Friday, December 30, 2011

I Just LOVE This!

Her somewhat smug, self-satisfied little smile
just fits me to a T right now.
Girlfriend, you have got to have yourself one of these!

Inspired by a recent post at Keeper Of The Home, I promptly shared it with everyone I could and then ran to my generous husband to put in my request for a Mom's Day Out.  I don't even know if he knew just what I was asking for beyond a time of reprieve; he's great that way - it was enough and I picked my date.  I have looked forward to "my day" ever since I read that post; anticipation is a small word for the relish it spread over my heart.  I have spent the past two days doing all sorts of organizing in our bonus/school room - purging, sorting, coordinating, and bringing some sort of cohesion to it all once again.  Last night I picked out a few things to bring along with my computer and finally, today came!

Reading through Erin Odom's post, it is clear she and I are cut from very different cloth.  She's much more of a stoic, spartan sort. (Forgive me if that paints an ungenerous picture, Erin!  But rising every day at 5:30?!!!)  I'm more of a marshmallow by comparison.  But she has inspired me.  The thing is, I'm such a wuss I won't even post all the plans I'm coming up with.  I'm still "trying them on."  Actually, my start to my big day was a giant tell-tale.  I slept til 9, got up and had leftover beans and sopa (thanks to my gourmet son) and some homemade broth for breakfast; visited with my honey; showered and dressed; dealt with kid issues; and finally rolled away from the house around 1pm.  "Ah well," I thought, "if I stay out until nine that'll still give me a solid eight hours."  And that's what I did.

I needed it.  I am not an organized person, even after homeschooling five kids over seventeen years.  It is still a process of growth, reach, and change for me.  I hope you find that comforting.  For me to try to locate and pull together even the beginnings of the 'planning' part of this retreat took a good deal of time and effort.  Still, I was able to accomplish some basic bones and I feel quite cheered by it.  I'm hoping that my notes on the rest of it make sense to me later on.  I have to look for someplace to squeeze the other two days worth of planning I find I was not able to fit into my time away today!  A little here, a little there I guess.

Now it's off to bed so I can get some much needed rest before rising for a Prayer and Pancakes Breakfast a good friend is hosting tomorrow morning as further bolster to our start to 2012.  I am so blessed and so thankful!

How are your preparations coming along?  So what if tomorrow is New Year's Eve, you still have time before things really get underway; and as I'm sure some will be reading this after we've moved on into January, it's the intentionality that counts, not the date.  Get yourself a planning retreat!

Linked with Domestically Divine, Time Warp Wife, Works For Me Wednesday, Simple Lives Thursday

Monday, December 26, 2011

Clearing a Clogged Drain Naturally

Ever notice how you'll put up with much more of your own junk/mess/stuff than you care to of other's? I've found this to be true in the area of kids, dogs, homes, habits, you name it, really.  We just tend to overlook and minimize the flaws and failings we possess; but if we see these same things in another...  "Well," we say,"I'd never put up with that!"  Maybe it's just me...

One area where I think this is true is the bathroom.  I know my family has come out of other bathrooms clearly thankful for escape.  "Mom," they whisper in horrified voices, "you just wouldn't believe it."  And yet their own bathroom can suffer neglect for the same amount of time and, well, it just doesn't bother them in quite the same way.  To be fair (and because I am similarly challenged) some of them truly cannot see their surroundings very clearly what with all the steam buildup combined with their lack of vision sans glasses. But we need to assume that other things are building up too.  Like crud.

This evening that agglomeration resulted in a clogged shower/tub drain.  I always take a bit of pride in being able to solve these kinds of dilemmas ourselves, repairing dishwashers, washing machines, blocked pipes and the like.  My youngest seems especially to get a special satisfaction from these challenges too. So while my husband ran out to the store to get a drain cleaner (he did pick out an environmentally friendly one!) I engaged us in a game of beat the clock to try to clear this problem before his return.  Some time back we'd ordered some really helpful little home snakes to help us with our occasional sink issues.  They have worked great, and we employed them to attend to our trouble this time as well.  When that didn't do the trick, I had my daughter try the plunger.  The problem just seemed to get worse.  Water was clearly jumping up and out through the overflow opening.  We had to create a seal in order to ensure the plunger's pressure would go to the source of our blockage.  I didn't have any duct tape, so we used packing tape and sealed it up tightly all the way around.  Now we were in business!  Taking turns, my daughters and I really worked that sucker. The water got smellier and dirtier, but we took that as a sign of progress.  We fished it out to dump in the backyard.  (Occasionally I flushed the toilet as well, thinking that they are somehow connected and this would work in our favor.)  Eventually...., after some sore backs and a bit of sweat... we were rewarded.  Yes, we did it!  The sweet sound of solid suction - the water was twirling down and away! L put on a pot of water to boil and A brought me vinegar and baking soda.  We poured the latter down the drain and once we heard the shrill whistle of the teapot, I brought the boiling hot water upstairs and poured it down as well as a chaser.

After a good tub washing tomorrow, we'll use that drain cleaner my hubbie brought home for good measure. Yeah girls!!!  We did it!!!

Happily shared at Time Warp Wife, Domestically Divine, Works For Me Wednesday, Ramblings of a Christian Mom

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Shyla, Shyla, Quite Contrary

I was a frustrated woman.  We live in a subdivision, so all my dreams of chickens, goats, and gardens have to go through a hesitating process.  About ten years ago, my husband, sons, and our neighbor put in a two raised-bed gardens, to the back and between our houses, each about 3X6 ft square.  We own one of them and have simply tomato-ed it out for the past decade, poor thing; it desperately needs a change of roots and I need somewhere else to plant my tomatoes.  In truth, I am a "baby gardener." My husband has been the faithful tenderer of our little plot of soil for these many years, and I would just cook up what we reaped, wishing we had more.  But this past year I was the one who planted, watched over, and gathered from it - and I really liked it.

So this summer, I started looking for a new place to live.

After dragging my husband from one old house with some land to another, and another, and another, (Read: much work required in order to make it what we'd like) over numerous weekends, he asked me over after-search coffee, "What will it take for you to be happy with the house we have? A garden?"


And so he hired someone to build me a garden.  The animals just aren't going to happen, I know; but I'm grateful that I can purchase eggs from other local hen-owners.  I'm still hoping a goat's milk source might open up somewhere (and realistically, that's more to my liking than the thought of twice daily milkings.)  But this summer 2012, I will have the garden I have waited for and wanted! It was an early Christmas present that will continue to give for a long time to come - perfect for me.  Thank you, Honey! I have some time to lay out a design with forethought and intentionality.  I've ordered seed catalogs tonight and perused a few online as well. My smile as I'm writing this is one of satisfaction and excitement.

Here are a few pics.
1) "The crew" spreading out our organic soil
2) A view from the street, what a passer-by will see (Yes, the bold orange door was also part of my season of changes)
3) This was work we had done near the front and I have three blueberry bushes planted on that back edge
4) One of the finished product (from my upstairs' bedroom window.)

my dirt crew.JPGstreetview.JPGby the box.JPGfrom my window.JPG

I'll post an update this summer to tell you how my garden grows!  Oh, and those are lovely gardenia bushes planted between my garden and the street... heavenly.

Linked to Simple Lives Thursday and Works For Me Wednesdays.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Blessed w/ a Sick Day

I have had, in the words of one of our favorite unseen characters ever - the soothing Lemmony Snicketts, "A Series Of Unfortunate Events."  Ever since the weekend after Thanksgiving, I have been prone to tummy cramping ranging from mild to intense, private moments in the loo ranging with challenges from one extreme to the other (you get the idea, I'm sure) and three incidences of vomiting. Quite out of my ordinary.  The most recent was yesterday.  I have been to the doctor and had several tests of various sorts, and of course done my own personal research.  I'm thinking it might be IBS?  Anyway, under doctor and husband's orders I was instructed to remain on clear liquids and rest today. Upon rising this morning, my dear daughters met me and insisted I stay put as they would serve me.  I was presented with this beautiful menu from which to choose my fancy. As I told them, "I don't think anyone has ever made such a thing before - at least not to my knowledge."  What a blessing!  Wish me recovery, as I'm sure will soon follow such good care...

French Hot Chocolate

As promised, here is the recipe for the most delicious, luxurious hot chocolate ever!  I made this back during the early days of my marriage when my sister came to visit our home - and it was actually during the Thanksgiving holidays - but she raved about it then and for years afterwards.  The original recipe (from the North American Cook Book) is supposed to serve eight, but I guess we just prefer a more ample serving per cup so I doubled it for the same number. Simple. Scrumptious. Sublime.

1 cup cocoa
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
dash or two of salt
1 cup of whipping cream
8 cups of milk
1 pure chocolate bar

Place a metal mixing bowl in the fridge to chill for whipping your cream later.  Put the first four ingredients in a saucepan.  Heat over medium heat, whisking and blending as it warms and becomes smooth and fully incorporated.  Turn off and remove from burner, allow time to cool well.  I like to just put it on the porch railing outside for a bit if it's really cold. Once chilled, take your metal bowl out of the fridge and pour in the cream, then whip it into beautiful pillows of  fluff.  Bring your chocolate mixture over and gently fold it into the cream.  Place it in the fridge to wait as you heat up your milk.

Once you have your milk hot, place a generous dollop of the the chocolate cream in each cup.  Pour your milk in, give just a little bit of a stir, and take a satisifying sip.  This is the most creamy, heavenly cup of chocolate you'll find anywhere... umm... ummm..... ummmm........

(I'm under the weather today, so I'll post a personal photo later... my apologies - but trust me, the cocoa more than makes up for it.)

Shared with Far Above Rubies, Time Warp Wife, We Are That Family, and GNOWFGLINS

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Early Christmas Memories

Like our parents before us, my husband and I definitely had our struggling first years - college debt, entry level pay, two babies before our 2nd anniversary, major surgery w/o insurance that first year (more debt), a decision made as a child for me to be a stay-at-home Mom, but lived out in the real world of grown ups now. Put simply, times were tight and everything was accounted for.

Although I am the oldest of six children, sadly, I didn't come to my marriage with a great many culinary skills. Essentially, I could basically make around three dishes that served eight, so when I made spaghetti my husband and I would be eating it for a week.  Poor M!  I would buy milk by fours - one in the fridge, three in the freezer.  It was an adjustment cooking for two, but living frugally and from scratch was my rich inheritance.  One of the treasures that my Mom passed on to me was her North American Cook Book.  It looked old when she gave it to me, and I knew it would serve me dependably as a much-needed guide.  The cover has held up well over the years, but the inside binding came loose long ago; and although I don't exactly recall doing so, I must have attempted to re-glue the pages back in.  Most are solidly affixed to the spine, albeit not exactly aligned with one another.  Maybe one of my kids did that.

To me, this book was the sacred writ of domesticity.  Like many cookbooks of its time, it was written in rather cryptic fashion with succinct instructions such as, 'put chicken in a hot oven.'  Um... What?!  I'd include in my allotted monthly-hour's-worth of call*  a clarification from Mom to find that everyone knows a hot oven is a standard 350 degrees.  I pored over the drawings and diagrams of various meats, trying to educate myself on how to cut up a chicken.  Never did manage that one well, but I found it saved the day to roast them or boil them whole.

Of course, for Christmas we had very little extra.  I don't just mean money for gifts.  I mean what we had in the house was what I had to work with.  No mixer. No rolling pin. No wisk.  And if we couldn't eat it, I didn't have the luxury of running out to buy it.  So for those first Christmases, I made our own gifts for our families.  Enter the North American Cook Book.  Homemade fudges (chocolate and penuche), divinity, peanut brittle, rolls of noughat covered in pecans, gingerbread pigs, and sugar cookies painted with care and artistry.  I must have read these instructions fifty times, determined to break the code:
Fudges are made up of tiny crystals; the finer the crystals, the smoother the fudge. Beating initiates the growth of crystals, and if crystal formation takes place early, they will be large.  Avoid excess stirring while cooking, and do not beat or agitate the cooling syrup after cooking until it has reached the correct temperature for beating.  The use of brown sugar, syrup, cream of tartar, or vinegar in a candy mixture tends to retard crystallization of the syrup; butter and cream also have this effect.  Always choose fudge recipes which contain at least one of these ingredients.
So... should I beat or not - and when?  I couldn't afford to make a mistake, and this was clearly a lesson in chemistry impeding my attempts to create candies of perfection!  Armed with three wooden spoons (each broken in succession) and two bowls, I did as I best I could. Somehow, I managed, and shipped off my delicacies with homely pride and satisfaction.

Our tree was another area I felt the challenge to pinch pennies while making our apartment a festive home.  M was able to bring home two boxes of store-bought ornaments, bright globes of iridescence against the evergreen tree, and twinkling strings of multi-colored lights.  Still, I longed for a more personal touch.  I popped corn and painstakingly strung it with thread, draping it over the tree - just like home.  Then, I experimented with mixing up flour and water.  No rolling pin, remember?  So I patted my dough out into the most uniform thickness I could master, cutting shapes from the fairly even plane with a butter knife, and baking them to hardness.  Bringing out my watercolor paints, I applied layers of color, striving to build up the most intense pigments possible, then coating them with clear nail polish to preserve and add a glisten. A few of my treasures have survived the years to adorn our Christmas tree even this year, although faded with time, still bearing the bumpy imprint of my palms and the homemade mark of loving industry.

My oldest daughter picked up the North American Cook Book the other morning, flipping through the stubborn pages, finding the treasures within.  Her eyes lit up, and my heart warmed within me.  I'm thinking French Hot Chocolate - but that's for my next post.

Shared at Simple Lives Thursday, Works for Me Wednesday, and Ramblings of a Christian Mom

*Yes, young mothers, we paid by the minute back then - and long distance meant each minute was more precious - and consequently, more expensive.  No internet either!
** The second year, I borrowed a neighbor's mixer and burned it out.  Wound up having to buy two - one to replace her's and the other my very first. ;D

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Perfect Gift for Writers

A pad of paper lies on my bedside stand, but I've never been able to establish the habit of jotting middle of the night thoughts down there, probably out of a desire not to disturb my sleeping husband.  I used to walk through the dark into the schoolroom down the hallway, not bothering to turn on a light as I scribbled down to-do lists that would not let me rest, cogitations that I hoped would make sense in the morning. Then I could quietly return to my bed and the sleep of unburdened peace.  At some point we removed that board, but I think it would be good to return it to its well appointed and sensible spot.

I've had myriads of notebooks over the years, of course; as many as six at a time placed in various strategic places awaiting deposits of creativity as they strike me.  But this simply seems to create a jumble of what are already chaotic snatches.  Sigh...

I have a smart-phone, and my most used app is the notepad.  I don't really like hen-pecking out my memory joggers, but when it's all I've got - better to save my reflections there than allow them to vaporize.  I also carry a little mini black composition book in my purse - three for a dollar, and one of the best purchases I've made within the past five years.  I often have my girls take dictation of whatever is on my mind while I'm driving - phone calls, grocery lists, cryptic blog ideas.

However, the shower has always been my most fertile plot for original thought, and therein lies my dilemma of frustration.  With wet hands, I try to keep a grip on my meditations, repeating key phrases and attempting to arrange them in some sort of anagrammatical order as I lather and rinse.  They slip away faster than a silky bar of soap.  The tighter my desperate attempts to cling to them, it seems the more uncertain my grip will be.  Foam, bubbles, a lingering scent are all that remain of but a few.  I'm lucky if I still have hold of a solid sliver when I get out and am able to find a pencil to scribble something down.

And so I recently went in search of the answer to my particular predicament and found two websites that offer exactly what I am in need of:  AquaNotes and Rite in the Rain.  They seem to be close in price and are both environmentally friendly!  AquaNotes does have the "benefit" of suction cups used to attach the notepad (and one for the included pencil as well) to the shower wall.  I say "benefit" simply because I've found those little suckers to be an unreliable bunch, haven't you?  Still, it is a thoughtful touch and particularly suited to my need for retaining ideas while washing - if they work.  

Put this on my list, Santa! (Along with that Moravian Star....)

Linked at Time Warp Wife, Far Above Rubies, We Are That Family, and Simple Lives Thursday

Monday, December 5, 2011

Review: Building the Bonds of Attachment

This book was recommended to me by a friend.  It has been such a source of light and reassurance for me.  We adopted our daughters seven and a half years ago.  Many of the suggestions and explanations for this parent-based/therapist assisted approach to helping children work through their issues and come to a point of trusting another person have been how my husband and I have dealt with all of our children.  The depths of importance this holds in helping an abused or neglected child sink all the deeper. If you read this book, no doubt many of you will find this highly counter-cultural. I particularly appreciated Stephen's role (the social worker) in the book.  His observations and questions, as well as honest, contrasting thoughts mirrored so much what I have felt I was/am dealing with.  He provided the voice that says, "Are you sure?" "Wouldn't it be better to...?" And served as counter-point for almost every decision made, providing an opportunity for explanation of reason.  What we do cannot be understood from the other side, although he was open to learning.  Oftentimes, he felt that a softer, gentler approach would better serve the child. It takes a tremendous amount of faith and love to retain the dedication of seeing the course through with a hurt child, and sometimes it looks very different than the "norm."

I found immense comfort and support here.  I'm not a perfect Mom by any stretch, but it is my life's calling and I've always felt it to be a true honor.  Many of the precepts found within this book are guidelines and decisions that I have made purposely with all of my children, before and after adoption was added to my mothering role.  For instance, early on I truly wrestled with how to handle the issue of praise and pride.  Celebrating accomplishments and cheering on advances are natural responses as your little ones grow and learn.  However, I didn't want them to develop any sort of idea that my love for them was dependent upon their success, nor an unhealthy inner teeter-totter of self-esteem that rose and fell with scores and accolades.  I chose to focus on loving them, lavishly and sincerely.  I was honest in assessments and feedback, aiming for gentleness in truth, looking for something to highlight. I rather avoided the words proud or pride as a rule, and praise was aimed at encouraging an inner eye to their own character, nature, and workings.  This book understands the intricate importance of such a large subject and doesn't agree with the common knee-jerk reaction of puffing our children up with false accolades so that they don't know the meaning and rewards of work, effort, and consummation.   Attainment of goals, simple contentment from doing your very best even if the mark fell short, or the self-awareness that no, you really didn't try as hard as you could have, all these are appreciations that must be acquired by striving - nobody presents them to us pre-packaged.  Knowing yourself comes through the grunts and strains on the wrestling mat, not the smooth hand off of a relay match.  For a child who was deprived of healthy, vital attention these are understandings all the more difficult to teach down the road.  Thank God we are here to try.

This book has also helped to open my eyes and heart to some of the maddening behaviors we are currently dealing with. ;D  From our first meeting, I have felt the myriad of questions accompany each puzzle and cloud.  Is it me?  Personality clashes?  Character issues?  The past which is a fog to me, and I don't know what to them?  Adoption related?  Growing up pains?  The recognition and resonance with what I live with brought me deeper clarity and understanding.  I am very grateful for this resource, and recommend it to all families, especially adoptive families - and those who love them.

Shared at Above Rubies, Time Warp Wife, Works for Me Wednesday, Simple Lives Thursday

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Generational Curses

Eventually, given the time and the money most people end up in therapy (or many could at least benefit from it.)  The circumstances warranting it are always available.  I don't know anyone who was raised in a perfectly wholesome home with a problem-less family and grew up to be a dysfunction-free person.  We all have issues, and for the most part I'd say this is with good reason.

Tragedy strikes, bombs blow up, trust is broken, struggles are stuffed, resolutions are abandoned, temptations mislead, life and people fail us; and at some point we fall through for someone else as well.  We cut and bleed.  Our broken-ness hurts, and it all too often nicks and slices at others too.  This is part of the human condition, common to all mankind, at least as old as Cain and Abel.  

I am a proponent of counseling - with a caveat.  I guess counselors fall within the realm of  "them."  By that I mean dentists, doctors, car mechanics, real estate agents, teachers, police officers, politicians, massage therapists, waiters, authors, landscapers, and on and on.  Mankind, basically.  I approach all strangers with a balance of respect and reserve, holding my judgement and trust until I know them better and can decide on whether my confidence will be well-placed with them.  In counseling we deal with our most inner self and how we engage with the rest of the world.  So my caveat is that a submission and honor for the One who made us be foundational within this examination.  I've lived life and done my share of self-reflection and ponderings on both sides of that line.  

Oftentimes, I find that this crucial element (like in prayer) falls through the cracks.  The realm of psychology has led us to greater understanding of ourselves, to be sure; but if we leave behind a grasp of God in whose image we are formed, our healing and self-identity will remain incomplete.  This is not a mistake made by unbelievers alone.  I have heard and read much being made of the subject of generational curses.  What hold is closer than that of family?  On whom do we most depend from our earliest beginnings?  From where and whom do we come?  And from whom could our betrayal cut most deep?

Paul spent a good deal of time with people of all kinds, both Jews and Greeks.  In Acts 17 we find him greatly distressed by the rampant pervasiveness of idolatry in this city, and we also see that this location is a gathering arena for discussing all the latest, newest, most cutting edge thoughts of the day.  The two were thriving rather hand in hand, it seems: the search for answers to all of life's questions and the vast number of theories, reasonings, heroes, and things that we can come up with.  As Paul speaks, he is bringing a concept that is new even to these front-runners of thoughts.  He is explaining to them how this message was not only from The Beginning, but dove-tails perfectly into all their missing slots.  This is the the gospel, and he wants to introduce them to the One for whom they are searching.

I find these words particularly stunning: "For in Him, we live and move and have our being... We are His offspring."  Among this worship circle of things other than Christ, amidst the shiniest thoughts of the moment, between the ties even of blood relation, he illumines our identity as image-bearers of God in whose hands we twist and turn.  

No wound, no wound, not even that made by the betrayal of one who should have loved and cared for you, is beyond the healing power of Jesus.  Far as the curse is found.... as far back, as far forward, as far deep.  Yes, as far as the curse is found.

Oh! What a Savior...

Shared at Simple Lives Thursday, Works For Me Wednesdays, Far Above Rubies

Monday, November 21, 2011

Generational Prayer

I have been a pray-er since before I even knew my Savior.  Something just seemed so right about having a conversation with the One who made me, who knew me, who I could hide nothing from (pretty big for a kid with with major lying issues,) and who I felt understood me better than anyone else could. I trusted Him enough to at least listen, even if I wasn't ready to hand over complete control of my life to Him.  Now I know that during those years, although He listened, His response was always lovingly the same, "when are you going to really come to Me?"  While I scraped and dug at rocky, dry dirt in my one-sided conversations, He held the key to transforming it all into rich, loamy soil.

Since that night when I finally acknowledged Him in surrender, the time I spend praying within any given 24 hour time period has grown proportionally larger by the season.  The comfort and strength that I draw from prayer has grown deeper and richer as my reliance upon this conversation with my Lord overtakes my life with greater pervasiveness.  Not long ago, I came to a fuller, more beautiful understanding of prayer after a very long time of wonderings, askings, contemplation, and discussions with others.

You see, I have three nephews.  They are sons to my sister who has been with the Lord coming on twelve years now.  And although I do not live close to them, I have marveled over the years to what degree I have felt and seen the Lord's covering over them.  How was this?  Why was this?  I mean, their mother has not been there to raise them as Christians for quite some time now, and their lives have been largely void of the active teachings of Christ ever since.

We see in movies and hear in stories this other common belief: "I will always be with you," says the dying person.  And many left behind cling to this thought, creating a sort of love amulet of their memory.  "My (fill in the blank) is watching over me." They attempt to draw strength, hope, comfort, even guidance from this idea that their dear departed remains behind in some form to show them the way.  I'm not discounting our shared love for one another which surpasses even death.  However, sometimes I feel God plays second fiddle to our loved ones' essence.  I know my sister would agree with me in stepping back from so dangerous a mistake.  Still, how and why do I see this covering?

The answer I found lay in the nature of God and the power of prayer. My nephews once had a praying mother.

God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  Our concept of time is not His.  He is not limited or confined by the passage of years as we are.  Time simply does not provide boundaries for Him as it does for us.

Prayer is our conversation with Him.  In His tenderness, this is the way in which He has provided for us to connect to Him.  He instructs us to cry out, to call on Him, to confide our secrets, desires, hopes, cares, and longings.  He holds out His hands for us to place it all with Him for safe-keeping. And so, I understood at last.  My sister's prayers, her entrusting of her children's lives to our God, they became of an eternal nature because they were placed in the care of an eternal God.  Those conversations, our prayers, we think of them as something that is happening in the here and now, but when given over to Jesus they are no longer bound by these temporal holds.  Our troubles and concerns are now under the ministrating authority of the One who is I AM.  So the whispers on bent knees of a mother were lovingly consecrated as they flew from her heart to His throne, and they did not die when she did.

So I will plow this life on my knees in prayer all the more. Let this be an encouragement to you to do the same.  There is power in prayer and now I understand more than ever before: truly, truly, from our lips to God's ears....

Linked to Growing Home, Far Above Rubies, We Are That Family, Ramblings of a Christian Mom, and Simple Lives Thursday

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Tomatillos and Chilis

I've had a few bags in my fridge that have been awaiting my attention.  I tried my hand at growing my own tomatillos this past summer, but all I got was this large sprawling plant loaded with beautifully delicate empty little paper lanterns.  It looked like I had fruit galore, but each time I tried to pick one it was only to find that it held an illusion.  In my local grocery stores, finding tomatillos in healthy abundance is also a challenge.  So when I came across a nice load in the produce section recently, I bagged up a bunch.

We all have to agree that homemade anything is best, right?  Well  I suspect that these strange looking green globes covered in their own paper wrapping are off-putting for a lot of folks. What do you do with them?  I am here to help you out, so take my hand and leap into the unbelievably delicious world of fresh chile verde.

Seriously, making a simple verde sauce is easy-peasy.  I started with around 1.5 lbs of tomatillos.  Remove their papers, wash them well in cold water, and cut in halves.   Drop those babies into a small stockpot.   Add garlic to taste (that's 6 cloves for us), 1/2 a large onion, sliced, and two de-veined and seeded serrano chilis.

Cover with water and bring to a regular boil, continue that for eight minutes.  Drain and let your blender do the work after dropping the lot in, and adding a bit of salt and pepper to taste.  In your stockpot, splash in a few tablespoons of olive oil, and return your nice blend to it, cooking for five minutes.  I chopped up about 1/2 cup of cilantro and squeezed in 1/2 a lime.

You can use this over enchiladas, in burritos, or it makes a delicious verde sauce for cubed pork.  I froze mine and will whip it out for a winter weekend of ready made zing.

The finished product - it would make my mother-in-law proud!

I also had a stunning bevy of serrano chilis, courtesy of a dear friend who grew them for their beauty - but their family doesn't eat them.  Good for me and mine!  I split, seeded, and de-veined them, then threw them in the freezer.  For those of you who are a bit leery of such a process, let me assure you it is really quite simple.  First of all and very important, you must be sure to wear latex gloves!  Then you may proceed with confidence; slice off the stem end and cut a slit down the center.  I used to use my knife to trim the membranes from inside and remove all the seeds.  Now, I just run my finger inside and scrape out the inner ribs, run some water over them to rinse out all the stuff I don't want.  This makes short shift of a rather peppery job.  Another piece of advice - don't open your mouth to talk, and keep a glass of water nearby.  The fumes and vapors of chiles are powerfully potent!  Now I easily have a winter's supply to throw in my cooking pot to enrich black-eyed peas, chilis, salsas, etc.

Aren't they just GORGEOUS?

Shared with Domestically Divine, Works For Me Wednesdays, and Simple Lives Thursday

Monday, October 31, 2011

Review: Goodnight, Mister Tom

Our family loves movies.  One of the things we miss most about having my youngest son away at college is the role he plays as our Movie Guru.  When home, he would keep us in a regular routine of mixing up both old and new films, having done the research and reviewing so that we rarely met with a rude surprise that necessitated popping out the film and changing our evenings plans when we'd all looked forward to settling into a movie night.  I seem to have taken his place in his absence, but I am nowhere near his level of smooth supply.  We recently cancelled our Netflix subscription, which I never kept up with, and so I resort to bringing home something from our local library every so often. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't.  This past weekend, I lucked out with a true find.

The film was titled Goodnight, Mister Tom.  On the back of the DVD case, the synopsis was general enough for me to announce that I wouldn't take it personally if the family vetoed my offering once we got underway, and we each nestled hopefully into our spots on our big couch.  Our story appeared to be a classic and familiar one: an old man has grown bitter, selfish, and cynical over the years, then suddenly has a child in need thrust upon him.  We giggled with the squirming struggle of discomfort as each found themselves in a relationship of necessity.  We have seen and heard other stories like this; however, when the boy (Will) has to confess that he has wet the bed during the night, we began to sense a deeper conflict at work.  And when the old man, Mister Tom, instructs the boy to remove his wet things, the camera's angle showed us what cannot be seen yet by the older gentleman - the marks of abuse on the child's back.  Our hearts jumped in pity and I gasped, and what began as a movie night of entertainment quickly shifted and drew us in to care and feel for the wrongs mankind does to one another, and the power we have to minister to each other and be changed in the process.

This is a film that many adoptive families will be able to identify with, although you should preview it to best judge if your child is prepared to see, wrestle with, and discuss the issues raised.  At one point, Will is called to return to his mother in the city, and her disturbed and sick treatment of her son and newborn child is very disturbing.  Overall, however, this is a story of hope.  It should serve as a catalyst for conversations about mental health, abandonment, abuse, trauma, healing, love, and transformation. These are subjects many of us must wrestle with, personally, or alongside our children.  Goodnight, Mr. Tom was a timely surprise, and a gentle tool to work hope into the lives we live.  

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Halloween 2011

Halloween is not only a controversial subject among Christians, it has also been an area that I have wrestled with for at least the past fifteen years.  I grew up in a home where Halloween was not only an opportunity to get a bagful of treats (a rarity in our diet), but it was also a fun invitation to dress up using whatever we had around the house, calling on all of our creative impulses.  Once I grew up, married, and had kids, I'd still joined in by playing the part of a Mommy-mummy, pregnant hippy, gypsy, etc. as I met the challenge of dressing my children up and showing them how we didn't need to spend a lot of money to join in the merriment.

After giving my life to Christ as a Mommy, I began the process of trying to come to some sort of peace about this particular holiday.  I know I'm not alone in this.  I probably would have just turned off the lights and played games with my kids in our family room like many other families have chosen to do; however, my husband was not on board with the withdrawal tactic so I had to come up with some sort of compromise.  What worked for us was a progression of options.  First, we tossed out all scary characters.  You could be any kind of animal, super hero, role model, etc. so there were lots was options still available.  If there was a local church hosting a fall festival we attended there for the evening.  I prefer that choice over trick-or-treating (the other possibility) because it allowed my kids to both see other personalities as well as be seen, amounted to less candy to bring home, and the cast of masqueraders was communally of a milder nature.  No gore, no gross, no goblins.  I'm happy and so are my kids.

Bottom line for us was the fun of dressing up.  In fact, at one point my oldest boys felt too cool for Halloween.  I went out into the darkness of our neighborhood night with their younger brother that year while they stayed home to hand out candy.  A year or so later, their interest in Japanese anime and the chance to play their favorite characters proved too much.   Out the three went in orange and blue costumes with their hair gelled into crazy spikes and sprayed silver and gold.  They had a blast!

My girls have a public speaking club they participate in this year, and this week they had to dress up as a favorite author, book or movie character, or historical person.  They whipped up their costumes in a few hours before we had to leave.  I thought they looked great, don't you?  Can you guess who this is sitting outside prior to Gavel Club?

The Mad Hatter and Princess Leia

Have a safe, family-fun Halloween!

Monday, October 24, 2011

As It Ought To Be

One of the best things about working as a greeter at church is it allows you time to get to know other people a little bit better.  It seems to contain all the possibilities of airplane seat brevity yet intimacy, bundled up with the expectations of the open-ness to be found in God's family.  Not always, of course - but the possibilities are there.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of welcoming others to worship alongside a proud Papa, only ten months old.  All I had to do was mention his adorable little girl and the smile deepened, the chest swelled, and the telling began.  I asked is she's walking yet, and he launched into a tale of love.  Describing a recent afternoon when he was reclining on the family room couch, his daughter decided she wanted his full attention.  Crying out to him, her arms lifted in appeal.
"Come on," he coaxed, and she scooted over to the edge of the sofa, pulled herself up, and creeped along in unsteady determination to reach her goal, cheered on by one whose eyes were filled with delight.  Once close enough, she was rewarded by being swooped up, coddled and kissed for simply being his precious child.

"That's so wonderful," I smile, my heart mixing memories with the present, "every child deserves to be loved like that."

"How could anyone not?" he asks with youthful innocence.  My smile remains, but my eyes turn a little sad.  Indeed.  If only all the Mamas and the Papas loved their children as this father and I.

This song is for my children.  The melody carries the lightness of a tune sung to a little one, but a true parent knows that our children never really grow old in our eyes. The lilting words speak of the love our Father holds in His heart for us, his dearly treasured ones.  They rise and fall like our own attempts to love Him back as He shows us how.  They provide a pattern of how it truly ought to be, how I so wish I were all of the time, and what I inch along towards with unsteady but determined steps.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Mediterranean Greens

I have been trying my spoon at cooking up Greens lately. Here in the South, they are a favorite of long standing I am told.  However, my family, (of a more, shall we say "refined" taste, as I do not allow picky eaters to my table) has been less than enthusiastic with the resulting attempts. Lucky for them, I press on.

For tonight's main course: I cooked up a pot of wonderful tomato-y goodness today, throwing in browned beef, zucchini chunks, and fresh basil.  We'll have these over portobello mushroom caps with a sprinkling of cheese.  Although I am a stickler for proper English and refuse to dumb down even my texting - whatever did we do before the word "Yummo!"?

For our green side dish, I looked online for something that an authentic Italian would serve with pride.  I wasn't duly impressed, but my mind/mouth/tummy connection began working.  Here is the resulting dish, which I think will serve to impress my familial epicurean audience:

Mediterranean Greens

Healthy splashing of extra virgin olive oil in a generous-sized saute pan
1 organic red onion, sliced fine
16 oz. Bag of Nature's-Greens (Earth Fare), blend of mustard and turnip greens
8 gloves of diced garlic
1/2 cup of pitted Kalamata olives, cut into quarters
1 lemon, juiced
Salt, to taste

Heat the oil and add the red onion, sauteeing until nicely wilted.  Add the greens a handful or two at a time as they cook down.  Throw in the garlic and olives, allowing to cook for a minute or two more as you saute.  Pour 1/2 of the lemon juice over it all.  Stir to distribute well and salt as you like it.  Save the last of the lemon juice to let your eaters sprinkle over just before eating so as to give it the freshest sparkle of taste.  Maybe add a dash of red pepper flakes?

Oh so healthy and Nummy, nummy, nummy... another word-string I've come to love.

Monday, October 17, 2011

My Smart Grey Gloves

Well, my little family (it always seems I feel the absence of those who are not with us) went up to Asheville this past weekend.  There's nothing nicer when the temperatures start to drop than to take a drive into the mountains and see the changing leaves of Autumn.  I'm pretty sure it's my favorite season.  The colors just come alive with vibrancy and seem to smile back at you.

I know some people just love Asheville, especially the young and/or artsy, something like the Durango or Manitou Springs (both of CO), but of NC; and it is a beautiful city, I have to say.  But it's so spiritually oppressive; I can only take so much.  I guess it's that way in just about any place that has a good deal of granola crunch.  I'd love to find a town that had the sort of appreciation and embrace for nature, the environment, and the earth - yet holds a holy reverence for the Creator as well.  And by that I mean God the Father, Christ our Savior, and the Holy Spirit, of course. I've often wondered what it's like for Christians living there.  I visited a church on a visit there, once.  It was an awesome experience, and I just adored the varied paintings of a local artist gracing the walls of the foyer; they were such a glorifying testimony to the Lord and humanity.  I remain encouraged by that memory.

We've developed a few traditions we enjoy repeating when we are able to head north of a visit. The Lab is probably our favorite restaurant.  They have a fresh menu that is varied, unique, and always delicious. We've often stopped there if we only have one meal to enjoy during a day of browsing the shops.  And we simply cannot leave without a stop by The Chocolate Lounge.  I have looked for some place akin to French Broad elsewhere within NC so that I might enjoy a similar indulgence elsewhere within the state as I drive here and there.  So far, it stands alone.  If you ever get the chance, you simply have to drop in!  Creme brulees, ice-creams, cakes, chocolates, and wonderful coffee served in adorable little handmade mugs.  Deliciously divine....

And sometimes I find a little something special to take home with me.  This particular trip I stumbled across these adorable and very practical gloves.  (Another group of things I love are gloves, caps, and scarves.) When winter comes in a few months and I need to use my smart phone, I won't have to force my fingers to endure the frostiness of the cold.  The light grey tips on these are screen sensitive!  And now that you know about them, you have a great idea for a Christmas gift...


Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Good Samaritan's Science Retreat

We've had some sizeable things hit the fan around our house lately.   When I begin a post with words like that, so trite but true, I feel tempted to go back and rewrite them later.  I want to say what I mean, but in a way that is both original and more palatable; after all, everyone knows what hits the fan in this American proverb.  But I'm going to let this one stay as is.  Sometimes the cliche works.

Months ago, back in the summer, I'd agreed to attend Greg Landry's "Mom's Science Retreat" with a friend.  When everything of recent was coming to it's most intense pitch within our home, I immediately thought, "I can't go!"  After a few days of dust settling, I uncertainly went to my husband, "Can I still go?"

"When do you leave?" he asked.

I had no idea what to expect, really.  Imagining that my friend and I (of a more emotional, touchy-feeley bent) would have to spend a good deal of our time sitting around listening to a bunch of Mommy Science nerds, S and I headed out on the planned trip.  And so it was that I packed up and escaped for three days of rest, marvel, and distraction from my daily life up in the beauty of autumn in the North Carolina mountains.  We arrived just in time to join the line for dinner, a gathering of forty or so other mothers.  We came singly or in groups of two or more, but we were all clearly so thankful to be there. Some were those moms for whom science is their favorite subject, but there were plenty of others for whom science feels like a foreign language.  We spent the majority of our time over that evening and the next few days learning about atoms and molecules; cells, osmosis, and diffusion; light and chromatography; conducting dissections of cow eyeballs, sheep hearts, lungs, and uteruses. The hands-on experiments we went through were experienced through the filter of God's creative and miraculous design - imagine that!  Even the most un-scientifically minded of us were moved by our Creator's hand and plan in the physical world around and within us.  The taste of Science was sweetened by a focus on our Father.

But as often happens, the best part of my time was the completely unexpected.  After dinner that first evening, Greg addressed us and then prayed for us.  His heart for homeschooling and his love and appreciation for our efforts within our individual families to lead and guide our children was unbelievably honoring.  I know every woman there was moved.  It is not a message we hear very often, and it washed like water over thirsty hearts much in need of encouragement.  He then proceeded to allow us time to introduce ourselves.  Now that could be seen as a very foolish thing to do with a roomful of such a great number of women!  But there was not a hint of rush, or moving us along, a reminder of the time. Our moment was our own.  What simple dignity there was in this.

Although this was a trip with an emphasis on igniting a fire for the revelation of Science, equally present was the purpose for this to be a retreat.  There was all the tea, coffee, and hot chocolate we wanted available to us any hour of the day or night.  The meals were all generous and delicious, and everyone knows women talk as much as they eat during meal times, especially when they are getting to know one another or trying to catch up on things. We were given an ample hour for breakfast, an hour and a half for lunch, and an hour for dinner.  During the various afternoons, I got a nap, a walk, and a hike in as each most benefited me.  The last night we gathered for a pajama party, discussing curriculum, and books, and our lives.  I was most blessed during this time in the mountains by those conversations with other women where we confided portions of the walk we have shared with the Lord.  We ministered to one another with the bonds of sisterhood, empathizing with shared valleys of experience, sympathizing and encouraging one another by trials withstood or currently endured with our Savior's strength.  In vulnerability, hearts were laid bare and probed, and our spiritual lives pulsed and beat in common purpose.

I was reminded of the parable of the good Samaritan.  I've no doubt that there were some within our group who came like me: stripped, beaten, and feeling in great need of succor and strength.  In the eyes, hands, and words of others, I was mercifully cleansed, bandaged, and received healing ointments.  I sought as well to be that good one who glorified the Lord in loving Him with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength, as well as my neighbors at Laurel Ridge.  I know that Greg and the other teachers planned this retreat at least a year ago.  The ladies who came did so either climbing over various obstacles or neatly sliding this slot into their personal schedule.  It doesn't matter. His timing was perfect, and we were all there according to His design and plan.  Jesus' parable was illustrated in full living color this past week, and I am so thankfully refreshed.

Now as Jesus commanded us, let us all go and do likewise.


I'm sharing this at Above Rubies, We Are That Family, and Simple Lives Thursday

Saturday, September 17, 2011

This is the road I am on right now.  My arms feel like lead weights as I type.  I am a numb cliche'.  I can't help it.

Life is particularly difficult right now.  God is so good.  On Him alone do my hope and trust rest.

I don't have a good camera or the time or talent to know how to take good photos for my posts right now.  But when I look for one on google images after I've written, my mind often searches for familiar ones, like windows and doors, clouds and skies, the world and the road.


Monday, August 29, 2011

Eco-Dent Floss

When we moved into our current home about thirteen years ago, the surrounding area looked very different.  I joke that quite often we want to buy a place and then say, "Now stop!  No more building!"  If we only had the power.  I was encouraged, however, when our town called a nine-month-moratorium on building about ten years ago, taking a breath to consider how development should take place going forward.  Since then, we've seen an additional neighborhood, three shopping complexes, and a hospital built on our exit.  A fourth shopping complex was laid out as well, bareness beyond its streets and curbs as it awaited further construction.  I wrote Trader Joe's and personally invited them to set up shop.

Recently, a decision was made and Earth Fare decided to set down roots here.  I still favor TJ's, but EF is an ok second.  It'll do.  While making my maiden trip to the store recently, I discovered a wonderful alternate choice for dental floss.  The plastic containers of my current options pain me to toss away after each usage.  Eco-Dent to the rescue!  The outside is an environmentally friendly option made of cardboard, so I was quite happy to give this a go.  I have been 100% pleased and will not go back to the others.  The price is highly comparable to the other flosses on my neighborhood drug store shelves, and I can feel a whole lot better about the aftermath of my need to floss for good dental care.  It was so nifty!  Everything is contained within the box.  Once I brought it home and opened the top, I simply pulled a bit of the floss out, slipped the spool back inside, and closed the top while leaving the floss to run through a small opening.  Just like "real" floss!  The following is a list of further benefits of this product: 

• Vegan waxed using rice bran – light and smooth to glide easily between teeth
• Nylon, not silk – silk production involves chemical sterilization
• Refreshing, long-lasting clean mint taste
• Economical – 100 yards per package, up to 300% more floss per package than other brands
• Ecological – plastic-free, paper-fiber packaging is recyclable and bio-degradable
• Just double it up and use as dental tape – same action, less costly

Evidently, Eco-Dent offers a number of other products as well.  I will most certainly search them out and try them.  Good for me + Good for the planet = A Good Choice.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Why I Rise In the Night's Hours

When my kids were younger, I would sometimes find myself in conversation with an older mother who foreshadowed the days ahead with words of warning.  "It only gets harder." "You have no idea the things you will come up against." "This season cannot last." 
And my personal favorite, "You can count on at least one of them breaking your heart."

Don't say that! I shouted in my head as I looked back into eyes that seemed to possess a knowing that I could not completely discount.  Their story need NOT be mine.  They didn't know all of this as a fact.  And even if it were to be (and I wasn't convinced of this,) I did not want to 'go there' until that day came.  

I am here to tell you with all gentleness and love.  It is true.

It does get harder.  How little did I appreciate the fullness held within my own feeble frame to soothe a tired child, being able to run my hand up and down a back receptive to my ministrations, the proverbial kiss and band-aid that was able to speed the healing of all things.  I thought I did, at least; but oh how much more there was in those small things.  I wish to wring out every drop of sweetness in even one of those precious moments and sip of it again.  The days pass, weaving intricate complexities and variations into our children's once unadulterated character while they learn to navigate the entanglements and convolutions of this world we walk in.

You will not be able to predict or envision all you will come up against in the days to come.  While we all begin our roles in parenting as babes ourselves, eyes wide with surprise or bleary from lack of sleep, we enter this realm with a definitive upper hand.  We at least come prepared with the experiences of our childhoods to draw from in a not-so-distant past.  And with the passing of years, our confidence and hopefully wisdom grows with steadily acquired familiarity. That is a good thing, because you will need it in order to navigate the wilds that no other person knows - only that there will be these uncharted wilds.

This season of story books and nursery rhymes, strollers and wagons, jump ropes and jacks, simple adding and subtracting of gummy bears and grapes, dishing out plates and teaching them to clean up after themselves,  listening to the simple wisdom and foolishness of a child, knowing that you hold the keys to so, so much and are their doorway to it all.  This can not last forever. You know the fleetingness of it even as you hold them in your arms, but you can not know how it will feel for it to actually be 'the past'; even as you know it will be.  This is a bittersweet truth.  I know you know this one probably more than all the others, but still - treasure it while it is the day.  If you do so, another deeper season can arise to replace it.

That last one, yes, it is true as well.  I attest to you that if you love them well, each and every one of them will break your heart.  If you share in their burdens and sorrows, their struggles and failures, their learning to reconcile their childhood hopes and dreams with the realities of a life and death struggle on the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual plane we call adulthood - your heart will be broken and you will know your powerlessness in a way that you never knew it before.  However, you will also know your Savior in a way that only comes through this long-suffering passage of time and trust.  

You can still be the one who whispers words of assurance and consolation, sharing tears of pain and applying succor for healing.  As portended devils and calamities strike, you can meet them with the confidence that comes from knowing the One to whom they could never sneak up on unawares, and who assures with confidence that His strength is mightier than any monster. Your season can be one of valiant courage whereby every drop of your knee in stumbling helpless aid results in prayer, and rising comes by a strength greater than that you fell with.  You will know the broken-heartedness of those who love with eternal hope.

For some time now, He has woken me in the night's hours to deepen my experience of this season.  I rise to spend time with my Lord, Master, King, Provider, Guide, Enabler, Comforter, Teacher, Example, Lover, Savior, Redeemer.  I join Him in a quiet hour or so, doing battle for, pouring my heart out for, and loving my children: in this harder, unpredictable season of heartbreaking love.  Yesterday we sang these words of an old song, and I'd like to share them with you.  All the warnings the mothers gave are true; but I am here to tell you - He's here and true as well.

  1. Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!
    The joys I feel, the bliss I share,
    Of those whose anxious spirits burn
    With strong desires for thy return!
    With such I hasten to the place
    Where God my Savior shows His face,
    And gladly take my station there,
    And wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!
  2. Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!
    Thy wings shall my petition bear
    To Him whose truth and faithfulness
    Engage the waiting soul to bless.
    And since He bids me seek His face,
    Believe His Word and trust His grace,
    I’ll cast on Him my every care,
    And wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

First Week Of School 2011

I've been waiting for this week for months now.  I'm usually the kind of mom who sort of whips my plans out of thin air just weeks prior to the start of the school year.  Yes, even after sixteen years.  Every March the wind seems to blow in with a great creative impetus for other mothers, causing them to begin ruminating over books and subjects.  As one turns to me and asks what I am doing next year, I am routinely caught by surprise.  July is absolutely the earliest you can expect me to even broach contemplation of the next year's academic endeavors.

However, for some reason ideas for this year began percolating back in March for me too!  I did my best to keep things on the back burner so we could finish out the year well and have a real summer, but I kept stirring those pots and checking on them as time went by.  I actually had at least half of it planned by July and felt quite satisfied with myself.  At least, I thought I did. Suddenly, one scenario evaporated, another boiled over, still others just tasted off and clearly needed seasoning adjustments.  And I was back to my old game plan of praying and pulling it together per usual.  Still, I came to it feeling a bit deflated after such a visionary start.

As a solid plan began taking shape, I remained non-plussed.  It didn't feel quite like the picture I had earlier imaginations of.  This would be fine, I contented myself.  What I found emerging was a certainty that although this was not my plan, it was His; and as such, it would be good.  GOOD in the way He makes things.  Of this I was sure, regardless of my misgivings.

We began this week.  The first day... well, although the girls enjoyed it, I know that they too felt something was different.  For myself, I can only describe it as spiritually oppressive.  At one point I actually went into my room and told Him, "I don't want to do this.  I don't mean just today.  I don't want to do this at all.  I really just want out."  I don't think I've ever felt quite like this in all my years of schooling - especially not on the first day!  Yet, I returned to my tasks and carried on.  He had my back.

I'm not sure just when, but at some point late in the day the darkness under which I'd stepped out and walked was gone.  As the light was fading outside in our unusually cool summer late afternoon, in our home it was the obscurity of my heart and mind that was giving way. He is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings grass from the earth.’*   

I don't understand all that is going on, but I do know this.  I wouldn't change a thing.

* II Samuel 23:4

Shared at Far Above Rubies, We Are That Family

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Lessons in Prayer: The Table

I had an evening out with some fellow Homeschool-Mamas recently.  The purpose was to evaluate the past year and prepare for the one that lies ahead.  We meet as a group on a monthly basis, mothers and daughters, to encourage one another in our relationships with eachother, to have fellowship, and to grow deeper in our walk.  We come from different places, have different family dynamics, and are facing different challenges.  What we have in common is a deep and intense desire to do right by our kids in the full light of our God.

It was an enjoyable evening of stories, commiserating, laughing, and caring.  Don't we all need that?  I always wind up coming away from times like these with a variety of "special somethings."  This time there was an expression that one of the Moms shared of something she has with her family on a regular basis.  They have an evening called, "Bring It To The Table."  I just love that!  It's a time set aside most especially for sharing those things that might easily never see the light of day, let alone our family - confessions and confidences given within the safety of the circle of the home's heart.

At the table eyes meet, conversation begins, we are nourished and refreshed.  From across our tables conflicts are resolved, accords are agreed upon, issues are debated, lives are knit together.

It made me think of prayer.  When you come before God in prayer, do you do this?  As I see it, there are two distinct counterparts to the balance of prayer.  One is this open, honest, pull it ALL out aspect of our time spent with Him.  Really, what is the point of communing with the Almighty if you're just going to play mind games with Him?  He already knows what you're hiding behind your back, or tucked away in a drawer, or shoved deep, deep, deep away in a cabinet somewhere so far away that you're not even sure you did it.  You did, and He knows. Say the words. Cover your own eyes if you must.  But drag it forth and plunk it down.  Bring it.

The correlation is the time given to listening.  A preliminary caution: if what you hear often sounds very like you, be careful.  It probably is.  What He has to say will always line up with His word, and many times you will find what He has to say right within its pages!  (yes, a little bit of sarcasm there ;D)

Some things we just seem to take eternity to really get, don't we?  I don't know how many moments there have been where I have prevailed upon Him with this same routine.  (He is so patient.)  I come with all my dark worries and troubles, like smashed toys and tattered clothes - I am one of those children who has very little hesitation in spilling all my broken-ness before my Abba.  With regret, I unwillingly admit to Him what comes with all this publication of my problems.  What is there within these pages that will speak to this mess?  I don't really think its there, not this time.

But with a tiny sliver of hope, I turn through the thin sheets, allowing my eyes to fall upon His words to me. And He speaks; in amazing, thrilling directness He responds to me.  He knew it all before I even laid it down, and this is what He has to say.  I am truly astonished every time.  A grateful smile spreads across my face as the knots loosen, replaced by the comfort and assurance I was so hoping would be there despite my doubts.

Don't you know He smiles too.

Shared with Works For Me WednesdaysSimple Lives Thursday and Far Above Rubies

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Self-Fulfilling Prophet

In our home, much is made of attitudes.  It seems we deal with them so often, especially in the area of parenting, teaching, and training.  Sometimes I am sure that my kids, especially the younger ones, think that their Mom and Pop do not even struggle with moods and the wayward lure of a mind trip down a dark road.  While it is true that our life's experiences have served as tools of conformity to His likeness, we still have much work to do with our remaining years.

The other night during my prayer vigil, I began reading the book of Jude.  I was struck by how he begins this letter.  After loving greetings, he shares that his intentions had originally been to speak about the salvation they share; however his thoughts have taken a turn and he now feels passionately led to encourage them as defenders of the faith.  I appreciated how this displayed an openness to what the Lord would have. Have you ever been there?  Had an idea, a plan, a course set - and then you found that the Lord had other plans?

One of the areas in my life where I find this happens routinely is in my prayers, especially those middle of the night hours when I come before the Lord with my deepest matters of the heart.  Some years ago I had a meaningful experience with how this often works.  My heart was heavy as I prepared to unburden myself before Him.  I had so many fears for a particular child of mine.  The struggles we were having gave my agitated imagination plenty to work with as I looked into the years ahead; and the more I allowed them to tumble around in my mind, the greater their solidity grew and the stronger the element of reality they took on.  But I began with a time of thanks and praise, as much to calm myself as anything else, I'm afraid.  I have to admit that because of the heaviness of my concerns, I was less than fully engaged in this preamble to the 'main event'.

Coming up to the my crossover point where we could truly get to the matter at hand, I transitioned with, "... and Lord, I know that You have given me five wonderful children who I love so very dearly and I know love me..."

"Yes, I did," He interrupted me.

And I stopped right there, my entire path switched tracks as I got a sharp dose of what was actual reality.

The frightful inevitability of future horrors was all a concoction of my own thoughts.  And I realized suddenly that I had been working in tandem with my own worst enemy as an accomplice to terrifying self-fulfilling prophesy.  Not only had I gotten my stomach all twisted up in knots over this, I'd done my child no small disservice.  In every way, I was obstructing what good the Lord had planned, all because of my fears.  Maybe its not fears that do it for you.  Sometimes its the disillusionment of dreams gone awry, or discouragement in the journey, or simple dissatisfaction with the life you find yourself living. Any of these emotions can lead you quickly down a dusty road of ruts and wrong turns.  You can become your own prophet of doom and destruction, filling your heart and mind with barriers to His plans for you.

At that point of realization , I truly thanked God for what He'd given me, and I apologized for my wayward wandering into paths He had not called me to.  All that I'd planned on pouring out evaporated into thin air, and I committed the days ahead to His directing, this child to His safe keeping, and asked for the help I still so very much needed.  And He gave me a word for this child, "Draw her to yourself, and by this she may know Me."  Spun me around by my head and plunked me on my butt - and I couldn't have been happier.

This taught me a lesson in the danger of allowing my fears to govern my decisions and actions, one I sincerely hope to not soon forget.  So when your worries and anxieties threaten to overwhelm, go to Him; but be quiet enough that you can hear Him.  He probably has something to say as well, quite different than what you had in mind.

"Imagination frames events unknown, In wild, fantastic shapes of hideous ruin, And what it fears, creates."
Hannah More

God's peace alone...