It's So Nice to See You Again!

Suddenly, it has been 227 days, 8 hours, and 19 minutes since I last posted here. In that time, my firstborn has arrived! Does the exhaustion of the last two months of pregnancy, the haze of recovering from labor, and the steep learning curve of being a new mother excuse me from my unplanned absence? 

I debated about whether I should just post as if everything was normal (sort of sliding into my desk in the back of the classroom, hoping the teacher doesn't notice my tardiness), or whether I should call attention to my long silence by announcing: "I'm back!" 

I've missed writing and am elated to be at it again. Furthermore, as I was coming up with my new and improved bio (read it under the "about us" tab if for no other reason than the fact that it contains a picture of my son!), I realized just how much of my life this blog has encompassed. This month marks the 7th year that One Bright Corner has been around, which is nearly a third of my life--and certainly the most eventful seven years of my life. It's a record of events and thoughts and trivial interests and lots of growth for which I am so grateful, and a record I am so excited to continue.

Look for new posts most every Friday around here. Lauren will be posting next week, and in two weeks I'll be back with heaps of pictures and as many words as I can manage to describe the birth of Liam and how he made me a mother.


The Parable I Learned From An Orchid

It was orchid watering day when I nearly beheaded one of my plants.

Every couple weeks I spend a few moments over these flowers of mine, pretending to have a green thumb, enjoying the quiet.  I love it simply because orchids have enthralled me for as long as I can remember.  In fact, as a teenager I was sadly disappointed to read in one of the Anne of Green Gables books that orchids were too exotic to strike Anne's fancy.  To me, you see, the wide open blooms are like a welcoming smile on an honest face.  The blossoms floating from the stem conveys a grace I can only marvel at...

But back to my story...on this particular watering day I was delighted to notice new buds and blossoms on each one of my orchids.  Smiling happily, I worked to stake up a few of the stems burgeoning with heavy buds.  

Suddenly, I felt a sickening snap under my fingers as I straightened one stem against a stake, and realized to my horror that I had all but entirely snapped the stem in two.  It was hanging on by only a thread, and as I held the still-beautiful stem in my hand, I could hardly believe that I had really just broken it off.  The four or five buds it held, promising beautiful, luscious flowers in just a few weeks' time, now seemed to be taunting me of what I had destroyed.  

I didn't know what to do.  Should I snap it off the rest of the way and put the stem in a vase with the slim hope I would still get to see a few blooms?  Should I leave it there and hope the stem didn't grow diseased and infect the entire plant?  Although a quick internet search encouraged me in the snapping direction, I couldn't bring myself to do the deed.  So I just left the stem hanging on for dear life and ignored my sad little orchid for the next week or so, resigned to the fact that I had probably just killed any chance of blossoms from it for awhile.

But little did I know that while I left the broken stem for dead, something very alive was happening within that broken plant.  For fragile though orchids may appear, fussy though they may seem, they are actually among the most miraculous pictures of new birth that you will find in nature.

Some weeks later when I finally brought myself to assess the damage I had done, I could hardly believe I was looking at the same plant.  Not only had the broken stem begun to grow back together and continue to send life to the buds, but a new stem had begun to sprout from the break, and another little nub of a baby stem was beginning to peek out in a different spot.

I was astounded and humbled, and as I stared at the miracle blooming before my eyes, I realized the greater miracle the Creator of this orchid was teaching me:  that God is in the business of healing "the brokenhearted and bind[ing] up their wounds." {Ps. 147:3}  

He is the master of not just repair but rebirth. {Romans 6}

My orchid was not simply "just as good as before."  It was actually better than before, and isn't the analogy to our lives breathtaking?  God takes the broken stems of my life and the barely-born buds of vision that seem doomed to die and He sends life through them, growing stems and flowers beyond what I could have imagined

When a friend betrayed me, He became my Friend more truly than ever before.
When I was proud and tripped over my own ego, falling flat on my face, He picked me up and taught me humility.
When I was brokenhearted, He comforted me with His great grace, and I grasped for the first time just how un-graspable the well of His grace is.

So every time I look at my broken taped-up orchid and see not one, not two, but three potential stems and all the beauty they are pregnant with, I see myself.  I see my brokenness.  I see the tape holding my life and my heart together, and I see the new things God has done in me that He never could have accomplished had I remained unbroken.  And I marvel that, just as He has done throughout history, God used a humble flower to show me these truths.  

"Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these."
{Matthew 6:28b-29}


Look Up

June brought in warm evenings like summer's heralding banner, and the rich woolly sky blanketed the sleepy house where some friends and I were cuddled up for a late night.  My phone suddenly buzzed at me with a message from my mama, but not the one I was expecting: "Go look outside!"

"Girls--listen to this!" I cried, and we all jumped up, heavy eyelids instantly opened in wonder.

We leapt outside in our bare feet, spiraling in circles with our arms outstretched and our eyes heavenward, trying to spot Jupiter and Venus converging into one visual spectacular.  Desperate to beat the expiration of a perhaps once-in-a lifetime sight, we ran down to the golf course, but trees shut us in on every side.

We charged back up to the main road and sprinted down the asphalt, past dark houses that scowled at our wakefulness at such an hour.  When I rounded the last bend in the road, coming to where it sprouted off from a busy street, the sky unrolled across the horizon above a treeless field, and there the great conjunction of the two planets shone in a star-of-Bethlehem-like brilliance.

The two planets danced so closely together that their brightness was mesmerizing to anyone who laid eyes on the sight.  And we were no exception.  The four of us made a rock our arm chair, and I sat in awe with my hands clasped around my legs.

There was no clock to fetter the flitting moments down.
There was no rhythm ticking an impending deadline besides the unison beating of our hearts.

So we watched in reverent silence, our backs masked by the darkness, but our faces lit by the light of the star.  With such a sight glittering in our eyes, we couldn't help but sing hymns of praise to the Morning Star, and there was something special about that worship by the roadside that I won't ever forget.

Time lapsed...cars streaked by...but the star, my friends, and I remained.

It struck me as we sat how odd we must have looked to the passersby.  But when a busy, harried soul drove by and saw four women with their eyes rapturously fixed on the sky, I wondered if he would follow our gaze and look up, even if just out of curiosity.

In that moment on that warm June evening a chill went down my back.  For through my wondering I found a rich nugget that I've carried with me these past six months.

Shouldn't my eyes perpetually be fixed with equally rapturous delight on Jesus the Morning Star?

And shouldn't I be so enthralled by and illuminated with His light that all who pass me can't help but follow my gaze and stare, not at me, but at Who I am looking to?

Yes and yes.

And if at the end of my days it is said that the best analogy for the thrust of my life was that beautiful, worshipful evening of looking up, I will be satisfied.  If it is said of my life that all who looked at me couldn't help but look to Jesus because of me, my mission will be complete. 

“We Choose to See Vol. 002,” © 2013 AMRenault, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/.


Lauren Hearts Lavender Chocolate Cupcakes!

You may have noticed that the cupcake department has been somewhat quiet around here lately.  No, we are not throwing in the towel on our grand scheme of filling the year with cupcakes, but "busy" doesn't quite do justice to the last two months: running a half marathon in California, running 5ks in Washington in California-worthy weather, setting off fireworks, helping run a week long music camp, eagerly anticipating a niece or nephew's imminent arrival, enjoying time with Mikaela and Joel while they were here on a visit, finishing good books, teaching, and trying to get my life organized.  You know how it goes.

But Sunday afternoon found me in the kitchen once again, with another grand slam of a cupcake!  This one is so good that it is rivaled only by my very first foray into the world of cupcakes--my double peanut butter chocolate cupcakes.  If you observe the coincidence that both of my top favorite cupcakes involve chocolate, then you have noticed a very important trait of mine: I LOVE chocolate!

My love for chocolate is only equaled by my love for all things floral, which is why Sarah, Mikaela, and I knew we had to have an entire category dedicated to floral cupcakes.  And let me tell you what, these lavender cupcakes taste like a big mug of frothy lavender hot chocolate in cupcake form.  What could be better?
I started off with a basic gluten free chocolate cupcake recipe featuring coconut flour 
and farm-fresh eggs!

Sarah inspired me to use my favorite measuring cup set--why don't all measuring cups come in the form of a nesting matroyshka doll?  They range in size from a cup to a pinch, and I'm sure they contributed to the tastiness of this recipe!

 Olive oil and honey make these cupcakes moist and delicious! 

I added just one drop of Mama's Young Living Lavender essential oil, and it gave the perfect hint of lavender flavor to the cupcakes. 

Fresh out of the oven, and begging to be stuffed in my mouth!  This is the point at which I begin to doubt the necessity of frosting, but I stayed strong.

If you remember Mikaela's rave reviews of the German Buttercream frosting she made in April, you know why I decided I had to try that frosting for myself!  I started with dried lavender...the best flavoring in the world!

Simmer the lavender with milk, and let it steep for ten minutes, then inhale the lavender deliciousness.

Next comes the sunny yellow yolks, sugar, vanilla, and lots of stirring and butter.  And I'm afraid I have to agree with Mikaela: this is the best stuff in the world!  I found it thickened more quickly than hers did (perhaps because I had my burner on medium low, or perhaps because I only made one recipe.)  In any case, the ratio of difficulty to deliciousness was quite good!  

Now...get ready, set, frost! {And I promise, the frosting is more purple in person!}

Not a crumb was left behind from this beauty!

Let me know if you make these cupcakes, and what your opinion is on floral flavors in general!

Chocolate Lavender Cupcakes 
with Lavender German Buttercream Frosting
{Adapted from Elana Amsterdam's Gluten Free Cupcakes}
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 large eggs
1/4 olive oil or grapeseed oil
1/2 cup honey or agave nectar
1 drop food grade lavender essential oil

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Line 9 muffin cups with paper liners.
In a large bowl, combine the coconut flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, olive oil, honey, and essential oil.  Blend the wet ingredients into the coconut flour mixture with a handheld mixer until thoroughly combined.
Scoop 1/4 cup of batter into each prepared muffin cup.
Bake for 18 to 22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached.  Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 1 hour, then frost and serve.

Lavender German Buttercream Frosting
Adapted from The Tough Cookie

150ml milk 
1 teaspoon dried lavender
50g (or ¼ cup) granulated sugar 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1 teaspoon cornstarch 
3 egg yolks 
50g (or ¼ cup) granulated sugar 
200g (or ¾ cup + 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature

 1.  Mix milk with lavender in a medium saucepan and heat just to a simmer.  Remove from heat and allow to steep for 10 to 15 minutes, depending upon taste, and then strain the lavender from the milk.

2.  Make a simple custard. In a small saucepan, combine the milk, 50g of sugar and the vanilla. In a heatproof bowl, combine the cornstarch with a little splash of the milk mixture. Stir to a smooth paste. Add another splash of milk an stir to incorporate. Whisk in the egg yolks and sugar until frothy and well combined; set aside. Gently heat milk/sugar/vanilla mixture over low heat, stirring occasionally. Once the milk mixture has reached boiling point and bubbles start to appear around the edges of the pan, slowly drizzle the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking continuously. Once all the milk has been added, pour the mixture back into the saucepan and heat over low heat. Whisking continuously, wait until the first bubbles appear and the mixture has thickened. Pour into a clean heatproof bowl and place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming. Allow to cool to body temperature (set bowl in cold water to hasten cooling process). 

3.  Once the custard has cooled sufficiently, mix in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, waiting until each tablespoon of butter is incorporated before adding the next. Use immediately or cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge until needed. Store in the fridge for up to 1 week or for up to 2 months in the freezer in a freeze­proof container or bag.

4. To use buttercream that has been refrigerated, allow to come to room temperature (this takes about 3 hours in a warm kitchen) or microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between each interval, until it's soft. Then mix through until it's spreadable again. Thaw frozen buttercream in the fridge overnight, then allow to come to room temperature before use and, once at room temperature, mix briefly until smooth. 

5.  Serve at room temperature. If you've assembled a cake or decorated cupcakes, allow cake or cupcakes to come to room temperature before serving (about 3 hours in a warm kitchen). 

Cupcake Party: Chocolate Edition

Lauren's Double Peanut Butter Chocolate
Sarah's Chocolate Chunk Lava Fudge
Mikaela's Hazelnut Mocha

Cupcake Party: Savory Edition

Lauren's Spinach Feta
Mikaela's Cupcakes & Croutons 
Sarah's Carrot Ginger Coconut Muffins 


Married to a Traitor

Benedict Arnold, the most infamous traitor in American history, did not act alone.

thEiR diFferENceS

For in his charming, young, well-connected, and Loyalist wife, Margaret "Peggy" Shippen, he had his co-conspirator. Passionate Tory she was, but that is not the whole story. However much we'd like to convict her of some grand conspiracy to trap a colonial general with her wiles, marry him, and then lead him into treachery, the story may very well be a less sinister one: man and woman fall in love, marry, and woman influences man. Regardless of motive, this we do know: Peggy's influence—unconscious or deliberate—helped to change a Patriot war hero into a Loyalist traitor.

"He had, let it be remembered, no domestic security for doing right - no fireside guardianship to protect him from the tempter. Rejecting, as we do utterly, the theory that his wife was the instigator of his crime - all common principles of human action being opposed to it - we still believe that there was nothing in her influence or associations to countervail the persuasions to which he ultimately yielded. She was young, gay and frivolous; fond of display and admiration, and used to luxury; she was utterly unfitted for the duties and privations of a poor man's wife. A loyalist's daughter, she had been taught to mourn over even the poor pageantry of colonial rank and authority, and to recollect with pleasure the pomp of those brief days of enjoyment, when military men of noble station were her admirers. Arnold had no counselor on his pillow to urge him to the imitation of homely republican virtue, to stimulate him to follow the rugged path of a Revolutionary patriot. He fell, and though his wife did not tempt or counsel him to ruin, there is no reason to think she ever uttered a word or made a sign to deter him [1]."

The story is really not a new one. It's the same one that played out in Eve with Adam and Sarah with Abraham. Those women of old, and countless women since then, sabotaged the course of their own lives, the lives of their husbands, and the lives of innumerable others through one small choice or suggestion. And while Adam, Abraham, and Benedict all clearly bear the responsibility for their sin, the role of their wives in their sin is unmistakable.

I may never deliberately manipulate my husband. I may never consciously encourage him to sin. But the fact remains that I have the chief influence in my husband's life, and if I act or speak out of fear, selfishness, or pride, I could very well aid my husband in sin.

"If Benedict Arnold had died in his greatest achievement on the battlefield, he would have died a hero’s death....But in following his greatest achievements with the greatest of betrayals, he lived and died only one thing in the minds of all Americans: a traitor of reprehensible proportions (from Lauren's excellent post The Traitor Within)."

Even ascribing the best of intentions to Benedict Arnold's wife and recognizing the responsibility Benedict bears for his own choices, Peggy likely could have been the difference that made her husband a hero instead of a persona non grata. I'm painfully green at this wife business, and history is just another reminder to me of how considerable my influence is in my husband's life. How desperately I desire for his heart to safely trust in me, with him knowing that my influence is for good and not evil! (Proverbs 31:11-12)

[1] Griswold, Rufus W., William Gilmore Simms, and Edward D. Ingraham. "Major-General Benedict Arnold." Washington and the Generals of the American Revolution. Vol. 1. Philadelphia: Carey and Hart, 1848. 264-65. Google, 2 July 2007. Web. 23 June 2015.

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