noticing joy on the surface of simple things … the evidence of holiness happening in the daily grind.

When Opposites Attract February 8, 2016

During the 10 hour drive between MI and Iowa, the adult passengers shared stories of people with somewhat opposite personalities, strengths, interests, and characteristics finding one another, pursuing one another and resulting in marriage. No one intentionally sought out an opposite, but attraction to the opposite was the common thread in every story.  Also common was that the differences have worked together not against the relationship.   In fact the opposite qualities become complimentary over time. My own experience would say that is because I’ve pushed back less, and appreciated the differences more;  I rely on what my hubby is wired to contribute and accept his ‘opposite’ as necessary to bringing out the best in me – and our ‘opposites’ functioning together bring out the best in us.

Turns out, this opposite attractiveness shows up in circumstances as well as in people.  I have a fresh experience that I need to write down somewhere.  Its too much for me to hide, to keep to myself.  And because it’s raw, real, recent, there is no filter.   My father has pancreatic and liver cancer.  He responded well to chemo for months, but in the last few weeks has made the shift to facing end-of-life rather than more treatment. He is still living with love, in faith, not in fear.    My brother Jim and I (we both live out of state) got to be with my dad and my mom this past week.  And really – we did a lot more being than doing. That doesn’t feel like much, but its good.  My brother Jeff and wife Sara who live there are so present, kind, compassionate.  Their little kiddos are refreshing diffusers of the intensity.   So thankful for this time to be together.  However, during this same week, some many-year, long-story unfortunate circumstantial crap stirred itself up.  Just trying to write that sentence sucks air out of my lungs, makes my hands shake.  Does anyone else relate to hard things piling up – coming at you in multiples?  Sheesh.  It nearly wrecked me.  Nearly.  Thank you friends for phone calls/texts; you people who I know well – who know me well, and who know yourselves the wallop of hard things.  In one conversation the words of Psalm 23 about the darkest valley (or valley of the shadow of death) came up and the truth that its real but we can “walk” through it because were not alone in it.  I would admit sometimes the walking looks more like crawling with bloodshot eyes, snot running out of your nose, gasping for air.  Or looks like fist pounding on what seems like steel doors, crying for mercy.   We’re not alone.  The opposite of the darkest valley makes me vividly aware of my need for the Presence of Jesus.

The valley of the shadow of death isn’t imaginary.  It isn’t figurative.  The shadowy valley of darkness isn’t inviting or attractive, never on someone’s bucket list.  No one will escape it.  Though most will want to avoid walking through it themselves or with someone they love.  Normal.   I find its hard to breathe and my chest feels tight and I can’t swallow easily  when I’m walking through that valley myself or alongside someone.  A sense of helplessness bounces off the valley walls: ‘I can’t make this go away; I HATE this; I can’t DO anything to change the outcome; I can’t fix anything; I have no control; I don’t want this to be happening.’ It is threatening and oppressive – alone.   Ps 23: 4 “Even though I walk through the darkest valley I will fear no evil for You (Jesus) are with me;  your rod and your staff will comfort me.”  I will walk through dark valleys but I can without fear…and with provision, protection, comfort, peace – the Light.  You can too; we are NOT alone.

Joy meet grief.  Sorrow meet beauty.  Celebration meet suffering.  Dark valley meet Light. These opposites actually seem to attract.  My friend Rachel told me about an unreal circumstance her friend is living right now, unborn baby, cancer.  no No NO.  Same story: best doctors available, treatment, plans for summer, and the beauty of a Spirit filled prayer.  Please – pray for Rachels friend, her name is Rachel.

And Please don’t push back on the light in your own life, maybe a birthday celebration, maybe a baby on the way,  an engagement, vacation, a childs school program, the job you like, a snow day, even if you also have unreal circumstances in your life – in your friend, family, neighbors life.

Yesterday Dirk the pastor told the story of Elijah who was in the darkest valley; ( I Kings 19 ), Elijah who just had his life threatened by a nasty angry kings wife; a prophet who had ENOUGH; a man of great faith who was just done; who was afraid; who ran away – away from people and places and civilization.  He got to the wilderness alone, away from the dark place, but not really away from the fear or feelings of being overwhelmed.  He lands under a bush and actually prays this prayer:  “Enough of this God, take my life, I’m ready to join my ancestors in the grave.”  Then he falls asleep.  I hate to admit, but I get you Elijah.  I relate to the fear for my life, to the having had enough, to the desire to run far away from people, places, civilization.  Anyone else want out of the dark valley?

Thank goodness Dirk the pastor included the next 5 verses.  Here is where the opposite of despair shows up.  An angel shakes Elijah awake and fixes him breakfast!  More sleep, more food and he is ready to take up a long journey to a place where God Himself comes to Elijah in a gentle whisper and sets him back on his feet, back on task. Dark doesn’t win.  I again relate to this story – arriving home, exhausted and waking up to someone making me a great cup of coffee and an spinach, egg, and cheese mexican breakfast torte smothered in Nanita’s hot green chili.  Thanks JR,  you angel you.

People, please believe me.  God is for real.  He is good.  He is greater than the darkness which is also so very real and no one denies.    Don’t push back on Who the Light Is.  If you are curious or skeptic, desperate or not; if you have sat in a church for years and are pretending to believe but really don’t, or have never asked a single question about God – Please just ask God to show Himself to you.  He will.  I can’t help but share what is so real for me in the current dark valley.  I don’t know too many people who haven’t lived through rough patches.  What I know to be true is that the greatest opposite of those places, of those people, of those circumstances is the way Jesus shows up, encourages me and sets me back on my feet – back to living.  He is doing that now.  The cancer isn’t gone, the crap isn’t gone, I’m not done walking through.  But I didn’t run and die alone under a bush.  And I know for certain – I am not walking through alone.

Are you in a dark or dangerous place?  Is hard piling up?  Wanna run?  Too overwhelmed to even know what you need?  This is true: You Are Not Alone.  God is everywhere and will not let you be overcome.  As we are unique, our circumstances unique, God meets us uniquely.

Sometimes it begins with breakfast.








Day 16: Sweet Newspaper Recipes October 17, 2013

Final Button 3I worked for a hospice organization in Boulder for 3 years before moving.  Hospice is meaningful, holistic healthcare during a sacred season of life.  The nurses, chaplains, certified nursing assistants, social workers, grief counselors were nothing shy of remarkable.  They changed me.  One of the phrases we commonly threw around was ‘eat dessert first.’  It’s like an end of life love language.  Except that I think it can be applied to everyone.  Life is fragile, and in God’s economy – not all that long here on earth.  Even if you aren’t going to eat it first, at least eat it once in a while!  I’m certain my sentiment would be batted down by the likes of Jillian the nazi trainer, in moderation…dessert is necessary in the world I live in.  You’re welcome to visit my world anytime!

Tonight and tomorrow night I share sweet newspaper recipes.  (See Day 15 for main dish newspaper recipes)  I have no dates to reference for when I cut these out of the paper though the newspaper pieces are yellowed, so its been a while.

Don’t you love when you find something that’s been lost?  I had that experience today, danced a little kitchen jig, because I located the missing recipe for Chrisar’s restaurant Almond Joy Torte!  I make this for special occasions and special people.   The last ‘special’ was Jessica R’s birthday.   I’ve never been especially great at presentation which is why this show off recipe is a favorite of mine.  A very simple technique on top makes it WoW.

The restaurant Chrisar’s  hosted a romantic dinner for JR and I a time or two, always with this dessert.  It was in a historic house in old town Longmont CO.  It’s no longer there, though I believe  another restaurant took its place and may still be serving this treat!

For you fellow love language foodies, there MUST be a special someone or sometime soon that you will want to whip this little number out for!

Chrisar’s Restaurant Almond Joy Torte


  • 1 1/2 cups toasted almonds chopped fine
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup melted butter or margarine


  • 1/2 cup canned coconut cream (usually found in the grocery by the grown up drink mixes)
  • 3 oz white chocolate, chopped
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine cut into pieces, room temperature
  • 3 cups lightly packed medium shredded coconut


  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 3 Tlb butter or margarine
  • 2 Tlb light corn syrup
  • 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips or chopped
  • 2 oz vanilla candy coating, melted


FOR CRUST: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In food processor, coarsely chop almonds, add brown sugar and butter, process using on and off until finely chopped.  press mixture firmly into bottom and half way up sides of nine-inch spring form pan.  Bake 10 minutes.  Cool on rack.

FOR FILLING: Bring coconut cream to a simmer in a heavy small saucepan.  Reduce heat to low, add white chocolate, stir until melted.  pour into medium bowl, whisk in sour cream and butter, until both melt and mixture is smooth.  Stir in coconut. chill until filling is very cold but not set – about 1 hour.  Spoon filling into crust, smooth top and refrigerate until set.

FOR TOPPING:  Bring first 3 ingredients to simmer in a heavy small saucepan, stirring frequently, reduce heat to low.  Add semi-sweet chocolate and stir until melted.  pour topping over filling evenly.  Quickly spoon melted white chocolate into parchment cone  (I use a small baggie and cut of just a tiny corner.  I don’t own parchment cones!)  pipe in parallel lines over topping, spacing evenly. (see photo – I start on the edge and go round and round making smaller and smaller circles until I get to the center. )   Here’s the part that makes it WoW:  To form a decorative pattern, take a toothpick and pull it from the center to the outer edge.

Wow…that’s a really big picture of my newspaper recipe.  I’ve simply got to take a WordPress class.

This is rich enough for one night.  Tomorrow night…sweet newspaper recipe number 2.

You’re thinkin now of that special someone aren’t you? O yea – I know.

Almond Joy Torte




wa·ter·shed (noun) 1. an area or ridge of land that separates waters flowing to different rivers, basins, or seas. 2. an event or period marking a turning point, a change of course.

Life with Emily and Matt

(and two kiddos make four!)

Ellen Brock

Professional Freelance Novel Editor

created for the love-light.

stories of a life captivated by an imaginative, creative God.


noticing joy on the surface of simple things … the evidence of holiness happening in the daily grind.

Don't Ask the Fish | Christian Daily Devotional

noticing joy on the surface of simple things … the evidence of holiness happening in the daily grind.

Big Fat Sweaty Guy

The personal blog of Derek Brouwer.

%d bloggers like this: