head in my hands…

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(a small bit life-giving beauty at my house. )

I sat at the table, facing my computer with my eyes sheltered, my forehead resting on my hands.  Perhaps, if I can’t see it, it isn’t true.   Friends – This is how my life has been going as of late.  I won’t lie that social media, and the speedy pace of all sorts of information wreaks havoc on my tender heart. Some days the best thing I can do is just PUT. IT. AWAY.

Bad news in politics.  Life altering situations for friends.  Frustration in my own personal life – It all piles up in seconds flat and I shut down.

Over the course of the summer my children and I have been listening thru the entire  Chronicles of Narnia. An all-time favorite for me, my heart becomes so wrapped up tightly in hope that I feel like I might burst when I hear what C.S. Lewis writes.  Truly, it is an anecdote for my plight.

Today, in the car, we finished the final book, “The Last Battle,” and I found myself thinking of all the parallels I find with our world today.  But one of the most beautiful things I heard, was at the very end, as Lewis uses the end of his story to describe eternity.

“And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion;  but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them.  And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after.  But for them it was only the beginning of the real story.  All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page:  now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read:  which goes on for ever:  in which every chapter is better than the one before.”  

Lewis’ words dug deep into the soft places of my heart and I realized something:  In comparison with what is in store, the beauty of eternity with our Savior and all that is to come (which is impossible for us to even fathom), all of this junk that paralyzes me – my frustrations and pain, the heart ache of friends, the sickness and tragedy all around –  it is a tiny little nothing.  It has complete insignificance in light of the coming goodness of eternity.

from 2Corinthians 4: 16-18- So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,  as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.   

When I think of that complete, unending joy, love, and peace that we will know forever, I’m undone and at the same time I’m rescued. Someday all these earthly heartaches that seemed to have checkered a lifetime, will seem like a simple moment.

With these thoughts, I feel as though He has lifted my head from my hands, and focused my eyes heavenward.  amen.

from Psalm 3:2-4  Many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God. Selah. But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,  my glory, and the lifter of my head.  I cried aloud to the Lord,  and he answered me from his holy hill.

 

 

a new flavor (including two new recipes)

Yesterday I did a little baking, loaves of zucchini bread and a batch of banana muffins were on the menu. BUT!  I used a new ingredient.  Just a teaspoon or two made all the delicious difference that you can possibly imagine!  In fact, it is a new favorite flavor, that I’m going to use whenever I can!    What is it you might ask?

vanilla butter nut extract.

I never thought something so seemingly insignificant, something that  disappears into the batter or dough, something that you can’t really see,  would change my baked goods so much.  But, I can promise you this!  I’ll be using this new little secret ingredient in my baking as often as I can.

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This morning I’ve been thinking about my relationship with Christ, the Holy Spirit in me.  He is not insignificant, by any means.  While I can’t physically see Him,  He should be the essence of who I am!  Those who come in contact with me, should sense His presence in tangible ways.  Who He is should sweeten my thoughts, words and actions with love and grace.

From 2 Corinthians 2 :

14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17 For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.

Oh Lord, let me be a lovely fragrance to those around me, so that they might know who You are!  I’m know that I’m not sweet on my own, so You must do this work in me!  amen.

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I know you’re wanting these yummy recipes I made yesterday.  They are taken from a very special cookbook! The ladies of Crestwicke Christian Academy in Guelph, Ontario put these recipes together – and I’m so glad my Aunt Jean gave us this book long ago!  (Or it is possible she gave it to my mum and I stole it from her.)

Zucchini Bread

3 cups flour
3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup oil (I used 1/2 cup oil, 1/2 cup mashed banana)
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla butter nut extract
2 heaping cups grated zucchini
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
handful of shredded coconut
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
11/2 cup sour cream (I used plain yogurt)

Instructions – Preheat oven to 350. Grease two 9×5 loaf pans. Combine flour with dry ingredients. Beat eggs, combine with wet ingredients. Then, add wet to dry ingredients. mix well. pour into pans and bake for about 1 hour, be sure the middle is well done. Cool in pans.

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

3 large mashed bananas
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup melted butter
1 tsp baking soa
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup shredded coconut
2 tsp vanilla butter nut flavoring
Instructions – Mash bananas and mix with sugar, egg and melted butter.  Add remaining dry ingredients to the wet.  stir in chocolate chips.  Fill muffin tins and bake at 375 for 20 minutes.  Try not to eat them all in one sitting.  :)

So,  these photos of my zucchini bread and banana muffin are lame.  Yes, I know it is true, but, do not be deceived – they are DE-LISH!!!  IMG_3952

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high school, here she comes !

Okay, okay, I know what you’re probably thinking.  “Who has a party for their child for finishing 8th grade?”  It is true, most people don’t make a big deal out of moving into high school.

But, we home school – and for my girl who has worked so hard over the past year -so there was no promotion assembly to attend, or any type of “graduation” at school.  I decided we would party on our own!

On a side note, there seems to be overwhelming, unexpected tragedy everywhere right now – whether thinking about last week’s mass murder of innocent people, or a young toddler drowned at Disney in a freak accident by an alligator – None of us know about tomorrow; better to celebrate life with joy today! I’m happy we took the moment to love and appreciate our daughter and tell her just how much we think she’s incredible.

Here are a few photos from our afternoon with friends and family.  We are so grateful for the folks God has placed in Emily’s life to love and support her!

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Mom, with kids who swim in the deep end

I am officially a mom with three kids who can swim in the deep end.   Last week my youngest jumped in, off the diving board into the deep end, with no floaty – and that made it official!

We have spent many summers at the pool – since Mackenzie was 3, we have been dedicated.  Friends ask me in April, “What are your plans for the summer?” and without hesitation I reply, “We are going to the pool.”  When they persist with questions like, are you doing and fun field trips?  Are you setting up park play days for your kids with friends?  My answer remains: You will find us at the pool.

I love to be in the cool water all season long.  Not much can keep me away – and, truly, my dedication has paid off.  My kids love the pool too!   We haven’t done official swim lessons, but all three kids are confident, like fish, and maneuver around the water without difficulty.

It hasn’t always been this way.  Four years ago, being at the pool was work.  I had to be on alert the whole time we were poolside, constantly counting my three’s heads.  No reading a book or browsing a Southern Living.  No conversing with friends.  Vigilance was called for every minute.  Don’t get me wrong!  I loved it! We’d make trains, we’d spin and dunk and jump in from the edge.  We’d race from one side to the other.  I really do love playing at the pool with my babies.

But now, I am in a new place of freedom.  I’m not so necessary.  Oh, I get the occasional “Mama, watch this!”  and that kind of thing, but they don’t need me to catch them when they jump in.  They don’t need me to teach them to float.  They are pretty independent on most levels.  Don’t get me wrong!  I’m still watching.  If something were to happen, I’m ready to jump in at a moment’s notice.   I suppose “counting heads”  will always be a part of this mama’s life.

This week, Isaac jumped into a different deep end. He went to his first week-long day camp, where he knew no one and was unsure of who his counselor would be, or his surroundings.  Sunday night he was uneasy, but we talked it over – and he woke up rarin’ to go and quite excited.   Monday morning he jumped right in! He’s never done anything of the sort before – but he managed and with confidence, too.    In fact, he’s really surprised me at how well he did.  I am so happy to see the young man he’s becoming!

For this Mom, I know I’m always going to be watching from the sidelines – cheering my kids on – ready to help when they need me!  I love being a part of this crazy, cool cycle : new experience, learn, grow, repeat.     It brings my heart incredible joy to see them become more independent and become the amazing people God created them to be!

But, what’s better – I’m learning and growing too!   In each situation, as I learn to trust Him more, my understanding of His care for me deepens. No matter what, He is with me in the deep end!  I hope that as I remember just how much He loves me, I can demonstrate that and remind my children of that truth too!

 

below: Isaac jumping in the deep end, his first morning at drop-off!  – and I promise, he was happy!  :)

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summertime on the porch

When I was a child, my sister and I spent weeks at a time at our Great Grandmother, GG’s home in Ottumwa, Iowa.  Conveniently it was located next door to our Mammaw and Pappaw’s house.    I have so many happy memories of summertime in Iowa.

Summer was spent doing important things like picking strawberries from the garden, playing under the oversized Willow tree in the far front corner of the yard, and sitting on the davenport on the front porch to watch Lightening storms in the evening. Catching lightening bugs at dusk was always on the agenda, and of course, indulging in GG’s hot chocolate sauce over Hy-Vee vanilla ice cream for a treat.

I can feel it, like it all happened a few days ago; sitting there on the davenport with GG in the heat, the humidity wrapping around our necks like a thick winter scarf  while sharp, forks of lightening stabbed at the dark in the distance.    The glider-style couch had a large bright blue floral pattern on it that I can still see now when I close my eyes.  And she always wore a cotton, loose fitting, house dress and looked absolutely comfortable no matter the temperature…

I’m draped with memories of GG from my childhood, especially in the summer season.   While it used to bring pain, I’m filled with so much happiness now when I have a quick memory of her, her laugh, and her sparkling eyes.   Our summers were golden with GG.

One thing I recall for certain : GG began her mornings with God’s Word.  When we woke in the morning, we would see her Bible open, next to her cup of Folgers.  Could there be a better way to start a summer morning?  No.  absolutely not. Well,  except for the Folger’s part!

Without realizing it (until recently), I have been following in GG’s  footsteps; waking early to read my Bible and sip coffee (but, not Folgers), or wearing the always comfortable, always appropriate loose cotton summer dresses.  I even thought recently that I needed my own davenport for the back deck so that we could watch the lightening bugs glitter in the evenings.

I’m so grateful for the simple childhood memories that, even to this day, call me back to what is truly important!

from Psalm 92:

1 It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
    to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
    and your faithfulness by night,

mom + strawberries+ me = jam

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Yesterday, at 3:45 P.M. my Mum texted, “no strawberries.” What a bummer! We had been planning all week to make strawberry jam, so this was a bit of hindrance to our plans.  Strawberries, are truly a big part of making strawberry jam.  So, our redirected plan was to try for early next week, maybe Monday.

At 5:20 Mum called to say – there were berries after all! She and dad would be over shortly with 8 quarts of fresh-from-the-field Tidwell’s berries.     We were on!

JAM!

With the event of my parents moving to Chattanooga recently, Mum and I keep recognizing all the things we’ve never done together as adults.  And so far we seem to be good partners in crime.

The jam-making was lots of fun – and sticky – and almost a huge disaster.  We got into a bit of a jam, while making our jam.  We had lids pop off of two of our jars while they were processing in a pot of boiling water.  We almost had a hot, sticky mess on our hands!  But, mom, after 30 years working as a surgical nurse in the operating room, thinks faster on her feet than anyone I know,  and we managed to take care of things efficiently and quickly.

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You know, there are many times I go it alone.  I’m independent, quite a bit hard-headed – and I strike out to accomplish projects without help.  But, I don’t believe that is how God made us to really function.  He made us for relationship,  with Him, and then with others.  In the small things, and in the big things – Life is better in community!

I keep thinking of this Scripture from Ecclesiastes 4:

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!

Jam-making in my kitchen is the perfect example – My prior jam making skills, and my mom’s quick thinking added together is what made our adventure a satisfying success!  Loving one another and encouraging one another thru all of life’s jams is a big part of life in Christ!  Here’s to many more jams with you, Mum!DSC_0439

being a mom

 

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Last weekend was Mother’s Day.

I don’t really remember the Mother’s Days we celebrated over the course of my childhood. I’m guessing, but, that’s probably because I was a pastor’s kid – and Sundays were always so busy, so… there wasn’t time to make a big deal over the Hallmark Holiday.

With that history, why is Mother’s Day so hard for me?   Some years my little family celebrates more than others. True confession:  I always end up ruining it.  I get my panties in a twist, and it gets ugly if things don’t turn out how I’ve dreamed.

Why do I need so much approval and recognition?  Why do I wrap up all my worth as a mother, in that one day?

Why? Because I’m a sinner, that’s why.  I’m complicated and ridiculous.  And, well, being a mom is hard.  No one told me how hard it was back before I became a mother.  Or maybe I wasn’t listening.  Regardless,  I had no idea just how needy and selfish I was, until I was a parent.  It was then that my heart was totally exposed.  And that, is HARD.

But, God is at work.  Yes, I struggle, but by His grace, He is making me into the woman, wife and mother that he wants me to be.   More and more I am able to find my worth in Him, as His daughter.  I’m letting go of my need for others’ approval.  He is helping to love my children, more deeply and genuinely than I ever imagined possible, with a love that He has put in my heart.    Thankfully,  He’s given me children who love me and forgive me.  Believe me, they have to offer forgiveness to me A LOT!

I’m reminded of a little song I’ve been singing with my children this spring, from Ephesians 2:10″For we are God’s masterpiece, He has created us new in Christ.  So we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.”

What a beautiful reminder:  I am His masterpiece. He is continuing the good work in me, so that I can do all of the good things He planned for me, before the beginning of time.   I’m so grateful to see His promise come alive in my own heart.   

These are my lovely children, from this year’s Mother’s Day.    I love them so. Even on the hard days, they make being a mom wonderful!

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