Poetry Friday (Random Acts of Poetry)

Graveside, in Autumn

voices rise
to vaulted azure heights
Amazing Grace floats soft
over bowed heads, gilded
with glowing Autumn-light

Amazing, grace…
that gives us peace here
in this bitter, sweet
and beautiful place
suffused with golden
waning light

she wanders quietly,
my rosy child
amid the gravestones solemnly
and slanting yellow God-light
makes blond curls
a gilt and living nimbus

she stoops, gathers
gold-dipped flowers, leaves of crimson
gifts and treasures
cradled like live birds
in soft black folds of velvet dress

quietly, warm child-hands
touch cold grey monuments
linger a moment
place offerings of beauty
atop long forgotten stone

they glow there
in the gold and fading Autumn sun
God-painted leaves
Lambent, brilliant, fragile
beautiful gifts
infused with dying Autumn light

I catch my breath
feel September’s fading beauty
the breeze that lifts
and makes gold fairy leaves dance
on crumbling stone

she dances on,
I touch the thought…

how quick the time
between green leaves
and gold

Read more Random Acts of Poetry at The High Calling Blogs!


Gratitude Journal

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

Thank you, Lord, for…

125. The beautiful Autumn light, that paints everything in halos of gold.

126. The colors, saturated with that gold-light and glowing from within

127. The laughter of children, so musical and pure

128. For swings and slides and bars to climb

129. For Aunts who love to roll down hills

130. For being lifted on high

131. For sprinklings of freckles

134. For quiet water

135. For every leaf, a miracle

136. For climbing trees

137. For running…

138. And running…

139. And catching up

140. For quiet moments of reflection

141. And beautiful, long-lashed eyes

Photos taken Saturday at the park.

It’s been a tough few days.

Our little Kitten, Gwen, has been a joy to us. She is sweet, the most loving and affectionate cat we’ve ever known. She wakes us up every morning by hopping on our beds, purring loudly and licking our faces. She sleeps in a tight little puff-ball at the foot of our bed. She plays with the kids, bringing them her favorite toy and mewing loudly until they notice her waiting there. She loves the dog, and they eat, sleep, and play together like siblings. Her rabbity-soft fur is silkier than anything I’ve ever touched, warm and soft and inviting as her little engine purrs under our hands. She’s been a blessing.

On Saturday, she got sick. She vomited all day, and stopped eating and drinking. By Sunday, she was so dehydrated that she required a night in Animal ER, fluids, x-rays, blood tests….to try and find the source of all this suffering. She was suffering so much that she wouldn’t allow us to touch her, she growled when anyone came near…especially the children. It broke our hearts.

She bounced back a little, and is home now. But she still isn’t eating or drinking, and although she has a little of her spunk back she is not the same cat she was last week. We have no answers on what might be wrong. I’m not sure she is going to make it.

The kids are having a hard time. They love this little animal, they want so desperately to keep her, for her to return to normal, for her to be her healthy and happy self again. This is a longing I can’t promise fulfillment on. This is a faith-testing, soul searching, heart-aching road. I feel the tenderness, the vulnerability, the open wound of their fear and pain so deeply, I see the worry and loss in their eyes and I can only say…God provides. God created her and loves her as much as we do, and He knows what is best. I can only say, God is good, if she gets better. He is good if she does not. He gave her to us, and He has a plan for that…whether it is that we get to keep her for years, or that He picked us for her because he knew we would pour a lifetime’s worth of love into seven short months, I do not know. But I know that God is good.

Oh, I hate to see my children’s hearts break.

Monday night, after bringing the sick cat home from her hospital stay, we found Rachel’s beloved pet fish, Caruso, dead in the tank. Why now, with all that is happening with the cat? I don’t know. Our kids feel these things so deeply, they love with such abandon. What could we do? Andrew and I sat together, saddened. Knowing the pain that awaited our little five year old, the child with the heart ten times too big for her little body. God gives, God takes away. How much can a child endure in one week, and keep her faith? We agonized a bit…how bad would it be, if we quietly removed Caruso, replaced him with an identical fish? But no, God’s plan…however difficult, is good. He is doing something, he does not waste even pain. Andrew made Caruso a matchbox coffin, we stood over our sleeping Rachel and prayed for her little heart, for peace and faith to be bigger than life’s little, piercing griefs.

Morning came, grey and cold. Rachel took it well. We carefully placed Caruso in the little, tissue-lined box, she said her goodbyes. Her brother and sister, who have buried pets before, were strong by her side. They were a comfort, they knew her pain. Rachel picked a quiet, special spot under the trees, and we prayed around a tiny grave. “God, thank you for Caruso’s life. Thank you that he was pretty and a blessing for the time we had him. Thank you that he is in heaven, swimming happily in the little pond by our heaven-house…with other pets who came before”. Amen.

Stones and pretty Autumn-painted leaves, bright blue flowers mark the place. We carried on. God is good, God is always good.

I pray that the kids don’t have to bury another pet this week, that our kitten makes it through. Selfishly, I want to beg God…please, please make her better. Please don’t break my kids’ hearts again. But I know…God is good when He gives, and good when He takes away. It’s not my decision to make, whatever lesson we need to learn here is God’s to decide. The kitty is hanging in there, but I don’t know what the chances are that she’ll make it. I feel weary, care-worn, I want to lay my head down and cry, I don’t feel like I have enough left to be strong for the kids…for their questions, their fears, their sadness.

But God will provide, He is good. One way or another, we will come through this stronger, more the people He is moulding us to be. My heart cries out, but my faith is in Him. These hurts are part of life, the ups and downs that weave a tapestry too big for us to comprehend. We are blessed that that our lives are as easy, as peaceful as they are…even at times like this. This morning, I look to the Psalms for strength…David, that king of old, knew far greater suffering, far greater ups and downs than I. He cried out, and was comforted. He praised and lamented and still held faith.

Psalm 59: 9-10 O my Strength, I watch for you; you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God.

My strength is in Him, in He who gives and takes away.

Lord, I pray for strength through this hard time, for me and Andrew and especially for our children. You know our hearts, you know our feelings. You know that we want our little cat to make it and be healthy again, but help us through whatever your will is on this matter. We thank you and praise you for your blessings, for the wonderful life you’ve given us and the beauty it entails. Be our Strength, let us rest in You. Amen.

Update: Kitty is doing much better today! I have hope that she’ll be Ok, she is eating again and although she still won’t drink, I have been able to force enough fluids that she has perked up quite a bit. We’re optimistic that she’ll make it!

As In a Mirror, Dimly

Note: Through the lens…I have been thinking more about how we see things, and how that effects our walk. This weekend, pastor Steele Croswhite mentioned the
concept of through the lens. I’ve posted about this before…choosing the lens through which we see the world, and how the way we look at things changes the way we live our lives. Steele takes this one step further, and points out that when we see the world through the lens of Biblical Truth, it looks entirely different than it does through the lens of the world. If you like, you can listen to his sermon here (and if you do, you’ll know that Steel embodies Romans 12:11….“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” NIV).

As in a Mirror, Dimly

Did you ever feel like you were upside-down in a right-side up world? I feel like that frequently. The world is constantly bombarding me with things that I know are contrary to truth! All around, the constant static and noise, the hype, the urgency of the now seems to be pressing in on all sides. It is a constant battle to keep yourself oriented, to keep in line with Truth.

1 Corinthians 13, the verse about Love, ends in a beautiful line that really resonates with me… 1 Corinthians 13:12…Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Could it be that the world is asking us to view our lives through a mirror-lens, which reflects everything backwards? If we turn away from the mirror, might we be looking at the face of Truth?

What seems certain to me is that the world asks us to look at things in a distorted way. The world asks us to put Self first, to seek comfort in possessions, to stockpile treasures for the now, to ignore the needs of those less fortunate. We are told constantly that to be happy we must be the first, have the most, be right all the time. We are told to judge our worth by standards nobody can attain…that in order to be accepted we must be perfect, that we when we fail to be “good enough” (or rich enough, or successful enough, or beautiful enough…) we are thoroughly unlovable, that when we fail to reach the worldly standards set for us we become failures.

It’s hard to keep your head above the water in this sea of constant distraction. Hard to catch a breath of clean, fresh air, hard to make things out in the dim haze of a backward reflection. If I allow myself to get distracted, if I let myself drift….I find myself fighting hard to regain perspective, swerving left when I should go right, confusing up with down. It takes constant reminders to keep me from believing the mirror image…to keep me from believing the lies that that mirror-lens holds.

If you turn around, away from the poor reflection, if you look through the lens of Truth, your whole perspective changes. The world tells you that to increase your happiness you need to increase your possessions, the Truth tells us that to increase your happiness you need to increase your gratitude. The world tells us to look out for “number one”, the Truth tells us to look after those who can’t take care of themselves. The world tells us to live for the moment, the Truth tells us to live for eternity. The world tells us that we must seek our own selfish satisfaction no matter what the cost, the Truth tells us that we gain infinitely more by denying ourselves that which cannot fill the void anyway, and seeking That which can. The world tells us we are insignificant and worthless, the Truth tells us we are loved as sons and daughters of God himself, worth the ultimate sacrifice. Worthy of grace.

In this upside-down world, it’s a constant struggle to keep perspective. This is what Paul was talking about in 1 Timothy 6:12 when he reminds us to Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” NIV It isn’t supposed to be easy, this struggle to hold up the lens of Truth when the world offers us the easier view of a mirror-lens. There is rest in the Truth, there is hope, there is peace. But we have to seek it, to keep it first, to put it before everything else even when the mirror shines its brightest, when it seduces us with its backward reflection of what God intends. It means, sometimes, looking upside-down in a right-side up world.

How can we keep our perspective? Stay in the Word, the ultimate lens of Truth. Walk in the light of Jesus, who is the word and the truth. Check yourself daily for where your perspective is, and pray continually. I’m not saying this from the point of view of someone what has that concept down and is skipping along and easily ignoring the mirror-image lure of the lens of this world…I’m tripping and stumbling and losing my perspective continually, fighting hard to keep myself oriented in a confusing and backward illusion. But by grace it gets easier, it’s all possible with Him through whom all things are possible.

Lord, help me remember that we view this world as in a mirror, a poor reflection of what You made it. Help me remember that your Truth is more beautiful, more complete, and more comprehensible than anything the world can offer, that I can choose to see it through Your lens if I turn away from the mirror and let go of what I think I see. Amen!

Random Acts of Poetry

Poetry and I go way back. My mother was a poet-in-the-schools, a traveling poet/writer who spoke at public schools throughout several states, teaching children how to write (and, ostensibly, how to appreciate) poetry. She traveled a lot during my childhood, my mother.

There’s a lot of history there, a lot of nights when my child-hand gripped a pencil and scratched out poetry on torn spiral notebook paper, scratched out my deepest fears, my empty loneliness, my longings and hopes. Crumpled pages collected under my bed, gathering dust, to be stuffed down into the trash can and covered carefully with less revealing garbage. When she was home, my mother would read me the poetry of other children. I heard so many life-stories shaped in childish print, formed with sadly precocious words.

Her workshop was called “Poetry as a Way of Looking for Yourself”. She is still looking, poetry alone has never been enough to fill that void.

Years later, I would use this tool, these sculptures in words, to write myself through some very dark days. Words tore from my pen, screamed out into the emptiness, formed the shapes of what I could not say aloud.

When Grace came into my life, when I knew God again and found peace, when the Son broke over those dark days and they passed into memory, I put poetry aside. Poetry, for me, was a coping tool, a measure of my heart, a barometer of my happiness….a way to draw myself up from the depths. It became inseparable from a broken history I was now set apart from, a history I finally could allow to be healed.

I didn’t really realize that I felt this way about poetry until I found a challenge: Random Acts of Poetry at Seedlings in Stone. Poetry Friday, at High Calling Blogs, made me think….could I write poetry from joy, paint that picture as clearly as I could in pain?

It’s been puzzling me, the last few days…how strongly I reacted to the challenge of writing poetry again, and (gulp) sharing it! It’s been the cause of some soul-searching and sifting through emotions and memories that, while they lack the power to bring me to my knees anymore, still lie packed away in my mind. Why can’t I write poetry anymore? Why do I balk at the idea? I love reading other people’s poetry, I love they way they can capture the full range of emotion and life with a few carefully crafted words, the way it drives straight to the heart.

I think I understand: I have, at the core, in all the ways that matter….found myself. In the end, it turned out that it wasn’t me I was looking for at all….I found who I was when I found Christ.

Peace, understanding, grace, love. Why can’t there still be room for poetry?

So I’m giving it a try. As rusty as it’s going to be, I’m not expecting much. But the Joy I know is far deeper, far more colorful, far more dimensional than the pain ever was….and that Joy gives the pain a new face, too.

Enough ramblings, here’s a bit of poetry scratched with (very) rusty pen…it’s a start, anyway.

grace enfolds grace
grace will be sufficient
sufficient for this day is my strength
my strength is in Jesus
Jesus is grace
grace enfolds grace

An Open Palm (Sacrificial Giving, Part Two)

This post is a continuation of an earlier post, “Stealing My Gift (Sacrificial Giving, Part One).

When it comes to giving, where are my hands? That’s a question I’ve been contemplating lately. There is, I believe, a lot of confusion surrounding the act of Christian giving. Are we obligated to give? Are we required to give a certain amount? Where do we give? At some point, however, it comes down to a very basic question: Where is your heart? Where your hands are can be a good indicator of where your heart is.

When it’s hard to give…whether you’re giving your time, your money, or some other gift….Your hands are in a fist, face down, protecting what’s “yours”. Never mind that it all belongs to God, sometimes in the heat of the moment that fact just seems to get lost. It’s so easy to see it as “our” money, “our” time. God provides them all…no matter how hard you worked for it, your money can come or go in an instant (haven’t we all been reminded of that truth in the past few weeks?). No matter what you choose to do with it, time will pass as God ordained it to from the beginning of…well, time. Both are a gift that we are given, both come into our hands–and how they leave those hands tells a lot about our hearts. Our human nature seems to be to try and close our fist over those gifts, to squeeze them in our hands, draw them nearer to our hearts and horde them. It isn’t pretty, but it’s true. A closed fist, palm down, letting nothing out.

The problem with a closed fist….is that it can also let nothing in.

If my hand is closed tightly around my gifts…my time, my money, my talents…not only can I not give them away, but I also am not open to receiving. Nothing can get out, but nothing can get in, either.

I want to say right now that I am not talking about the “Prosperity Gospel”. I am not saying that if you give, you should expect to receive some monetary gift in return. That seems like a dangerous teaching to me, and it’s plain to me that it simply does not work that way. Bad things happen to good people all the time…it’s not a reflection of your faith if you are sick or poor or dealing with terrible trials in life. The righteous suffer along with the unrighteous, otherwise there would be no sick babies or starving children. The amount of money you do or do not have says nothing about the state of your soul, and the “Prosperity Gospel” seems to suggest that it does.

Giving with an expectation to receive back material blessings also doesn’t make sense to me…it takes away the “sacrifice” part of giving and puts in question the whole reason for the gift in the first place. The widow that gave everything she had in Mark 13:41 did not receive back ten times what she gave…we have to assume that she went home to struggle on without that money. Her heart must have been changed, she must have grown closer to God, she must have had to depend on him more than ever before and I am certain He didn’t let her down. Perhaps she had friends and family she could lean on in her need (which is a gift worth much more than ten times two copper coins!). But I am certain that if she had gone home to find a treasure chest overflowing with many times the amount she gave, the Bible would have told us that, too.

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” Mark 13:41-44

But I digress. If we approach life with a closed fist, we are missing what could fall into our open palm…as we try and protect what might fall out of it.

Try it now…make a fist, turned palm down. Close your eyes for moment…what do you feel?

Now, turn your fist over. Open your hand, palm up, facing the sky. Do you feel different?

I was struck by how this simple gesture illustrated how it feels to give. The open palm feels vulnerable, and yet expectant….God is free now to do with my gifts what He wants. I am open to His will, ready to let time, money, and talents pass through my hands and into His plan. Free to receive whatever it is that He has in mind for me. Free to learn what He has in store, free to learn how to depend more on God’s grace, free to lend a hand or accept one.

An open palm…a gesture of trust, of faith, of acceptance.

Lord, let me live my life with an open palm. Help me pry my fingers away from what I am hording…money, time, talents, the gifts that are all from You….and trust You with them. Help me remember that You provide it all, and You will not let me down. Amen!

It’s OK…Not to be OK

Cracked and broken ice at the edge of Silver Lake, last week

I’ve been thinking lately about the masks we wear. I have been blogging now for about six months, and have gotten to know many amazing women through their words and pictures. I’ve read stories that made me laugh, stories that made me cry. I’ve seen open honesty in a hundred different snapshots, hearts open wide to reveal both the beautiful and the ugly, the smooth and the rough. Hands open, palm up, offering a glimpse into different lives.

I think all too often, it’s easier to write about the state of our hearts than it is to speak of it aloud, to share with thousands of strangers rather than with one close friend sitting beside you. I am thankful for these spaces, where words flow and hearts connect, for the moments when you feel that rightness, that moment of I understand! I know your heart. I am thankful for those moments when they come in writing, and especially when the come over cups of coffee with dear friends.

I think sometimes we feel, perhaps we Christian women in particular feel…that it’ not OK if we’re not OK. That somehow, we need to be strong always, that if we share our moments of despair, our brokenness, our tired hearts and lagging spirits, we are somehow letting God down. As if by admitting that our Christian hearts are as susceptible to pain as any others, we are lessening our witness.

But really, in many ways…it’s the honesty that life is difficult, heartbreaking sometimes…that we experience the ups and downs of this world and yet have faith that speaks the loudest, that reveals God’s face the most.

Somehow, we seem to feel that it’s less Godly to admit we are hurting, less Christian to allow ourselves a shoulder to cry on, a friend to help us through, an ear to listen to the turmoil within. I think this is a lie, a lie that is designed to keep us from enjoying the depth of understanding for each other that we could have. It leaves us feeling that we’re more broken than others, that we don’t handle our pain as well as everyone else, that others don’t struggle in the same ways we do. We’re each walking around, cradling the secret of our brokenness silently, when we could provide relief by simply sharing. Relief to our own hearts, and to those of our friends as well. When we know we are not alone, we can put our energy into mending the pain rather than in hiding it.

Jesus gives us a picture of this. He did not hide his pain, he did not pretend that he was OK when his heart was breaking. In his moments of deepest suffering, he called his friends together to walk and pray with him. He could have gone off alone, but he sought out their company and shared his suffering with them. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” (Matthew 26:38, NIV).

He did not say he was “OK”. He honestly opened his heart to them.

Jesus did not worry that he was burdening his friends with his suffering. He knew, somehow, that his pain could help them grow. He knew that by better understanding Him, they would better understand themselves. He was not afraid to ask for their attention and support. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. (Matthew 26:40b, NIV)

Jesus didn’t wear a mask. He didn’t try to hide his pain, his humanness from his friends, he asked them to walk with him, pray with him, keep watch with him. He shared his suffering as well as his joy, and gave us an example of how to open our hearts to each other. How to share the valleys of life as well as the summits, how this helps our friends grow as much as it helps us.

I am particularly guilty of always being “OK”. I have many good friends who would be very willing to listen to me and help me through when times are tough, but when I do talk about my pain, it is more often a display of bitter complaining and muttering than an honest admission of brokenness. I find it easier to be the shoulder to cry on than the one shedding the tears, and I’m realizing more and more that I’ve been clinging to the lie that by showing these particular painful weaknesses I am somehow lessening my witness to others, and burdening them with my issues. It’s not a graceful process, but I’m learning…slowly…to follow Jesus’ example and reach out, to let it be OK to not be OK.

Lord, help me to be honest when I am not OK. Help me to overcome my need to appear strong, my vanity, my fears, my self consciousness, help me to reach out to others so that they will know they can reach out, too. Help me remember the example of your Son, and not feel ashamed to to not always be OK. Amen!

Our School House (photo essay)

This is maybe not the most exciting post ever…but here’s our “School House”. Where Homeschool happens–at least, the indoor/at our house part of it. A whole lot also happens out in the yard, at the park, on walks around the neighborhood, hikes in the mountains, in co-op classes, at the homes of our friends, at church, at museums, the grocery store, field trips, the zoo, in the car….well, you homeschoolers know what I mean!

My disgracefully messy desk. Where I blog, keep track of the kids’ work, and where we look things up (all day long) when we have questions. Yea, google! Now you know what a disaster area my desk is…the camera is brutally honest!

Kid books to choose from: Favorites right now are “I, Freddy”, “Bunnicula“, and “Where the Red Fern Grows”.

Rachel’s books….except the Algebra class is not hers.

Basket of needful things, along with a laminated map (the other side is a world map). Everything from crayons to a graphing calculator, plus plenty of pencils (although none of these items is ever in the basket when we need them. How does that work?)

Sarah’s books on the top, Isaiah’s on the bottom. We share the Zondervan Handbook to the Bible, and Webster’s dictionary. The kitty 3 ring binder is new this year, and much loved.

The library table, where the kids do a good deal of their work. There are occasional fights over who gets the big blue chair. My rule is, the first person to be on task and sit down with their work wins! So far this year, Sarah usually is working in the big blue chair. Also, the library table must always be clean by 5:00 each evening, because Daddy studies for his “work test” there at night. The laptop is used mainly by Daddy, although Isaiah uses it to watch his Video Text Algebra.

Mommy books…on homeschool, education, photography, etc. Dad’s study materials…with lots of little tabs…are on top of it all.

Bibles, devotionals, commentaries….if you look closely, you’ll see a book titled ‘How to get your cat to do what you want” on the right side, just under Tigger’s rear end. Just to let you know, it doesn’t work….unless beating the cat with the book counts, but I haven’t tried that yet!

“Reference” section…a bunch of second hand encyclopedias and old magazines. Plus Sarah’s clay horse that she made in the middle shelf.

Kid reference books…science, social studies, geography etc. Plus, one big furry distraction guarding them. By the way, the dog has started to select choice bits of literature from these shelves, leisurely browsing to her heart’s content…and then eat them. Seriously. Both our animals are BOOK EATERS!

Kitchen table: AKA science lab and art studio. We only have one acid burn on this table (my favorite table in the universe…I’ll blog about it one day!) but I think we can sand it out…after the kids go to college.

Where the kids like to read their literature assignments and history books.

In the winter, we sometimes read and do our work in front of the fire (the book is “Where the Red Fern Grows”….Sarah sobbed and sobbed when Hubby read this aloud to the kids last month, swearing she’d never ever read another book about animals again. She was mad at Hubby for reading them that book for days…then she picked it up a week later and is reading it voraciously on her own…I’ve never seen her so engrossed in a book!)

Where a lot of work also gets done. If the blue chair is full, the ‘loser’ often ends up doing their work here on the library floor rather than being reduced to sitting in a regular chair.

Well…that’s it! The grand tour of where most of the work gets done, when we’re in the house! And now you all know how messy my desk is, and how much debris is on my carpets. Oh, well!

This Week’s Gluten Free Menu (sort of)

Monday: My mom is in town, we’ll be picking her up at the airport at noon. I will have an apple tart waiting (well, let’s hope I manage to get that done in time) and then for dinner we’ll have crock pot Cajun Beans and Rice (Thursday’s meal in the menu in the link to the left). I’ll have a green salad to go with it.

Tuesday: Frankly, I have no idea! My guess is, we’ll eat out because we’ll be running around at museums and such.

Wednesday: See Tuesday’s entry.

Thursday: Baked chicken and garlic mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli. Something nice and predictable…I don’t do so well with uncertainty!

Friday: Amy’s frozen pizza (the gluten-eaters will get some other brand of frozen pizza). I’m figuring that by Friday, I will need a break!

Saturday: Grilled steak salad. We’ll fire up the grill while we still can and grill a few steaks rubbed in garlic powder, salt, pepper, and olive oil (and when I say steak I mean some cuts of meat that resemble a steak…nothing fancy here). Then serve them thinly sliced on a bed of greens, red onion, cucumber, garbanzo beans, tomatoes, sunflower seeds, radishes and blue cheese for those who can have it. Serve with blue cheese dressing (Lighthouse is GF!) or vinegar and oil.

Sunday: Pasta with Chicken, Peas and Pesto. The last of the basil from the garden, with olive oil and pine nuts. Put it through the food processor, and toss with gluten free pasta, peas, and thinly sliced grilled chicken. Serve with a salad and some gluten free garlic toast.


Stealing My Gift (Sacrificial Giving, part one)

I’ve been thinking a lot about giving lately. Our church is doing a campaign to raise money for a new building, and in the process we’ve learned a lot about the act of giving.

I think many of us really bristle at the idea of giving….I’m not talking about buying Christmas presents or Birthday gifts, that’s “fun” giving that most people enjoy. I’m thinking about Sacrificial Giving….giving that costs you something dear, and gets you nothing (at least here in this life) in return.

The other day, I took the girls to the grocery store with me. They were especially helpful, no arguments happened, very little begging went on, and no displays of canned corn got knocked down…so as a reward I bought my little helpers two suckers each. Nothing fancy, just a couple of $.15 suckers. But suckers are something of a rare treat in our family, so they were very excited.

In the car on the way home, Middle Child suddenly announced that she planned to give one of her suckers to her brother, and one to his friend. They were at home playing with Legos, so they’d missed out on the treats. I was touched, her generosity has always been one of the things I love about her. I praised her for her kind thought, and then…casually….mentioned that if Big Sister gave away her suckers, then she’d have no candy left for herself. A few moments passed, the car was quiet. I waited (a bit anxiously) for Youngest to process this thought, to see what she’d say.

“If Sarah has no suckers and I have two, then I can give her one of mine! Then we’ll both have one sucker!”

Success! I praised both girls again for their kind spirits, and we pulled into the garage. The girls jumped out of the car and I unloaded the bags of groceries, feeling quite proud of my little givers.

As I was putting away the food, however, Middle child came sobbing into the kitchen.

“She stole my gift!” she managed to get out, through tears.

Youngest, in her excitement over giving, had run downstairs before her sister and given her two suckers away first! Poor Sarah, her little heart was broken because her gift has been usurped. She had been looking so forward to sharing those suckers, and to have that pleasure taken away was more than she could take.

After a long talk and some heartfelt apologies, Youngest went down to tell the boys that sharing the suckers had been her sister’s idea. A little later, sisterly love was tested yet again when Youngest realized that now her sister had two suckers and she had none…although everyone agreed that it was her own fault. Middle Child, true to form, gave her sister a sucker and there was peace for the rest of the afternoon.

It made me think about how I give. Am I excited by giving? Do I do it, as my girls did…with a cheerful heart? If someone else stepped in and offered to give in my place, would I be disappointed? Or would I jump at the opportunity to keep that gift for myself?

Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthians, writes:

2 Corinthians 9:1 (NIV) There is no need for me to write to you about this service to the saints. For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action.

and again…

2 Corinthians 9:6 (NIV) Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Lord, let me learn to be a cheerful giver, to love the act of giving so much that I would weep if someone were to “steal my gift”. Let me rejoice in the act of giving, remembering that You gave everything….everything! To me. Amen!