Look and See + Homemade Brown Sugar

My husband and I have been reading through the Bible separately, yet together, for a while now. We each read at our own pace, then once a week take time to sit, skim over, and discuss what stood out or what we learned from that section. It’s brought us closer spiritually and we’ve been able to learn from each other. It’s been a sweet time.

Several months ago, when I read Habakkuk 1:5, the verbs seemed to jump off the page:

Look among the nations! Observe! Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days—you would not believe if you were told.”

Over the past few years, the country we serve has tightened things down a lot. More rules, more restrictions, more consequences. It’s been hard to watch foreign colleagues given 24 hours to pack up and leave the country. It’s heartbreaking to see story after story of local colleagues be punished for living out their beliefs.

Deep in my heart, I know the Lord will work it all for His glory. It’s what He promises. It’s just excruciating to see up close and so personal.

Recently, He has opened our eyes to a sliver of what else He’s up to here. The high officials have created a plan to recreate some old trade routes. They’re building and giving jobs to people across several nations from the Middle East, to Africa, to Europe. It’s a huge deal. We quickly figured out their underlying drive: power.

Part of the deals with these countries includes sending some of their students to universities here to study for 2-6 years. On our college campus, we went from 15 foreigners out of 40,000 people to over 200 foreigners, in what seemed like overnight.

Suddenly, we were running into students from Tajikistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. The young man I met from Yemin was especially touching. All I could think of was how fortunate he was to escape his war-torn country to get a college degree. These students were so happy to meet another foreigner who spoke English. We shared an instant bond—we were the outsiders.

As we got to know some of these students, He revealed to us what He had planned all along. They are out of their oppressive countries for a good while, not really keeping up practice of their cultural beliefs, and open to hearing other perspectives. He brought these future leaders to the doorstep where there are millions of followers, more than ready to share the Good News. None of us could’ve fathomed a grand, powerful plan could actually be part of reaching the unreached. What a creative God He is!

It seems like serving here is uncertain, changing every day. It is. And it isn’t. To our narrow view, it seems unfair. To His all-encompassing view, it’s what He knows needs to happen to fill up His kingdom. If I didn’t have that Hope to cling to, I’d be one, hot mess.

Habakkuk reminds us through these powerful verbs to look at what God is doing, not just where we are, but all around us. He’s using every one of us to knit together part of His story…maybe we just can’t see it yet. But are we looking?

A few years ago, our annual conference theme was “Remember.” I often look back on those notes—they were a powerful set of sermons. Many times throughout Scripture, the Lord urges us to remember what He has already done. Look at what He has already accomplished. Let the miracles, answered prayers, and holy moments not be forgotten. I know we all have these stories. When we’re in the trenches, those are the stories we need to plead with. He was faithful. He is faithful. He will always be faithful. Take some time to look around, observe, be astonished, and wonder at the mighty works He is doing. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

When you look around at what He’s doing, what has surprised you?


Maybe I’m late to the game. If you already knew this trick, good for you! I recently bought some Korean brown sugar online (because local brown sugar is weirdly dark and has chunks as hard as rocks that must be sifted out), but it was different than before. It was tan and dry. Right color, wrong texture. The brown sugar I’m used to is like wet sand. I used the first bag as is, but it ruined a batch of cookies—they turned out hard and crunchy. I blame the dry brown sugar. So as to not waste the second bag, I sought out answers. Who knew it would be this easy to make your own?

Dry “brown” sugar + dark, sticky molasses = …
Wet brown sugar! I needed this tip about 10 years ago!
Wet brown sugar, ready to stay clump-free with my handy clay disc I also recently discovered prevents clumping. My brown sugar world has changed forever!

Homemade Brown Sugar

Ready in: 5 minutes

1 cup granulated sugar (I know the pics show “brown,” but this recipe is actually for white)

1 Tbsp molasses

Mix sugar and molasses in a food processor or a bowl with a fork until completely mixed. Use immediately or store in an airtight container.


*If your brown sugar clumps easily and quickly, just make small batches and forget storing it altogether!

*If molasses isn’t available, you could also try pure maple syrup. This will change the flavor slightly, obviously.


  1. Phyllis January 15, 2020

    And if maple syrup also isn’t available…? Honey kind of works in some recipes. Or there’s a rose hip syrup sold in pharmacies here. Or a dry, sweet something that I don’t know what it is in English; that one is perfect. All my growing up years my mother didn’t buy brown sugar. She just used white sugar and a blob of molasses. So, I used to bring a bottle of molasses back from each visit to America. Now I mostly just don’t bother with it. 🙂

    Thank you for pointing out this Habakkuk verse! It’s not one that gets much notice, but it should be.

    1. Ashley Felder January 17, 2020

      Yes, there are plenty of other sweet options to try out! And I have to agree about the Habakkuk verse. 😉 So many hidden gems in the small books!

  2. Elizabeth S. January 15, 2020

    I can totally relate to the sugar tip! We’re in Russia and there are a few types of “brown” sugar that are NOT brown sugar (turbinado, etc). I found a way to order some online via iherb, but technically if you only use 1 spoonful of molasses for each cup of white sugar, that will last longer than the bag of brown sugar. Also, I didn’t know about the clay disc! I usually stick a little piece of white bread in there.

    1. Ashley Felder January 17, 2020

      When discovered this trick, I kicked myself for not figuring it out earlier! I’ve used the bread trick as well, but I think the disc lasts longer.

  3. Grace L January 15, 2020

    I love your story about what Father is doing in this country, and how He is using folks like you and your husband to reach people you would never have imagined. We live in the same country and noticed the influx of people from central Asia, the Middle East, and Africa about 3 years ago when we would go to the capital city to get our annual health check. The waiting room was full of people from these countries who had come here to study and also work. Two months ago I ended up arriving in a hospital in the capital city, lying flat on the ambulance stretcher. The first person I met was a lovely lady from Pakistan. I was so relieved to find someone who could speak good English and also Chinese. She was a Godsend for that moment! It’s an interesting phenomenon what He is doing to reach the nations.

    Twenty-one years ago, while at a training for the work we do, I was introduced to this verse from Habakkuk. It was encouraging and inspiring then, but now that you cast the vision for what Father is doing in this country, I am even more excited to see what He will be doing in these coming years. Thank you so much for sharing your post!

    1. Ashley Felder January 17, 2020

      PTL! His plans are mighty and good. We’ll never see all that He does, but how comforting to know even tidbits of part of the grand story!

  4. Elizabeth January 19, 2020

    I appreciated and related to your post this week. We relocated back to the US a couple years ago. I was struggling to see what God was doing and where my desire to serve overseas fit into this. During the past couple years He very clearly brought us to a city and my husband to a job full of international students. I have been able to participate more in his ministry with international students this year and have seen the opportunities to reach the nations that God has provided right here. It has helped give me new purpose in this time and reminded me that his plans are not always our plans!

    1. Ashley Felder January 24, 2020

      Relocating is hard enough. Figuring out where to fit into a new ministry is just as hard. Thankful you found a spot among people from around the world, right around you! His plans are truly magnificent. You are still doing His work, even in your home country. 😃

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