Where there is Truth, there is freedom!

 So, Beloved, my question for you today is this:  Who do you see when you look in the mirror?

My Big Fat Greek Baklava

 

a little bit of heaven

Well, OK, not really fat.  But Big.  And Greek.  And Baklava.

This stuff is amazing.  Really.  It’s quite time intensive if you don’t have a food processor.  Which I don’t.  But worth it.  And I just happened to be home all alone so I decided to go play in the kitchen.  I love being home all alone.  I can crank up my music as loud as I want and don’t have to see anyone stomp into the kitchen, roll their eyes at me and say, “Mo-ther!  Turn your music down!  You’re not the only one who lives here ya know!”  Not that that has anything to do with Greece.  Or Baklava.  It just makes me giggle.

But back to the Baklava.  I looked at many different recipes and combined several to make this.  It uses several different spices, but no worries if you don’t have them all.  Some of the recipes I looked at only called for cinnamon.  So just use what you have on hand.

Baklava Recipe

1 pound of nuts (I used walnuts, hazelnuts, and pecans because that’s what I happened to have in my kitchen.  You can use any kind as long as they are raw and unsalted.)

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp mace

1/2 tsp ground cardoman

1/2 tsp allspice

1 16oz package phyllo dough

1 cup melted butter

Syrup

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup water

1/2 cup honey

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp lemon juice

peel from 1 orange, washed, cut in strips, and pith removed

2 cinnamon sticks

6 whole cloves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 9×13 inch baking dish.  Chop the nuts very fine.  You can do this by hand or in a food processor.

Chopped nuts are so fine! Or is that finely chopped nuts?

After the nuts are fine, mix the ground spices into them.

Don't the spices look pretty?

Ok, now comes the tricky bit.  Unroll the phyllo and place it on a cookie sheet (or your counter top if it’s clean enough).  Mine measured 9×14 so I had to cut an inch off of one end so it would fit my baking dish.  Now, cover the phyllo with plastic wrap and then with a damp cloth.  Some people say to just cover it with the damp cloth, but mine made the phyllo kinda soggy and it stuck together.  So now I cover it with the plastic wrap first.  Place 4 to 6 sheets of phyllo in the bottom of your baking dish.  Brush generously with butter.

Phyllo brushed with butter

 Sprinkle 5 to 6 tablespoons of the nut mixture evenly over the phyllo.  You can put more than that if you want, just keep in mind that too much at a time will make the Baklava not stick together as well.

 

First layer of nuts

Now, add 2 more sheets of phyllo dough and brush with butter.

Second layer of phyllo

Continue to layer the nuts and phyllo sheets, brushing the sheets with butter as you go, until you have used all of the nut mixture.  For the top layer of phyllo, use 6 to 8 sheets, buttering each one.

Last layer of phyllo

Now, using a very sharp knife, cut the Baklava all the way through, into 4 long rows.  Then cut diagonally to make diamond shapes.

Cut and ready for the oven!

Confession time.  I didn’t cut mine in small enough pieces before I baked it.  So, after it cooled, I cut the pieces smaller.

Bake the Baklava for 40 to 50 minutes until golden brown.

Golden loveliness!

While the oven is doing its thing, it’s time to make the syrup to pour over the golden loveliness.

To make the syrup, combine the brown sugar and the water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.

Brown sugar and water

After that comes to a boil, add the honey, cinnamon sticks, cloves and orange peel.  Again, if you don’t have add of these things, it’s ok.  Just use what you have.

All the good stuff added to the pan

Let that come back to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Simmer, simmer...

After the simmering, the syrup will be reduced and nicely thick.  Remove and discard the cloves and cinnamon sticks.  The orange peel is now “candied” orange peel and can be used in other recipes.  Or, you can discard that as well if you want.  Add the lemon juice and the vanilla and mix well.  Remove the syrup from the heat and allow to cool slightly.  After removing the Baklava from the oven, immediately spoon the syrup over the top.

Ta da!

Let the Baklava cool completely before serving.  I like to put it in cupcake papers to serve it.  That makes it easier to handle and looks pretty.

Isn't it pretty?

Here’s a close up.

See all the layers?

This is wonderful served as a dessert, or for a mid afternoon snack.  Or you can take it to a party and really impress your friends!  For best results, store your Baklava uncovered.  That way it stays crispy.

Enjoy!