macaroni & cheese

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cast of characters:

2 cups elbow macaroni (7 ounces)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground mustard
Pinch of paprika, thyme, cayenne pepper
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 ¾ (or more) cups milk
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
4 oz cream cheese
Italian seasoned bread crumbs

the plan:

1. Heat oven to 350.
2. Cook macaroni as directed on package
3. While macaroni is cooking, melt butter in a 3 quart saucepan over low heat. Stir in flour, salt, pepper, Worcestershire, garlic, and spices, to taste. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth and bubbly. Stir in milk and heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir one minute. Remove from heat. Stir in cheese and cream cheese until melted.
4. Add cheese sauce to drained macaroni. Pour into an ungreased 2 quart casserole. Sprinkle seasoned bread crumbs over the top. Bake uncovered 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbly.
5. Enjoy!

resting with full assurance // heb. 10:22

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It seems like forever ago since I started my blog.

I remember struggling and hoping that, maybe, if I wrote to the world, if God willed it, my words would help soothe a worn, cold soul desperate for the same truth and warmth God had given me.

For the past few weeks, I have been looking on some of those difficult seasons with almost fondness, knowing that, because of it I was refined by fire — and I still am, forever growing, ever changing as I go through this up-down, curving, twisting thing called life.

In light of those times, I feel that I am finally emerging from one of the greatest struggles I’ve ever had — and that is what this post is about. Realizations, things I wished someone had walked up to me and just told me. I’ve been working on this post for some months now. Editing, perfecting, striving, fumbling for the right words, stumbling in articulating utterances of the soul, where no one goes. I pray that maybe you can make sense of the messiness I can’t convey.

~*~

Today I grabbed a dusty dictionary from a wood bookshelf while the skies cried and the sun said hello to look up the word, grace – unmerited divine favor.

Excellence, not perfection, I whisper to myself,

My feelings are not reality.

I am very much an introspective person. Taking a shower, laying in bed, peeking at the stars, I evaluate how “I did today”. Was I good? Was I kind? Was I worthy? I have a checklist in my mind …

———————————————————————————————————————–

Good: told the girl at the bagel place she had nice hair – check.

Good: opened the door for the elderly gentlemen in the wheelchair – check.

Good: smiled and laughed and didn’t show how much it hurt when she said my legs looked fat-check.

Good: didn’t talk about how cold I was so people wouldn’t think I was seeking attention (or something) – check.

Good: didn’t ask for help when I needed it so I wouldn’t bother him or make anyone feel obligated to go out of their way for me –check

Bad: accidentally snapped at someone because I was tired

Bad: said something today that could’ve been taken the wrong way

Bad: forgot someone’s name

Bad: didn’t read my Bible

Bad: my quiet time with the Lord was too short in comparison to the time I spent watching a movie

———————————————————————————————————————-

There are times I think about the ways that I fall short of the Glory of God, which are ever far and wide and numerous. But I think I get some of them confused with the things that fall short of the Glory of Rachel.

Time and time again I find myself caught between the sweet grace of God and the corruption of my sinful soul.

 Sometimes I feel more like a “true” Christian when I am convicted of something and motivated to change. And if I’m not convicted of anything in particular, then I think that I am falling away from God, which could be true sometimes. But that’s not what “being a Christian”means.

Being a Christian isn’t finding more and more ways to feel convicted so you change. It’s resting in the work of Christ on the cross, and obeying God’s commandments out of love and gratitude for what He has done. We are called to, yes, repent of our sins and turn away from them – but nowhere in the Bible does it say we’re called to self-condemnation. We are not called to purposeful, self-inflicted pain in remorse where there is none necessary. Christ took on that pain for us, and in wallowing in our own guilt we are losing sight of what is important – placing more focus on our fallen condition than we are the saving, redeeming love of our Savior. This is where my tendency towards introspection leads me down a path I don’t belong.


 

But His mercies are made new each morning.

How comforting it is to know that, I, yes, am a sinful heart and will bend towards the ways and stresses of the world, and yet, no matter how much I fail, how far I fall, how far I have to reach the mark, and yet God does not love me any less. And that I don’t need to read my Bible every day to be good enough. I don’t have to go to church to be worthy. I don’t have to do Christian things in order to have value in the eyes of God. In fact, really, I don’t have to do anything to be a child of God (John 1:12). That title is not based on my performance, but on the blood of Christ on my behalf. And I try to do those things not so God will love me more, but because my heart rests in the work of Christ and desires to please Him. A woman shouldn’t serve her husband so that he may love her, but because she loves him. Right?

Christians, I’m looking at you. Let’s not be check box Christians. We don’t have to do or be a list of things to deserve His love. We can’t put limits on God’s grace – that’s what the Pharisees tried to do. Saying that grace is only reserved for those who deserve it, genuinely, but it can’t be for the adulteress, the tax collector, the prostitute, or the unclean is presumptuous. We shouldn’t be motivating each other by guilt, but by grace.

Learn the difference between conviction of the Holy Spirit and self-condemnation. If from the Holy Spirit, we are driven to turn away from our sin and towards freedom and restoration in God. Self-condemnation is turning away from God in shame and agony, and continuing in the dangerous path we’re on because we believe we deserve no better.

“There is a simple test to see if you are experiencing condemnation by the enemy or gentle conviction by the Holy Spirit. Guilt and/or shame will draw you further away from the Lord deeper into sin. Conviction is the Holy Spirit nudging us to confess and turn from the sin as He provides the power to overcome.”

{Robin Samson of Heart of Wisdom.com}

 

More often than not, I catch myself thinking that my sinful nature is too chasmal, too wide, too dark to be covered by something as beautiful as God’s grace. And maybe I was forgivable last time around, but I fell again and His grace is running out of the hourglass. How can God keep on loving me when I’m so undeserving? Why would He continue to put up with me and my mess?

But I remind myself: His Grace is like a relentless river — it cannot be controlled by man no matter our efforts. It doesn’t hesitate. It doesn’t even blind itself from our sin. It looks right at us, as we’re sitting in the mire, the slough of despond, and it pulls us out. Of course, grace is not an unlimited free pass to sin whenever we want and get away with it, but it’s the enabling power of God not to sin, and unmerited favor in His sight. Whether we stand tall or stumble, we are just as beautiful and pleasing to Him as ever. (Is. 43:4, S.o.S. 4:7)

Don’t let your remorse and heartache determine your theology. There are times that my doubt gets the better of me, and I have to remind myself that I am a Christian regardless whether or not I “feel” like one. He has assigned us far more worth than we could possibly develop or accumulate on our own. And the Bible never says, “Well done, good and successful servant”. He says ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. He doesn’t call us to be perfect, but to be faithful in the hard and holy places.


 

Oh, how I am caught in His grace and His loving-kindness.

“But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

{romans 8:38}

There is no choice I make that will change that. Nothing I say or do that will make me disinherit Gods love. Neither my fears for today, worries about tomorrow, nor the anxious concerns of my past – not even the dark, fuming powers of hell determined to sever my relationship with God – can separate me from His love.

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”

{hebrews 10:19-23}

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

{hebrews 4:16}

I stand in awe.