Christmas

The days surrounding Christmas had ups and downs this year, but one thing that NEVER changes is that Christ came down all those years ago to be born here on earth, leaving His perfect Kingdom, so that He could save our lives.  That is THE meaning of Christmas.  That is the unchanging good news.  That is why despite sadness we have joy!

Joshua’s birthday celebration:

Christmas Brunch, before eating commenced:

Some yummy recipes this year included banana cream cheese stuffed baked french toast, blueberry white chocolate coffeecake, scones, quiche and about a million other things.  😉

Here are a couple desserts after they were dug into…red velvet cheesecake and butterfinger bars:

The butterfinger bars were very good…a little difficult to cut and the recipe is surely for a small pan (I used a 9×13 and had to double and it was still a stretch!)

The red velvet cheesecake I couldn’t try, because of the red dye, so I am not sure how it turned out, but it looked good!  😉

BUTTERFINGER COOKIE DOUGH CHEESECAKE BARS

YIELD: Makes one 8×8 pan

Ingredients:

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE LAYER

  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ¾ cup flour plus 2 tablespoons
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips + 1/2 cup for top
  • 5 Butterfinger bars, king size

CHEESECAKE LAYER

  • 8oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

PREPARATION:

Create a sling by lining the pan with foil so that there is a one inch overhang on each side. Cover foil with bake spray. Heat oven to 375 degrees F.

TO MAKE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE LAYER

Melt butter and let cool to warm. Add in brown sugar and mix to combine. Add in egg and vanilla extract and mix to combine.  Add in flour and fold to combine. Add in 1 cup of mini chocolate chips and fold to combine. Pour mixture into pan; set aside.

TO MAKE CHEESECAKE

Add all ingredients in a bowl and beat until blended. Set aside.

ASSEMBLY

  1. Press 3/4 of cookie mixture into pan. Place Butterfinger bars side-by-side on top of cookie dough. Pour cheesecake mixture on top. Crumble remaining cookie dough sprinkle on top of cheesecake layer along with remaining 1/2 cup of chocolate chips all over top.
  2. Transfer pan to oven and bake for about 30-40 minutes at 375 degrees F. Remove from oven set on wire rack to cool.

 

RED VELVET CHEESECAKE

Yield: 12 to 14 servings

Prep Time: 1 hr + cooling and chill times

Cook Time: 1 hr, 15 min

CHEESECAKE:
Two (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated white sugar
pinch of salt
2 large eggs
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

RED VELVET CAKE:
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups vegetable or canola oil
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup (two 1-ounce bottles) red food coloring
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons white vinegar

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted lightly to remove any lumps
Two (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1. Prepare the cheesecake layer: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick spray and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper.  In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to mix the cream cheese- blend until it is nice and smooth and creamy. Mix in sugar and salt and blend for 2 minutes, scraping down sides of the bowl as needed. Add eggs, one at a time, blending after each addition. Finally, mix in sour cream, whipping cream and vanilla. Mix until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Bake the cheesecake for 45 minutes. It should be set to the touch and not jiggly. Remove the cheesecake  and let it cool on a wire rack for at least an hour. When it has cooled, place the pan into the freezer and let the cheesecake freeze completely. This can be done in several hours- or overnight.

2. Prepare the cake layers: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round metal baking pans (or spray with nonstick baking spray with flour). In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Add eggs, oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla and vinegar to the flour mixture. Using an electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat for 1 minute, until blended. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl with a rubber spatula. Beat on high speed for 2 minutes. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pans, dividing equally. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Let cool in pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pans, then invert cakes onto a rack to cool completely.

3. Prepare the frosting: In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat powdered sugar, cream cheese, butter and vanilla until it is smooth and creamy (do not overbeat).

4. Assemble the cake: Place one cake layer into the center of a cake plate or platter. Remove the cheesecake from the freezer, take off the sides of the pan, and slide a knife under the parchment to remove the cheesecake from the pan. Peel off the parchment. Measure your cheesecake layer against the cake layers. If the cheesecake layer turns out to be a slightly larger round than your cake, move it to a cutting board and gently shave off some of the exterior of the cheesecake to get it to the same size as your cake layers. Place the cheesecake layer on top of the first cake layer. Place the 2nd cake layer on top of the cheesecake.

5. Frost and decorate the cake

Wasn’t I just saying…

Yesterday night I couldn’t sleep…it is funny how our bodies react to things.  I think about Joshua every single day, but whether I want to or not, the emotions come flowing out this time of year.  My mind spins, my memories overwhelm me.  I don’t think this is a bad thing…I want to remember, even if it is painful.  Anyway, since I was awake with a racing mind, I finally got out of bed and I blogged at 4:30 yesterday morning about Satan attacking people around Christmas.  Wouldn’t you know, about 12 hours later, he struck again.

My heart and prayers are with my aunt, my cousins and my whole family as we mourn the loss of my uncle who passed away yesterday with a great suddenness.  My aunt has a confident peace and hope that her husband is now with his Lord and Savior.  That is the only comfort for someone who suffers a great loss.  It doesn’t make the pain go away, it doesn’t mean there are no hard times, but there is a huge relief knowing that the one you lost is eternally at rest and made new.

My sweet cousin after just hearing the news late last night was the first one this morning who remembered Joshua with us.  It is an honor that people still take the time to remember him.

There are lots of trials and struggles in our world each day…here and across the world.  God is still and always BIGGER and he will overcome!

Spiritual Warfare

I love Christmas!  Obviously first and foremost I love Christmas because of what it is.  Christmas is nothing less than the birth of my Lord and Savior.  Without His perfect and precious birth, we would be nothing.  Without His life begun, He could not have laid down His life for my sins and there would be no hope in this world.  We are nothing, there is nothing, there would be nothing to have faith in or hope for…without Him we would all be sentenced to eternal death.  Not only did He do all of that for me and you, but He has showered me with blessings of life, love, family, food, shelter…and on and on.   I also love Christmas because, as you all know by now, I adore being with family and friends.  I enjoy gathering around sharing food and fun memories while making new memories.  It is a special time filled with traditions.

The enemy does not love Christmas.  In fact, He knows that we are saved because of the birth of Jesus Christ.  I think that is why there is so much pain at Christmas sometimes.  He attacks people at their weakest at a time when they are praising the One who saved them.  He attacks and tries to turn their vulnerability into a reason to distrust God.  This is when we need God the most!  He will not let us falter, He will not let us down, He does walk through every joy and every sorrow with us.

Hanging the ornaments on our Christmas tree each year is bittersweet.  There are ornaments that were meant for Joshua.  There are ornaments from people that are no longer here…that died too young.  There are bitter memories along with sweet ones.  My parents just attended a funeral of a great man who was attacked by cancer.  His family knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is celebrating Christmas with his Savior this year, but each Christmas will have a scar as they remember the husband, father, brother and friend that they lost.  My friend just was served divorce papers this week, a friend who has done nothing but try to save her marriage as her spouse has thrown it away.  Another friend is facing her third Christmas without her husband at home.  Life is tough and it seems to get harder at the times when we think we should be untouchable. Satan may attack, he may even win a few battles, but we know that the Lord is the ultimate victor.  We know the end and He has already won.  Don’t lose hope, don’t lose faith, put your trust in the One who is with you each step of the way.  Celebrate Christmas and have joy in the Lord!

12.23.12

My little guy would be 8 years old today.  Sometimes it doesn’t seem real and sometimes all too real.  I miss him.  I know a lot of people out there may think I should be over it.  I’m not.  I gave birth to my sweet son and buried him days later.  Shame on me if I ever got over that.  I love him and always will.  I praise God for taking the best possible care of him.  What an honor Joshua has to live for eternity with his King!

The balloons are all ready to take tomorrow along with his trees and toys.  His place at his “park” (we call the cemetery his park) will be decorated beyond compare!

Below is the passage we put on his website nearly 8 years ago.

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JOSHUA 1:5 ~ No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.

We were so blessed to have Joshua in our hearts, arms and lives, even if for too short of a time.  We have memorized his precious face and look at his pictures constantly to give us comfort.  He is greatly missed, forever cherished and always remembered.  We know he is experiencing such joy in Heaven and we know that we will see him again!  What peace that brings!  Though we miss him dearly, Joshua is and will remain a very important and special part of our family.

MATTHEW 19:14 ~ Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

7.20.12

This blog is truly a melting pot of subjects.  While some are serious, some are fun, some are silly…the most important pieces of the blog are the daily inspirations.  Without God, we are nothing; without our Savior we are doomed; without the Holy Spirit we are lost.  But the great news is when we give our lives to Him, we are saved!

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.

Joshua 1:9

 

A Unique Family

Our family is unique, just as any in the world.  We have a child in Heaven, one adopted from another country, and two born to us biologically.  All our God’s…He just gives us the opportunity to be blessed by them.  And we are!  Despite Joshua leaving too soon, he remains a forever part of our family and is a continual blessing.  The smiles and hugs I get from my children here on earth are cherished.  As my blog-journey continues, more and more information will be shared about each of my children…none of them came to us easily in our eyes, but the whole time God was working.

We have known many who have lost children at some stage or age.  In the past month and a half we have been given news of 3 born still.  It certainly strikes deep and hits hard, but we know that part of Joshua’s purpose during his short life was to help others going through similar pain, so we embrace them and their stories.  We keep them in heart and prayer.  And we remember.  We remember Joshua, but we also remember God’s promise to never leave us.

Death, especially of a child (regardless of age), is one of life’s hardest trials, in my humble opinion.  God never promised us an easy road, but He does walk all of our rocky roads with us. The days I miss my sweet boy the most I still rejoice, for I know it is selfish of me to wish him with me when he is in The Perfect Place. There are no answers for the pain on this side of Heaven, but we know God is good all the time and His ways are higher than ours.

Each person has trials in this life…they can’t be escaped.  But God is unchanging…He and His ways are perfect.  We need to cling to Him in trials, maybe most especially in trials we don’t understand.