January 31, 2012

blasphemy again

If you're a journal-er (like I used to be before blogging, before babies, before marriage), you probably go back from time to time to read about what was going on in your heart in months past.  Sometimes you get to cheer for yourself because you've conquered something, and sometimes you get to sigh because what you wrote three years ago, you need again.

I wrote this post about six months ago and already I need the reminder again, although not so much about blogging as about simplicity in life, and focusing on love.

Humility.    And courage.

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[from the archives]

I was reading a great parenting book (well, “great” in that I learned some new tricks, not “great” in that I agreed with everything I read) by John Rosemond called Parent Power. Along with stage-by-stage general advice and some spot-on reminders of what life looks like from three feet tall, he addresses various “reader questions.” One of these is from a mom driving herself crazy worrying about a schooling decision for her four children. In his answer, he never actually addresses the schooling question, but he tells her that she has given herself the assignment of “Perfect Mom” and that that approaches blasphemy.

His statement jolted me. I thought we moms were supposed to aim for perfection – especially in anything having to do with our children!! I mean, I know, I know – “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) - but c'mon, how about “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48)?!

Hmmm..... so I've been chewing on that......and wondering how pervasive that "Perfect Mom" syndrome is in other areas of my life ….. say, blogging.....

I started my life: in short because I enjoy having a written record of my life (and, honestly, because so many of my facebook statuses exceed the 420-character limit). But after a few entries, I stop. Why?

It wasn't for a lack of ideas.

It was for a lack of polished ideas. I would have been okay writing daily to the faceless void of the internet whatever popped into my head …. except that I went and checked to see if anyone was reading it – and you were!! Scared, I popped back into my hole and only peeped out to check if the interest had died down yet.

In the meantime, I read Mike Yaconelli's book, Dangerous Wonder, and started on Brennan Manning's book, The Ragamuffin Gospel. Safety, both these men claim, is over-rated. Dare, they urge. Risk. Jump! God loves you.  He's got your back.

So I'm jumping.

Big deal, you say. It's just a blog. Everyone blogs. Well, okay. So my neuroses are as unique as the rest of me. I'm still having problems writing, knowing that people who know me might read it. (My husband, Farmer in the Dell, I think I'll call him, would tell me “simple – stop checking the stats page to see if anyone has read it.” Life is easy like that when you're my husband.)

Alright, catharsis finished for today. Off to check if the sheets on the line are dry, drop off a pack of night-time diapers for my son, Li'l Snip (who, with my three daughters, Sugar, Spice, & Everything Nice, is staying with my excellent in-laws this weekend!), and see if the discount grocery store has any dark chocolate to go with the surf-n-turf I promised my Farmer tonight. Anyone want to advise this chicken how to cook steak? (and no, we don't grill)..

January 28, 2012


I'm sitting here by the fire this evening, and I keep feeling all these delicious new empty spaces in my house now.  The peace is such an untold secret .... but good secrets like that are for sharing.  It all started two months ago, I think, when I started doing coursework online that changed my focus from fitness to feasting.

I had hoped to lose a few pounds, but as I filled up my soul with truth, I began to shed excess everywhere.

What was first?  . . .  Books, I think.  I went through my shelves of fiction and "self-improvement" and gave away diaper boxes full.

It was like shouting in the Alps in avalanche season:  suddenly everywhere I looked, I saw deposits of unnecessary accumulation.  Out the door it went!

CDs and the CD tower.

More books.

Toys (the children, believe or not, helped with enthusiasm!).

Seldom-used bowls from the backs of cupboards.

Clothing (mine, and baby clothing languishing in the attic, "just in case").

Still more books.

Technological detritus.

Puzzles and games.

Papers that once seemed important.

[The funny thing is, it's actually difficult to think of what all I've gotten rid of - and some of this was stuff that we had to ponder over whether or not we'd miss it.  Needless to say, we don't.]

And as the stuff left, it seemed to release something in us that we didn't even know had been bound.

I painted a door.  He built a shelf.  I started sewing curtains planned a year ago.  He cleaned out the garage.  I painted another door.  He started building me a pottery wheel.  I moved all my pottery from littering my windowsills into a display case in my pottery room.  He attacked that ominous stack of papers.  I fixed a crooked curtain rod and hung a shade.

It's almost like . . . 
                             . . . the stuff we own . . . .
                                                                       . . . . owns us. 

And releasing our stuff, releases us.

Try it:  look around; can you find something to give away?  Something else?  Can you give until there are empty places?  Until you find yourself smiling a little more?  Until you see how restful blank walls and empty corners can be?

I don't know if it ever stops, honestly, if there's ever a time when there's nothing left to give away.  That's okay.  I don't think it's meant to be a task to be completed.  I think the giving's the thing.

And the spaces that are left - the wide open peaceful spaces - are the first reward.

There's also this strange security:  I didn't need all that stuff.  I'm okay without it.  I'm enough.

It's quite cozy.  I think you'll like it.

January 23, 2012

hidden treasures

Remember Katie?  How she was rescued from neglect and loved from this ...

... to this?

Well, there are other children still living (if you can call it that) at the orphanage where Katie was.

They're waiting for families, and some families are waiting for them.  As you can imagine, rescue is not cheap work.  Here's a way we can to help.

Hidden Treasures is the name of a charity which raises funds via online auction to help families bring these children home.  The next auction will open at midnight, February 1, and among many other donated items will be four siblings of these guys, Sweater Teddies made from felted wool sweaters:

(each one welcomed at "birth" with a hug from Lil' Snip)

If you'd like to help some of these children find a home, check out the auction February 1st - maybe there will be something there you could use.  You can also donate an item for the auction, or make a monetary donation, by emailing hiddentreasuresauction@gmail.com.

January 20, 2012

laying it down...

... again.

And again.

... and yet again.

This Jesus guy, he means business.  I guess I should have figured that out when Peter, all pious intentions, asked how often one ought to forgive, and offered seven times, magnanimously, he thought.  This Jesus corrected him:  "not seven times, but seven times seven."

So when he says "whoever wants to follow me must deny himself", he means that, and he means it all the way.  Not just once and done, but daily.  (He knows we need the practice, I guess)  If you tell him that you will, that you want to follow him and you're willing to deny yourself in order to do so, your incomplete comprehension is no impediment to him.  He just sets about teaching you.  Right away, if not sooner.

I got me a teaching this morning.

A few days ago I finally bought an armload of material for making curtains for our bedroom, five windows-worth.  The idea had been conceived over a year ago, so now that I have the fabric, I was eager to get the project underway.

Just a little bill-paying this morning, and then while Isaiah had his "rest" (euphemism for "we all need a little break from you and 60 minutes would almost do the trick") I would lay out the first two curtains and get cutting.


"... lay it down ..."

God's plans for my morning did not include making curtains.

He had in mind, instead, correcting pride in one daughter, and rebellion in another.  Scripture was called for in one situation, extra chores in the other.  Tears were involved in both.  Faithfully, pulling the Lion's share of the load on his side of the yoke, he led me true.  Spirits were softened, not broken.  Hearts were gently polished of imperfection until they shone.

It worked, and it was beautiful.  I was grateful, but still I cried.

It was "just" giving up my plans, my desires, my hopes for "my" time.... again.  Just another laying down.  Sometimes it seems that motherhood is knit almost entirely of this difficult, knotted, slippery yarn.

I am hoping it gets easier with time.  Or, at least, that I get more willing.

January 16, 2012

drilling deep

We were getting dressed for bed in that cold north bedroom of ours, the heater doing what it could.  I don't remember the events of the day, except that it had been restless.

I had been restless.

And it showed.

We were talking, voices low, guarding the sleep of the children with sharp ears.  I said something about joy, I think - or about joylessness, more probably.  And that's when he looked at me and said:

"God loves you.  I love you.  The children love you.  What more do you want?"

I didn't answer.  I still haven't answered.  I don't know the answer.  I don't even understand the question, I guess.

But it points to somewhere that I want to know.

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And now today.  Monday.

The "baby" (who's really a toddler, I know) cries into my tired ears about cutting molars and not wanting to sit in his highchair and no one understanding what it is that he is trying so hard to do.  And the laundry whirls and the daughters bicker and the stack of papers tap-taps at my brain and the baby cries.

And I'm fasting today.  I want to focus on God and so many things tear me away, over and over.

And the baby cries.

And suddenly I see that even this chaos, this cacophony of neediness, is enough to sustain me.  The tears well again to think of it, but it is:  enough.  Their love for me and God at my side in the midst of the laundry and the baby, is enough to nourish me in this moment.

 ... and the restlessness dissipates in the music of the mundane.

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Every tune composed is made up of notes.  The same notes, available to every songwriter.  It's how they're put together - and the spaces in between - that make music sublime, or not.

Lord, let me string these notes you've given me today into praise ...

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# 780 - 789
            Spice's compassion for the homeless
            prayer:  light in fear's darkness
            my very present Help in trouble
            grace to obey
            that a Bible can be pretty, too
            luxury (responsibility?) of choice
            piercing question, drilling deep:  "God loves you.  I love you.  The children love you.  What more do you want?"
            abundance from His hand
            my fearless Farmer, who sees possibilities instead of problems

January 1, 2012

moving forward

I like meaning.  I like understanding the "why" of what we do.  So naturally, when I married into a family that eats pork and sauerkraut on New Year's Day, I asked "why."

They didn't know.

I asked other locals who also partake.  No one knew.  Fortunately for such queries there is Google.  At last, I had my answer!!

"Pennsylvania Dutch superstition says that eating pork on New Year’s Day brings good luck because a pig roots forward to look for its food, while chickens scratch backward and cows stand still."
Unfortunately, the answer was not exactly full of the deep meaning I was craving.  We eat pork and sauerkraut for good luck?  Huh.  And we figure it will bring good luck because .... pigs root forward instead of backward.  I see.

Well, I had to take what I could get.  But maybe I can give better.  

Evidently not being authentically Pennsylvania Dutch, I grew up thinking sauerkraut was something people who had no taste buds slopped onto their hot dogs.  You might say I was not eager to add this meal to our family repertoire.

So, naturally, I doctored it. 

With Betty Crocker as my inspiration, here's what I came up with a few years ago.  Happy New Year, and happy sauerkraut-eating.  And may we all move forward this year, pigs or not!

Pork & Sauerkraut
Brown in bacon fat in heavy skillet:
2 lb pork roast (or chops)

Set pork aside in dutch oven.  In first skillet (use more fat if needed) brown:
1 lb smoked sausage or kielbasa

Add sausage to pork in dutch oven.  Now saute in the skillet:
1 large onion, sliced into quarter slices (or chopped - I slice mine so it can hide amongst the sauerkraut)

Add the onion to the meat.  Also add:
2 lb bag fresh sauerkraut (you can use canned if you don't mind sacrificing serious flavor and texture)
1 tart apple, cored and sliced
bay leaf
1 T brown sugar
1 capful liquid smoke
1/8 tsp. cloves
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Now let it all simmer till the pork is tender.  Make it the day before to save yourself a serving-day hassle and to enhance the flavors.  Serve with mashed potatoes and pickled beets for a true Pennsylvania Dutch meal.

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