Category Archives: Faith

Easter Cake

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday!

Easter came early this year, which happens from time to time since its date is the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring.

Maybe that’s why this year Lent has seemed a little less Jesus-y for me than in years prior. We just celebrated Christmas & here is Easter already.

Nonetheless, just like Christmas, Jesus is the reason for the season.

My coworker is throwing her annual Easter picnic & egg hunt. Last year I made a bunny cake & brought my niece with me to the egg hunt. It was a lot of fun.

This year I am so over all the bunnies.

Easter isn’t about bunnies & egg hunts. It isn’t even about family & good food. It’s about Jesus.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

With that being said, Easter is a celebration! Up from the grave he arose! So it should be bright & fun 🙂

wp-1459006864276.jpg

I hope I captured that spirit in this cake.

wp-1459006869992.jpg

Funfetti cake with crushed M&Ms in the center, cream cheese frosting & malted eggs for decor.

wp-1459006874193.jpg

Easter should be fun, especially for children. But it’s that cross in the center that is the most important piece of this whole weekend.

wp-1459022333808.jpg

Happy Easter! He is risen, indeed!

March For Life 2016

This Floridian is travelling to DC tomorrow night.

Yep, even as Major Winter Storm Jonas approaches, seemingly promising to hit hard on Friday – the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade -the day of the march. Even if the forecast was worse, as long as I could physically get my ass to DC I would still go. Hundreds of thousands of people agree with me.

The cause is so worth it.

March For Life 2015

March For Life 2015, Photo by Matt Barrick from the March For Life Facebook page

5 years ago I attended a pro-life group meeting in college. My friend Caroline was very involved with the group & asked me to come. I did it just because she was my friend, not because I felt strongly about the subject, though I’ve always considered myself pro-life.

During that meeting, someone decided to read the first chapter of Abby Johnson’s book unPLANNED. I strongly suggest you click that link & read the first chapter for yourself. I have not yet read the rest of the book, but that first chapter changed my whole life.  I believe God put me in that meeting & laid this cause on my heart.

It was relatively easy to be a pro-life college student. Sure, most people around me were pretty liberal, but I had a great group of friends around me & plenty of outreach opportunities – sidewalk counseling, tabling demonstrations around campus, bringing in guest speakers, articles in the campus newspaper, etc. I was president of our on-campus club my senior year & attended my first March For Life that year & went to the Students For Life Of America conference & everything. At times these activities were emotionally draining, but I always had a pro-life friend near by for support.

March For Life 2012

March For Life 2012

It is much harder to be a pro-life adult. Sometimes I’m more vocal than others, but these conversations are much more difficult without the catalyst of a campus event. This is one of the reasons that going to the March For Life is so important. It is a sacrifice of time & money. It requires taking time off from work & life & traveling to DC in the winter. Am I going to have fun on this trip? Of course I am, but that doesn’t mean I lose sight of the reason I make such a journey almost every year. I get to spend time in our nation’s capital & reconnect with old friends who live in the area. I get to hear amazing pro-life speakers – from senators to Silent No More. But I think what I enjoy the most is that I get to be a part of something much bigger than myself. And then I get to share about my experience.

March For Life 2013

March For Life 2013

Last year I did not write about the march. I had just recently started blogging & I didn’t want to make this “too political”. Well, this isn’t a political issue, or a religious issue. This is literally a life & death situation. Yes, I believe that God is the author & creator of all life & that He has given me this mission. However, I’ve become increasingly more involved with Secular Pro-Life because ALL life is precious & ALL people should come to that conclusion regardless of their beliefs (or lack thereof). Yes, I lean to the right, but I follow groups like Democrats For Life because it’s really not about politics. Do politics play a role? Absolutely. It is up to our leaders to pass laws to defend life while also providing funding to programs like welfare, medicaid, & DCF. The scenarios that drive women to choose abortions are never easy or black & white, & it is important for the government to be able to help its people.

March For Life 2015_1

March For Life 2015

This year is a little different. This year most of my coworkers know I am going to DC to march for life. This year I am writing about it & will share some photos from the event when I return. This year will be my 4th time at the march; my husband’s 2nd. I am incredibly lucky to have such a supportive partner in life, for the rest of my life, fighting for life with me.

So bring on the snow, Jonas. A little bad weather cannot stop the truth about LIFE from spreading.


 

If you are interested in seeing what the march is all about from the comfort of your own home, please check out the March For Life website & click “Watch the March For Life Livestream” on Friday, Jan 22.

National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child!

Today kicks off National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child!

National Collection Week is November 16-23

6 years ago the church I was a member of while in college introduced me to Operation Christmas Child.

What is the mission of Operation Christmas Child?

The mission of Operation Christmas Child is to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to needy children around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.

This ministry collects shoeboxes – or really, shoebox sized containers – filled with gifts & essential items for needy kids around the world. Once the boxes are packed, shipped, & distributed, teams from Samaritan’s Purse get with local churches to distribute the boxes to the kids. During that time, the Gospel is presented to the kids in their own language in a fun way. Aside from providing presents & necessities such as toiletries, these kids get to hear about the greatest gift of all – Jesus Christ.

Once I packed my first shoebox 6 years ago, I knew this would become a tradition for me. It’s a very fun, but meaningful, way to kick off the holiday season.

I introduced my husband to this tradition when we first started dating. It’s a nice date-like activity to go shopping for the items & pack boxes together. Our current church packs shoeboxes as well, but they do it in July – like Christmas in July! I prefer to do it in November, but it is great to know that you can pack shoeboxes year round! National Collection Week just makes it easier by providing designated drop off locations.

So how do you pack a shoebox?

National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child - Mrs. Dessert Monster

The OCC website has great instructions, tips, & advise for packing a great shoebox.

First thing we did was pick what gender & age group we wanted to build boxes. My husband & I always do a boy & a girl; this year we chose age range 10-14.

We went to the store & picked up toys (puzzles, yoyo, jump rope, & stuffed animals), necessities (soap, toothbrush & paste, hairbrush, socks), school supplies (notepads, pens, pencils), & candy canes. Then we packed our items up in plastic bins. I like to use plastic bins because I feel that the kids (or their parents) can use them for something else!

National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child - Mrs. Dessert Monster

The last step is to label the box. If you give a donation online for $7, the cost of shipping, you get labels with a barcode printed on them for tracking purposes. The best part about that is that a few weeks later, once all of the boxes have been delivered, you’ll receive an email letting you know where in the world your box ended up! In the years that I’ve tracked them, my boxes have ended up in Madagascar & India.

National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child - Mrs. Dessert Monster

The most important part of this ministry is to pray for these kids around the world. Not only for the kids, actually, but for their families & the people around them. It is extremely evident in light of recent events that the whole world needs Jesus.

Operation Christmas Child is a great way to show the world that God is good, God is joy, & God is love.

Operation Christmas Child

Cuba & The Florida Everglades

One of the things that first attracted me to the church I currently attend is that there is a sister church in Cuba. I didn’t even know this was allowed in Cuba until I started attending PUMC. I have visited Cuba twice, & have a heart for the people of my parents’ motherland.

I’ve become very involved with our sister church Iglesia Hefziba in Consolacion del sur, Pinar del Rio. PUMC visited Iglesia Hefziba in January, & then invited the Pastor to come visit us here in the US. Thankfully, he was granted both his exit visa from Cuba & his tourist visa here in the US. He arrived last week, & stayed with my husband & me for 2 nights before going to another family’s home.

It has been a lot of fun showing him new things. Pastor Oscar has been to the US before, over 10 years ago, but there are so many differences between life in Cuba & life in the US. For example, in our house he had waffles (of course my husband made him waffles) for the first time ever. He loved them!

This past weekend we took him to the most Florida place of all Florida. No, not Disney World.

The Everglades.

Everglades Mrs. Dessert Monster

Obligatory tourist Everglades photo!

We had a lot of fun! Our friends Beth & David came with us.

Everglades Mrs. Dessert Monster

It had been like 15 years since I was on an air boat.

Everglades Air Boat Mrs. Dessert Monster

We saw alligators & lots of other animals.

Everglades Alligator Mrs. Dessert Monster

Pastor Oscar’s favorite part was when the air boat went fast. Those things can get to over 50 mph!

After the air boat ride we saw a gator wrestling show. This guy is crazy, but hilarious. He’s from the show Gator Boys on Animal Planet.

Everglades Gator Boys Mrs. Dessert Monster

It was a really fun day.

Everglades Mrs. Dessert Monster

My husband has been so great with Pastor Oscar. He was a very gracious host & he’s more motivated now to work on his Spanish! I cannot express enough how grateful I am to have such a wonderful man to call my husband.

I’m really glad that Pastor Oscar is enjoying his time here, but I can’t help thinking about the fact that he has to return to Cuba soon. He runs his church out of his home because building churches is illegal in Cuba. Beef is illegal in Cuba. The internet is mostly illegal in Cuba. Pastor Oscar tells me that flying the Cuban flag is illegal for private citizens in Cuba.

Cuba breaks my heart. My mom was 6 months pregnant with me when she & my dad came to the US. I am one of the lucky ones to be born in this country. I didn’t do anything except have parents who were lucky enough to immigrate here. I still have family members in Cuba that aren’t so lucky.

The good news is that we all have a God who answers prayers & sent his son to save his people. Please pray for Cuba with me.

Married Lent

This past Lenten season was the most meaningful one to me yet. It probably has a lot to do with this being the first Lent as a married person.

Being married has changed my perspective on a lot of things so far. It’s funny, during our honeymoon I kept telling my husband, “I don’t feel married; I don’t feel any different.” My married friends & family were telling me how different it is being married vs. engaged. I felt the difference from dating to engaged instantly. I remember thinking THIS IS IT; we were instantly much closer. So when it was day 3 of our honeymoon & I felt the same as I had the week before – over the moon happy & in love, but no different – I was wondering what everyone else was talking about. Then it started hitting me slowly. I started shifting focus from my husband being ‘the man who makes me happy’ to ‘my #1 priority on Earth.’ He’s my partner for life. That doesn’t just mean that he’s stuck with me for the rest of his life, it means he is my partner in this thing we call life. I always told him I wanted to ‘do life with him’ – not just be happy. There is a difference. I hope our life together is happy, but even when it’s not I want to go through it with him.

So this Lenten season we just experienced was very special to me.

When Ash Wednesday came, we had just gotten some sad family news. I wrote a post about making a pie for my husband that night to cheer him up. The service at our church was just what we needed. I really love our church & I am very grateful that I can make it to most of the non-Sunday events. It’s not a ‘feel-good’ church – I don’t leave services thinking everything is awesome & skip home. I am reminded that I am a sinner & Jesus died for me. There is one phrase from my Catholic days that goes around my head every now & then. I didn’t fully understand it back then, but rote memorization is good for some things. Lord, I am not worthy to receive you. But only say the word & I shall be healed.

So between Ash Wednesday & Palm Sunday there were no ‘special’ church services or other events to keep us in line. We had to try & focus on God on our own. I gave up chocolate for Lent & my husband gave up road rage. Not that it’s a contest, but I think he ‘won’. I didn’t have a single piece of chocolate all through out lent – not even on Sundays which are supposed to be exempt from the self denial. But it wasn’t meaningful, like, at all. It wasn’t even that hard – and it didn’t make me any healthier because I certainly made up for it with non-chocolatey desserts (like the aforementioned pie). My husband, on the other hand, even though he didn’t maintain a perfect 40 days of calm in the car, probably benefited more by his actions, & so did I. Anytime a car cut us off & I saw him get tense I would tell him, “It’s still Lent.” That was more meaningful a reminder to me than skipping on a piece of chocolate. He was reminded to change his thoughts & actions against others because it was Lent, and he says he is trying to maintain that calm in general. I, on the other hand, had chocolate almost immediately on Easter Sunday without a second thought. Having a partner in life keeps me focused; I’m accountable to someone. My husband cares about me & redirects me if I mess up. He celebrates with me when things are going well. I think he would say I do the same for him.

On Palm Sunday, my friend Beth & I had the pleasure of playing hand bells to accompany the choir & children’s choir singing Hosanna. It was wonderful seeing the little kids come in with the palms. Our church does a really good job of getting the kids involved with worship. Our husbands cheered us on as we served the church in this way. I’m very happy we have married friends who love Jesus. Our single & non-Christian friends are awesome, too, but with another Christian couple we can vent & bounce ideas around that others may not understand or relate to. Beth & David have been married for over a year, & watching them together gives my husband & I things to look forward to!

Holy Thursday service at the church was very moving. Our church did a service of the nails. Everyone got a nail when they walked in & held it throughout service. It was powerful. A meaningful moment for me was when I sneaked a peak at my husband while he was holding the nail & praying with his eyes closed. How lucky blessed am I? During the service, different words were nailed to a cross, representing sins.

Holy Thursday Service of the Nails

Photo credit to my Sunday school friend, Angela.

 We also had communion during this service. I was very happy for that. John Wesley said, “…the duty of every Christian to receive the Lord’s Supper as often as he can.”

For Good Friday, I stuck to the traditions of my Hispanic Catholic childhood & abstained from eating meat, & introduced the tradition to my husband. I actually really like that tradition because it is more cultural than spiritual. I like that even people who do not fully appreciate what Good Friday & Easter really mean are aware & paying homage to the sacrifice. Now that I am a ‘non denominational Christian who currectly goes to a Methodist church’ (thanks, Josh), I would call that prevenient grace.

I also wanted to do a Messianic seder. Well, I got the idea while I was sitting at work on Good Friday (I meant to ask for the day off so that I could attend the Good Friday service at church, but alas, I did not.) My friend Caroline did a seder in college & it was so great to celebrate Jesus’ last supper. I love the freedom we have as Christians to celebrate Old Testament rituals without being bound by the laws. Most Messianic seders take place on Holy Thursday, but this year, Passover & Good Friday coincided so I figured it was OK to do it then. We invited Beth & David over, & I drew up a little script & everything.

wpid-2015-04-17-13.41.25.jpg.jpeg

We had a 5th table setting for Jesus. It was pretty informal, but very meaningful. We had seafood instead of lamb (see Good Friday  above), so it was a blending of several traditions. The most important thing is that it was all for God’s glory. It was a lot of fun to have fellowship with our friends with traditions we don’t typically observe. I am so grateful to have a husband who enjoys praying & worshiping with others. Especially since this was an impromptu thing on my part, & he was totally down for it!

Saturday, we took our niece to my coworker’s Easter egg hunt party. It was a lot of fun. We hadn’t spent the day with her in a while! Plus, everyone kept joking with us that it was good practice! I made a Bunny Cake & my 2 year old niece immediately said ‘my bunny cake’. How precious! At the end of the day we sent her back to my parents’ sound asleep, despite all the sugar!

Easter Sunday was great. Since we were playing hand bells, we got to attend/perform at both the 1st service & the 3rd service (the two traditional services). Also, since Easter fell on the first Sunday of the month, we got to receive communion at both services! On top of performing with the hand bell choir, my husband also played trumpet in the brass quartet. I cannot reiterate it enough how happy & proud I am to have a husband that loves serving the Lord in that manner! When we met in high school marching band over ten years ago, I could have never imagined that he would be my husband & I would get to see him play at church. It’s so funny how God works in our lives!

wpid-fb_img_1428261977535.jpg

There’s a quote  from Nancy Leigh DeMoss I saw on Pinterest, “The ulitmate purpose of marriage is not to make us happy, but to glorify God.”

I love that quote. So far, marriage has made me much more aware of God’s presence. I am constantly reminded of God because my husband is made in God’s image. I know that everyone is, but for some reason it’s in my husband that I see this clearer than I ever have before. My marriage is not just a piece of paper, or betting my husband half my stuff that we’re staying together. My marriage is, indeed, something holy.

The Drop Box

The Drop Box

Last night I had the privilege of watching this film with my husband & our good friends. It was a really fun double date. What I love about nights like last night is that we can have fun while doing/watching something meaningful.

“The Drop Box tells the story of South Korean pastor Lee Jong-rak and his heroic efforts to embrace and protect the most vulnerable members of society. It is a heart-wrenching exploration of the physical, emotional and financial toll associated with providing refuge to orphans that would otherwise be abandoned on the streets. ButThe Drop Box movie is also a story of hope—a reminder that every human life is sacred and worthy of love.” -From The Drop Box Film website

This film was very touching. We laughed, we cried. Almost as powerful as this life-affirming film was the director’s testimony. He became a Christian while making this film. Watching it you would never know that he had only been a Christian for a short time.

It’s only in select theaters until tomorrow. It’s totally worth going to see it. Come on, the theater won’t be crowded on a weeknight & it helps to break up the routine of our crazy lives.

You know you want to.

Strawberry Pie & Lent

I have given up chocolate for Lent. One of the pastors at my church recently posted an interesting article – Does God Care If You Give Up Chocolate? Spoiler alert: the answer is maybe.

It’s interesting that I grew up going to Catholic church until I was about 15, but I never used to do anything differently for Lent & had never gone to mass on Ash Wednesday. Last night my husband and I went to our church’s Ash Wednesday service. It was just what we needed after a difficult past few days. Lent is the time for putting aside sins & failures of the past in the light of who we are yet to become by the grace of God. I’m not well equipped to adequately describe the importance of Lent in this short post.

So why did I give up chocolate? Because I like it. A lot. Because I turn to it for comfort when I’m feeling emotional. Because my husband buys me chocolates as small gestures of his affection. Because I eat something chocolate-y almost daily. Because I think about chocolate more than I think about Christ. Yes, I can confess that. Therefore, when I am tempted to reach for a piece of chocolate for whatever reason – boredom, comfort, sign of affection, hunger – I will (hopefully) think of Easter.

I didn’t say I gave up dessert, though.

wpid-1424366353756.jpg

So I made a pie. A 15 minute pie. I had some frozen pie crust and some frozen “summer fruits” which apparently are peaches, blackberries, and strawberries. It was mostly strawberries. I also had some fresh strawberries I added. Let’s call it strawberry pie with added flavors.

I took out the blackberries from the frozen mix & cooked them on their own for a bit. When they were soft, I pureed them in the food processor and strained them. Why? Because my husband doesn’t like the seeds & I love him. It was a labor of love. You see, I love blackberries the way they are. He likes the flavor but does not enjoy their texture. I could have put them in the pie the way they came, not considering his preference. I could have omitted the blackberries all together & saved the trouble. It’s about the little things we do for each other, though.

Once that was complete, I cooked the rest of the fruits with some sugar and a little flour to thicken it. The frozen crust was baking all along, and then I just combined the two.

This 15 minute pie turned out to be delicious.

wpid-1424366076014.jpg


I didn’t think this post about pie & Lent would get so deep. But this is one of the things I love about God. He does pay attention to the details. I believe he does care about things like chocolate & baking pies. He does care how we live our lives day to day. We can, and should, turn to him for the big things and the little things.