Renewal Times Two + Raven’s Microwave Mug Brownie

renew definition

Renew has two definitions. One is to resume (an activity) after an interruption. I also think of renewing a subscription or library book (oh how I can’t wait to return to the library this summer!). The other renew is one we believers may think of more often: to give fresh life or strength to. When we walk away from a conference or a simple chat over coffee with a friend renewed, revived, restored…what a fabulous feeling!

This past year, several big areas of my life felt a sense of renewal. (Don’t worry, I have plenty others that still need a large dose of renewal! Did you read about my anger issues a few weeks ago?!) As I think about those areas, I also want to apply the first definition of renewal: I want those new habits to continue on. Without interruption would be great, too.

I’ve mentioned it before, but You and Me Forever by Francis and Lisa Chan was one of those eye-opening, hit-me-in-the-gut books that made me look at several areas of my life in a new light. I appreciate their honest, real-life stories coupled with straight truth, often counter-cultural to what we read elsewhere.

In the book (and several of his sermons), they made a point of how we pray to our Almighty God. Do we truly revere Him? Or do we just jump into a prayer, maybe starting off with a bit of thanks, but then jumping to a long list of petitions? I’ve been encouraged to stop and take a moment to realize how big He is and how small I am. I often try to picture myself in heaven, at His feet. It’s a great practice to readjust my heart before I talk to Him.

Another renewed area of my life has been my marriage.  Our marriage was fine before, but we had our fair share of arguments. (However, nothing was worse than our first year on the field! So many transitions! So many emotions! Not enough Jesus!) Of course we are nowhere near perfect even now, but we have noticed an amazing increase of grace and changed perspectives.

One major reason is our connection to God. We both finally found a rhythm of quiet times. Eight years of periods with one or multiple babies or toddlers makes the brain turn to mush. I get it. It’s not easy to carve out a time, even though we know we “should.” For us, we finally committed to reading and praying after the kids go to bed and before we turn on the computer or TV. Lisa Chan mentioned the struggle to find time to even just pray while her 5 kids were little. It’s tough, for sure. But if we don’t find that time to connect to Him, things start falling apart. I know it’s so difficult with little kids, little sleep, and little time to even shower. Believe me—I’m still in that boat some days. But it’s worth it, right?

Another idea from the Chan’s book I have clung to is that our marriage should attract people to Christ. He should be apparent. Even more so in our context of overseas living, right? I’ve started becoming more aware of how I treat my husband when we’re around others. Am I honoring him and speaking of him in a loving way? Or am I looking for the first chance to take a jab at him, bring up a story to make fun of him, or join in putting him down—all this in a joking, non-serious manner, of course.

Changing these have been hard for me! I grew up in a household that made fun of one another. I was often the butt of the joke as the dumb, blonde daughter. Not to mention, our culture in the States is full of sarcasm and any kind of humor to make fun of someone or ourselves. It’s a tough cycle to remove yourself from! Don’t get me wrong—I sure don’t want to be the boring, stiff wife. Anyone who knows me personally knows I love to laugh! My husband and I have had to find other ways to laugh—and there are plenty—besides putting each other down. In the end, I want to think about what honors Christ. Our marriage should be a picture to the world of how Jesus loves us. Obviously this lesson can be applied to any walk of life. When we talk about friends or others, what’s our first reaction? Do we focus on all of their faults, or do we look to speak of the good in them, too?

Whether you’re seeking refreshment of some dusty old habits, or rejoicing in the renewal you’ve experienced recently and just want it continue, may you seek His reverent face along the way.

Are there any habits or areas of life that you’ve already felt renewal in and just want to keep them going? Let’s celebrate those!

*You and Me Forever is FREE to read through their app. There are also videos on YouTube that coincide with each chapter.


Microwave Mug Brownie

This recipe is courtesy of our own Raven, who does lots of behind-the-scenes work for Velvet Ashes! Thanks, Raven!

My mom taught me the ways of the mug cake; “for those times when it’s just you and you need something a little sweet” she would say. I wasn’t aware how handy this would be for me later in life. I came to the field independently so sometimes it’s me, a mug brownie, and a book or movie for a night in when I need my “me” time.

  • 2 tablespoons of melted butter or 2 tablespoons of oil (I use oil)
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons white sugar depending on your desired sweetness
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • your favorite coffee mug

Simple enough ingredients. Quick, go check your pantry to see if you have them all!

Mix right in the mug. Yesss to fewer dishes!

Whoever thought of these one-serving treats should get a hug.

Top with a little extra treat because, why not?! You’re just eating one serving! Or maybe two.


Add milk, butter or oil, salt, and vanilla extract straight into the mug. Mix well with a fork. Add cocoa powder and sugar and mix it a bit more. Lastly, add your flour and mix it all really well. You don’t want it too thick and you don’t want it too runny either. So if it is a bit thick add a tad bit more milk. If runny, add a tad bit more flour. Then into the microwave it goes! I microwave mine for about 45 seconds, check it, and then keep it going in 30 second intervals. You want to be very careful not to overcook it! It will be hot, so be careful! You can enjoy it alone, but I dress mine up with extras if I have them. Fortunately, I received my own pint of vanilla ice cream for my birthday. So, vanilla ice cream and chocolate sprinkles were a must!

Enjoy and smile because the clean up is just as quick as the time spent making it. 🙂


Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash


  1. Spring January 14, 2018

    Thanks Ashley this sounds like such a good book! This line that you shared is my favorite: Another idea from the Chan’s book I have clung to is that our marriage should attract people to Christ. He should be apparent. Oh wow how humbling!!

    I have found a place for my prayer time, especially since my kids are a bit older. It is more difficult to find when there are two people! Also I am glad that I’m not alone in the struggles through marriage and transitions! We have had 5 transitions in the past 3 years, I am thankful for where God has brought us as a family, but man it has been tough. I look forward to being in one place for a while 🙂

    1. Ashley Felder January 15, 2018

      5 transitions is a lot, and in such a short amount of time is a LOT! Hope you find things to enjoy along the journey, but yes…I can understand wanting to stay put for a while!

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