To My Seminary Kids

Last month, our stake held Seminary Graduation, recognizing the youth who have participated in the early morning seminary program for four years and have studied the Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, and the Old and New Testaments. My class and I had been preparing for weeks for graduation and for finishing the New Testament.

Let me brag really quickly about my kids – they woke up at 0430 each morning to be at the church building by 0530, spent 50 minutes in the New Testament and engaging in gospel-centric conversations, all before heading to school. And not only that, the discussions we had were deep and insightful, filled with inspired questions and honest conversations. I am so ridiculously proud of each of them for all the hard work, heart, and humor they put into their studies this year (they made it through all of the Pauline epistles, and deserve an award for that alone). I have come to love each my students so much, for so many different reasons.

Mentally steeling myself to be released nearly 2 months ago, I began taking note of what I wanted my kids to remember from our class together this year, if they remembered nothing else. And I don’t mean the chronological events of the New Testament, or all the things that Paul taught, or the names of the Twelve Apostles and how they were related and their past professions. They don’t need to remember that Paul was only about 5 feet tall and that Peter was crucified upside down. That would be great, but to me, it’s not my top priority for them.

When I was a missionary in California, I would walk away from a lesson or a conversation on the street if I knew the person I had just talked with felt at least one, single thing: the love of God. It didn’t matter if we talked about the Restoration of the Gospel, about temples, or about the Book of Mormon. If nothing else, I wanted that person to feel the love of God.

Looking back on those experiences, and that desire, I realized that there are five things I want my seminary students to know as we approach the end of the year and our time together as a class.

5. They know more than they think they do.

They don’t know everything, they don’t know the scriptures inside and out, and heck, even some of the doctrinal/scripture mastery is a bit shaky. They don’t know the difference between Phillipi and Galatia, or the subtlety of word choices in the King James Version of the New Testament. That doesn’t matter. But more often than not, they know the truth of the principles and doctrines and have learned more than they think they have, and like Elder Andersen taught in the October 2008 General Conference:

Our spiritual journey is the process of a lifetime. We do not know everything in the beginning or even along the way. Our conversion comes step-by-step, line upon line. We first build a foundation of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We treasure the principles and ordinances of repentance, baptism, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. We include a continuing commitment to prayer, a willingness to be obedient, and an ongoing witness of the Book of Mormon. (The Book of Mormon is powerful spiritual nourishment.)

We then remain steady and patient as we progress through mortality. At times, the Lord’s answer will be, “You don’t know everything, but you know enough”—enough to keep the commandments and to do what is right. Remember Nephi’s words: “I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.”

They might not know everything, but they know enough.

4. They are loved beyond what they can imagine.

Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have a perfect, imitable love for them. The love of God is the very reason we live and breathe, and that love will never be diminished, never be taken away, never be changed. Because the love of God is powerful, eternal,  and so crucial to our very existence. It is deeper and more far-reaching than any power imaginable. He will never not love them.

They are also dearly loved by us mere mortals as well – their parents and grandparents, teachers and leaders in the church, siblings, friends, and they love one another. That love is what helps us get through this life, to heal from the bumps and bruises, and to be able to keep growing and keep learning. That love encompasses a desire for them to be successful in all they do, to be protected from the influences of society (ahem, Satan) and a fierce loyalty.

3. They are not alone.

Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ will not leave them. They will not abandon them, leave them behind, or drop them by the wayside. They are faithful to the ends of the earth to those who love Them, and strive to obey the laws of God, even as they struggle and sometimes fall short of the mark. They are not the leaving kind – we have to consciously drive Them away in order for Them to leave us alone. They will not let them go out into the world without walking beside them every step of the way, hands on their shoulder, kneeling beside them when they stumble and fall, lifting them to their feet, giving them the strength to keep on. Christ did not die for them in order to leave them by the wayside.

They will never walk alone.

2. Repentance works, and it’s not just for sin.

This is something I worked hard to underscore to my kids. Repentance. It helps us to overcome our sins and transgressions, through the Atonement that Jesus Christ made. When we confess our sins and seek forgiveness, the slate is wiped clean because of the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for us, not just as a collective body of Christians and sort-of Christians, but on an individual, by-name basis. Where sin drags us down, Christ’s atonement paired with our repentance lifts us back up. Our sins, though like scarlet, become white as snow. 

When we wander, repentance – that process of seeking Christ and Heavenly Father again – restores us to the path that leads back to our Heavenly Home. It is a tool for us to learn by, to be strengthened by, all so that one day we can stand before our Father and tell Him, “I have done all I can do to return to you.”

And it’s not just about sin, those things we’ve done wrong, those mistakes we’ve made.  It helps us to forgive, to overcome challenges that are cast upon us, and to gain a better understanding not only of the nature of God and of His Son, but also our own natures and our own infinite and eternal potential.

I could pontificate for hours on the principle of repentance (just ask my students), but what I love most is knowing that it works. It’s not a useless exercise, it’s not something that’s shameful, it’s not something to take for granted. We preach it because it’s true, because it is the way home to our Father in Heaven, and because it is one of the most crucial aspects of the gospel, and because it brings with it great peace and comfort, no matter what is going on in life or what has happened.

1. Jesus Christ is their Savior.

So often we get caught up in talking about Jesus Christ the Savior, that we forget to think and talk about Jesus Christ our Savior. He is our Savior on a deeply personal and individual level. Yes, He is the Savior of the world, but He’s also the Savior of the individual.

And not just any individual. Every individual. There’s nothing arbitrary about it, nothing impersonal. In discussions about the Atonement Christ made, you hear people often say something to the effect of “if you were the only person to walk the earth, Christ still would have died for you.” You hear it over and over again. Because it’s true.

In his BYU Speech “The Very Root of Christian Doctrine,”* Thomas B. Griffith relates the experience of the Nephites when Christ visited the Americas. They bowed before the Resurrected Jesus Christ, recognizing Him as the Messiah of their prophecies, but it wasn’t until they touched the wounds in His hands, feet, and side that they recognized Him as their Savior and Redeemer. It was then that they shouted Hosanna! and fell at His feet. Their understanding of their relationship to Him shifted from worshiping Christ as the Messiah to worshiping Him as their Savior.

Jesus Christ is their Savior on a personal and perfect level – the Atonement He made is for them, not just the neighbor down the street or the girl sitting beside them in Church. He is their Savior every day, in every moment, and in every joy and trial.

That Christ is their Savior is the most important thing I want them to know and to remember, if nothing else sticks. Because it is that knowledge which will get them through the tough times ahead, and will deepen their joy in the years to come.


I am so thankful for the opportunity I had to teach, if only for a few short months. My students were the greatest blessing and in all honesty, I had fun every morning talking about Christ (and sometimes dinosaurs) and about the Gospel and making it relatable. I learned far more from them than I could have ever taught them! 
 

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Living an Easter Life

“And the angel…said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said, Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” – Matthew 28:5-6

Each spring, these words flood the earth – we see them as we scroll through our social media pages, on the signs outside churches, read over the pulpit, shared in Hallmark cards, and we turn to it on Easter morning.

And then, to be honest, the Easter candy runs out, we close the scriptures, put that bit of the Gospel on the shelf, tuck away the signs, the decorations, and the cards til the next Easter season, all without much thought.

But here’s the thing.

Easter – the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the solemn, personal reception of the Atonement He made within the shadow of Gethsemane and upon the cross at Calvary – isn’t just a seasonit’s a lifestyle.

That miraculous weekend was not meant to be briefly acknowledged and then consigned to the wayside in the teachings of Jesus Christ. It is not a blip on the gospel radar, a nice summation to a three-year ministry in Jerusalem. It is the pinnacle of His ministry, the greatest of gifts, the answer to prayer and pleading, the triumph over death necessary for us to return to live with the loving Father who created us.

So why do we really only focus on it for a season?

We live a mindful Easter season, why not live an Easter life?

Why not magnify that season into a life fueled by the Atonement and the Resurrection of Christ, and all that comes with it? Why not live a life filled with the joy and wonder of beholding a Savior and Messiah who overcame death, broke the chains of mortality, and made it possible for us to become greater than we ever dreamt?

Simon Peter, after Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension, wrote to the Saints in Europe and Asia, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.” (1 Peter 1:3-4)

Did you catch that?

His abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

So what does this lively hope have to do with living an Easter life?

Absolutely everything.

God loved us enough to send His only begotten son so that we could live with Them again.

And not your run-of-the-mill ‘live,’ either. God sent His Son so we could grow, thrive, learn, and seek joy. Everlasting life.

So how do we use that lively hope to live an Easter life?

Some things I’ve learned as I’ve sought to live an Easter life this past year (this isn’t just some spur of the moment Meg-loves-Jesus post, ya’ll).

Remember that joy is often preceded by pain.

Ask anyone who knows me personally what my favorite semi-abstract principle of the gospel is, and they’ll tell you in a hot second: joy. Sometimes you just have joy illuminate your life, coloring everything you see, do, and feel.

Other times, you have to fight for it, hope for it, believe in it.

Sometimes we feel lost, lonely, and un-loved. We all have our ‘Saturdays’ in our Easter
life, and we’re in good company. After Jesus Mary Magdalene TombChrist was crucified, His disciples were left alone on what was perhaps their darkest day: their friend and Master had been breaking bread with them just two days before in the upper room, only to be seized, scourged, and sacrificed before their eyes. Friday was earth shattering to them, overcome with grief, despair, and panic as they were. On Saturday reality sunk in, and the feelings of loss and loneliness likely flooded their lives.

Christ had told them that He would soon leave them, but who can blame them for not understanding what that meant? Elder Jeffrey R. Holland noted that they either could not or would not, entertain the thought of Him leaving them. And yet, it happened.

Then, after such a short time to learn and even less time to prepare, the unthinkable happened, the unbelievable was true. Their Lord and Master, their Counselor and King, was crucified. His mortal ministry was over, and the struggling little Church He had established seemed doomed to scorn and destined for extinction.

My heart aches think how lost those men must have felt without Jesus beside them. Their Saturday must have been one of great sorrow, loneliness, shock, and perhaps even regret. The earth quaking, the veil being rent in twain in the temple, and the storms tearing at Jerusalem must have felt inconsequential next to their loss.

So imagine the illuminating, overwhelming, perfect joy that came as their Saturday faded and Sunday blossomed: when the empty tomb was discovered, when the news was shared, when they felt the nail marks in the hands, wrists, side, and feet of their friend and Master, in His resurrected state. The comfort of His voice as He reassured them, blessed them, and taught them once more.

How much did the sorrow of their Friday and Saturday make the joy of their Resurrection Sunday brighter, more perfect, and more heart-piercing?

Our greatest joys in life come after – or even in the midst of – our greatest sorrows. Remembering this, and pressing forward with lively hope, is crucial to living an Easter life because it strengthens us, comforts us, and sustains us.

Never forget that doubters became believers.

If we were all to go around in a circle and take a moment to introduce ourselves and say, “I follow in [insert apostle’s name here] footsteps, I am that kind of disciple,” I would love to fill in Simon Peter’s name in that declaration. But in reality, I more often than not stand beside Thomas.

And that’s okay, because ultimately, faith was restored, and Thomas went from a doubter to a believer. Living an Easter life means building up your faith and seeking answers so that you can be a believer. It’s not an all-at-once, one and done sort of deal. It’s a process of growing belief, of self-examination, and many leaps of faith. Simon, fisherman son of Jona, did not become Peter, leader of the Church, overnight.

Believe in the Resurrection. Believe that Jesus Christ suffered for you, for your sins, for your sorrows, for your fears, for your infirmities, for your shortcomings. Believe that He died so that you could overcome the chains of death, and so that your life could be eternal.

Recognize your own road to Emmaus.

In Luke we read about the experience two apostles had as they traveled to the village called Emmaus.

Road to Emmaus“And they talked together of all these things which had happened. And it came to pass that while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know him.” (see Luke 24:13-35)

Did they not see Christ for who He was because of the Christ’s will, or because they were not looking for Him?

Are we not seeing Christ because we are not looking for Him as we walk our roads to Emmaus, to Damascus, to Nauvoo, to eternity?

Seek to recognize when the Savior walks beside you, when He is speaking with you along your journey. We get so caught up in looking for the blessings that come from His hand that we forget to look and seek His face, to recognize that when we need Him most He’s not so far as we think.

Mindfully embrace the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

This is a huge aspect of living an Easter life that probably will get its own blog post one day, but the heart of it is to mindfully, prayerfully, and gratefully embrace the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

What does that mean?

It means reflecting on the sacrifice that He made, on learning to apply and learn from the Atonement not just when things get hard because you’ve sinned or transgressed, but to lean on Jesus Christ in every aspect of your life, to recognize that it is because of His sacrifice that you can have hope, peace, and joy.

It means striving to recognize the influence Christ’s sacrifice has on you every single day, applying it to every aspect of your life. The Atonement of Christ will amplify your joys, ease your burdens, soothe your worries, and cleanse your soul. Reflecting and pondering that sacrifice with increased purpose and focus will strengthen you and strengthen your relationship with your Savior and Redeemer.bible-video-jesus-resurrected-hands-1432834-gallery

A prime example of embracing the Atonement of Christ fully is found in The Book of Mormon (3 Nephi 11, to be exact), when Christ (after His crucifixion and resurrection) visits His children in the Americas. He appears to them, and they are in awe of the Messiah of whom they had prophesied and waited for finally appearing to them. They kneel and worship Him, but it’s not driven into their hearts until they each have the opportunity to handle the marks in his hands, wrists, sides, and feet (like the apostles in Jerusalem), when they embrace Him, that they shout Hosanna and recognize Him not simply as the Messiah of the prophecies, but as their personal Savior & Redeemer.

He became more than a prophecy fulfilled – as they embraced Him, they embraced His atonement, His sacrifice, and felt the enduring and perfect power of His love.

What is it that keeps us from a similar experience?

And finally, seek to become a ‘post-post-resurrection disciple.’

Before Christ was killed, His disciples were pretty awesome (anyone recall James & John wanting to call lightning? Peter walking on water?).

After He was killed, they returned to their nets, to their patients, to their families, to their “pre-Christ” lives. It had been a miraculous 3 years, but what more could be done? Their Master had been killed, and their little Church would surely die with them.

After He was resurrected, they rejoiced in the empty tomb, in the victory over death, but yet again returned to their nets. They were post-resurrection disciples.

But then, those fishermen-turned-disciples had the most literal ‘come to Jesus’ of their ministry.

Elder Holland, because he is the Lord’s eloquent and fiercely loving bulldog, says it better than I could (and if you could, insert your name when you see Peter’s), as he illustrates the experience of Peter and his brethren being called from their boats to the shore:

What I need, Peter, are disciples – and I need them forever. I need someone to feed my sheep and save my lambs. I need someone to preach my gospel and defend my faith. I need someone who loves me, truly, truly loves me, and loves what our Father in Heaven has commissioned me to do. Ours is not a feeble message. It is not a fleeting task. It is not hapless; it is not hopeless; it is not to be consigned to the ash heap of history. It is the work of Almighty God, and it is to change the world. So, Peter… I am asking you to leave all this and go teach and testify, labor and serve loyally…

(read the full address here)

He called them to the shore and charged them to go forth, to set aside their nets and get to work – His work. To live lives that would exemplify His teachings, to cry repentance, to tell of His Atonement and Resurrection, to shout the love of their Father in Heaven from every rooftop, hill, and mountain they could climb. He sent them as far as they could go, and go they did, without fear or hesitation.

He asked them to give Him their all, as post-post-resurrection disciples, those who had witnessed, repented, and witnessed again.pictures-of-jesus-smiling-1138511-gallery

C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “Christ says, “Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good…Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked–the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.””

A post-post-resurrection disciple living an Easter life gives all. Mindfully, gratefully, gives all, understanding that Easter is not a season, but a lifestyle. It is getting rid of those things which keep you from Christ, that keep you from witnessing of that empty tomb and those folded linens.

The Resurrection and the Atonement (for they are truly inseparable) are not a fleeting thought in the doctrine of Christ – it is at the center, and that is what we build upon.

Celebrate it, share it, live it.

Every day, we need to be striving to live an Easter life. It’s too important to our growth and our faith to allow Easter to influence our thinking and our faith but once a year – it needs to be a daily, heartfelt, mindful aspect of our lives.

Learning to live an Easter life really comes down to learning to be a post-post-resurrection disciple and pressing forward into an Easter eternity.

 

To the Women

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To the Women in My Life,

Thank you. 

This is for the women in my life: my mother, sisters, grandmothers, aunts, cousins, mother-figures, family members, friends, leaders, teachers, and neighbors. But it is also for the women I don’t know personally, but admire and take great inspiration from, who have in some way touched my life and shaped who I am and who I am becoming.

Thank you for the late nights, for nursing me through sickness, for providing safety, nourishment, and a home.

Thank you for teaching me to walk, run, and climb, so that I could help others to do the same.

Thank you for teaching me to read, for fighting for me to learn, for encouraging me to be passionate about education and about learning.

Thank you for teaching me that I can do anything and love anything the boys do.

Thank you for teaching me that faith and obedience aren’t about being enslaved to an invisible god, but freed and empowered and motivated by someone more eternal than myself

Thank you for making your voice heard, so I knew to raise my voice, and so that I have the chance.

Thank you for teaching me valuable lessons about life, the home, the world, and about humanity.

Thank you for standing up for my generation, so that we could fight beside you.

Thank you for teaching me what feminism is, and isn’t, and for teaching me to fight for my brothers, as well as my sisters.

Thank you for teaching me that compassion isn’t a weakness, but a strength, and for teaching me that nurturing doesn’t mean you’re not a fighter, too.

Thank you for teaching me to get back up when I stumble, to tackle life’s challenges, and that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Thank you for teaching me how to overcome, to not be defined by your past, your circumstances, or your struggles.

Thank you for being my comrade, my friend, my sister, no matter the difference in age or background.

Thank you for breaking down barriers and stereotypes, for defying the odds, and for shattering the glass ceiling over and over again, even when it reappeared again and again.

Thank you for teaching me that I am no better than anyone else, but in the same hand, that I am no less than anyone else.

Thank you for teaching me to put down roots, but to be flexible, and to draw on the past as I pushed branches into the future.

Thank you for teaching me that it’s not what society thinks, it’s what I think, and the people who respect think.

Thank you for teaching me to be a protector, a contributor, a person who will do the right thing, not the easy thing.

Thank you for teaching me to pursue my passions, whether it’s baking or learning to shoot, and for pushing me to dream bigger.

Thank you for leading a life, as rough or as elegant as it is, that I can learn from and saying things that ring in my heart and mind and shape who I am.

Thank you for being you. For being a woman.

There aren’t enough expressions of gratitude and admiration to express my appreciation and respect for you having collectively taught me what it means to be a woman, for teaching me not only right from wrong, but how to do the right thing and to help forge the future as we build on the past that our mothers and sisters built.

Thank you.

– M.

APG Recipe: Blueberry Buckle

There are a few classic New England recipes that I love, and blueberry buckle is right at the top of the list. A buckle is basically the love child of a dense cake and a streusel, stuffed with fresh berries and topped with a spiced crumble layer. It’s sweet, but not too sweet, meaning it’s perfect for either a dessert or as a special breakfast treat (so… brunch, anyone?). A buckle studded with blueberries is one of my favorite comfort foods, and this one is so easy to make that it’s nearly foolproof.

My first memory of having blueberry buckle is from high school – a friend brought it to an after-school meaning, and I had no idea what she was talking about buckles and blueberries for. I was imagining some sort of bizarre puritan tradition, and was delighted to be handed a slice of what I then thought was a coffee cake on crack.

Except blueberry buckle, in my book, is ten zillion times better than coffee cake on crack.

The cake is dense and moist without being too heavy, and the sweetness of the berries is off-set by the lemon zest in the batter. I love how the spices complement the fruit and add a bit of depth to every bite. It’s perfect warm or room temperature, alone or with a custard or cream on the side. Basically, it’s how I imagine a Robert Frost poem would taste and smell.

Because I’m a nerd like that.

I’ve heard a lot of different reasons a buckle is named what it is, but the most common explanation is that the weight of the streusel topping keeps the cake from rising too high, causing it to look buckled or crumpled. In some areas of New England it’s called a slump, and people use various seasonal berries, but no matter what you call it, it’s delicious and a classic comfort food.

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It never clicked that a buckle was such a regional food until I made it for the missionaries when they came over for supper as a dessert one evening a few weeks ago, and Elder Carter asked a few weeks later if I could make that “blueberry thingy again” the next time they came for a meal. I had spent forever thinking that I was just an ignorant teenager until my buckle enlightenment.

Being so informed that not many people had heard of a buckle, I felt it was my duty as a New Englander to share the recipe with any who stumble across this little blog who might not have had the blessing of blueberry buckle. Spread the enlightenment, as it were. This recipe makes enough to fill a 9 inch pie pan or similarly sized baking pan, so if you’re feeding a crowd (by ‘a crowd’ I mean more than like two people, because this stuff is really good and you’ll want more for breakfast the next morning), double the recipe and use a 9×13″ baking pan.

{Also, can we just talk real fast about how amazing parchment paper is? It’s probably my favorite kitchen splurge, and I use it for everything. From lining baking pans to using it to wrap garlic for roasting, it makes clean up a breeze, especially with something sticky and sugary like berries (because let’s face it, scrubbing caramelized bits of blueberry from pyrex dishes is SO not my jam… actually, dishes in general are not my jam). Everyone should have a roll of parchment paper in their kitchen arsenal – it’s like God’s gift to bakers.}

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For Streusel:

½ c. all-purpose flour
½ c. packed light brown sugar
2 tbs. granulated sugar
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
pinch of salt
4 tbs. butter, softened

For Cake:

1 ½ c. all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
10 tbs. butter, softened
2/3 c. granulated sugar
½ tsp. salt
splash of vanilla extract
zest of half a lemon
2 large eggs
3 c. blueberries (fresh or frozen)

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Preheat oven to 350°F and line a medium-sized baking dish with parchment paper (trim sides as needed, but allow enough to be able to grasp the paper to remove the buckle later) and spray with non-stick cooking spray.

For Streusel:
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour, both sugars, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg on low. Break up any lumps of brown sugar before adding butter. Mix until the butter is completely incorporated into the dry ingredients and resembles wet sand. The streusel should hold together when pressed. Transfer to another bowl. Feel free to treat it a little like play-doh – it’s pretty amusing.

For the Cake:
In a small bowl, sift together flour, cinnamon, and baking powder; set aside. In the stand mixer, beat together the butter, sugar, salt, and lemon zest until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, until everything is combined. Gradually add flour mixture, beating until just incorporated. Make sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. The batter will be very thick. Remove from stand and gently fold in blueberries with a rubber spatula until evenly distributed.

Be aware that fresh blueberries will smash and turn your batter blue, so if you’re looking for a pretty, golden-colored buckle, using frozen blueberries will work better. They will, however, make the dough colder, and therefore a little harder to spread into the baking dish. At this point, spray your hand with some non-stick cooking spray and press it into the dish, making sure to fill the corners of the dish.

Transfer to prepared baking dish and press into an even layer. Pick up a handful of streusel and squeeze into a clump. Break off small pieces of the clump over the batter until completely covered.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the streusel is golden brown and a fork inserted into the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool about 20 minutes before lifting the buckle out of the pan. Serve warm or room temperature.

***

Feel free to download the recipe here to make it easier to print (and if you’re like me, to tape to the fridge or the cabinet to keep it visible but out of the way while baking):apg-blueberry-buckle-recipe

I hope you enjoy your little taste of New England!

…and good luck sharing. ;)

 

Cardinal Lessons

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Snow is as much a part of a New England life as Dunkin Donuts, maple everything, or the Yankees/Sox rivalry – it’s normal come winter, and we don’t think much of it. You keep your shovel and boots handy, stoke up a fire, and settle in til the roads are clear. Accordingly, I didn’t think much of the small storm that came through a few days ago, bringing with it some icy winds and several inches of powder, until I glanced out the window to the bird feeders at the edge of the tree line. Dozens of birds, from cardinals to woodpeckers, were braving the snow and wind to collect seed as the snow fell heavier and faster.

I ventured outside all bundled up with my camera in hand in the hopes of snapping a few photos in the the swirling snow, expecting to only get a few decent shots. I was surprised at how brave these little birds were, having this woollen clad monster standing as close as can be to their feeders, a black contraption snapping away in the silence, shifting to find better angles and trudging through the snow. img_5130-edit

It didn’t take long for me to realize two “Cardinal Lessons” were hidden in the midst of the snowy wind  – those little lessons God gives me when I’m paying attention to the everyday things that I often overlook. Without getting over-analytical or philosophical (you all really don’t need to get too deep into my head, so I’ll spare you), here they are.

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First.

His eye is truly on the sparrow.

Or in this case, the finches.

And you guessed it, we are those little finches (you may choose your bird in this metaphor, I suppose, so rock on you cardinals). Papa God’s looking out for us, taking care of us, giving us what we need if we venture outside our comfort zones. Just like these birds know they’ll get fresh seed from my dad (over the span of roughly 3 months he’s acquired nearly a dozen feeders and our birds have doubled in size, so they know he’ll feed them), we can be assured that the Lord will help us to receive what we need to press forward. He doesn’t discriminate or play favorites – those blessings are there for everyone.

I mean, occasionally He probably closes his eyes and sighs at the birdbrained things we do, but it’s only because He loves us enough to care, right?

But just think! God told us time and again in the scriptures how much He loves those sparrows of His – but He also told us that He loves us SO MUCH MORE.

How comforting is that? To know how much He loves us? To get a glimpse of that eternal and perfect love?

(and it’s a step up from being compared to the dust of the earth, so there’s that)

We’ve got to make the choice to participate, to learn and to grow and to accept what He gives. Accept the blessings, accept the love, accept at times the chastening. Not just accept, but receive. Make it a part of us, of who we are. He knows us individually and perfectly, and He’s keeping an eye on us, cheering us on, and helping to choreograph the blessings in our lives. He’s also offering loving, if stern, correction. If we gather up the courage to brave the storms, we know He’ll be there, hands outstretched and waiting for us.

And like my dad never seems to run out of birdseed for his birds, God will never run out of blessings to shower on us as we seek Him out.

Second.

Birds of a feather flock together.

Have you ever noticed that the more birds are gathered, the more daring they become? It’s because they’re comfortable and gather strength from one another. I’ve watched as a papa cardinal stands watch over a dozen assorted birds while they eat – from the slightly obnoxious woodpecker who hits metal more than he hits suet to the little chickadees who squabble over millet to the finches who refuse to be still for more than five seconds to the placid mourning doves who scour the ground for leftovers. And it’s not just the finches looking out for the other finches, it’s all of the little guys watching out for each other. It doesn’t matter what they are, just that they’re focused on the same thing. And when they’re all gathered together, not much fazes them. Together they’ll drive off the squirrels and aren’t scared by the dog tearing by like an idiot.

People are much the same. In addition to the short attention span we tend to share with our feathered friends, we gain strength from gathering just like they do. It’s a lot easier to see the blessings you’ve when you’re sharing them with those around you (and your birdfeeder gets replenished more frequently, so there’s that). And, God promised that when a few are gathered in His name, He’ll be there too (unless we’re all crows, because murder isn’t cool).

I know personally that I learn so much more when I’m able to do so alongside friends and family. I find strength each Sunday as I gather together with members of my congregation to partake of the sacrament, to serve, and to worship. I love that gathering is part of God’s plan! I mean, sometimes we ruffle each other’s feathers, but hey. The atonement is real.

Guys, Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are just so cool. Yes, they’re perfect and infinite and  omniscient, but they’re also just really down with going with the flow and teaching us on the fly, in the everyday little moments. They have so many things to teach us if we’re paying attention. I mean, I had a ‘come to Jesus’ by chilling outside (literally) with the birds for forty five minutes. These are very personalized lessons they’re giving us, if we just look around with greater awareness (and a sense of humor, I mean, I’ve spent this entire post comparing us all to birds). And just because they’re small lessons doesn’t mean they’re no less important.

So let’s all remember that we’re  God’s sparrows (or flamingoes, toucans, or pelicans, I mean, you do you, hun), and that Father’s keeping an eye on us, and also that we’ve got the coolest flocks around to gather strength from. So let’s do it.

You bring the sunflower seeds, and owl bring the bird puns. Don’t make it hawkward.

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