December 30, 2013

a little New Year cheer

[a bit ahead of time, so you can make it before New Year's Day .... ]

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?  'Kaaaay......  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
parsley

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.





[originally posted January 1, 2012]

December 15, 2013

happily snowed in

Well, sort of.  :)


My Farmer read me some dramatic headlines about tens of millions bracing for a storm in the northeast, so we planned to revel in some of our favorite indoor activities today - reading, reading, and more reading.  Preferably by the fire, and preferably uninterrupted by small fry begging for stories and games.  One can dream.

But the snow didn't come.

I had gone for groceries the night before, so the larder was stocked.  In the words of one of our children's favorite poets, Clyde Watson:

Let the fall leaves fall
And the cold snow snow
And the rain rain rain till April:
Our coats are warm
And the pantry's full
And there's cake upon the table.

But, no snow.

I took advantage of the still-clear roads and made a run to the health food store and the library, Lil' Snip happily in tow.  We made it back with our giant bags of rolled oats and stacks of books to a house smelling deliciously of granola.  Sugar, Spice, and Nice had been busy while we were gone.

Still no snow.  How were my Farmer and the children ever going to finish the igloo they'd started with last week's snow?!


We lunched on hot dogs and sauerkraut and Reese's peanut butter cup cookies (a library bake-sale find), and I finished baking the last of this year's newest addition to the cookie list:  pfeffernusse.  [baker beware:  these may not look like much, but they are dangerously delicious!!]


And still the blizzard hadn't arrived.  Oh well, we settled in and read anyway.


Finally, midday, the snow started to come.

We started a meal of comfort food - baked ham and mashed potatoes - and my Farmer lost himself by the fire, reading my library book.


The small fry mostly entertained themselves, dressing up stuffed bears, chasing each other in circles around the downstairs (which is most conveniently arranged to accommodate this impulse), coloring, and building with sofa cushions and stools.

By nightfall the snow was coming down steadily.  Sugar was devouring a book on orchestral music and its accompanying CD.  Spice was hunkered down with Louisa May Alcott's Eight Cousins.  Nice and Lil' Snip were alternately sharing the music player that Cousin R just passed on to us and getting their baths.

The candles burned, and the snow fell.


And now, supper is put away - the ham cubed for tomorrow's soup, sliced for sandwiches later this week, and some frozen for another day - the driveway is shoveled (thanks to my Farmer), the children are all tucked in bed, and the fire burns, and we are happily snowed in.




December 8, 2013

stormy seas


Do not think that as you grow in grace
your path will become smoother and the sky calmer and clearer. 

Quite the contrary.

As God gives you greater skill as a soldier of the cross,
He will send you on more difficult missions.
As He more fully equips your ship to sail in storms,
He will send you on longer voyages to more boisterous seas,
so that you may honor Him and increase in holy confidence.

~Charles Haddon Spurgeon, in Beside Still Waters

<< *  >>


{and as Mother Theresa once said,
"I know God won't give me anything I can't handle.
I just wish He didn't trust me so much."}




December 7, 2013

when the buzzer rings, I get up

I am weary.

Yes, life is good, in the sense that, at any given time, I can list a dozen things for which I am deeply grateful. I am still able to view the world and my circumstances through the eyes of a poet. I can rejoice in sunshine and birdsong, and find good even in sleep deprivation and strained friendships.

But it takes a lot of effort. Someone recently told me that I've been a drag, and although it stung that she would say it, it didn't surprise me. I am literally dragging. It must not be pleasant to be around.

In some ways, I'm okay that she felt that way. I want to be alone. I crave solitude and stillness in which to quiet my soul, listen, receive nourishment from God and the good gifts with which He has surrounded me.

But her dig also came packaged with the insidious suggestion that I should just choose happiness. “Just choose.”

Well, I wanted to say, I've been choosing. It's gotten to be dreadfully difficult work, this choosing. I've been choosing and choosing and choosing. I spent the better part of a year listing over one thousand gifts. I've prayed away anxiety more times in the last couple of years than I can count. I've read Scripture when it seemed bone dry, searching for consolation and guidance. I've chosen music to minister to my spirit. I've read book after book on depression and perimenopause and Christian cheerfulness. I've talked to friends and asked for prayer.

And I'm still weary.

But you know what? When I'm tired beyond my bones, into the depths of my spirit, and my children need me, I get up and go to them. When I'm exhausted and longing for peace and quiet, and the buzzer rings to tend supper or change the laundry, I get up and take care of it. When I can't remember the last time I had enough sleep, and the alarm clock jolts me out of the only complete respite available to me, I get up and start my day. When I'd rather sleep just twenty more minutes, I shower and go to my Bible.

When my children's sweet piping voices pierce my eardrums and threaten my sanity, I (usually) smile and answer calmly.

When an anticipated weekend away unexpectedly falls through, I trust that God has better plans for me.

When a friend's “counsel” sounds accusatory, I believe the best of her intentions and thank her.

When one appliance after another needs repairs, I smile and thank God for a skilled husband and the money for parts.

When a friend incomprehensibly turns vitriolic toward me, I seek restoration.

When the children beg for Christmas decorations and I feel less than jolly, I bring down the box and make room for Christmas (and let them use those awful multicolored lights again).

When the internet connection becomes unreliable for over a month, I read & crochet & play my forgotten guitar.

When the car threatens to leave me stranded in the middle of my errands, I change my plans and head home early.


I am choosing happiness, I truly am. It just might not look quite the way you think it should.



And as much as I would love to end by quoting Scripture, what actually comes to mind is one of my all-time favorite quotes, credited to Philo of Alexandria (whoever he was):  "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle."  Which, come to think of it, is not all that different from Jesus himself saying (in Matthew 7:12) that we should treat others the way we would like to be treated.


A friend told me recently that "her" verse had changed as one season of her life began to segue into the next. When I first got on facebook, I posted Galatians 6:9 in that little box that used to be under the profile picture on my own page, so that I would see it frequently and benefit from the exhortation:  "Let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."  While that verse is still very real to me, a different verse comes to my mind often of late:

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."

Jesus says these words at the end of chapter 11 of Matthew.  The chapter starts with John the Baptist, then in prison, sending disciples to ask Jesus if He is really the Messiah.  I think this ending clinches it.

Jesus saves - from sin, from sickness, from soul-weariness.

I am ready for some rest.



November 13, 2013

"life is good" .... right?

Here I sit (actually time to sit!), laptop on my knees, bathed in rays that stream in through the sunporch my Farmer put up to keep his warm-blooded wife's nose from freezing in inclement weather.

Sugar industriously works on a 1000-piece puzzle, Spice reads a fat little fantasy book, and Nice builds block churches for Lil' Snip to knock down.

Life is good.

And I am sucking down mug after mug of hot tea, cough drops and tissues at the ready, trying to recover from a doozy of a cold which came to knock out my immune system just as I was reeling from a relationship gone awry and packing for a long weekend in the mountains with family.  (not to mention the PMS that also coincided....)

And the easy chair now is buried under the sheets that I was finally able to wash yesterday using the one cycle that works on my washing machine, which broke down just as I was starting to do pre-vacation laundry ...

Life is hard.

- - - - -  > >  *  < <  - - - - -

For years I've strained to work out whether life is good (I'm a Christian!  saved from sin!  and there are flowers!  and laughter!  and chocolate!!) or life is hard (I still sin!  get sick!  feel selfish! and people hurt me, and get hurt, and are sad).

- - - - -  > >  *  < <  - - - - -

And here's what I've finally figured out:  YES.  It is both.  Life is good, and it is hard, and the one does not cancel out the other, and that is the beauty of it.

That while I sit here sniffling and coughing and longing for mutual understanding with my friend and looking at all the laundry, I can simultaneously revel in the warmth of sunshine on my legs, the sparkle of my diamond, the happy playing sounds of my children.

And even - especially - when the cold and the housework and the hurt is all I can see, I know that the light is still there.  That is my foundation:  God is GOOD.  No matter what it all looks like, God is light, and life, and love, and while I love Him and trust Him, He will work all things - all these good things, and all these hard things - together for my good.

So when you see me and I look discouraged, I know that it's temporary.  Knowing that doesn't always bring a twinkle to my eyes and a spring to my step ....

.... but sometimes it does.

And another thing:  "temporary" sometimes can seem to be lasting a long time.

But a long time is okay with me, because God's got eternity covered.  If He says "be still" - I'll be still.  If He says "wait on the Lord" then I'll wait.  He knows what He's doing, whether I see it or not.

Jesus said, "I am Life" (John 11:25, 14:6) and that "no one is good but God alone" (Mark 10:18).  So since Jesus is life, and God is good, and Jesus is God, then I am assured that -

 LIFE is GOOD!


October 19, 2013

enough

I left this morning while the sky was still dark.  The children were all still in bed, and a full moon shone bright over low-lying fog.  Within a few minutes the sky was brightening to a fiery pink, and I was in a friend's car en route to a women's conference.

Hours later I came home.  It had been a full day of smiling, listening, and small talk.  I had been challenged, and reminded of truths I already knew, I laughed, and learned.  It had been good.

There had also been all the petty disappointments that you're not supposed to mention - having a bad hair day, not enjoying a speaker as much as I'd hoped, seeing goodie bags I liked better than the one I'd been given, feeling left out of conversations, and not winning a door prize.  (I never win door prizes, so you wouldn't think that could disappoint me anymore ....)

I had a headache from the long drive home, but decided to stop off at my favorite thrift store to hunt for jeans.  No luck.

Driving the last few miles home, I tried to tally up my day:  a break from responsibilities - good.  Headache - bad.  Hearing one of my favorite women's speakers - good.  Social awkwardnesses - bad.  Yummy meal I didn't have to make (& got to eat sitting down the whole time!) - very good.  No jeans - bad.

As I turned into our road, though, the balance suddenly tilted solidly on the side of good as I remembered -

 - my family loves me, and are very likely waiting to greet my arrival home with enthusiastic smiles and shouts of joy.

And sure enough, there was Spice peering out the window when I pulled in, waving excitedly with a huge smile on her face, happy to see me just because I'm the mommy here.

It was enough.  

I still had a headache.  I still had the goodie bag I wouldn't have chosen.  I still had no new jeans.

But I also had my children, hugging me, overflowing with news from their day, and my Farmer, offering me bites he had saved from the supper he made.

I am loved.

And it is enough.


and p.s. - my goodie bag is growing on me...!




September 29, 2013

country fair

When I married my Farmer, I understood that going to the fair was part of the deal.  We had gone there on a date, eaten the freshly-made french fries and the sausage sandwich and the milkshake.

Now mind you, this wasn't a fair with rides, games, lights and music.  This was a farm fair.  My Farmer had walked me down the row of tractors, pointing out the model that his dad had had, growing up, explaining how this engine was different from that one.  He had led me down the aisles of produce, and I had marveled, like only the uninitiated can, at all the rows and rows of vegetable samples on paper plates, jars of canned fruit, and slices of baked goods, each awaiting their fate as decided by the fair judges.

Somehow, though, I never quite got it.

Maybe it was the crowded commercial tents and my Farmer's carried-over-from-childhood love of collecting brochures, or maybe it was running into person after person after person who knew my Farmer, and not me.  Maybe it was my complete ignorance of all things agricultural.  Maybe you had to be born to it.

But my Farmer loved it, so we went.  I learned to know the some of the people and the colors of some of the tractors.  We grew a garden and entered our vegetables.  We had children and took them to watch the tractor pull and eat milkshakes and french fries and funnel cakes.

It grew on me, kind of, but I still felt like an uncomprehending outsider much of the time.  Like the locals could just tell, looking at me, that I was a transplant, an imposter.

This year, though, we had a date night scheduled for during the fair, and for what felt like the first time in years, we went without the children.

I was feeling a little jaded going into it.  The fairgrounds seemed more crowded than ever, and I am not a fan of crowds.  The food lines seemed impossibly long, the vegetable displays impossibly tedious.  I tried, again, to see the fascination of the fair ... and failed.

And then the fire siren sounded.

The fairgrounds are located just behind the firehouse, and before the first wail had begun to fade, there were guys galloping past from all over the fair:  a short stocky guy sprinting for all he was worth came first, a golf cart dropped off another, and last was a lanky Amish man loping in from the parking lot where he had been helping to direct cars.  All of them responded instantly, volunteer firefighters running from the fun of the fair to take care of someone else's problem.

That's when I started to get it.  This is what the fair was about:  community, taking care of each other.  Even though it wasn't my fire, I felt protected, cared for, to see all those guys rushing to put out a fire they hadn't started, for which they bore no responsibility other than their desire to serve their community.

I looked around me with awakened senses.  Smelled the fresh paint on those restored tractors.  A small grey tractor of an unusual make had attracted my Farmer's eye.  He'd struck up a conversation with a weathered-looking man standing nearby.  Turns out the tractor belonged to an old friend of his who had been paralyzed.  He had put weeks' worth of painstaking work into restoring it for his friend, grinding, welding, painting.

The free tulip bulbs and door prizes, helium balloons (later seen floating overhead) and sample bags of chips, rulers and flyswatters, and jolly ranchers galore stood for more than the sum of their parts.  Sure, it was a chance for local businesses to advertise.  But it was also a chance for the community to gather together and just have fun, to celebrate what they have in common.

We joined the funnel cake line that stretched up the hill toward the fair office.  It looked like a long wait for our two orders of batter-fried Oreo cookies.  Just as we began to wonder if the wait was worthwhile, a worker from the stand came up through the line asking who wanted "road apples" (the affectionate misnomer for this country delicacy).  We were bumped to the front!  Rescued!

I may never raise a pig or a cow to take to the fair (and probably no one will ever mistake me for someone who could), but I can still enjoy the camaraderie evident in the cadres of farm kids who do, and admire their industrious care of their odiferous charges.

I may never fully understand the intricacies of the fair, but my children probably will.  They were born to it.


September 21, 2013

closing up camp

I'm inside now listening to the rain.  For the first time in our Family Week history, it held off till the end.  We got our fill, almost, of campfires and s'mores, tenting and outdoor living.

This afternoon Sugar, Spice, and Nice had their last Quiet Time in the tent, kitties curled up beside them in their sleeping bags (except for the ones who couldn't resist the smell of the sausages I was cooking over the fire for tonight's soup).  Then, in the wind from the approaching storm, they helped my Farmer pack up the tent.  I put away camp chairs.  Stacked the few remaining sticks of firewood against a tree.



The fire still burned - low -, a lone potato and a handful of chestnuts left on the grate.  We kept the fire going all week.  This morning's breakfast fire was the first time we needed matches since we started it last Saturday.  Even then, the ash was warm.


Every meal for a week, we ate around the fire.  Most days we cooked once or twice using the campfire:  hot dogs (of course), toast, chicken satay, grilled tomato & cheese sandwiches, hobo packets of potato and sausage, scrambled eggs, potatoes in foil, apples, onions, sausages, and more and more s'mores.  Meals took forever, somehow.  No one seemed to mind.







We didn't do anything flashy this week.  No grand experiments.  No pricey field trips.  Not even many photos.  We just lived.  Outside.

Nice found her own "poking stick" for the fire (I'm a little possessive when I've got a good one).  Spice made "pencils" to write on an old pallet, by holding sticks in the fire till their ends were blackened.  Sugar hauled firewood and cut brush for resurrecting a fire from the previous coals.







They played with corncob dolls with braided "hair".  Baked "bread" wrapped up in grape leaves in the fire, to feed the cats.  Went fishing.  Walked back in the woods to wade in a very small spring-fed "swimming hole".  We went to the tractor pull at a local fair, ate funnel cake and elephant ear.  One day we took bikes to a nearby park to ride the trails and spent the morning riding, walking, even running in the sunshine, and ended up getting pizza to eat in the pavilion.  For a very cold ten minutes on the warmest day, the children and my Farmer had the last swim of the season in our pool.

Last night after dark, we walked over the rise to catch the moon as it came up full over the cornfield.


And now the week is over.

Tonight Lil' Snip will get a much-needed bath.  We'll tuck them all into their inside beds, their pillows still smelling faintly of campfire smoke.  We'll leave the windows open a crack for the music of rain and cricketsong.

And then in the morning we'll eat breakfast sitting at the table, dressed in churchy clothes like civilized folks, and go sit in circulated air for two hours, listening to people sing and talk into microphones and surreptitiously thumb their smartphones ...

... and our week outside will fade into vapor like a dream ...



September 17, 2013

caged poet

This morning I sat by the fire we brought back to life from last night's coals, watching smoke spiral upward into the morning sunshine which streamed through the dancing leaves like so much gold dust poured down from heaven.  Oatmeal in a mug, with swirls of maple syrup, warmed my hands.  Sugar, Spice, & Nice dressed in the tent to an accompaniment of their own squeals of excitement.  Their favorite kitten had figured out how to unzip the tent flap, and dashed out with her booty: Spice's shirt.

After our oatmeal I speared some bread & cheese to experiment with toasting.  Spice & Nice happily shared my first batch, assuring me that it was a success.  I fed the second round to Sugar as she washed up dishes, and my Farmer and Lil' Snip (who slept late after a stuffy-nosed night) took turns with the last of it.

Next up for today:  digging worms and fishing for my Farmer and his progeny, while I enjoy the quiet solitude of laundry and more campfire cooking.

I love my family.  I am grateful for this week of interlude.   I can say, in all sincerity: "The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance."  (Psalm 16:6)

And yet ... to have the heart of a poet, and to be trapped by the myriad mundanities of serving a family, is to live, though winged, in a cage.  If I ever finally learn lasting contentment, it will be the fruit of surrender.  

I am determined to find beauty in the bars that enclose me.  

And when I do, I think I will find that the bars do not enclose so small a space as I first thought.  

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some tomatoes to transform into bisque for our campfire lunch.



family camp 2013

This marks year three? Four? Six? of our now-traditional "Family Week" (a.k.a. staycation), in which my Farmer takes a week of vacation and we camp out in the backyard.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I guess you could say it really started on Friday, this year.  My mother came to watch the children for my (almost-) monthly day off, and I roamed the Southern End in the minivan, from library to river overlook, at my leisure.  Saturday, my Farmer took the children (all four!) to work with him while I stayed home to read, nap, and take a nice long walk in the sun.

Sunday after church we attended a feast of locally-grown goodies at my Farmer's farm, a fund-raiser to which we were given complimentary tickets.  From the smoked potatoes and fried green tomatoes to the cheese trays and mini-burgers on freshly-baked buns to the peach cobbler and molasses ice cream, it was a palate-pleasing experience we will not soon forget.

After the respite of Sunday naps all around, we gathered up the firewood and started the first of what we hope are many campfires this week.  We roasted apples, fresh bread, and marshmallows.  And then ...

... we had a drop-in!!  Family from California, in for a funeral, stopped in to hug, chat, admire, and share dreams.  Acquaintances were refreshed, photos were snapped, farming methods were swapped, and walnuts were juggled.  As night fell, Lil' Snip - accustomed to daylight bedtimes still - came to me, enraptured with the sunset:  "the sky looks different, Mommy!"  We tucked him in and waved them off ...



August 25, 2013

sacrifice of praise





Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the LORD,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
The Lord GOD is my strength,
And He has made my feet like hinds' feet,
And makes me walk on my high places.

Habakkuk 3:17-19


August 24, 2013

metamorphosis (2)


At the pottery studio, I prefer the wheel.

But there are other ways to shape the clay.  By a bank of windows looking out onto the parking lot, there is a slab roller (picture an old wringer-washer with just one roller bar on a table) for making flat sheets of clay for tiles or handbuilt items.  Just outside the studio, affixed to the wall at the edge of the showroom, is an extruder (imagine a sort of giant pasta- or playdough!- machine) for squishing out clay tubes of various shapes - smooth cylinders, long square boxes, star-shaped hollows, and more.  It looks kind of magical, really:  ball of clay in the top, pull down, tidy shape emerges at the bottom.

I never stopped to think about how the process affects the clay.

On the wheel, the clay is centered, bathed with water, and firmly but gently, slowly - often in three (or more) pulls - coaxed by fingers into a final shape.

Much different from being quickly forced from one shape to another by the strength of unyielding metal.

I'm thinking about the clay, now, feeling the forces of change on my heart.


"O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? 
As the clay is in the potter's hand, so are you in my hand.
Jeremiah 18:6

Am I - will I be - malleable?

Months ago, a woman I trust told me that God is getting ready to shake up my friendships.  She didn't know that some of my friends were then planning moves, both into and out of my life, physically and emotionally.

Sometimes it feels like betrayal, this change, and sometimes like grace.  Sometimes both.  But always, there is pain.  More the extruder than the wheel, is this process.

I've never been a fan of change - at least not change initiated by another.  It's unsettling to me, like someone else pushing my rocking chair into motion, or a child swinging the hammock I'm resting on.

Maybe the liquidating stage of the chrysalis is over, now, and the formation of the butterfly is beginning ... I hope.  I hope there will be something to show for the squeezing of my heart.

No, not hope.  I trust.




"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."
Hebrews 11:1


So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, 
since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:18





August 23, 2013

snippets

Lil' Snip, awhile back eating his first french fry, asked: "Are there mashed potatoes in these?"

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A homeschooling mother's victory: daughter pulling the wrapping off of a frozen pizza to exclaim "dendritic crystals!!" and sending an excited sister to find her magnifying glass.

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Lil' Snip (the only son among three daughters) looking adoringly at his colored pencil, which he has just discovered can be extended by twisting the end, cooing "cuuuute!" in an exact replica of our expressions over him.

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Spice one morning told me about a dream she'd had [my thoughts in brackets]:  "I had a dream last night about a monster [oh, no!] that I was chasing [you GO girl!] that turned into Truffle [(a beloved cat) - that's my girl, turning monsters into playmates!!]"

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Isaiah was showing me, rather vigorously, how he pats his head. "Be nice to your head," I told him, "because it's your head!"


"And," he reminded me, "my face is on it!"

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Spice asks me if she's a pessimist or an optimist. Trying to avoid labels, I tell her that she's just her. She counters with: "Does that mean that I'm a pessimist and you just don't want to tell me?"


---------------------------------------------------------

... and one from my Farmer:  My elliptical and I had started getting reacquainted (slowly), so I was disappointed to see that the bathroom scales hadn't moved in the direction that I had hoped. My husband, quick-witted, quipped "Boy, you must put on muscle fast!"


-----------------------------------------------------------





August 22, 2013

"wasted" morning

So, it's a little after eleven a.m. and I'm looking about, laptop warming my knees, wondering what I have to show for my morning.

At first glance, not much.

It took me most of the morning to make my grocery list, thanks to getting breakfast into my son and playing TinkerToys and plunging the toilet and bantering with friends on facebook and demonstrating touch-typing without looking at the keyboard for my dubious daughters and catching up on a cousin's blog and adjusting the food processor for the bread-crumb-maker and doing a ponytail and giving emotional counsel ... and of course, my own natural distractedness.

Unseen, though, is the necessary-to-the-introvert recovery from a lovely and very social day yesterday, when my favorite little Sister came with her three little ones.  We loved being with them, and now today we are regaining our equilibrium.  Like it or not, convenient or not, on the to-do list or not, this is as vital to us as sleep and whole food.

And so we "waste" the morning.

Ahhhh ..... that's better.





August 21, 2013

Provider

Strawberries, warm from the sun, out-of-this-world flavor.
A bouquet of lettuces.
Kale, and collards, and an appetite to eat them.
The world's best cucumbers, thin-skinned and luscious.
Blueberries, picked after a long day's work!  (the big ones really do taste better.)
Fragrant ripe blackberries like only a connoisseur can pick.
Raspberries hastily snatched in the rain.
Ear after ear of corn on the cob.
Tomatoes in small round globes and large-lobed wonders.
Sweet slicing onions.
Knobby, crisp little bulbs of garlic.
Watermelons - golden, red, orange.
Potatoes, with the dirt still on them.
Golden peaches and sturdy little pears.
Grapes, fruiting after all these years.
A giant pumpkin, just because.
Carrots - who knew? - in purple, ivory, and magenta.
Asian cabbages for an evening of kimchi-making.
Red cabbages and green cabbages for our family's supper.
Silky white turnips so good we christen them "dessert turnips."

Hours on the tractor, burnt by sun and wind.
Sweat from fighting mechanical beasts.
Muscles sore from digging.
Grimy knees and shorts, kneeling by a stubborn rototiller.
Chunks of dirt fallen from his shoes.
Thinking, and thinking, and thinking some more, to solve the problem in front of him.
Weed-flecked socks in a heap, memorial to weeds tamed, again and again.
Furrows in his brow from frustrations sculpted into solutions.

A smile for me, home weary from shopping, when I left in a snit.
Hugs when I am stiff with resentment.
"Thank you for breakfast," every morning.
Unspoken forgiveness, over and over and over.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Some men bring home flowers.


Mine brings me sacrifices.




August 19, 2013

Monday music

Instead of diving madly into my week (per usual), trying to get seven days' worth of to-do done in a Monday, today I am choosing to sit, purposely, listening and observing a bit, soaking in what is before jumping into what might be (and, further, remembering that there's a vital difference between what might be and what should be).

Since my ears are my most acute sense this morning; I'll start there.

I hear ...
... Nice stomping, and slamming doors at her sister
... Lil' Snip blowing on a harmonica and shaking maracas
... piano music on the stereo
... the phone ringing!

I smell . . .
... Comet cleaner where Spice is cleaning the bathroom
... coffee from what's left in my mug

I see . . .
... studious Sugar, practicing typing
... "nap" and "read" on my to-do list
... Tinker Toys as far as the eye can see
... Lil' Snip's ambitiously long Lego "fire engine"

I feel . . .
... comfy crop-length sweatpants
... the sofa under me, weary-seated, but still with good back support
... contentment for the chaos of busy children, home with me
... not hot or cold - thankful for autumnal weather, early

I'm looking forward to . . .
... lunchtime!  (and then - O Glorious Quiet - naptime!!)
... my nap!  my book!
... mid-week visit with sister
... family week in September, when we live outside together
... and further on, a women's retreat and some days in the mountains with family
... much, much further on (I hope), Heaven.


August 17, 2013

taking off the rose-colored glasses

If you have children (or ever hope to), R.E.A.D. this!  Jen Hatmaker exposes the secret thoughts shared by every honest mom everywhere.  (Well, at least her, and me).

Ahhh, it was hilarious!  Thankyousomuch Jen Hatmaker, for a great Saturday morning laugh.  And also for {inadvertently} validating how I feel so much of the time as I fumble through teaching my children at home. 

The Guilt. 

But you know what?  We're all in it together, aren't we - grumbling at how hard it is (some more hilariously than others, thank you Jen) but DOING IT ANYWAY because, well, it's right, and even though we sometimes want to take a permanent vacation from them, they are our children and we would pretty much offer our lives for them. 

Oh wait.  We ARE.


August 7, 2013

impossible? nothing!

If things ever feel a little dull around your house, I suggest that you find a glass-lined coffee carafe and dash the lining forcefully into the sink.



Preferably in the presence of multiple children, especially if one or two of them are given to hysterics (inherited, just possibly, from you).

If the gunshot BANG and the hysterics aren't exciting enough, rest assured that you will likely be finding mirrored shards in unlikely places for hours, or even, if you're lucky, days or weeks (depending on the thoroughness of your housekeeping).

You can go ahead and indulge in some hysterics yourself, just to go along with the general mood.  Sprinkle in a few gloomy thoughts about the impossibility of cleaning it all up, the danger to all small & tender bare feet in the family, and the injustice of it happening on day when you were so desperately hoping for respite that you wore your comfy pants to remind you to take it easy.

And then grab some damp paper towels and start wiping.

Last, but not least, remember to take a photo of [some of] the carnage to remind you, when you've calmed down, that all things are possible, even cleaning a few million microscopic mirrored glass fragments from the kitchen and adjoining laundry room when you least felt like it.

"With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
Matthew 19:26




August 5, 2013

promises for the crucible


How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
To you, who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

"Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God, I will still give thee aid;
I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by My gracious, omnipotent hand.

"When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
For I will be with thee thy trials to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

"When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flames shall not hurt thee, I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine."

by George Keith



July 30, 2013

the least of these


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 August 1, and among many other donated items will be some cards lovingly made by Sugar (along with some bookmarks made by Nice):

insides of cards
fronts of cards w/ envelopes


fronts of envelopes
backs of envelopes


 and my last Sweater Teddy:


If you'd like to help some of these children find a home, check out the auction August 1st through August 7th - 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.  All proceeds benefit the Huizinga family, who are working hard to bring home two abandoned daughters.


:

July 28, 2013

run the race . . .

... with perseverance!!


For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things,
holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.
{I Timothy 4:8}

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that
through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide
we might have hope.  May the God who gives endurance and encouragement
give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus.  
{Romans 15: 4,5}  


And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. 

{Romans 5:2-5}
...in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  
{Romans 8:37,38}
He will also keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless 
on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you 
into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  
{I Corinthians 1:8-9}

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  {2 Corinthians 4:16-18}


Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  
{2 Corinthians 12:8-10}

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  {Philippians 3:12-14}

I can do all this through him who gives me strength.  {Philippians 4:13}

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart,
as working for the Lord, not for men, 
since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. 
It is the Lord Christ you are serving.  {Colossians 3:23-24}

But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you
from the evil one.  We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing 
and will continue to do the things we command.  
May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.  
{2 Thessalonians 3:3-5}

And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.  
{2 Thessalonians 3:13}

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, love and self-discipline.  {2 Timothy 1:7}

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  {Hebrews 10:23}

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.  {1 Peter 5:10}

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; self-control; and to self-control perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.  
{2 Peter 1:5}

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us 
and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 
encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.  
{2 Thessalonians 2:16}

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, 
let us throw off everything that hinders
and the sin that so easily entangles. 
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. 
For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, 
and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  
Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, 
so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.  
{Hebrews 12:1-3}









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