Hephzibah: Giving Glory To God

HHoutside R
One year ago I was a part of a small group of people who were praying for God’s direction in the life of our friends, Catherine and Russ McCullum.  As 2013 draws quickly to a close I am reflecting on the mighty and awesome God we serve!  Before I tell you about the prayer being raised to the heavens just one year ago I fondly reminisce about how I met Catherine and Russ.

Remember how I have written about the bed and breakfast my husband and I owned in Shelbyville, Tennessee?  It was in 2005 when Russ had just returned from serving in Iraq and Catherine’s business brought her to Shelbyville.  She needed a place to stay for part of every month.  Staying at a bed and breakfast afforded her a home-like atmosphere and through a quick phone call and a visit to our home our friendship began. For over a year Catherine and Russ stayed in our home for one week out of every month. Our businesses brought us together but the four of us quickly become personal friends.  The love we share for Jesus Christ became the foundation our friendship was built on and continues to this day.

Serving Catherine and Russ
Serving Breakfast to Catherine and Russ at Walnut Grove Bed and Breakfast

During the time they were staying with us they experienced the personal loss of the twin babies Catherine was carrying. To this day, this experience holds great emotion for them and for us. Through this tragedy we saw first hand their incredibly strong faith and reliance on the Lord.  Walking with them required us to call upon our own faith and reliance on the Lord as well.

Eight years have passed.  We sold our bed and breakfast, Catherine and Russ settled in a beautiful new home in Brentwood Tennessee and life went on.  Both Catherine and Russ climbed the corporate ladder in their respective jobs.  They served their church, went on a mission trip to Mongolia, and lived a very busy and fulfilling life.  They introduced us to their friends, who became our friends.  We introduced them to my mother, who quickly became “mom” to them.  Even when weeks or months passed in between our visits we still stayed close.  When we needed prayer, they prayed.  When they needed prayer, we prayed.  God blesses us all in this friendship.

Fast forward to Thanksgiving 2012. Catherine tells me she and Russ are going to New York City to visit a long-time family friend, Lois, who is the director of Hephzibah House.  “What is Hephzibah House” I asked.  Catherine told me about this historic brownstone house, sitting just off Central Park, that serves as a guest house (and so much more) for anyone in full-time ministry visiting New York City and needs an affordable place to stay.   She and Russ were going to help their friend and the staff, prepare and serve some 75+ international students a Thanksgiving meal!

We spoke on the phone while they were in New York and they were having a fabulous time.  They had seen the Macy’s Day parade, which literally starts just at the end of the block from Hephzibah House. They LOVED the ministry and serving the International Students, and the wonderful time with this wise woman, Lois.

However, when she arrived back in Tennessee she called and said “ we need to pray.”  She shared with me that while having breakfast with Lois one morning, Lois confided that she had a long-standing prayer that God would bring a married couple to replace her.  Lois and her husband had come to Hephzibah House some 40 years earlier, serving the ministry, raising their children, and striving to make a difference in the lives of many in NYC including international students, prisoners, and neighbors. Lois is 82 years old, her husband has passed away. So she has continued to serve alone for the last 9 years. She is ready, Lord willing, to pass on the baton of this glorious ministry to the couple the Lord chooses. Would they consider this ministry?

Christmas Tea and Installation Ceremony With Friends From Nashville
Christmas Tea and Installation Ceremony With Friends From Nashville

Emotionally, Catherine tells me that when Lois spoke she felt a significant stirring in her heart.  But she felt a strong leading by the Holy Spirit not to speak. So, she pondered this and then that evening, her husband “out of the blue” asked, what she thought about what Lois talked about at breakfast? Wanting to make sure she didn’t speak out of turn, she asked Russ, “What are you talking about?” Russ then said he’d been thinking about what Lois had shared, and how they had sought how to serve the Lord, and well, maybe they should consider Hephzibah House and Ministries as the Lord’s answer to that question. Catherine could only respond with great emotion and they took the next several weeks to seek the Lord in prayer about this life altering decision.

Christmas Tea with the International Students
Christmas Tea with the International Students

After much petition to the Lord, speaking with  us as trusted friends, and their families and church family, they decided to step out in faith and leave life as they knew it and serve the Lord full-time at Hephzibah House and Ministries in NYC.

This required leaving 2 careers, and Russ retiring from the US Army Reserves (after 27 years of service) and the sale of one of their homes, and the renting out of their other home, and downsizing from 2 homes to go live in 2 rooms as they now serve that beautiful ministry.

Intern Ghislain with International Students
Intern Ghislain with International Students

Every report from them since their move in mid-November 2013 has been full of joy and praise to God, who finally led them to His plan for their lives. To Hephzibah House in NYC where they serve alongside two interns who live at the house with them, and the staff of 7, who are there to take care of the guest house (reservations and housecleaning.) I am in awe how the Lord has given them a family to care for and mentor and a ministry all in one!

Intern Katie
Intern Katie

As they over-see this 120 year old work that the Lord started, will you join with me and keep them in your prayers?

Will you also let anyone you know that serves in full-time ministry (paid or volunteer), of this wonderful and affordable guest house in the desirable area between Central Park West & Columbus Avenue where they could stay in a home-like setting and see the city?  Guests may stay whether in New York on business or pleasure!

Hephzibah House 51 W. 75th Street New York, NY 10023 (212) 787-6150

“You shall be called Hephzibah…for the Lord delights in you.”   Isaiah 62:4

Website: www.HHOUSE.ORG

History of Hephzibah House

Established in 1866, Incorporated in 1893 * Initially a Training school for woman missionaries * Now run as a guest house for people in (or retired from) full-time ministry to have affordable temporary lodging while visiting the City * Outreach to Internationals (students, nannies, immigrants) with ESL & Bible studies * A very long/strong Prison ministry with a Discipleship program at Sing Sing Prison * Work being started in the Theatre community * Ministering to Veterans in the NYC area

For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”   Esther 4:14

Immanuel, God With Us

paper mache nativity 2
Merry Christmas!  As I sit in the warmth of my living room this morning, sun streaming through the big windows and frost sparkling across everything outside, I am in awe that our mighty, sovereign God would choose to come into this world for me – and for you.  Surrounded by the Bible, several advent  booklets and a devotional every page I turn to reminds me that today we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  Our God, choosing to come to earth, born as a baby, raised to be a man, and died upon a cross in order to once and for all cover my sins.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”                                                                        Luke 2:8-12

As we celebrate His first coming to this earth it is my prayer that each of us look with our hearts to the day the Lord will return to this earth to be with us in physical presence once again.

Immanuel means “God With Us.”  May you feel His presence today.

Merry Christmas!

Popcorn Cake For Family and Friends

slice popcorn cake
I received an email this evening from my friend Cheryl sharing this scripture. Just getting ready to write this blog post I decided these words are the perfect way to begin. Such powerful words to lean on!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6

Over some cookie decorating during the Thanksgiving weekend, my niece Alesa told us about her mom’s “Popcorn Cake.”  Whhhaattt?  I said, popcorn cake?  Alesa went on to say that my sister-in-law Jeanne has been making this cake for years and now makes 15 or more each Christmas!  It seems that each time she made the cake and gave it to someone they wanted their name on the list for a cake the next year, and the year after that …. and, well you get the idea.

popcorn cake ingred
It is very possible that you already know about popcorn cake, but me, I’ve never heard this before.  So we did what all curious cooks do … we made a quick Facetime call to Jeanne and she shared the details.  An air popper is a must since the popcorn needs to be made without butter or oil.  Marshmallows, margarine, and the goodies.  Jeanne suggests M & M’s – plain or peanut, or hot tamales or any favorite little candies.

popcorn in angel pan
The popcorn is measured by filling up an angel food cake pan to slightly overflowing.  In a large bowl microwave margarine and marshmallows just for 1 to 2 minutes until they are all melted.  Mix in the popcorn, sprinkle in some M&M’s and then pack it back into the greased angel food pan.   Couldn’t be easier.  Before adding the popcorn/marshmallow mixture back to the pan I sprinkled crushed candy cane over the bottom of the cake pan.  Makes it pretty and tasty when the cake is inverted.

cake slicing 2
The popcorn and marshmallow will set up over a couple of hours, but it must be left to cool and set up well or it will fall apart when it is unmolded from the cake pan.  Plus — this is important — the cake needs to be cut with an electric knife so that it won’t squish as it is sliced.

cake slicing 1
It is best eaten within the first 24 hours.  But honestly, it won’t last that long.  By the way — I have made this cake using Rice Krispies and it was outstanding too! Kids of all ages will love munching on this treat!

popcorn christmas cake
Happy Popping!

Popcorn Cake
Food for fun, plain and simple, but not plain and simple tasting!
  • 1 Angel Food Cake Pan
  • 1 Air Popcorn Popper
  • 10 oz. Bag of mini-marshmallows
  • 5 Tablespoons margarine
  • ¾ Cup M & M's - plain or peanut
  • 1 cup Crushed Candy Canes
  1. Pop enough corn to slightly over-fill the angel food cake pan.
  2. Spray cake pan with oil. If desired cover bottom with crushed candy canes.
  3. Melt margarine in a large microwave safe bowl. Add mini-marshmallows. Microwave for 1 minute and stir. Marshmallows should be melted when stirred. If not, microwave for another few seconds.
  4. Add popcorn to melted butter/marshmallow mixture. Stir well.
  5. Add M&M's, stirring well.
  6. Hand pack the popcorn mixture into the angel food cake pan.
  7. Let cake set until it is cooled and well-formed. Do not remove from cake pan too soon as it will fall apart when unmolded. This will take at least an hour.
  8. When set, unmold on a cake plate. Using an electric knife carefully cut the cake into individual slices.
Let your imagine run wild! Add hot tamales, or other favorite colorful candy!

Rice Krispie cereal can be used in place of popcorn.

Peppermint Patties

peppermint pattie plate
Jet-Puffed JUMBO Peppermint Mallows are back!  Why is this important to you? Because if you want to be the hit of the Christmas goodie parade you are going to want to use these super-charged, JUMBO peppermint-infused marshmallows to make some awesome Peppermint Patties!
jumbo peppermint mallows
In December 2011 I stumbled upon these mallows while shopping for groceries that really mattered – like meat, vegetables, milk, and chocolate. 🙂

I absently threw a bag into my cart thinking they might be good for something during the Christmas baking craze I was about to cause in my kitchen.

peppermint pattie snowman
A few days later I mixed a little almond bark with a few chocolate chips and tossed a couple jumbo peppermint mallows into the warm, dripping, chocolately mixture.  What happened after that only happens say, every two years.  That is because Kraft in their infinite wisdom chose not to produce these awesome Jet-Puffed JUMBO Peppermint Mallows in 2012. 🙁

peppermint pat bite
Fast forward to today, December 15, 2013.  I did the really unthinkable and actually ventured into Wal-Mart after church to pick up a few items.  Even my smarter-than-the-average hillbilly husband said, “you want to go to Wal-Mart on Sunday afternoon?  Are you crazy?”

“Yes I am, now let’s get going.”

Kismet. Serendipity. God smiling on me.  Call it whatever you want because I was casually walking down the middle aisle when my eyes dropped to the bottom shelf of all the baking goodies and there I saw them — Jet-Puffed JUMBO Peppermint Mallows.

I am pretty sure I could go on some more about today’s super-find, but I am heading to the kitchen. I’ve got chocolate and almond bark to melt, mallows to dip, friends and family to make happy.  Very, very happy.

Happy Dipping!

P.S.  On the back of the package is a recipe for … Peppermint Patties.  That recipe wasn’t there two years ago.  Might they have read my blog post?  ha! ha!

Peppermint Patties
You will be the hit of the Christmas parade when you serve these awesome homemade peppermint patties. Every chocolate lover's delight!
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 8 oz. chocolate almond bark
  • 30 +/- Jumbo Peppermint Marshmallows
  1. Combine chocolate chips and chocolate almond bark and microwave for 1 minute. Remove from microwave and stir. Cook on high for another 30 seconds. Do not over cook.
  2. Dip each marshmallow in the melted chocolate. Shake gently and place on foil. Leave plain or sprinkle with crushed peppermint candy.
  3. Share with every chocolate lover you know!
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