Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Isn't she lovely?

Check out these pictures of our beautiful baby GIRL!!

The ultrasound was perfect. Her measurements are right on track, she was happy and moving, we saw all kinds of detail (including the four chambers of the heart, her kidneys, and her cerebellum), and we found out that she likes putting her head near my bladder. Oh wait - I already knew that one ;)

My favorite shot: looking right at her face.
I've labeled the key features to orient you :)
Two cutie feet.
Something we know for sure: She has five toes on her right foot!

The Proud Parents

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Baby Gender Poll!

Exciting news!! Today, I'm officially 20 weeks along, which means a) I'm halfway through pregnancy and b) we get to find out what we're having... TOMORROW.

Our ultrasound is at 8:30 AM, but I'm going to keep you in suspense until we share the news with our families - so likely at least another day. Until that time, however, I'd love to see what you think we're having: Will our eldest be a boy or a girl?

After you vote (in the column on the right), it'd be really fun for us if you left a comment to explain the rationale for your choice. Or if you have no rationale, make one up :)

Finally, to answer a very common question: We really, truly, absolutely don't care whether we have a boy or girl. Either one will be so so much fun.

I look forward to sharing the outcome and the sonogram picture in the near future!

Friday, November 18, 2011

November Happenings

Well, we've had a fun and fairly uneventful month in the Ferrell household. After a long stretch of sickness and traveling, we've been enjoying some R&R.
Here's a glimpse into some of the recent highlights (when I had my camera):

A gift for Baby Ferrell from a dear friend. Too adorable!
Celebrating Grandma's 80th birthday in Middlesboro, KY.
Happy, laughing aunts.
A mother's love is a beautiful thing. 
Jacques Torres Chocolate Chip Cookies. Make these now. Seriously.
Finally, the long-awaited date to see Macbeth with Addison's sister!
Aunt MA's first encounter with the growing bump!
Last but not least, let's wish a Happy First Birthday to this growing girl!

Audrey Elizabeth on her birth day.
Audrey a year later.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Grace upon Grace

"And from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace." -John 1:16

"As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another,
as good stewards of God's varied grace." 1 Peter 4:11

Today, I want to talk about two types of grace: blanket and varied.

I have to confess that when I read that 1 Peter verse recently, my initial reaction was “What?! Varied grace? How can God be fair yet change the grace He gives to different people?”

But then I began to realize that when I typically think about grace, I think of it as one giant blanket that covers everything in my life. I look at my coming to know Jesus, my husband, a healthy pregnancy thus far, the fact that I have a great family, our financial stability, and many wonderful friends and lump them all under the term “grace”. While this is not inaccurate, I am learning that this particular mindset prevents me from grasping the greater depth and power of grace.

In truth, we all share one blanket grace: freedom from the chains of sin and access to an eternity of joy and fulfillment through Christ. John says that from Christ's fullness we have all received. In other words, all of the things I consider grace are ultimately "graces upon graces" designed to point me to the one true grace, Jesus. Blanket grace is not something to dismiss at the wave of a hand because it is universal; it is also deeply personal. Yes, Christ died for all of humankind, but He knew each and every one of us when He went to the cross to suffer.

Which brings me back to varied grace. Once I place the highest value on God's providing salvation for everyone, I do not and cannot feel slighted by the term “varied grace”. We have already been given far more than we deserve! Instead, I begin to see God’s wisdom in expanding His kingdom through allocation and diversification of other graces. Christ didn't die so that we could be robots who followed God; He died to bring fullness of life. God reveals that by giving each of us highly personalized gifts that we can put to use in response. He also instills in us certain weaknesses so that we consistently rely on Him. Both of these are equally grace.

In order to be a faithful witness to blanket grace, I need to be intentional about how I use varied grace. An illustration here will make this very clear:

I have almost zero artistic talent. The extent of my drawing ability ends at cartoons of baseballs and basketballs for my three-year-old nephew. I would be astounded if God ever called me to minister to a new family in the neighborhood by painting and framing a landscape for their new home. But I could certainly bake them a pie, and that pie would be a much more effective way to build a relationship. (After all, nothing says "God loves you" like a fresh apple pie.)

I want to challenge you this week to think about varied grace - both in terms of how you see yourself and others. Try to appreciate people's talents without harboring jealousy or annoyance. Delight in your weaknesses, for God’s power is made perfect in them. Recognize and value the intrinsic abilities God has given you, and don't shirk from using them out of insecurity or negligence. Are you an encourager? Encourage. Are you a teacher? Teach. Are you an artist? Paint. (Just don't expect me to join you.)

The cherishing of varied grace in our lives enhances the world’s understanding of blanket grace. We start to see how all aspects of our lives are testaments to God's grace, and we can’t help but share that with others. We press into varied grace "in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ."

Now go, and use your grace!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Iced Pumpkin Cookies

Some of you have asked about how I pulled off the Great Cookie Challenge last week, both in terms of recipes and logistics. To be fair, I am extraordinarily blessed with lots of island and oven space in order to make hundreds of cookies bake and cool much more quickly than most. That said, the expectations must be all the greater for future baking endeavors.

Anyway, Cookie Day was a combination of my own developed recipes (cranberry cookies), some experimenting with more "boring" standards (chocolate chip), and a trustworthy recipe from a dear friend (pumpkin cookies). Today, I'll pass along the latter, which I have since learned comes from the Williams-Sonoma website. Friends, this page has pumpkin recipes galore. Definitely worth checking out.

So here's to one final month of pumpkin goodness!

For the cookies:
2 1/4 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c pumpkin puree (I used closer to 1 cup.)
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
12 tbsp (1.5 sticks) butter (I always use salted.)
3/4 c dark brown sugar
optional: 2/3 c chopped toasted walnuts and/or 1 c raisins (I didn't do either.)

For the cream cheese glaze:
2 oz. cream cheese
1 tbsp butter
1 c powdered sugar (more as needed)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (I used closer to 1)
3 tbsp milk

Have all ingredients at room temperature. Preheat the oven to 350F and cover cookie sheets with waxed or parchment paper.

Whisk/sift together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. In an electric mixer, beat the butter until smooth and creamy. Add the brown and granulated sugars. Then, add the pumpkin, egg, and vanilla until fully integrated. Reduce the speed to low, and gradually add the flour mixture. Beat until just combined.

Drop the dough by rounded tablespoons about 2 inches apart and bake until golden brown (12-14 minutes). Let the cookies cool while you make the glaze.

For the glaze, beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth and light. Add the powdered sugar, followed by the vanilla and then milk. Add more milk and sugar until you get a thick but pourable consistency.

Using a spoon, drizzle the glaze over the cookies and let cool before serving. For storage, you can freeze these (probably up to a week) or leave in the refrigerator for a few days. If you leave them out, they will harden around the edges quickly.

So there you have it: easy, delicious iced pumpkin cookies. Serve them at your next fall gathering - if you can keep them around long enough!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Blessings on a New Month

Well, friends, today is a great day. ("Of course," you say, "because it's Calendar Flip Day again!") But seriously - can you believe November is already here?

What are some things you're excited about? For me, I look forward to birthdays, our ultrasound, Thanksgiving, holiday music, going to see Wicked and Macbeth, pumpkin and apple pies, and so much more!

To backtrack briefly (because I didn't get this up yesterday) I hope you all enjoyed your Halloweens - and, if you consider yourself Protestant, I hope you got to reflect upon and celebrate Reformation Day. I read a great article on the Desiring God blog that described an early Christian tradition of dressing up as silly, scary creatures to "ridicule" Satan. Now, I've never been a huge Halloween costume person, but this is something I can get on board with. Death has no sting for us because Jesus has won the battle! Awesome stuff. I encourage you to read it.

Just because I am Protestant, I do come from a long line of Catholics. And I love that. This would require a different blog entirely, but I find church history absolutely fascinating, particularly with regard to the relationship between Catholicism and Protestantism. We can see countless ways in which each tradition (and sects thereof) have been blessed by God, corrupted by man, and redeemed over and over again. What a gift that we can consider all who call on the name of Jesus children of God!

So back to November: In recognition of All Saints' Day, I want to post one of my favorite Catholic prayers. My mom used to sing us the musical version of this as we'd fall asleep, and I've always loved it. Both this and the following passage have been on my mind these days, so I thought I'd share them.

May these words inspire the commencement of your new month.

Make Me an Instrument
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

"I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit - just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call - one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." -Ephesians 4:1-6