Who am I?

Between the media, our culture and peer groups, and even family members, we are land blasted on every side by who and what we should be. There’s the crowd that’s constantly telling you to look better, dress nicer, lose more weight. Then you have the people who never think that your best is good enough, and those that find something you do that they don’t like and decide to attack you on it.

And that’s not even counting our own internal struggle on self-worth, insecurity, and if what we’ve done is good enough!

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Whew!

With all that craziness, how in the world are we supposed to decipher what is true and build up a foundation of worth that stands against the fire of culture and condemnation?

How can we learn to drown out the voices of thousands and listen to the only one that truly matters – Jesus’?

The answer, as many things are is simple, but the application can be a lot harder! I know sometimes I can berate myself over something I did wrong, or as my perfectionism likes to remind me, “not good enough or perfectly.”

We need to build our spiritual muscle memory up, so when the voice of condemnation and you-aren’t-good-enough comes, we can rely on that to refute it with a solid, “NOT TRUE” and God’s Word!

So let’s dive right in, what does the Bible say about us?

“So God created mankind in His own image,” ~ Genesis 1:27

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well,” ~ Psalm 149:14

“You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God,” ~ Isaiah 62:3

“Now if we are children, then we are heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory,” ~ Romans 8:17

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light,” ~ 1 Peter 2:9

This is what He calls us….

  • created in His image
  • fearfully and wonderfully made
  • crown of splendor, royal diadem
  • heirs of God, co-heirs with Christ
  • chosen race
  • royal priesthood
  • holy nation

And that’s not even counting treasured possession (Exodus 19:5), bride of Christ (John 3:29), child of God (1 John 3:1) and countless others!

We are not some run-of-the-mill, made-in-a-factory soul. We aren’t glanced over, pushed to the side, or forgotten in the corner of some dingy pub. God has created us for a specific person, in His image, and there is not another human being alive in the past, present, or future that is exactly like you or I. He has placed aspects of Himself in us – maybe you are creative, God is incredibly creative – look at everything He has made! Are you loyal, have a great sense of humor (talking donkey anyone? check out Numbers 22:20), or love to encourage others? Those are all qualities that God has!

Not only are we a reflection of Him (granted, an imperfect one!), but He refers to those of us who are saved as a crown of splendor…a royal diadem. How amazing is that? The God of the entire universe views His children, even with our mistakes, as someone who He is proud of (side note: this does not mean that He advocates for our sins, but I think that He sees where we are trying and is delighted by our efforts).

Now that we’ve defined who God says we are, what does our relationship look like with God? Is he condemning? Harsh? Let’s see…

“The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness,” ~ Jeremiah 31:3

“He will take great delight in you,” and “will rejoice over you with singing,” ~ Zephaniah 3:17

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins,” ~ 1 John 4:10

“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit,” ~ Psalm 34:18

“You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great,” ~ Psalm 18:35

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go,” ~ Joshua 1:9

Wow. Every time I read these verses, especially together, it always amazes me the extent of the Lord’s love and compassion.

As a perfect being, He could easily reject our efforts and remind us of our failings. God is so far above us, and the fact that Jesus still chose to come down to the dust, dirt, pain, and suffering – away from the perfect glory and comfort, is amazing.

FaithInstead of condemnation, He delights and rejoices in us. That blows my mind! I especially love Psalm 18:35, on how God’s gentleness made him [David] great. I don’t know about y’all, but gentleness is not something I normally associate with Jesus.

In “The Complete Word Study Dictionary” by Warren Baker and Dr. Eugene Carpenter, they explain what the word gentleness means in Hebrew – patience and tenderness. What a beautiful picture that is of our Lord!

He treats us with patience, tenderness, love, and compassion. And as Psalm 103:14 states, He remembers that we are dust, that we are human. He knows our shortcomings and weaknesses and still offers to any who accept, a relationship with Him.

I want to end this with a beautiful quote by Robin Jones Gunn and Alyssa Joy Bethke in their book “Spoken For.” And as we go about our days, let us remind ourselves that to those who accept His salvation, we are children of God and nothing in this world can separate us from His love (Romans 8:38).

“This is an epic love story that you are part of. You are wanted. Draw in that eternal truth: You. Wanted. Forever.

~ Southern Dreamer

 

 

Hot Chocolate Cake

Who doesn’t love chocolate? It’s sweet, comes in dozens of forms, and tastes amazing with pretty much anything!

When my dad had his birthday earlier this week then, I knew exactly what I should make him: a hot chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream frosting.

I found this yummy recipe through Pinterest, and all credit goes to the blogger at I Heart Eating – check that link to see her blog, she has lots of great recipes! – for the recipe for both the cake and buttercream frosting.

To start off with, gather your ingredients! You’ll need…

  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup of hot chocolate (1 cup of water mixed with standard hot chocolate packet)
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 cup of buttermilk at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup of butter (melted) – I used unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cup of all purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cup of granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt

NOTE: In order to get the eggs at room temperature, grab a bowl, fill it with warm water (about the temperature you would use if you took a bath) and place the eggs in it for 10 minutes. To get the buttermilk at room temperature, warm it in the microwave for 30 seconds.

Alright! Now that the logistics are out of the way, let’s get started.

IMG_0525Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and go ahead and grease or butter two nine inch cake pans, and then flour them. When you finish, they should look something like this.

If you find yourself with too much flour in the pan, gently tap it against the side of the counter top and the excess flour should separate off. You can then throw that excess out.

Moving along, in a small bowl whisk together the hot chocolate and cocoa powder.

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Then in a larger bowl, whisk together the melted butter, eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla extract. MAKE SURE your buttermilk and eggs are room temperature. The first time I did this, I got impatient and went ahead and added them to the warm/melted butter…the result was that all the butter clumped together in a huge lump!

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Haha, so yes, room temperature is really important! I also mixed in each ingredient one at a time, before adding the next one.

After all of those are mixed so that they’re well combined, go ahead and whisk in the hot chocolate mixture that you set aside earlier.

Whisk in the flour, baking soda, and salt, and viola! The batter is complete!

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Pour the batter into the pans, and then bake for 20-35 minutes or until a butter knife comes out clean. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes, and afterwards, it’s time for frosting!

Here’s what you need to make chocolate buttercream frosting:

  • 1 cup salted butter (at room temperature)
  • 3 1/2 – 4 cups of powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-3 tablespoons of whole milk, half and half, or cream

NOTE: to get butter to room temperature, leave it out of the fridge for 30 minutes. THIS IS SUPER IMPORTANT. It makes a huge difference in the frosting!

Using an electric mixer (either hand of standing), beat the butter until it is a pale color, about 3-4 minutes. Scrape down the bowl.

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Add 3 1/2 cups of powdered sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, and 2 tablespoons of milk.

When I did this, I added each ingredient individual, making sure that it was mixed in thoroughly before adding the next one. Additionally, I add 1/2 a cup of powdered sugar at a time, since I didn’t want it to fly out of the bowl all at once.

Mix on low.

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Now, my family has a sweet tooth, so I added some more powdered sugar. I added about 1/4-1/2 a cup at a time, and then tasted it to see if I liked it. As long as you don’t add huge amounts of sugar at once, you can play around with how sweet you want it and it shouldn’t mess the frosting up!

Once the frosting is finished, go ahead and frost that cake!

After taking one of the cakes out, I placed it on a cake stand and frosted the top of it. Then, I put the other one on top and frosted the entire outside of it. If you have a knife that doesn’t have sharp edges, such as a specialized knife specifically for cutting butter (if you have one specific for frosting and baking, use that! I don’t have one yet so I improvised!), it will make the frosting go on smoother.

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I baked this cake on Tuesday, and let me tell you, this will not last long in your house, especially if you have teenage brothers or sons!

Let me know how it went if you try it, in the comments below! What other kinds of chocolate cakes do you enjoy?

~ Southern Dreamer