Thursday, April 26, 2012

Strawberry Cake

Growing up we only visited my father's side of the family once or twice a year because of the distance from our home in Florida to their homes in SC.  Every time we went, however, I was guaranteed a strawberry cake - regardless of the time of the year.  My Great Aunt Wanetta would often even make two cakes - one to share with everyone, and one for me to take with me.  Come to think of it, I have a lot of food memories associated with our visits to SC - pound cake, Chicken and Dumplings, Biscuits, Bar-b-Q,...

However, there is no cake that compares to her strawberry cake.

2 sticks butter
1/2 c Crisco
3 c sugar
6 eggs
3 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 c evaporated milk

Cream butter, Crisco, and sugar.  Add eggs, one at a time.  Add flour, baking powder, and salt. Finally add vanilla and milk.

Bake in 3 layers for 20 minutes at 350 degrees or in a 9 x 12 pan at 300 degrees for 1 1/2 hours.

Layer cake with fresh strawberries and cool whip.  Ice the entire outside with cool whip as well.

(In Spain there is no cool whip, so I am using fresh whipping cream in place.  YUM!)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Driving Again - But Time it is the Practical Part

Tomorrow is the day.  Here is what it will look like - nothing like the way it was in the states!

I have to be at the driving school at 8:10 (thank goodness it is later than I originally was told!).  It will take about an hour or so to get there (yes, I'll drive myself - isn't that crazy!).  

When I arrive I will meet the teacher and 3 more people - a chinese man who is taking the test for the 4th time, a spanish man who is taking the test for the 2nd time, and a spanish woman who is taking the test for the first time.

We will all, including the teacher, climb into a small car.  Each of us will drive for 30 minutes.  That means 1 1/2 hours in the backseat of a small car with other new drivers.  So prayer request #1 is that I don't get carsick.  I never ride in the backseat of a car because I ALWAYS get carsick.  

After 2 hours of the four of us driving for 30 minutes each we will arrive at the driving test center.  I am #4 and my instructor thought the chinese guy (who is trying for the 4th time to pass) is #3.  That means, he and I will sit on the curb for an hour while #1 and #2 take their exams.  (Prayer request #2 - pray for warm, dry weather). 

Then at 11:00 #3 and I will get in the car - he driving, me in the back seat again - see prayer request #1.  He will take his exam, and then finally at 11:35ish I will get to take my exam.  

It will last for 30 minutes and I will know immediately at the end if I pass.  My instructor seems confident, but I am a little nervous - no fear, just a healthy dose of nerves.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Spring Break Pueblo Hopping

Although the weather was cold, wet, and dreary through much of spring break, we did squeeze in one day of pueblo hopping - our favorite past time here in Spain. My tutor had recommended two towns - Chinchon and Aranjuez. They were both incredible.

Chinchon is known for it's round Plaza Mayor. Bull Fights and other performance actually still occur in the middle. There are lots of cafes that line the edges that are just calling our name to return on a warm sunny day (although, have no fear, we did squeeze in a coffee stop and a pastry stop in this town).

Then we traveled to Aranjuez - allowing the GPS to direct our route - it claims these roads to be the fastest route, but I'll leave that to your own calculation. Most of the roads were about 1 1/2 lanes wide - but I got to use my new driving law information when it came to who had the right of way on narrow roads.

This town has an incredible palace that we toured. The entire town is filled with gardens and in another month or so will be the location of more strawberries than anywhere else in Spain. We stopped in a "hole in the wall" for lunch and ate so much I was miserable for the rest of the day.

I didn't think Avila could be replaced as our favorite town so far, but these towns did it. Combined, they are a perfect day - especially if we could have a little more sunshine to go with them.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Semana Santa

 .. or Holy Week began last Friday and continues through tomorrow, Easter Sunday.  The celebration of Easter looks very different here in Spain than what we are accustomed to seeing and hearing in the states. There are no Easter Egg trees, or pretty pastel baskets, or even egg dye kits to be found.  In a few stores you may find some Easter candy, but this is just becoming a little more popular - it is definitely not the norm.

Instead Semana Santa is marked with processions.  There are processions nearly every day for the entire week, and on some days more than one.  The processions, or parades, are religious in nature and are very solemn and serious.  Each day the procession will mark a different moment in the ministry of Jesus.

On Monday we attended a procession here in town.  The processions here are small compared to some of the towns with great marks in religious history, but it was large enough to begin to get a feel for them.

When we arrived at the procession the biggest crowds were at the beginning - at a Catholic Church.  It was important to see the people and floats emerge from the church.  After a considerable wait you began to smell the incense and the ringing of the single bell and then the crowds grew silent.  The only noise in the crowds were the occasional sound of a baby or a camera clicking.  Imagine being at your town's Christmas parade and when it beginning the crowds growing completely quiet.

Toward the beginning of the procession were a few children who walked along the edge of the crowd collecting an offering.  Immediately after them were members of a "brotherhood,"laypersons in the catholic church who perform religious acts of service.  These people were in a robe and hate that will cause Americans to draw a comparison to a non-religious group in history, however there is no connection in their meaning.

There will be elaborate floats that are carried on the shoulders of many men.  There will often be a band at the end of the procession as well.

It was incredible to watch and experience this procession.

We were told by one person that to be part of the procession is a tremendous honor in the Catholic church as well as, in a sense, a way to gain favor with the church.

Interestingly, another contrast is that by far the Maundy Thursday and Good Friday processions are of the highest importance.

In reaction, the evangelical church in Spain chooses to do very little celebration of Easter.  The meaning is talked about in the church and the spirit of celebration is there - but again, in a very different way than our home culture.  It is small, quiet, and personal to each church and congregation.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Monday, April 2, 2012

A God Size Answer

If you have read any post here lately you know that today I took the theory part of my driving exam.  I really have no idea how I did, but the results are for another post (you find out the day after the exam). But, as I promised God, HE alone gets the glory, regardless of my score.  And HE answered one of today's prayers in a way bigger than I ever imagined.

Let me back up and explain today's process...

.... first I took Alex to the train station with me this morning.  He doesn't have school at all this week and Scott and I have school today and tomorrow.  God graciously  presented an opportunity for Alex to spend the day getting to know a team member better, allowing both Scott and I to focus on the task at hand without worrying or guilt about Alex.  Thank you to this family for being the first answer to many prayers!

.... then I got on the train (going in the opposite direction of Alex) and rode into Madrid - about an hour ride. 

... then when I got off the train I searched for where I would catch the bus to the test center - but the map that the lady at the driving school drew really didn't make sense to me, but no worries, yet - I was headed to the driving school and would ask again. 

... walked 10 minutes to the driving school and paid for my bus ticket, asked again about the bus stop and she showed me the same map with the same directions, so figured I must have just missed something and prayed a quick prayer that I would find it and not miss the bus.

... studied for an hour more at the driving school - doing practice tests.

... 30 minutes before time for bus I packed up and made a bathroom trip at the driving school (yes, that is an important detail to this story!)

... as I was coming out of the bathroom a Spanish lady was coming in.  She asked if I was going to take the exam and I replied yes.  She asked if I wanted to walk to the bus stop together.  Uh, yes... especially if you have a clue where we are going!  Thinking this was the end of my answer to my prayer I waited and we began to walk together.

... as we were walking and conversing in Spanish (thank goodness she was very patient) we asked the normal get to know you questions - where are you from, how many times have you taken the test, are you nervous, ...  then came the question that I always wonder exactly how to answer.  Do you work in Spain?  My answer today was "not yet, I am learning Spanish (and she smiled - probably meaning I surely hope so!), but when we master a little more language we will be working with the evangelical church."  Her entire demeanor changed.  Her face lit up.  She says "you are a born again believer?  I am too!"  Then she tells me she speaks English!

... remember, we work in an area where less than 1% of the population is evangelical - so you tell me the odds of running into a lady in the bathroom of the driving school that speaks English, is heading to the same bus stop I am, and is an evangelical believer. 

... We talked the entire time we waited on the bus (not where I thought it was supposed to be), the entire hour trip to the bus stop, and the 30 minutes while we were waiting on the test.  After the test she met me back on the bus and we talked about God being in charge of the results - we did our part in preparation and He would handle the rest, regardless of the score.

... She was getting off at an earlier stop for an appointment, but before she got off she asked for us to exchange numbers and wanted to know if I would like to get together again to practice Spanish because missionaries were needed in Spain and practicing would speed up our opportunity to share.

Now how is that for an answer to a quick little prayer breathed in the moment of worry?  God gets the glory for today's encounter and tomorrow's scores - regardless!  (but I am still praying that I passed).

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Out of Left Field

Today we celebrate living in Spain for 6 months.  There are days that it feels like we have been here for an eternity, whereas other days it feels like it has passed in the blink of an eye.  Everyday things feel a little more comfortable, but then there are days where life is still difficult.  There are times when we know a hard season is ahead of us and we prepare - draw a little closer to each other, put up some walls of defense, and set aside time to process the emotions - however, there are times that life seems to be sailing along ok and bang!

Out of left field some emotion reaches out and slaps you in the face.  There's no time to prepare for the surprise and life keeps on going, leaving you standing there wondering what just ran over you.

Last week I spent a wonderful week in Germany with nearly 50 other women who serve with SEND throughout Europe.  The speaker was encouraging, the fellowship was warm, the time to rest was wonderful, and of course the late night game time was filled with laughter.  It was all in English!  I had no decisions to make, no stores to navigate, no driving, just pretending life was simple and stress free.

As we were saying our final goodbyes at the airport and I hugged a dear friend goodbye it hit!  She was heading to the states, everyone was talking about going "home," and I was going somewhere that I wasn't sure what to call.  I wanted to cling with all I had to this friend and beg her to let me go with her to the states and yet I knew I couldn't.  Teammates around me were asking if I was ready to be home and yes was my answer, but I wasn't sure where that was.

Everyone says it is normal - but I sure much prefer the times when I can prepare in advance.  I like surprises, such as gifts, trips, dinner, new outfits, and more... but emotions, no thank you.

This week is filled with my driving test, waiting on the results, catching up with Spanish language lessons, laundry, college paperwork, and hopefully some time to explore some new pueblos around here.  Praying that there are no hidden emotional bombs set along the way!