Saturday, December 25, 2010

Tell Me The Story Of Jesus...

This fall, I've had the remarkable privilege of hanging out with a great bunch of kids every Sunday morning. The teach me every week - and every so often, I get to teach too!!


This December, I had the privilege of sharing the christmas story with them. It's a story they've heard over and over, and after sharing the story we had a "birthday party for Baby Jesus," complete with party games, music and snacks. WHAT FUN!


I remember when this story first began to change my heart. I was 18 1/2. It was January 2, 1998. I was moving through life, not with the greatest of ease. In fact, life felt very very complicated. It was on this particular morning that I was driving to work in a nearby community. I was running late (some things never change!!) and in attempt to make up for lost time,  I decided to take a "short cut" through the country. I misjudged a snow pile on the road and ended up very very very stuck. Like all-4-wheels-are-off-the-ground, I'm-not-getting-out-of-this-by-myself, gotta-go-get-dad STUCK!


Sigh. So much for making up for lost time!!


As I sat behind the steering wheel (SERIOUSLY NOT AT ALL DRESSED FOR THE -30 TEMPS EITHER!!), I remember "praying." Venting. Demanding. Hoping that God would get me out of this scrape. I didn't want the inconvenience. Not at all pretty!! And for the first time ever, I experienced the silence of heaven. This is less about not getting the "prayer answer" I was hoping for, and more about the fact that I was using communication with God as a means to an end (an easy life) rather than a means to a relationship. And He was not about to be manipulated.


If you've ever had an argument with someone, and did all of the yelling, screaming, swearing :), venting, complaining, pouting, demanding, manipulating --- and then that person was completely silent in return --- you'll have an idea of how this felt. Completely unnerving. I did not have the capacity to process the beginning of this awareness at this time, nor did I have any idea what changes had begun in my heart. I just knew that something had happened and a change had begun. Grace was a glimmer on the horizon and that would begin to alter the course of my life forever.



As I was preparing my Sunday School lesson at the beginning of December, the words from this hymn kept running through my mind...

Tell me the story of Jesus,
Write on my heart every word.
Tell me the story most precious,
Sweetest that ever was heard.
Tell how the angels in chorus,
Sang as they welcomed His birth.
“Glory to God in the highest!
Peace and good tidings to earth.”
Refrain
Tell me the story of Jesus,
Write on my heart every word.
Tell me the story most precious,
Sweetest that ever was heard.

The story of extravagant grace. 
Of limitless love. 
Of truth and justice and a God who loves us enough to say what needs to be said ...
... or let silence speak for itself.

As I finish this post, the kids are now awake and zooming around the house! Wee one is getting a ride in a walker, Sweet K is rubbing the sleepies out of her eyes and Little M is keeping us all entertained! We're getting ready to celebrate christmas as a family, opening gifts, eating snacks and in our own way, having a "baby Jesus birthday party." The snow is falling outside and I've already received the gift of quiet, uninterrupted time to "just be" this morning before anyone else was up (a very RARE treat!!). 

It is good.

Today, as you move about your own festivities, may you too be singing the words, "tell me the story of Jesus...."

Merry Christmas!




Thursday, December 23, 2010

Annnnnd she's FIVE!

On December 21, it was 5 years since the morning (early, 3:38am) that Little M came into this world.
Those 5 years have been filled with much adventure, laughter, discipline :), and quiet and not-so-quiet moments together.
That first week that I was home alone with this tiny baby, I decided to make a trek out to the post office. It was BITTERLY cold, so I was going to take the car. It was my first "outing" alone. It felt like it took forever just to get out the door. Everything still felt awkward and was I forgetting something... blah blah blah. I backed the car out of the garage and down the driveway. All clear. HOWEVER, there was a patch of ice lurking beneath a small pile of snow. The snow was not an issue, but the stupid ice patch was. And there, in my driveway, 1/2 onto the road, I was totally and completely stuck.
Did I mention I'd brought the dog along, just for fun!?
Hmmmm. What to do. Baby is in the car. Dog is now very anxious. I am more than a touch nervous myself. Quite a quandary. A friend neighbor stops by. So thankful for her familiar face, I open my door - and the pooch ESCAPES! It takes me a while to catch him, and when I do, my friend says that her husband clears driveways and would be more than willing to help me out. A simple tug later, and my car is free.... except that in the process, he drives straight off the culvert in ANOTHER neighbors driveway and now his truck was totally and completely stuck. And sitting at an angle that didn't look....good. Five hours later, all the vehicles are back in their respective garages. I never did make it to the mail!

Almost every time we head out together, I ask Little M -- HEY, wanna go off on an ADVENTURE together!? 
One time, when we were headed off to the city for some fun, she calls out from the back seat, "we're off on the greatest adventure EVER!!"
Life is always an adventure.
You just never know what might happen :).




 
She's worn her birthday girl ribbon every day since she got it :). 

Year ONE

 Year TWO

 Jammin' it up on Year THREE

 Cheesin' it up for Year FOUR

 
Year FIVE.
Wow. This pic doesn't show it, but we've probably lit the birthday candle 
about five times. Sung Happy Birthday every time :).
Such a hoot!!!
We've started letting Sweet K blow it out too, 
just to practice for her birthday in June :)!

Happy birthday, my sweet little girl.
You're a one-of-a-kind and we love you very much!
You make us laugh and laugh and laugh.
We are thankful for you.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Living again

As with most folks around here, we contended with the flu this past week.
I can't complain. Though we each always get our seasonal colds, our kids have not had the flu very often. It was our turn, and it hit with a vengeance!

It's tough being a grown up :) - caring for little ones while you are not well yourself. Energy runs desperately short, discouragement creeps up and all you want to do is crawl under the covers until it all goes away!

Each kiddo got a cozy corner of a couch, and slept off their illnesses by the light of the christmas tree. We listened to A LOT of Adventures in Odyssey :) and watched a lot of home videos. At nighttime, Jon moved a mattress into the living room to listen for them if they got sick, while I tended to the littlest one in our room. She wasn't sick, but she wasn't sleeping well at night either! Somehow 5 days have passed and I think we're seeing the light at the end of the tunnel!

This morning, however, I felt better. The first thought that came to mind when I realized my body no longer ached (like even underneath-your-fingernails type aching!!) and that I no longer groaned every time I moved :) --- this is what it feels to LIVE again. It takes going down for the count, even something as simple as the flu, to remind me how good it feels just to breathe and move without so much effort and think more clearly and all the other essentials of life that I so quickly take for granted.

This morning, I felt joy as we moved through our morning routine. Deep gratitude. I longed to throw open the windows for fresh air. (However I figured that Jon would assure me that with the cold temps and snow falling outside it would likely be a waste of heat energy!!) I have settled, instead for washing every blanket, towel, set of pjs, pillows and cases and couch cover that I could find. Everything goes through the laundry and hopefully that fresh-home smell will soon re-emerge. (Maybe plugging in the glade air freshener would help too!)

In some ways, it reminds me of when I discovered grace for the first time. Not just knowledge of God, but life WITH God. Ah, my heart said, this is what it feels like to LIVE. I felt joy. I longed to throw open the windows of my heart and soul and let His fresh Spirit clean house. It took a while to get all the messes cleaned up (we're still working on several!!), but it felt so ... good. Still does.

For all of you who find yourself contending with the flues of the season, we pray for a speedy recovery. May you find His grace, and a breath of fresh air, in the midst of the battle.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Because sometimes you need to laugh

Admittedly, yesterday was a rather crap-tacular kinda day.
Maybe that's too harsh. There were some truly spectacular moments - Little M's christmas concert, sharing a few unexpected gifts, visiting with parents.
However, it was a day, too, where you wondered why you crawled out from under the covers.
Oh yeah.
Baby was up at 5:45am and ready to play.
Then the other littles were up and needing breakfast.
And then, there was the sneaky flu that was influencing attitudes and behaviors, only we didn't know about it until bedtime.
Lunch bombed because the pancakes didn't cook properly (who screws up pancakes - yours truly, apparently!!) and supper was wonky because the meatballs kept falling apart (mushy meatballs, YUCK!).
And then we were up every 20 minutes at night with buckets and towels, wet wash clothes and soothing words.
Some days are rough.

And yet, there was this glimmer of humor.


Enjoy.
May you find opportunities to do the happy dance today!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Work We Do...

These days, there are plenty of moments absorbed by the simple, mundane household chores of life. There's always a stack of dishes to wash, an extra load of laundry to do or a basket of toys to put away. I've had much opportunity to reflect on the value, and definition, of the work we do.


The writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us, "A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? .... That everyone may eat and drink and find satisfaction in all his toil - this is the gift of God." 2:24, 25, 3:13.


I've had the privilege of enjoying almost every job I've ever had, as well as each employer I have worked for. In high school I worked at the typical diner, but at least I worked with friends and that made the time fly by. I've worked as a travel agent, live-in nanny, camp counselor, education assistant, maintenance gal (some day I will share about the battle of identity over "Paint Girl"!), head custodian, housing director, conference coordinator and an assistant for students. As I grew in awareness and understanding, God provided the sense of "this is where I need to be" - even if I didn't always like the tasks (and there were DEFINITELY tasks I didn't like). Even if the days sometimes felt long. And unproductive. Even then, work held meaning for me, and therefore a sense of satisfaction at the end of the day.


I've been a SAHM for 5 years now. This past year was the best yet (maybe they'll just keep getting better and better :P?). I feel like I've found my groove around here and I'm really enjoying it. I don't always enjoy the endless chores, but even that provides an outlet for energy, a sense of rhythm to the week. And it's definitely not because things are always easy. They aren't. It's a struggle to grow and learn and love sometimes.


I am beginning to view work in a much broader sense. Waiting can be very hard work. Battling with impatience, anxiety, confusion, despair - these are only a few of the things we need to contend with when we find ourselves waiting. Listening is very important work - for how can we truly know and hear and understand if we aren't practicing the discipline of paying attention? Loving can be very challenging. Sometimes people (and our selves) are "easy" to love, but when relational friction enters the scene and we're having to choose care-filled words when we want to yell, apologies even when we don't feel like we were "all wrong", or a servant attitude when we want to be bossy :), loving can be very much work indeed.


In fact, I'm starting to wonder if the only important work we can do is love. All other tasks and actions, whether they are mundane or notable, stem from our commitment to love. Sometimes it is easy to love. Other times it requires far more intentionality. But isn't that what scripture talks about? 



26 “What is written in the Law?” he [Jesus] replied. “How do you read it?”
 27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[a]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]
   28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. Do this and you will live.”
Luke 10:26-28



The more I see the routine chores as an act of love, the more I am willing to do them. The more I view talking with my neighbor, opening my home to guests, ministering my family, connecting with my friends as an act of loving hospitality, the more joyfully I will serve. The more I smile at the store clerk, thank the people that work for services that I enjoy, acknowledge those on the fringe, the more gratefully I will live. The more I love, the more I experience God's precious gift, and the more satisfaction I will find in my work. Even the dishes, laundry and tough stuff of life.




Thursday, December 9, 2010

A splash of summer in the midst of winter :)

One thing I've discovered about gardening...
"Million Bells" cherry tomatoes pretty much live up to their name. There are SCADS of 'em! And since we (for some reason I am not exactly sure of, mind you I was about to give birth -- well, not literally RIGHT AWAY but within a short period of time and my mind was a little fuzzy :)...) purchased four of these delightful plants for our garden - or was it six, now I really can't remember that either! - we had A LOT of cherry tomatoes.


And note -- eating too many cherry tomatoes in one day is BAD for the system ;).
We've figured that out two years in a row!


So, what to do? Freeze 'em. Wash em up and freeze 'em whole. I found two recipes online that allows you to make homemade tomato soup from these delicious little morsels - and the best part is, no peeling of skins. Just cook 'em up, puree the whole lot and strain it if you don't like the seeds ;).


Garden Fresh Tomato Soup




Ingredients

  • 4 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 1 slice onion
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons white sugar, or to taste


Directions

  1. In a stockpot, over medium heat, combine the tomatoes, onion, cloves and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, and gently boil for about 20 minutes to blend all of the flavors. Remove from heat and run the mixture through a food mill into a large bowl, or pan. Discard any stuff left over in the food mill.
  2. In the now empty stockpot, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour to make a roux, cooking until the roux is a medium brown. Gradually whisk in a bit of the tomato mixture, so that no lumps form, then stir in the rest. Season with sugar and salt, and adjust to taste.




Fresh Tomato Zucchini Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium zucchini, cubed
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 8 large tomatoes, cored
  • 1 small sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh red chile pepper
  • 1 (14 ounce) can vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon dried tarragon
  • 2 teaspoons dried dill weed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook and stir the zucchini and garlic in the skillet until lightly browned. Remove from heat, and set aside.
  2. In a blender or food processor, puree the tomatoes, onion, and chile pepper, leaving a few small chunks.
  3. In a large pot, mix the tomato puree and vegetable broth. Season with tarragon, dill, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and mix in the zucchini and garlic. Cover, and cook 45 minutes.



YUMMY! With fresh baked biscuits, these were fun recipes to try. 
A little reminder of summer and warm days to come :).

Of course I still have some carrots and beets that never made it into the house and are now a frozen lump in the garage, but there's always next year!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Kings!

On the Christmas playlist for this year.....



DOWNHERE LYRICS – How Many Kings
Follow the star to a place unexpected
Would you believe after all we’ve projected
A child in a manger

Lowly and small, the weakest of all
Unlikeliness hero, wrapped in his mothers shawl
Just a child
Is this who we’ve waited for?

Cause how many kings, stepped down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
How many Gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that has torn all apart?
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?

Bringing our gifts for the newborn savior
All that we have whether costly or meek
Because we believe
Gold for his honor and frankincense for his pleasure
And myrrh for the cross he’ll suffer
Do you believe, is this who we’ve waited for?
It’s who we’ve waited for

How many kings, stepped down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
How many Gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that has torn all apart?
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?
Only one did that for me

All for me
All for you
All for me
All for you



Thursday, November 18, 2010

Confessions of a Stitch-a-holic :)

I LOVE to crochet!!
And did you know that you can crochet while feeding a baby!?
Yup, you can.
:)


But, really, a person can only crochet so many doilies or scarves before hunting for another project :).


While surfing the blog world one day, I came across Caps For Good. Just having had a baby myself, this jumped out at me. Hey, this is something I could do! I thought.


And so the search for the perfect wool (I've already lost one #4 needle in the process ;P) began.




Did You Know .....


Nearly 4 million babies die each year in their first month of life - half within their first 24 hours - mostly from preventable or treatable causes. But by giving mothers and caregivers a package of simple tools, including guidance on healthy newborn care practices, the majority of these deaths could be prevented. Items crucial to saving more babies’ lives include: 


•   antibiotics to treat infection 
•   immunizations against tetanus 
•   skilled birth attendants at every birth 
•   counseling on breastfeeding 
•   information on basic newborn care such 
     AS keeping  the cord clean and keeping 
     the baby warm 



This is where you can help by making a cap! Your caps will be sent to Save the Children’s newborn health programs in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Visit GoodGoes.org/caps to see stories about how caps like yours are making a difference in the lives of mothers and children around the world. Baby caps are a simple and effective tool that can keep babies warm and ultimately contribute to reducing newborn deaths in the developing world. 
 - taken from the Caps For Good info site

The stitching has begun! My goal is to make 10 caps before adding fun little do-dads. I have all sorts of ideas and am quite excited :P!  Four down, six to go! AND I've promised myself I'll use up all the wool I've bought for this already BEFORE I buy more (I'm a sucker for more soft wool!!).





If you're interested in joining me, if you can get basic patterns and more information at Caps For Good.  Please note, all caps need to be in NY by February 28, 2011. AND GET THIS - there is even a little tag that you can attach to your cap and write a little note to the mother who will receive this for her baby!






If you send a cap (or two or ten ;)...) let me know!


I'll post pictures of the final cap stash! Until then, happy stitching!!!


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Let Heaven and Nature Sing

Snow or no snow :), we've already started decorating for Christmas around here!! The tree will wait until the weekend, but there are evergreen garlands and lights, and little festive, shiny, sparkly bits of fun everywhere!

I was inspired the other day while standing by my dryer, folding yet another load of laundry. A prayer phrase began to stir in my heart. In the past few months, as life has adjusted to the presence of a newborn, and time alone is scarce indeed, the chore task of laundry has often become a place of prayer. It's not for long periods of time, but particularly when there are 5+ loads to sort and fold and wash and dry, I can find myself standing there for a length of time!

As the refrain, let heaven and nature sing!! settled into my mind, I reflected on the simplicity and beauty of these words. 

Too often I feel like I'm scrambling through the day...  
trying to teach the littles all the things I think they'll need to know... 
or attempting to finish at least one chore before starting another (somehow, there are always dishes and seldom a fully tidy counter!!!)... 
or striving to live a life worthy of the calling I have received (Eph. 4:1).

Not often enough these days, do I find myself just resting in the greatness of God.

“‘Holy, holy, holy
   is the Lord God Almighty,’
   who was
and is
and is to come.”
Revelation 4:8b

 I felt like this was a fitting focus for Advent. For those precious moments when I can slip away, alone, to rest in the One who came to make a way and will come again to make all things right. 

We are invited to revel in His JOY, 
to participate in His revelation of love, 
and to bear witness to His splendor and majesty that is worthy of all adoration and praise.



I need a lot of visual reminders these days :). I easily forget and lose my focus. I found this delightful picture, added the words that center my heart, printed it off and framed it so that I can be drawn back into this reality each time I see the photo that is perched on my windowsill.

The inspiration to decorate for Christmas came at the perfect time. Little M had only ONE DAY of school last week, and so the fun process of unpacking trinkets, checking lights and vacuuming up alllll the bits of tinsel that found their way around the house lasted for a few days. What FUN we had! We listened to the first round of Christmas music, dimmed the lights for the full, mini-light effect and tried to light candles that were cheap and not very effective ;). (Note to self, you'll need to pick up more tea lights!)


“Great and marvelous are your deeds, 
   Lord God Almighty. 
Just and true are your ways, 
   King of the nations. 
Who will not fear you, Lord, 
   and bring glory to your name? 
For you alone are holy. 
All nations will come 
   and worship before you, 
for your righteous acts have been revealed."
Revelation 15:3b-4



Let heaven and nature sing!


ps - Thought I LOVE snow, I am thankful that it has not yet officially arrived. These weeks, we travel to school 1-3 times per week, and the morning and afternoon walks are SPECTACULAR!!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Earth Angel


As always, posts "percolate" for a while before I add them to my blog. Many many many ideas never find their way into words. 

I've been wanting to do a on someone very special for a long time. But I was just waiting for all the words to gather together....

At first I was going to call it "Super Woman"... but then, in an email one day, my youngest sister referred to my mom as "Earth Angel" and I knew I'd found the phrase I'd been searching for.



To call her "Super Woman" wouldn't be accurate. She's not ever "above anyone" or superior in any way.  Though how she manages to do as much as she does for all of us that know her is still a mystery to me.  Rather, she's an Earth Angel. She's practical,  reliable,  and always always always ready to help.
She doesn't ever claim to have all the answers, but listens to me as I sort through life's issues. She is a sounding board, and even when we don't see things from the same perspective (her floors are spotless, mine are seldom washed :); she's always early, I'm usually late!!; she presses ahead while I tend to question things a bit more), she doesn't try to convince me otherwise. She lets me learn ;). Especially as I dealt with stuff at the beginning of Sweet K's life, I had her on speed-dial. Her words to me, "call anytime..." meant more than anything else she could have done or said. Except for those times when she brought over homemade soup and treats, maybe ;).


 "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" - Charles Caleb Colton once said. We are very different people, and I wouldn't do everything the same way, but I do hope that I can be the stable, listening, guiding presence to my girls that my mother has been to me. 
What an honor that would be.








As I looked for pictures of my mother, I couldn't find very many. That's because she's always hovering in the background, lending a helping hand whenever possible. At birthday parties, christmas festivities, outings and so on, she's always there, ready to grab a stroller or a diaper bag and lend a helping hand. The other day, Sweet K cried when "Gama" left. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she wandered around the house, looking for her friend. I felt sad too. I enjoy our visits, our frequent phone chats and our laughs. Because there is ALWAYS something to laugh about!!!
She prays, she listens,
she learns and laughs with us.
My siblings and I are blessed.
Thank you mom!!!






Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Tale of Three Smooches!

Frequently throughout this last pregnancy, I got asked if I was hoping for a boy.
I'd smile and chuckle -- I guess with two gallies already, a boy would round things out a bit.

Especially for Jon. I suspect there'll be some serious pre-teen mood swings around this place ;).

But, truthfully, it really didn't matter to me one iota. The fact that we'd gone on to have a third child was already the fulfillment of a deep longing, and it wasn't that we were "trying" for a boy. I knew, in my heart, that our family was missing someone and that this person was meant to be.

Little M desperately wanted a brother, though. She even "talked to God" about it one evening while we were saying our prayers. Our conversation went something like this:

M: Mommy, should we ask God if we are having a boy or a girl?
Me: Well, we could.....
M: Okay. God. God? God?? Are you there? Silence.
Me: Really wondering what was going on in M's silence. What kind of lessons would she learn from this prayer? What kind of questions would she ask!?
M: God? Yeah, are we having a brother or a sister? Silence.
Me: Welllllll?
M: God said we are having a boy!!!!
Me: Well, I guess we'll have to wait and see, won't we :)!

Well, we went on to have another beautiful baby girl. We were DELIGHTED!!!

Smooch #1: Little M
aka. Firecracker.
She is witty, intelligent, sensitive
and challenges me because she is 
so very much like me :). 
I LOVE her passion!!

 Smooch #2: Sweet K
aka. gentle
Her name literally means sweet-scented spice
and she is so mild-tempered.
Even at this young age, she has a definite soft spot 
for people with disabilities. She gravitates toward them,
seeking to draw them into play time.
Blesses my heart every time!


Smooch #3: Wee One
Little Miss Wiggle
She is active. 
ALWAYS moving. 
Always discovering.
From the moment we put her on her stomach that very first time,
she was trying to crawl!
My sisters (who both have sons) hoped I'd have a boy that would 
dangle from the chandeliers!!!
I may not have a son, but I suspect that this little one will keep
me hopping!!!!

When Jon came home from the hospital to tell the girls they had a sister, we were not sure what Little M's reaction would be. She knocked our socks off with her response:

Jon: You girls have a baby sister. We're going to have THREE GIRLS in this family.
M: "Well daddy, that's just three times the trouble!!!"

We love this three-daughter life, and are delighted by them daily.
We eagerly anticipate living through the adventure of the Tale of Three Smooches!!!

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