Feelin' Chalky

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Sticky Situations

Feeling Stuck?

What was the last thought, idea, dream, offer, opportunity that you shrugged off, shied away from, talked yourself out of, doubted, or gave up on? I used to think that things in "God's will" were easy and didn't require much work or effort...they just magically fell into place. However, the older I get, and the more intentionally I chase after God's will in my life, the more I see the opposite is true. God will always make a way (even when it seems like there is no way possible) and God will always be there walking beside you and will bring people and opportunities into your path at the perfect time...but we have to be willing to step out and make ourselves available when He calls. I have found that most of the time when I feel stuck in my life it is because I said, "no," to something (big or small) that I should have said, "yes," to. Usually the no comes from a place of fear or uncertainty. Most of the time the fear creeps in because I have unknowingly shifted my focus onto what I can do and my own capabilities and limitations and not where it should be - what GOD can do and His capabilities - they are limitless!!

When I recognize that I am stuck and remember WHO is in control then I am able to step out in confidence. Once I move past the stuck places and conquer those fears and insecurities God usually (but not always) responds with an outpouring of new opportunities and connections, and I gain wisdom that I will need for the next leg of the journey. That is a beautiful place to be in even though it doesn't last long before the next step of faith needs to be taken. 

Growing into who God created you to be is hard work, messy work, and sometimes painful work. It exposes the darkness and brokenness in you so that God can shine light on it and provide healing to others who are struggling. It is not for the weak or the prideful or the faint of heart. Actually...I take that back! It IS for the weak and the prideful and the faint of heart, the insecure, inadequate, broken, least qualified...but it is not an easy road and it takes constant, mindful surrender every single day. I say all of this to say:

Don't give up!! Press on, and fix your eyes on Jesus! He has already made a way for you and He is with you wherever you go!

Here are some of my favorite verses I cling to when I am in a stuck place or having "growing pains":

Hebrews 12:1-14
Joshua 1:6-9
Philippians 2:13
1 John 4:18
2 Corinthians 12:9
1 Peter 5:6

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Taste and See!

"I will praise the LORD at all times. I will constantly speak his praises. I will boast only in the LORD; let all who are helpless take heart. Come let us tell of the LORD'S greatness; let us exalt his name together. I prayed to the LORD, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears. Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces. In my desperation I prayed, and the LORD listened; he saved me from all my troubles. For the angel of the LORD is a guard; he surrounds and defends all who fear him. Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh the joys of those who take refuge in him! Fear the LORD, you his godly people, for those who fear him will have all they need. Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry, but those who trust in the LORD will lack no good thing." - Psalms 34:1-10 NLT

Oh how I feel this verse right now deep down in my soul! I have so much to be thankful for - so much praise to give!! So many amazing things are being orchestrated in the lives of my friends! So many stories to tell of God's redeeming power, of His contstant provision...and above all of that...of His unfailing love for his people!

But I cannot even begin to put into words the work He is doing in my heart and in my life - I can't even take it all in at times. My daughters (and maybe my husband) are getting baptized this month. (How marvelous!) I get the privilege to celebrate another year of life which after all of the loss I have seen and experienced over the last several months is truly a gift and not a promise. (How wonderful!) And some quiet time of reflection (which is super hard for me) has shown me just how much He has grown me as a leader, friend, mentor, mother/wife, vocalist, and Christ-follower over the last year. (Is my Savior's love for me!)

I have done things in the last year that I have to stand back and say, "Only God!" I have heard things spoken to my heart that were so overwhelming and beautful that I have to stand back and say, "Only God!" I have experienced more joy, more awe, more faith, more trust - Only God! And I have been attacked from every angle by the evil one but not overcome - Only God!! What an amazing journey! I can't wait to see what awaits!

A little over a week ago I was feeling weary - tired, defeated, unsure. I sat alone in my house with my bible and my thoughts. I started asking God (as I often do) if what I was doing was still lining up with what He wanted. I was struggling with what my next step was - was I doing enough or was I just being impatient. I am an all-in person - most of you who know me at all know that I tend to do things with great intensity or not at all. And when I am passionate about something - well look out! Ha!! But God has shown me over the last year that so much of the changing and the refining and growing that He does in us is done in the routine - the mundane, the quiet. So I just wanted to check in and see if this was one of those times.

Sidebar: One thing I have felt a great desire for over the last several months was a female mentor that has been where I have been. Someone who has been in the worship leader role - someone who understands the unique challenges a woman faces both internally and externally as they move through chasing what God is calling them to do. I have been blessed with several great male mentors at Oakbrook - I call them "my guys." Haha. They have taught me so much and have taken me under their wing and encouraged me along the way - they are so important to me, but there is still something lacking. It is hard to speak openly about challenges that I am facing with any man other than my husband. Those emotions are so raw and personal, and my husband is a great listener, but he doesn't (and can't) fully understand. So I prayed. And I kept praying. And I had friends pray.

In the quiet of that day God brought an image to mind. Oddly enough it was of a post I had seen on Instagram several weeks ago. It was an image of a screen - full of women on an online conference call. The image was posted by someone I greatly admire and have admired for many years. The caption said: "Just a little peek of some of the women worship leaders that I have had the honor of leading over the past 6 months online. God is raising them up and they are also now going to raise others up. Love you ladies and how you have surrendered every bit of who you are to Jesus.. #WorshipCircle." So I looked through the comments and happened to see a link to find out about what Worship Circle was.

I spent quite a while reading about the program and found out that it is an "exclusive small group mentoring community for Worship Leaders and Worship Pastors that takes place over a 6 month period." (taken directly from the site) It is a place where worship leaders are mentored, trained, and given community with other leaders of their gender. The women are led by Christy Nockels (think: the Passion movement) and the men are led by Todd Fields (Northpoint Church). Along with the mentors other teachers like, oh, Kari Jobe (anyone know her??) and Kristian Stanfill, David Crowder, Chris Tomlin, etc also jump on board. I continued to read about it and got more and more excited. 

I decided to apply even though the info sheet that was emailed to me to read before I applied stressed how limited the opportunity was and how small the group was. It reminded me to not get discouraged if I was not accepted and to not take that as an indication of the amout of (or lack of) giftedness. I filled out the in-depth application that  also had to include links to videos of me singing. I hit send and moved on with my day. I started doubting, but God kept reminding me that if it was something He wanted for me that He would make it happen. 

The next day I received an email from Todd Fields thanking me for applying. He informed me that Christy's spring group was full and that they weren't even going to start looking through applications for the fall group until late summer/early fall. He reminded me (again) that they had lots of applicants and that is was a very small group and that not being chosen was not an indication of giftedness, etc. I emailed a quick, "thank you," and filed it into the "closed door" category.

Last Thursday I received an email out of the blue from Todd. This time he was writing to inform me that there had been an unexpected opening on Christy's team - for the SPRING term that started that day! He wanted to ask if I would want to fill that open spot...uhhhh...YES!!!! Unreal! I think I cycled through just about every emotion like someone who is completely mentally unstable and then I called my husband to tell him the news and of course said yes! I am still somewhat in shock. I am so excited and anxious to see what God will teach me through Christy and the other women over the next 6 months. And if there ever was a time for the phrase "I can't even" it is now! ;-)

Would you pray for me over the next 6 months - a prayer of celebration and thanks? I know God will do great things - things that only He can do. What an answered prayer times 1,000,000! 

"God, please send me a mentor?"
"Ok. How about Christy Nockels?"

Haha. Also please pray that I would be open and moldable - that I would be able to juggle all that life is throwing at me - and that God would protect me from the evil one. I know all too well that when something BIG happens to advance God's will in my life that the evil one is lurking. 

I can't wait to share my experiences with you all! It is going to be a wild ride!!!


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The "&" of Worship

I have been thinking...which is often a dangerous thing. A post by Lysa Terkeurst last night really triggered some emotions and insight that I have been keeping on the inside.

"Here's an encouraging word for someone tonight - don’t think you’re not doing what God called you to do just because things don’t seem as glamorous as you thought they would be. 
If you are a woman who honors God right where you are, you are in ministry. Keep being obedient, keep looking for the next open door of opportunity, and above all else hold closely to our Lord." - Lysa Terkeurst

A lot of people assume that leading worship is glamorous. That getting up on a stage and singing and leading people in worship must be exhilarating. That the people on stage are in some way hyper-spiritual - always living on some kind of "God-high."I can't speak for everyone, but for me the very opposite is often true. Yes, there are definitely moments where I feel completely overcome by the Spirit, where I feel like I am soaring...but not because of my own talent, spiritual fervor, or awesomeness. 

If I have learned one thing more consistently over that last year (ish) it is that true, authentic worship - worship that inspires and moves and soars is worship that comes from a place of struggle, brokenness, lacking, sometimes sadness and frustration. That is what makes it so beautiful. Just because a person may be a gifted singer or speaker or musician doesn't mean that stepping on the stage week after week is an easy and always exciting process.

For me the process has been humbling and terrifying. But God. But always God. God continues to meet me through the fears and tears and doubts. He continues to ask me to have those emotions but do it anyway. Lay aside my insecurities about my body. Set down my perfectionism. Strip away pride. Refine motives. It. Is. Hard. Nothing about the process is easy - at least for me. Yes, I am gifted. God has placed in me an ability to sing. But that doesn't make USING that gift easy - putting myself out there, exposing my heart - my most intimate moments with God for all to see.

I spent many years singing. Singing is a little easier - less risky. When I sing I can still be guarded. I can "put on a show, " entertain, but still protect the deepest cries of my heart and soul. I never dreamed that stepping out of the mindset of a singer into a worship leader would be such a risk. As a singer your greatest risk is hitting bad notes or getting off tempo, but with leading the stakes are so much higher. 

I know each time I walk out on to the stage that if God does not show up and work through me that what I deliver will be empty, meaningless "noise." It may sound good (or not - ha!) but that is where it stops. It doesn't MOVE. And for some people that may be OK. In fact, it used to be OK with me. I used to gauge how good a song I sang was by the amount of or lack of mistakes. That was before I experienced leading through the Holy Spirit. Once I had experienced that - there was nothing that I could possibly do to measure up.

Leading in any capacity is messy business. I rarely feel the need to celebrate my "successes" but instead find myself consistently surrendering, setting aside ego, stripping off walls that have been built up to present myself completely and fully to God to be used in the way that He sees fit...even when I don't want to. Especially when I don't want to. Especially when I don't feel like it. Especially after a fight with my husband and especially after a rough day with my kids or unpaid bills or unmet expectations. Especially when I have to get down on my knees and beg God to use this measly gift one more time for His greater purpose...when I know good and well that He doesn't need me. But He does choose me. And He does love me. And He loves you.

Don't get me wrong. I have enjoyed this journey and I so look forward to where God will take me next. I am having so much fun learning and experiencing new things. My creative side is completely bursting with thoughts and ideas and vision. I just know that for every "high" moment I get to experience with God there is another side to it. There is a spiritual battle raging. There is a whole person (a very imperfect person). There is life to be lived. A couple I really love and respect recently put it so well - there is joy & sorrow. God is deserving of our undivided, fully engaged worship ALL OF THE TIME. There is no hiding from the trials of life just because you decide to step into ministry. Life doesn't just all of the sudden get easy or make sense.

I have so much more respect for those of you who have served or are serving as church staff and leaders. I understand now just a tiny piece of what it must be like to continually give of yourself to the cause of Christ - the ultimate call on all of our lives. Thank you. We often take what you do for granted. I now can see your brokenness but I also see you lay that aside in humble surrender and "do it anyway"...because...God. Because always God. And the stakes are far more higher if we don't.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

My Hiding Place

Have you ever been called out?  I sure have.  It's kind of embarrassing isn't it - being caught in a lie or an act of hypocrisy or for being fake or making a mistake? Heck it's embarrassing even when the reason you are being called out is funny - crop-dusting at Tar-get, Freudian slips, mispronouncing the word, "tidy," in first grade - someday I will let that one go...maybe.

Have you ever been called out by God?  It's a little more serious than being laughed at by your peers.  And He sure has a way of not letting it go. ;-) I don't remember what I was doing at the time that I felt these words burn into my heart, but they were very clear and persistent: "You are hiding." And cue the first reaction to any instance of being called out - denial.

"I'm not hiding!  I'm putting myself out there!  And anyway, I am just being a good mom and supportive wife by laying low and sacrificing MY dreams. That's what I'm supposed to be doing!"

I don't REALLY remember what my inner dialogue reaction was - but it was something similar.  And I continued to reassure myself that I was doing just fine for the next few days.  But the thought prevailed.    And it is still echoing in my mind as I type.  The truth is, I HAVE been hiding.  Every time I grab the (way) oversized gray hoodie and black comfy pants (that have a hole in the knee) and I throw on my hat and I move throughout my day...I'm hiding.  Every time I doubt a leading.  Every time I choose to stuff emotions way back down inside to avoid a confrontation.  Every time I avoid a phone call.  Every time I say no to something my heart longs to do.  Every time I waste hours in front of the TV.  Every time I roll over and go to sleep without kissing my husband goodnight.  I AM HIDING...I am shrinking...I am giving up on the very reason this journey started.  Living. Fully.

A person who is truly connected to their purpose and is living the life God has called them to is inspiring.  Their excitement and passion is intoxicating.  People can't help but watch to see what they are going to do next.  And people can't help but want, "whatever it is they are smoking."  I have been that person at times.  Have you?

It is flat scary if you ask me.  I'm not sure I want to be there again.  When I was there I felt so naked - so opened up to criticism and judgement.  Who likes that anyway?  Living "out there" means more hurt, more failure, more unmet expectations.  But not living there now after I have been called out...is disobedience.

It's so funny how God can get your attention sometimes.  You know the song that has been playing in my head on loop for the past several weeks (other than the ones I am prepping for on Sunday)? Click below for a listen.  Hilarious, right?

Yes, I am aware that this song has become a sort-of anthem for another kind of "coming out" of hiding, however, I cannot HIDE the fact that it truly has been playing in my head non-stop!  Thank you mom and dad for your old disco records.

So a couple of weeks after the thought (you are hiding) entered my heart, I was awakened at 3 AM with another thought.  Brace yourselves. This one is a doozy.  Write to the Rachael Ray show.  At 3 AM!!!  C'mon!  You have got to be kidding!  The backstory is this: I had seen a tweet from the show a couple of weeks prior that said this:

The day it hit I had a leading to respond, but I very vehemently said, "NO!"  You see...I have lost 100 pounds BUT I have also gained some back.  And I am embarrassed by that and I do not want to publicly broadcast those feelings.  I moved on with my day, kinda forgot about it, and that was that...or so I thought.  I later got an email about it (I'm on the show's email list) and was once again lead to respond..."NO!"  And that brings you up to speed.  3 AM wake-up call.

I continued to argue in a sleepy stupor for close to 2 hours.  All of the worst things that could come from a simple email to the Rachael Ray show played in my mind.  I squirmed at the idea of a lot of people scrutinizing my blog, the thought of what I would look or sound like on TV, and mostly the thought of how it would feel to admit that I lost 100 pounds and gained 30 of it back...when I still had a lot more that I wanted to lose.  But those thoughts were combatted by many positive things mostly summed up by this: My story is real.  People need to hear real stories.  I am still eating as healthy as I can.  Health is not about size.  Health is a daily journey - FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.  I know a lot of stuff...and people could benefit from that knowledge.  So ultimately I said yes and I fell back asleep.  I said yes again the next day when all I wanted to do was hide.  Instead I sat in front of my computer screen and attempted to fit 3 plus years of my journey into a very small space.

And now what?  I don't know.  I did what I was told and have been trying to do what I am told to do each day since then.  I started an amazing 28-day challenge with an amazing group of women and an amazing leader.  I have learned a lot about myself...and remembered a lot of things about myself lately. More than likely...Rachael Ray won't be calling me up...often obedience is just about saying yes when your whole being wants to say no.  I think that obedience is a gut-check to see if we are truly "all-in." More than likely He just wanted to see if I was listening.  But you never know!  Over the years I have learned that God often does the "less than likely."

We shall see!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

If You Fail to Plan...

I am a horrible planner.  I mean, I have all of these great ideas rolling around in my head, but to actually put my thoughts into practice is a whole other animal.  That being said, I have become quite the Iron Chef.  You know what I mean, right? Iron Chef, the show?  The show where they hand a box full of seemingly unrelated, unappetizing foods to a chef and in under an hour or so they create beautiful, gourmet platters of food?

Ok, well, it may feel like that in my mind, but in all reality I am not cooking octopus or puréeing dragon fruit...OR using dry ice...but I might as well be on the show.  How impressive is it to have four children screaming, "what's for dinner?" in a continuous, whiney chorus while you attempt to mold a pantry full of random grains, legumes, flours, and spices and a refrigerator full of moldy left-overs, condiments, and produce into a beautiful, symphony of flavors that everyone will love?  I say it is pretty impressive - nay a miracle!  I have had a handful of really great dishes come out of desperation (and a few that LEFT me desperate for a PB&J).

One of my favorite things to make in a pinch that is always a big hit (and is very budget and user friendly) is my Creamy Vegan Potato Soup.  I researched a lot of recipes online to get inspiration and then customized it to fit our dietary needs as well as what I actually had on hand...which at times tends to be not a whole heck of a lot.  ;-)  (Grocery shopping with four kiddos in tow tends to be less than pleasant.)  The beauty of this recipe is that I can pretty much use this basic "skeleton" - which is perfectly awesome as-is - and fancy it up to add more depth of flavor when I have fun extras around the house.

Creamy Vegan Potato Soup

1 large onion, chopped
4 ribs of celery (including leafy tops), chopped
3 tsp. minced garlic (about 4-6 cloves)
Salt & pepper
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
3 bay leaves (optional but yummy)
1/2 tsp. herbes de provence
1 c. dry sherry
4-6 cups of diced yukon gold potatoes
water to cover
2 T Earth Balance
3 cups Silk organic, unsweetened soy milk

Easy peasy. Sauté onion and celery in EVOO over medium-high heat. Add salt and pepper. Allow veggies to sweat out and soften and get slightly brown.  Rub dried herbs in the palm of your hand before adding to the veg mixture to "wake up" their natural flavors and oils. Cook for another minute and then add dry sherry to pan to deglaze. Cook for about 3 minutes while scraping of any browned bits off of the bottom of your pan with a wooden spoon.  Hooray for flavor!

Add diced potatoes and just enough water to cover. Add more salt and pepper.  (Here is where you can swap in a more flavorful product - vegetable broth - when you have it in your pantry). Put a lid on the pan and turn the heat down to medium.  Cook the potatoes until tender. Add Earth Balance and soy milk, stir to combine, and taste for seasoning.  Add more salt and pepper as needed.  Using an immersion/stick blender, purée soup until it reaches your desired consistency.  We like it mostly smooth with a few potato "chunks" here and there.  Serve with your favorite toppings!  We like Veggie Sour Cream and green onions or chives.  We have also added Veggie cheese in the past as well as Bacony Bits made by WayFare foods (a GREAT Vegan alternative - but they are not gluten-free).


Friday, May 4, 2012

Fill 'Er Up!

I don't know exactly when it started, but I have entered a new phase of my journey.  As you know the last two years have been super-focused on the physical affects of "healthy living" - the things you can touch, taste, feel, see.  My journey up to this point has been tangible. It has been easy to see progress.  For a while my mood revolved around seeing the number on the scale decrease each week.  In fact, I almost got to the point of (dare I say) idolizing weight loss itself.  

Don't get me wrong.  I don't think weight loss is bad...at all.  It is a VERY good thing!  BUT when you get to the point where you can't be happy if you aren't losing? That's a problem.  I'm finding it so much harder now to figure out who I am and where I fit into the world now that I am no longer a losing machine.  It's hard, but God is continuing to work on me everyday...just in ways that I am not always so happy about.  It's so much more fun to get praised by your friends, family, and peers about how "good" you look or how "thin" you are getting.

I have been brought to a place in my journey now where things are so focused on inward battles, hurts, and scars.  Sometimes I am not sure I can unpack everything while being all the things I need to be for others in my life.  I find myself bubbling over with anger because I can no longer "hold it together."  I learned to be an expert at "holding it together" at a young age.  I learned how to set my needs and desires aside and be available...which is a good thing.  In fact, I think it is what has allowed me to be the mom I need to be for my four kids.  However, now I am seeing how too much of a good thing causes disfunction.

The disfunction for me is that while I am so absorbed in caring for others' needs, my tank gets more and more empty.  I also feel extreme guilt whenever I am not fulfilling my responsibilities - when I am away.  It is hard to enjoy social outings.  It is hard to really feel nourished by anything...but food.  And I think that has always been the case.  I have always used food to "fill" me.  The times in my life where I was the heaviest were the times when I was least connected to the things I love to do.  Now don't get me wrong...I LOVE my kids, my husband, my parents, siblings, inlaws, and friends.  I am talking about things that fill my life with joy BEYOND people.  You know, the things that bring the twinkle to my eye when I talk about them.

One of those "fillers" for me is art - creating.  I have always loved art - all kinds of art.  My nickname growing up was, "Doodle," because I would just sit and draw for hours.  I also love to paint.  I painted a replica of VanGogh's, "Starry, Starry Night," in High School.  It is one of my most treasured possessions.  I was so proud of it when it was finished.  I love to write.  I used to write a lot of poetry and songs and short stories.  There is just something cleansing about writing.  I suppose my love for cooking and creating recipes also falls in this category.  For some reason I left most of my artsy side behind when I became an "adult."  I am trying to find ways to bring it back.

Another filler for me is music which is probably most obvious to people who know me, but what you don't know about singing for me is that it only fills me when I allow the Holy Spirit to take the guilt and fear away and replace it with joy.  Otherwise it is just another "job" to do, a task to check off of my to-do list.  If you watch me when I sing, there are some times that I smile from ear to ear and then there are other times that I don't.  The times I smile are genuine.  The smile is a result of freedom - reckless abandonment - joy.  When I don't smile it isn't because I am mad and it isn't because I hate the song I am singing, it is merely because something is in the way of God.  It could be stress, anger, fear, sin, or a number of other things.  When I am in that place I feel so empty.

I have always been moved by nature.  Engaging in nature fills me.  I find God in nature.  I love animals and plants and the smells of fresh air and rain.  I love the feel of grass on bare feet and the warmth of sun on my face.  I feel so connected and peaceful when I am  outside.  Being a stay-at-home mom of 4 little ones a lot of times keeps me tied to the house, and that is hard for me.  But it is getting better and easier to take them out the older they get, and thankfully Kokomo has some of the best parks around!

There are other things that fill me too, but those are the main ones.  I am seeing just how deeply connected my overeating is with being under-filled.  When I am not feeling nourished on a spiritual or emotional level I tend to eat to fill that void.  Unfortunately the void only gets filled temporarily when you fill it with food.  Even though I eat very healthy (as far as WHAT I eat) I still find myself eating too much at times.  Now that I recognize why I do what I do I am learning how to change it.  Sometimes I just have to stop and figure out what I am lacking.  Maybe I just need a hug.  Maybe I need someone to tell my I am important - that I am valued and special.  And maybe sometimes I just need permission to do something for myself, by myself.  The permission part is important for me.  It sounds silly, but when my husband or friend says, "I want you to: go get your hair done/take a walk/take a bath/have fun at practice," it releases me from the feelings of guilt and allows me to enjoy what I am doing fully.  Baby steps.

Does this resonate with you?

If so, I'd love to hear from you!  I'd love to walk through this with you!  Until next time!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Oh, Oh, O-r-e-o!

So I have officially crossed the line.  Oh no I didn't!  Oh yes, I did.  I spent 5 hours the other night creating (to the best of my ability) a "healthy" Oreo cookie.  No I didn't make them for a special client or my best friend.  I made them for 50, 4 and 5 year old Pre-K kids.  I made them 1. because I can - darn it, and 2. because I want my kids to see that special treats don't have to come out of a package.  Yes, it would have been a million times easier and cheaper to just pick up the Oreos, but I couldn't.  Sure those kids could have cared less what I did or didn't put into the cookies, but I don't care.  I am THAT weird now, folks (and proud of it)!  The inspiration?  Icing that could send you into your happy place!

A few weeks ago I made a cake for my birthday - gingerbread cake - and found an icing recipe in a new cookbook I got, Chloe's Kitchen, which has everything from breakfast to dog treats.  The author won Cupcake Wars on Food Network, so I knew the cupcake and icing recipes would not disappoint.  The upside?  The icing was mind-blowing.  The downside?  The recipe calls for powdered sugar and I don't like to use powdered sugar - or any sugar for the matter, but I figured if it topped a healthy cake or cookie it would be OK.  And it's amazing...did I mention that yet?

Here's the icing recipe:

Vanilla Bean Buttercream
1 cup non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening (I bought mine at Sunspot)

3 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Seeds of 1 vanilla bean (or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste)
2 to 5 T almond, soy, hemp, rice or coconut milk to thin

Using a hand mixer, beat the shortening until smooth.  With the mixer running on low, add powdered sugar, vanilla, vanilla bean seeds or paste, and 1 tablespoon of the non-dairy milk at a time as needed to reach desired consistency. I used about 3 tablespoons both times I made mine.  Beat for two more minutes until the buttercream is light and fluffy.

For the cookie part of the "Oreo" I turned to one of my favorite baking books, Babycakes!  It not only has some super fun treats in it, but mostly all of them are gluten-free which is an added bonus because both my sister and brother (and some friends' kids) are gluten-intolerant or have mild Celiac.  You can make it with regular flour or whole wheat pastry flour if you desire, but I tried the cookies both ways and my verdict?  The gluten-free version was actually better!  Of course I also swapped the evaporated cane juice (just a fancy word for sugar) for agave (in my first two batches) and then raw local honey in my final batch.  The honey won!  Better flavor, better texture.  So I will post my favorite version of the recipe.  If you have any questions about swapping flours or natural sweeteners, please ask!  I have become quite the expert!

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup coconut oil (look for unrefined, virgin oil) - melt before you measure
1 cup local, raw honey
1/3 cup homemade applesauce (see below) or store-bought, unsweetened applesauce
2 T vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum (look in the organic section of most stores)
1/4 cup flax meal/powder (I love this one.)
1 1/2 cups Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free All-Purpose Baking Flour
1 cup dairy-free semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone sheet.  In a medium bowl, mix together the melted oil, honey, applesauce, and vanilla.  In another bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, salt, baking soda, flax, and xanthan gum.  Carefully add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients until a dough is formed.  It may look runny at first, but give it a few minutes and the xanthan gum will do it's work and thicken it up.  Fold in the chocolate chips.  Using a small ice cream scoop, scoop the dough onto the prepared baking sheets.  Bake the cookies in the center rack for 14 minutes.  After 9 minutes, rotate the pans 180°and then continue to bake for the remaining 5 minutes.  Let the cookies cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheets, then cool completely on a wire rack.

Once cooled completely add a small (or large) amount of icing to the bottom side of one cookie, then top with a second cookie.  Eat. Ahhh...

If you are interested in making a super-stellar roasted applesauce that is super quick and easy and can be used in this recipe, here ya go (you can thank me later).  This recipe will fill a 24 oz Mason jar.

Roasted Applesauce

1 pound (about 3 medium) Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 pound (about 3 medium) Pink Lady apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 T ground cinnamon
1/3 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 cup hot water
agave as needed

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.  Toss apples with agave, cinnamon, and lemon juice until completely coated.  Bake the apples on the center rack for 35 minutes rotating the pan 180° after 20 minutes.  Place the baked, cooled apples into a high-powered blender or food processor.  Add 1 cup of hot water and process until smooth.  Add agave as needed to desired sweetness (mine didn't need any more to make it sweet).  MMMMMM!

When all is said and done...here is the finished product:

They are decadent and with the flax, applesauce, honey, and coconut oil, so much better for you than their Nabisco counterpart.  Enjoy!