Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Ultimate Relationship

I love people. I love learning about their quirks, talents and interests, and for some rare, special people, their hearts. I enjoy building relationships with other people, especially. From the eight-year-olds in my Sunday School to the 60-year-old people we invite to Christmas dinner, I love getting to know people better. I think people are the second-biggest blessing that God has given to... people! But so often I am so focused on building relationships (and often pleasing) people, that I forget about the very best gift God has to offer... relationship with HIM!

As awesome as people are, they can never offer the relationship that God can offer! People are needy... they desire things like attention, popularity, control, wealth, and hundreds of other great things. But the main thing I think everyone on this earth needs is to be cared about. I am one of those people. I want to be loved and valued by others, and so often I feel like I have to perform to earn this love. But God is the Creator of humans, and I think He created us with this need. Because He ISN'T needy like humans, He is able to perfectly fulfill what we need. He offers love, wisdom, and peace, and relationship. How awesome is that?

But the think that I so often forget about what He offers is that I don't have to earn it. I don't have to earn His acceptance. I don't have to make God laugh or smile. I don't have to be perfectly sinless to EARN His love. What God wants from me is relationship, an so often I am so busy trying to EARN the "right" to have relationship with Him that I don't actually spend time with Him! I get distracted, and neglect to read His word. I get busy trying to "bless" other people to "shine" for Jesus, but don't actually cultivate a relationship with God! In other words, I want to "shine" for Jesus, while I let the joy He places inside me grow stale and dim. How can I be filled up with the prescence of someone I don't spend time with? How can I let His love shine through me, when I don't take the time to experience His love.

So often I try and try and try to make Him happy... as though His happiness is linked somehow to what I do. God doesn't NEED me to make Him happy. But as I think about it, I realize the thing He really  wants is an actual relationship with me. As Christians we are called to shine FOR Jesus because we are full OF Jesus. Trying to shine for Him without a passion for Him burning in us is like trying to start a fire with a couple twigs. Shining for Jesus requires FUEL! I need Gods' Word and a relationship with Him before I will be able to truly honor HIm! The works don't create a love relationship with God... the love causes us to WANT to do things that honor Him. Seems like I've been trying to do things backwards here!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The reason I look UP to kids who are even shorter than I am

I teach a Sunday School class with 13+ kids in a tiny kitchen every week at my church. Honestly there are some weeks when I have no desire to teach... there are many times when I am dead-dog tired or sad about something, or just feel like I won't do a good enough job. Teaching has never been my strength, and yet every year when our church is trying to recruit volunteers, I ALWAYS sign up. Not because I feel pressured into it, but because I can't imagine a Sunday without my "awesome" kids. The thing is, at first glance, these kids may not appear awesome. People have come to help me with it and have been annoyed with the boys for being, (in their words)  disrespectful... and naughty... and just plain disobedient. But when if you've ever heard me describe these kids to you, you know I've never ever ever called them that!!!!! However, if I look at it logically, I can see where they're coming from. These kids do disobey sometimes. They do interrupt when I'm talking. The DO naughty things... like a lot!  Even so, I love them TO DEATH! And if anyone's teaching anyone in my classroom, the kids are teaching me. You might be asking, "How could they be teaching YOU??? They're being disobedient... what's to learn from that?" Despite the fact that these kids' behavior isn't ALWAYS the best (they're good a lot of the time) every Sunday they show me something pretty important.

But before I tell you what that is, let me give you an overview of my Sunday mornings... I wake up at six, whip up some sweet snack, and pop it in the oven. By that time, it's seven. Oh dear, I need to take a shower... but I should probably go over the lesson plan. So I do.  Then it's time to take the goodies out of the oven and frost them. It's 7:30... service starts at eight... AND I HAVEN'T DONE MY HAIR!!!!!!!!!  I tend to be a rather self-concious person, and regardless of what I'm wearing, I want my hair to look, well, nice. But my hair is greasy and I MUST take a  shower... so I do. It's 7:40 when I'm dressed, and my hair (which is now quite short) looks like I stood outside in a windy thunderstorm. AHHHHHHH!!! Where's my blow-dryer??? Maybe I should straighten my sopping wet hair before I blowdry it... no... bad idea. I frantically start blow drying my hair... when I hear mom knocking on the wall downstairs. (that's the way she calls us girls without walking UP the stairs)
"Honey, it's time to go. Did you turn off the oven? Come down right now, please. We're already going to be late."

I take one lingering glance at my unsightly hair, cringe, and rush out the door with brownies in hand. My heart sinks. Everyone will see my ... hair. The whole church will probably notice... NOOOOOOOOOO! I just know I'll die of embarrassment. (I tend to be a bit dramatic when stressed)

We get to church (five minutes late... and that's on a good day) I sit down in service and consider covering up my hair with the hood to my winter jacket... then decide that would look like Little Pink Riding Hood (my coat is pink.)
An hour later, service is over, and I avoid seeing anybody I know and rush to the children's wing. When I get to the Sunday School wing I set down my brownies and find my lesson plan.
Grace Emery and Sam Dewolf arrive first.
"I like your skirt, Miss Hannah" those are often the first words I hear on a Sunday morning... after a giant hug from Grace. I ask her about her week, and she gives an animated story about her fieldtrip. Inside, I'm thinking... Did she see my HAIR??? It looks like a monstor came and chewed it up! How can she hug me when I look like this???? But I listen and laugh with her and talk to her, and pretty soon the rest of the class shows up. Not a single one comments on my hair. They don't even give me a funny look.  I compliment them on their clothes or stuffed animals( this year they convinced me to implement a class "pet") and we chit-chat (from everything about legos to what they had for breakfast) until large group.
In large group, three girls want to sit on my lap!!! (I often have the urge to HUG those kids!!!) And despite the fact that I have to quietly remind the boys to listen to the teacher throughout large group, they still every week give me their smiles and their attention. (most of the time, anyways.) Back in our small groups, I basically (and usually clumsily) go through what we're supposed to do in the lesson plan. But you know what? Those kids get to see my weaknesses on a regular basis... I forget details, and often the only thing I CAN do is smile. But they still lesson, they still get involved, and they still love me. Why? I have absolutely no idea. But the unjudgmental attitude of those kids always amazes... and convicts me. Do I love like that? Do I look past a person's appearance to what's in their heart? Do I undermine weaknesses and appreciate strengths like they do?

So you see, these kids are NOT perfect. And teaching them on a rug in a super tiny kitchen isn't always EASY. But every week when I'm with those kids, I SEE how open they are with their affection. And I experience love from them all the time. Not perfect love, but love that looks past your appearance, and love that overlooks all my weaknesses. I have had a ton of people comment on "what a blessing" I  must be to those kids. They comment on how brave I must be to put up with the same group of kids for almost three years. But you know what? I'm not "putting up" with them. Whatever there is to put up with is overshadowed by what they have taught me, and how they have loved me. Their freedom to be themselves and to not try to hide behind masks constantly amazes me. Yes I love those kids. But you know what? I'm not the one being a "blessing." Every Sunday for the past three years, I've received a wonderful gift from these kids. One that I'll remember far longer than anything they'll remember from what I've "taught" them.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Randomly Super Fun Walk

Okay, I went on an AWESOME walk with a friend today!!!!! We live about a mile from a lake, and it is so much fun to walk next to the water!!!  But it's been super dry lately, so the lake has receded... like a LOT! So we got to walk where the water used to be!!! And climb the trees that are usually covered by water!  It was fun (oh wait, did I say that already) even though I got too close to othe water and ended up COATING my old tennis shoes in mud. (and my ankles for that matter.) There was this cool log that went OVER the water, and I really climb it. I kinda ignored the mud that was between me and the awesome log. My friend stayed back, and I basically went 5 feet only to sink 7 inches into mud. It was exciting, but not exactly the best on my shoes. Or my bath tub, for that matter. There is now a huge ring of dirt in my bathtub that I will wipe of... sometime. Probably after supper.

Monday, November 19, 2012


I love to bake for other people. I love the process of deciding what to make to suit the person's taste preferences, and I love the process of making the baked goods. But the best part of all is presenting the baked good to a person and hearing about if they liked it or not. It is sooooo rewarding to know that the time I used to make whatever I made was well-spent.

In fact, I am hugely dissappointed if the person who eats the baked good doesn't like it. There have been a few times when I put a lot of effort into making something, and certain family members gag and run to the fridge for a drink. That is pretty depressing. But what would be even more depressing is if the person I gave it to refused to even try it. It wouldn't matter if they took a high-resolution picture and framed it in the white house as the best culinary masterpiece: I would want them to EAT it! (although I wouldn't mind it being a framed picture in the white house.) If I ever give you brownies or bread, the best way you can show me appreciation is to eat it. That is the fulfillment of the purpose of food.

You are probably wondering where I am going with this, but hang on. Every Thanksgiving, before dinner, I usually try to go through some things I am thankful for... a specific friend, a home that's warm, family, etc. These things vary from year to year, but there is one I always say thank-you for: Jesus' death on the cross as payement for my sins. But as I was thinking about it, I'm wondering if I am only saying thank you for a gift I haven't fully unwrapped.

You see, Jesus' death was not just to keep us out of hell... it was to SET US FREE!!! Sin held us in bondage, but Christ has given us the key to unlock these chains so we can be liberated from the grip our sins have on us and walk hand-in-hand with Christ. But just like the baked goods I give to friends, using this incredible gift is optional.

We can say thank you over and over to this key to our chains. We can tell other people about the gift God has given us. We can feel in our hearts deep gratitude for Jesus' sacrifice: The ULTIMATE sacrifice. But so often I leave that key on the shelf, collecting dust. I forget that using this gift is a choice. So often I slip into old patterns of thinking and focusing on the wrong things. And then I get discouraged, because I don't think God's gift  to me is working. I don't feel free! Maybe I'm not, I think. Maybe something is wrong with me. Maybe Jesus' death didn't really set me free. I keep trying to stop sinning, but I can't!

But as I think about it, I realize that maybe I'm wrestling with the chains, trying to get them off, but not using the key. I try and try in my own power to claw them off of me, but am helpless. I can't do it with out help.  The truth is, I cannot be free unless I not only thank God for His gift, but use it. Jesus is in me. That means His power is in me to. But if I refuse to rely on His power, I say "not right now" to his gift, and put it off till later. While His key to freedom won't rust or wear out- it has eternal value- why shouldn't we use it now?  In order to live in light of the eternity we have before us, we need His power NOW!

My point is, we can say "thank you" for God's gift of freedom from sin. We can exalt it as the "ultimate gift." But in the some-what stressful holiday season, are we using His gift to help us walk with Him, or have we left it for a more convenient time? Have we laid aside are old selves and sinful patterns, or are we clinging to them? Are you going to use His gift, or aren't you? I think the best way to show gratitude to our loving Savior is to USE THAT KEY!


Friday, November 16, 2012


“How are you doing today?” my friend asks. My thoughts fly back to the argument I had with a family member, my lack of productivity in regards to school in the morning, my guilt over not squeezing my morning workout in… and yet I still manage to paste a happy smile on my face.
“Great!” I answer. I return the question, and get the exact same response from her. Maybe I’m the only one who has done that before. Maybe everyone else in the world always has a “great” day and an even better life. But the more time I spend with people, the more time I wonder if we really aren’t all having great days every day.
A perfect life is hardly possible. We’re people with a sin nature, living with other people with a sin nature. That is a recipe for conflict and bad days! Why is it, then, that it is so rare that we admit it to other people? Why isn’t it okay for me to be honest about those days that aren’t going as planned.
These past few years I’ve met a lot of people through volleyball. These people were the ones I thought had it all… popularity, great personalities, amazing athleticism. They oozed with self-confidence. I wanted to be like them someday. But a year later, after I’ve gotten to know them a little better, I realized something: they aren’t secure like I thought they were! Some feel horrible about their appearance, others have had hurtful comments made about them, others have families that are falling apart… but from a distance, it looked like they had it all.
Then there are other people, who although they have great personalities and are a blast to talk to if you get to know them,  but clam up in group settings because they don’t want to sound “dumb.” Why are we so afraid of showing the real “us” to others? Why do we have to keep up the image of having it all together? I have noticed that the relationships that I find most enjoyable are the ones I can be honest in.
While I have a lot to learn about his subject ( people will never cease to fascinate and confuse me) I know that I, personally, believe someone when they say they are doing “great.” And if they’re doing “great” then there is something wrong with me for having problems! My life is not perfect, and that’s my own fault. And I’ll look weak, and insecure, and inferior if I tell them I’m NOT doing well.  So I don’t. I say I’m great. And then, I have an false image, a mask, to keep up. Now that I’ve told them I’m great, I won’t lie if they ask about parts of my life that aren’t going well… I’ll just… gloss over it. Yes, that’s it. And change the subject. And ask them about their “great” life.
It seems that masking our lives is a vicious cycle. We hear other people say their lives are perfect, and we don’t want to look inferior, so we say the same things. What if we were honest with people? What if we believed that our non-perfect lives aren’t the thing we should let define us? I’ve trusted that Jesus has taken my sins for me. I know that it is His love and redeeming power that defines me. But do I believe it?  Without Jesus, it wouldn’t be safe to show my imperfections. Because people’s opinions would be the only ones left to  matter. But, Jesus already knows my weaknesses, and He still accepts me. My head holds the knowledge that would allow me to rip of my masks and run into the safe and secure arms of Jesus. The only thing that holds me back is the fear that is in my heart. And here comes the choice: to let my fear control me and to rigidly hold the masks in place, or to sit in the lap of Jesus with my masks forgotten.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

10 Reasons Pretzels are AWESOME!!!

Best Food Ever!!!

Pretzels. They're hard, they're soft. They're sweet, they're salty. They're twisted, they're straight. They're just plain awesome!!! Here are  my top ten reasons why:

1.) They taste AMAZING on ice cream. Try a caramel sundae with pretzel bits on top! Best.Sundae.Ever.

2.) Soft pretzels are sooooo much fun to make! Boiling bread dough is a blast!

3.) They are super versatile... you can dip them in anything from cream cheese frosting (amazing) to cheddar fondue! (did I mention chocolate???)

4.) They make chex mix soooooo much better. Chex mix wouldn't be the same without those adorable round and grid-shaped pretzels that taste soooo good!

5.) Did you know that you can use them in baking??? Make a pretzel crumb crust rather using graham crackers for a sweet-salty contrast in a cheesecake!

6.) They are so salty! If you  have a dad with high blood pressure, salt becomes a rare and special treat!

7.) Because pretzels are soooo awesome, Snyder of Hanover (a big, awesome pretzel company) went into business!!! They make my very, very favorite flavor of pretzels: honey mustard!!!

8.) It's exceptionally fun to see how many marshmallows you can cram onto one miniature pretzel stick. I got 72. See if you can top that! :)

9.) Have you had the cinnamon kind???  How about the jalapeno? There are tons of flavors... enough that EVERBODY should like them!!!

10.) AND (last but not least) if you're a health nut, they're super low fat!

I hope you have been convinced of how AWESOME pretzels are. And if you are sitting there picking your pretzels out of your chex mix like a two year old picks the Lucky Charm marshmallows out of the cereal, then please, don't throw them away. Save them for somebody who understands and APPRECIATES the awesomeness of pretzels. Like me! :)

The Newest Addition To the Family

(The reason I no longer have to wear a winter jacket in my own house.)

The Peterman House  is not your ordinary house. Between the  90 foot hallway that is as long enough to bowl down, to the master bathroom with four huge closets AND a bidet, it just isn't. And my dad, an engineer, will assure you that he didn't design the place... it's terribly inefficient when it comes to heating and cooling the place. It's not well insulated, and I suppose it probably doesn't help that our house is a sprawling 4000 square foot house!

The first winter in our new house was, well, cold. One time when my friends came over for a sleepover in the winter, they forgot to pack for our room, which peaked at a balmy 50 degrees. They went to bed with their jackets on and still froze! When friends came over, we offered to take their jackets for them, and declined!!! We layered our beds with four to five blankets, and once we woke up, we all put on our winter jackets like Eskimos in the arctic.

My dad decided to change all that! He decided to put in a wood stove. After much planning, decision making, measuring, and doing all the thorough things engineers do, he bought the stove and had it installed. All the while, he was predicting how warm we would be, how nice it would be to be warm throughout our house, etc, etc.

Three months later, the stove was in, and our the room our stove was in topped the upper 60's!!!!! It was great.... at least in that one room! The rest of our house was still freezing! Our family would take our supper from our kitchen into our living room and have an arctic picnic sitting inches from our woodstove. When our friends came over, our games were centered around the woodstove. When it got really cold, and barely broke 60 in the room with the fire going full blast, my dad decided he would fix that. We put up blankets in all the open walls between the living room and the rest of the house. Our "tent" was finally warm... but going to bed was a different story.

This year, he decided a second wood stove was in order... maybe then we could keep this house warm. We all smiled and laughed and agreed, but inside I was thinking,
"Haven't we tried this already???"
Well, the woodstove is in! Right now it's going full blast! Are you expecting to tell you we're thinking about getting a third wood stove?
Let me put it this way: I did my school in athletic shorts this morning... and it was thirty degrees outside. Do I like the new woodstove? You betcha!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Peanut Butter Honey Saltine Toffee ( a.k.a. my best culinary disaster yet!!)

"Ewww, what is that? It smells like cows!" That was the comment I received from my 11 year old , Blaize, after sniffing my newest culinary concoction: Peanut Butter Honey Saltine Toffee. Blaize has always excelled at being completely honest when it comes to my cooking, but I am hoping that, with practice, he can work on being slightly more diplomatic, too. Anyways, you are probably wondering what possessed me to make such a... different dessert. Well, all started when I was sitting in a restaurant with my JV volleyball coach, Mr. McNellis. (My team calls him Mr. Mickey). I happen to think he is pretty awesome... so awesome that every year on his birthday (November 8th) I like to bring some sort of goodies. BUT, even though Mr. Mickey IS a super coach and an even better Christian example, he does have one gigantic flaw... HE DOESN'T LIKE CHOCOLATE! As a result, it makes it rather difficult to decide what to bake for him when his birthday rolls around. So, the rest of the season, I keep my ears open to find out if there are any sweet foods that he does like. (not liking chocolate pretty much eliminates them all!) Well, there I was sitting in the restaurant him and my team, and somehow we got talking about saltines! He said that he loved saltines with peanut butter and honey. And I immediately took a mental note.

Well, a month later, it was two days before his birthday, and I could NOT decide what to make for him! But, I remembered that he had said he like saltines, peanut butter, and honey, and had an "inspiration." There is something I am learning about myself, though: the majority of my "inspirations" are more accurately described as "future disasters." This "inspiration" was one of them. Before I knew it, I had whipped out saltines, butter, brown sugar, honey, peanut butter, and sweetened condensed milk, and started cooking. Of course! I would make toffee with these ingredients! I could just replace the chocolate with peanut butter and sweetened condensed milk, and the corn syrup with honey, and voila! Perfection that Mr. Mickey would actually eat! I googled a recipe, and threw the butter, brown sugar, and honey in a pan and boiled it for eleven minutes. Now, generally when you make toffee, you COULD (and probably should) use a candy thermometer, but ours was broken, so... I decided not to. That was a bad idea. Toffee is supposed to be crunchy and sweet, but when mine was done, the toffee layer was chewy and stuck to your teeth like glue.

But, I figured, the peanut butter mixture will make up for it, right? I stuck a big glob of peanut butter in the bowl (what is the point of measuring, anyways?) and poured a can of sweetened condensed milk in. Then I microwaved it until it looked "right." The problem? I stuck in the microwave for four minutes and didn't stir it! When it came out, the top looked great, but what I stirred up from the bottom of the bowl was a mixture of grainy, slightly overcooked peanut butter. Well, it wasn't perfect, but I didn't want to waste it, so... you know the rest. I dumped it over the already messed up toffee, did my best to smooth it out, and then called my siblings for a "taste test." While I sell taste tests as " I'm being a nice sister today and letting you eat my goodies," I usually have alterior motives. Like, "Tell me if this is as bad as it looks" motives. Well, Blaize told me!
"Ewww, what is this? It smells like cows!" Then he takes a bite.
"What do you think?" I asked.
"It's... interesting." he said. That was the most diplomatic thing he had said all night.
"The toffee's pretty good, cept it sticks to my teeth, and the peanut butter doesn't taste like cows, so I guess that's good... but it feels kinda weird on my tongue. I think it'd be better if you scrape off the peanut butter part."

I got similar reactions from the rest of my family, and decided that I would make them scrape off the peanut butter, rather than giving it to my coach to do. I have a feeling that if he doesn't even tolerate chocolate that he probably wouldn't like toffee that you can't chew, and smells like cow manure. :) And I don't really want to find out!