Monthly Archives: February 2017

M’m! M’m! Monday 2/6/17 ~ A Gathering Place

“For where two or three gather in my name, there I am with them.” Matthew 18:20 (NIV)

Time has passed. It’s been months since my last M’m! M’m! Monday!  A lot has sure happened.  And now, here I am at one of my favorite places in our new house:  My “sit down, catch up, tell stories, laugh, play games, decorate cookies, dine, and type a blog post table”.  OK, ok, we’ll just call it the dining room table for short.

I love everything about this spot!  I love the long table, comfortable chairs, the inviting colors,  rustic textures, and the soft light that filters through the curtains.  I love that it’s the center of our home.  But most of all, I love that it beckons to be gathered in.

A gathering place. A place where friendship is offered, love is shared, and memories made.  Where new recipes are served, celebrations had, and plans are formed.  A place to talk over the day, remember times past, and hope for tomorrow. A place where hands are held, heads are bowed, and prayers are said.

There seem to be so many things pulling people apart these days. It saddens me. I worry about our future.  What if instead of moving further apart, we made more of an effort to get together, to create more gathering places? What if the line at the grocery store, the bleachers in the gym, or the waiting room at the dentist office could become a place of camaraderie and encouragement?  It doesn’t take a “sit down, catch up, tell stories, laugh, play games, decorate cookies, dine, and type a blog post table” to create a gathering place; it just takes a smile, an outstretched hand, or a kind word to draw others in.

Our new home is such a blessing to us.  I don’t want it to stop there though.  The desire of my heart is for it to be a gathering place; a place where others feel served and treasured, find respite and renewal, and feel just as blessed to be here, as I do!

And now here is an easy recipe that’s sure to bring them to the table!  You can’t go wrong with Oreos!

Oreo Cheesecakes

Ingredients

  • 22 Oreo cookies
  • 2-8 oz. packages cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp.vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 c. sour cream
  • 1/8 tsp. salt

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.
  • Place 16 paper liners in muffin tins.
  • Put one whole Oreo in the bottom of each lined cup.
  • In a large bowl, use a mixer to beat the cream cheese until it's smooth. Add the sugar and beat until combined. Mix in the vanilla and the add the eggs until blended. Beat in the sour cream and salt. Do not overmix.
  • Coarsely chop the 6 Oreos that are left and stir in to the cream cheese mixture.
  • Divide the batter among the cookie-lined cups filling each almost to the top.
  • Bake until the filling is set, about 22 minutes.
  • Transfer to wire racks to cool completely inside the muffin tins.
  • Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight before serving.
  • *I topped each individual cheesecake with some whipped cream and a little crushed Oreo to serve.
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Stanley’s Dream

 

Miracles of Living Hope

Marilyn Uhl will be the first to tell you that establishing and running Living Hope High School in Bungoma, Kenya couldn’t happen without God.  She will also tell you that the longer she’s in Africa, the stronger her faith grows.  Marilyn has seen God work things out in strange and powerful ways when even she didn’t believe He would.  “I don’t know why we don’t have total faith because He never lets us down.” she reminds us.  “He might not answer us the way we want or when we want, but He always has our good in mind.”  The Living Hope journey continues with true stories of the miraculous ways God is working in the lives of Marilyn and her students.

“Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (ESV) Pixabay

Stanley’s Dream

It’s unlikely that you or I could navigate the narrow, winding paths that lead through the bush-covered interior outside Bungoma to find the small, isolated house where Stanley’s story begins.  He was the first born of four children to proud parents who encouraged them in all they did. The family worked hard on their small farm to survive and while they were rich in love, there was very little money.

Stanley enjoyed school and excelled in his high school courses but as the time drew near for his final exam, he faced a cold, hard truth.  As much as his parents desired to help him, they just didn’t have the funds; so Stanley did the only thing he knew to do: he prayed.  He prayed fervently.  He prayed continually.  He prayed right up into the evening before the registration money was due and still he had no answer.  As the family sat down that night for supper something unusual happened.  They were startled by a knock at their door.  Much to Stanley’s surprise, and an answer to his prayer, there stood one of his teachers. This teacher recognized the potential in Stanley and told him that he would pay his school registration fees enabling him to finish high school and take his exam.  Stanley immediately began praising God and thanking his teacher.  Songs of rejoicing filled the tiny home.

As often happens in life, rejoicing turned to sorrow as Stanley experienced a crushing blow.  His father unexpectedly passed away.  Seeing an opportunity, Stanley’s uncle swooped in and offered to help the family by taking Stanley to live with him.  Stanley’s life would never be the same.  Outside the uncle’s kitchen was an old side shed that at times had been used to house cows and chickens.  It was small, dark, had a stench, and now was Stanley’s room.  He soon learned that he was expected to be his uncle’s house boy receiving no pay in return.  He worked all day: cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, and caring for his small cousins.  The only food Stanley got each day were the few sips or nibbles he was able to sneak as he prepared the family’s meals.  Stanley was now a slave but he never stopped praying for the dream he held deep in his heart to somehow come true.

Days turned into weeks and weeks became years when one day while Stanley was doing chores he noticed a woman moving into the duplex next door to his uncle’s.  He soon learned that Marilyn was a teacher and administrator at her own school: Living Hope. They quickly became friends and he shared with Marilyn that he’d been with his uncle for six years and in that time he’d prayed every single day for God to provide a way for his dream to be realized.  Having never shared the words aloud with anyone before, they felt strange crossing his tongue as he confided in Marilyn that his dream was to be a teacher too. He revealed  that somehow he’d always known he was supposed to be a teacher even though he could see absolutely no way for it to happen.

Other than praying, Stanley had no idea what it would take to make his dream of teaching a reality; so Marilyn sent him on his bike to the small teaching college in town.  The trip home seemed to take much longer than the trip to the school as he now carried the heavy burden of knowing he’d never experience the joy of being a teacher.  Up until now, he had no idea what college would cost and it was just too expensive, especially for someone who had nothing!

But “nothing” didn’t describe what Stanley had because He. Had. God.  AND God had a plan! We’re promised God hears our prayers so when Stanley needed a miracle a teacher arrived on his doorstep. When Marilyn needed a place to live, she miraculously found an answer in the duplex next door to Stanley.  Now, Stanley needed a way to make his dream of being a teacher more than a dream and he was about to find his miraculous answer in Marilyn!

When Marilyn saw the look of defeat on Stanley’s face her heart was moved. It didn’t take her long to offer to pay his tuition for the first semester and buy all the supplies he’d need; but she told him that after that God would have to handle the rest. And handle it He did!

Stanley flourished at college but at the end of the semester, as expected, he was out of money and at the time so was Marilyn.  Prayers were lifted once again, and Marilyn’s sister stepped in when she realized how troubled Marilyn was about Stanley’s situation and her inability to continue to help him.  She provided for Stanley so that he could finish his two year program and receive his Associates Degree.  It was a bittersweet achievement as Stanley found himself in the exact spot he’d been in time and time again…holding on to the dream of being a teacher, having no money, and praying fervently for God to make a way.  Meanwhile, Marilyn was home in West Virginia traveling from church to church speaking about Living Hope High School.  While at Faith United Methodist Church, she felt compelled to tell Stanley’s story.  As church dismissed, coming up from the back of the church, a couple approached Marilyn.  They’d been so moved by Stanley’s story that they pledged to support him through his final two years of college.

Knowing his teacher, Marilyn, her sister, and the family from Faith Church were answers to his constant prayers, Stanley never took their gifts to him for granted.  He worked diligently to make his dream come true and graduated with his teaching certification!

Some would say that Marilyn’s moving next door to Stanley’s uncle was a coincidence.  Marilyn, Stanley, and now you, know differently.  God works out His plans for us in miraculous, unexpected ways.  They may not happen just as we imagine or on our time table, but He works them out for our best.  You see, Stanley’s story doesn’t end here….He is now the Head Administrator and Marilyn’s most trusted employee at Living Hope High School! God sent Marilyn to Stanley and she will tell you that Stanley is a Godsend to her. Neither could do what they do without the other. Now, I’d say that’s a dream come true!

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28 (NLT)

copyright Living Hope High School, Bungoma, Kenya

For more information on Living Hope High School, go to www.livinghopehighschool.org or call Helen Markwell at 304-567-2254.