Gratitude Journal

Psalm 18:49
Therefore I will praise you among the nations, O LORD; I will sing praises to your name.

152. Pogo sticking with Uncle Don
153. Quiet moments with Pops
154. Sugar Cookies with butter cream frosting, enjoyed with Granny
155. Waking up to birthday balloons
156. A cat, feeling good enough to leap
157. Peace and quiet by the warm fire
158. Furry friends to study with
159. Music in the evening, with hubby and uncle Don
160. Building with Legos

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Through the Lens

A post from the archives…

How do you see your world? How do you see mine? These past few days, I have been thinking about how we view our lives…through the lens.

The words and pictures you see here are focused through a lens. The photos are literally taken through a lens, carefully framed and arranged and sometimes even edited to convey a mood, an emotion, a freeze-framed moment of time to last through the years. The words are carefully chosen, selected, written and re-written to condense my cluttered thoughts into cohesive sentences, paragraphs, phrases. Verbs and nouns and parts of speech line up, re-arrange, bump and fumble and finally align themselves into a form that I can feel comfortable with when I click “publish”.

What you see here is a part of a whole, the choice fruit, the chosen few moments and thoughts of our days that I cherish and wish to present to whoever may pass this way. They are truth, but they are a small portion of the whole truth. They are the photo, frozen in the lens that I have chosen to share with you. It is an honest lens, but it is still a chosen one.

What doesn’t make it into the lens? Life is messy, sometimes difficult, noisy, cluttered. The tight close-up of my daughter shows the warm morning light bathing her child-smooth skin in a peaceful glow, bouncing catch light off long-lashed eyes. The tight frame eliminates the frazzled halo of bed-head hair, not yet brushed.

The chosen lens frames the breathtaking beauty of God’s handiwork, a brilliant yellow flower seems to glow in morning’s first light. The weeds below don’t show, waiting to be pulled before they choke out budding flowers.

Through one lens: Children and beloved dog gaze through hazy glass at the sun on the garden. Through another, years of peeling paint expose hours of work to come, with scraper and brush.

Through one lens: Ripening fruit awaits the picking of small hands, red-orange-yellow against a brilliant blue sky. Through another: Rotting fruit drops endlessly down, a rain of sticky paste falls to the driveway to be picked up once, again, again.

How do you see your life?

I am realizing that all too often, I see my life through the wrong lens. My eye wanders too wide, fails to take in the tiny wonders of God’s creation…the dust motes dancing like fairy dust in sun-struck air. I see instead a table that needs dusting, work that needs doing, time that is already spent. Or my lens is too small…I see only my small corner of the world, my personal wants and worries and concerns, and I fail to pull back and look at the vast and glorious creation that our God has put before us.

Focus in: Sunlight on a hummingbird flower, designed by the creator in just the right size and shape for a tiny, rapier beak seeking sweet nectar.

Pull back: Green vine in the sun searches with twining tendrils for the cracks in wood siding, sliding through rain gutters and prying metal from wood, overgrown in all directions. Work, work, work to be done.

Pull back again: Home of ours, garden, trees. Places to play, grow, pray, live. Blessings surround us.


Pull back once more: Tiny dots of orange in a frame that is becoming too large to take in…vast blue sky, great gulps of atmosphere expanding outward to a universe too big to imagine. God, bigger still, holding it all in His hands.

Through what lens will we see the world through today? We hold many in our hands to choose from. Telephoto, Wide angle, Zoom, Soft focus. I am learning to look at life through a lens of thankfulness, to see each small frame as a blessing to cherish. It is all there, the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. If we focus on the ugly, the good will still be there…shining through with dappled and holy light, waiting to be noticed. The difference will be in our hearts and minds…focused on the ugly and painful aspects of life, our hearts drag down and feel weighted, lonely, overworked and overwrought. Through the lens of beauty and blessing, we see the splendor even in the mundane, the rainbow waiting to break through the rain, the small glimpses of breathtaking wonder, achingly beautiful, previews of what awaits us in heaven.

1 Corinthians 13:12 speaks of the lens: “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

We see life, even at our best, through the lens of this World. One day, in heaven…we’ll be able to see it through God’s lens! All the beauty, all the pain, all the splendor, all the suffering, all of creation and life: Woven into one, glorious piece! All of it unveiled, our hearts finally able to take it all in. Amen!


Stumbling

A post from the archives…

It’s easy to see God’s grace when everything is beautiful, when the sky is vast and blue and deep like the ocean, when the cool breeze lifts and breaths over you, when every blessing seems to illuminate God’s presence and blooms in your heart, wildflowers of brilliant color bursting within. It’s easy to praise Him, to let your heart sing “God is Good!” When you are running along, heart pounding in rhythm with your feet, sucking in air and life and cruising along with confidence and faith.

You don’t see it in the road, that stumbling block. Maybe it’s not even visible, maybe it’s as silent as a thought, as intangible as a word, maybe it’s an old wound that hasn’t quite healed yet.

It trips you up.

As you stumble, as you fall, as your knees hit the pavement hard….you don’t see the blessings anymore. It’s not so easy to see God’s grace from this vantage point! Stumbling…falling…scraping your knees….you come plummeting down to earth and are jolted back to ‘reality’. This is where you are. And it’s not very graceful.

What’s your first reaction? Mine is anger, hurt. There on the pavement, knocked and bruised, I want to sit, to fume, to cry, to give up. It takes precious little to knock the wind out of me, I am finding. I am not yet strong enough in my walk, I am learning, to let words slide off me and blows glance off, to turn the other cheek when the first is bruised, to see God’s grace when I hit the pavement, kneeling on skinned knees.

But isn’t that the best place to know God, there on your knees? Doesn’t He come through, stronger even than in beauty…when He carries us through pain? If I stop and let Him, won’t He comfort me like a child, sooth the pain, help me to my feet?

My youngest has had a rough summer with the Owies. Not long ago, we were hiking up a steep trail, littered with sharp and scrabbly stones. We stopped and examined flowers, we picked up coiled sea shells…bleached white with age, bits of ocean on the mountaintop–evidence of Noah’s flood. We filled pockets full, to share with others. On the way down, Youngest was running. Flying, really…her feet hitting the ground hard and fast between great leaps of air, aided by gravity on the steep slope. She was having too much fun to heed my warning, and her foot slipped on the loose stones. She came down hard, rolling on stone and dirt, bruising knees and hands and elbows, scratching tender skin. Tears flowed, her cries echoed down the canyon.

I picked her up, this little person so precious to my heart. We examined the hurt places, dusted them off. Yes, this hurts. No, it’s not a Band aid Owie. You’re brave, you’re strong. I’ll carry you until you feel better, but you’re going to be OK. I hurt to see her hurting, but it was a joy to me that I could comfort her, carry her, put her back on her feet and see her run again.

There on the pavement, on my knees….I am going to do my hardest to let God pick me up, comfort me, kiss away the pain. He is waiting to do it, with open arms. It is a joy to Him to comfort me, carry me, put me back on my feet and see me run again.

Psalm 40
As for me, I am poor and needy,
but the Lord takes thought for me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
do not delay, O my God!

Thank you, Lord, for helping me back on my feet. I know You hurt to see me hurt, and I know it brings you joy when I let You comfort me. You are good!

photos: Wildflowers along the trail, Rachel on a happier hike, the family (dog included) on the trail as the sun sets….taken this week.

A Good Forgetter

A post from the archives…

Are you a good forgetter? I’m not. I forget what I’m supposed to remember and I remember what I’m supposed to forget. I am trying to fix that…it seems like all the details and mental lists of things to do and even things to be thankful for slip right out of my mind, while all the little hurts and slights and irritants and personal failings find root there and take up permanent residence. I am good at forgiving, but I am terrible at forgetting! Many times I even think I have forgotten something, only to have it pop back into my mind at an inopportune time, to trip me up in my relationships, my view of myself, and my walk with God.

The enemy loves that, and I believe it’s a trap that we all have to watch out for. If we allow ourselves to wallow in unforgiveness, hurt, and self loathing Satan has a foothold to draw us away from the perfect peace that God wants for us. I think it’s important to stress that I’m not talking just about not forgiving and forgetting the wrongs done to us by others. Not forgiving and forgetting our own sins is just as much…if not more…of a problem. Not only does that hurt our relationship with others and our view of ourselves, it also hurts our relationship with God.

One way that not forgiving…and forgetting…pulls us away from God is that because we ourselves are not able to really let something go– really forget a wrong done to us or a sin of our own, we assume that God doesn’t either. God shrinks in our mind and becomes more human, less God. We think, “How could God forgive that?” We make our own sins more ugly, more wretched and less forgivable than those of others. We walk around as though a black stain were visible on us, a scarlet letter….whether the letter represents the word “Victim” or the word “Sinner”, we see ourselves as less lovable and less able to love.

But that’s not how God sees us! Once Christ is in our hearts, sin is gone. Gone! God loves us with a perfect love, and he forgives us with a perfect love. God is eternal, and His memory is eternal. He knows every person who ever lived, knows every hair on every head. Yet it’s easy to forget that His forgetfulness is eternal, too! God is a good forgetter. When He says that we are forgiven, that our sins are forgotten…He Means It! This is what the Bible says about how perfectly God forgives and forgets: “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Jeremiah 31:34. And when God says “remember their sins no more”, He means He will forget them eternally! He will cast our sins into the deepest ocean and separate us from them forever. “You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” Micah 7:1 This is truth! You are forgiven. We are expected for forgive others, as we are also forgiven. This isn’t easy, and we are going to try and fail and try again. We aren’t going to get it right all the time here on earth, but for God’s sake and our own we have to keep trying!

If you ask, your sins will be forgiven! And forgotten. If you’ve given your heart to Christ and you have asked His forgiveness, not only do you have it…but you have it completely, unconditionally, and forever. It’s forgotten, by a God who is the Perfect Forgetter. I don’t know about you, but that makes my day!

Godzilla Cam

A little comic relief…
In keeping with the crisp Fall weather, Godzilla is wearing an Irish Cable knit Sweater. He is eating a large beetle that the kids found on a recent hike. Bon Appetite!

This large plastic Godzilla lives on top of our grandfather clock. Lest the environment in our living room get too serious, Godzilla’s toothy grin always presides high up in the corner of the room.

Hubby started a tradition many years ago, when Middle Child was just a baby. One day, with no warning or fanfare whatsoever, Godzilla was suddenly wearing a disposable diaper and chewing on a pink baby pacifier.

Since then, Godzilla has quietly changed outfits and poses periodically throughout the year. Hubby makes the changes when nobody’s watching and then waits for the rest of us to notice.

So here’s the first Godzilla Cam post…I’ll post photos of Godzilla as his outfits are updated. I love Hubby’s sense of humor!

Poetry Friday

Save me
with your love
Wrap me
in your grace
Bend me
to your will

Teach me
your pure ways
Break me
of my will
Lead me
on your path

Hold me
in your hand
Feed me
with your word
Send me
where you will

Thanksgiving

Youngest Child is a Thanksgiving baby. Her birthday, November 27th, falls every five years on Thanksgiving…her first birthday was celebrated among cornucopia centerpieces and the scent of pumpkin pie, and this year her sixth will also be.

This Youngest child, Thanksgiving gift, is a whirlwind. Spark-eyed and fairy faced, her gold curls bounce along as she embraces her world. Every sight, every sound, every piece of God’s creation is something to hold, touch, smell, feel, experience. She is luminous, alive, in constant motion.

Third children, my midwife told us as we embarked on the journey that is Rachel, are special. Every child, she laughed, should be the third. We couldn’t know what she meant, that day in very early Spring when she was just beginning. Third child? We were nervous. Could we really handle it? Three children meant one too few adults, being outnumbered, shifting the balance of our family. Eldest and Middle Child were happy, comfortable, and…potty trained. The crib was back in storage, the maternity clothing had been passed down. Third Child? We worried that the smooth and easy nature of our family would be broken with this change. We relied on God’s grace, and He has shown us through Rachel that we were right…something was broken. Broken to make room for more blessings, more love. Re-arranged to become something more complete, more whole, and more right than we could have imagined.

I suppose it’s the nature of family, the way things naturally go. We learned we were expecting Eldest in the doctor’s office, sitting together gripping hands tightly and waiting, hearing the nurse call down the hall “it’s positive!”. Middle Child’s beginnings were learned at home, quietly celebrated in a moment stolen while Eldest napped and Hubby and I had a rare quiet space. Youngest’s two blue lines appeared while Hubby fixed a chattering Eldest’s breakfast and Middle Child banged on the bathroom door, wanting Mommy to come out and play. From couple to family, steps along the way. Each one different, each one its own story, each one a integral part of the whole.

She was born very early the morning before Thanksgiving day. Quick from the start, this one. Our Third Child-touting midwife nearly didn’t make it in time to deliver her. There was a moment, when she arrived, when everyone was still. No sound, no cry…everyone’s breath was held. Her little eyes, alert already, took it all in first…as if the shock of this new place were so great, the amazement of finding herself here made her forget to inhale. For a moment, we all did. No breath…only waiting for that first gasp of this new world.

And then she did.

And all of us, collectively, finally exhaled. “Every child should be a third child,” the midwife said again with a wink as she placed the swaddled baby in our waiting arms. And as this new and tiny blessing settled, her first lusty cry quickly giving way to more bewildered taking-in, I began to understand a little.

The awe of new life was there, the love, the beauty. But we didn’t have the fear…the overwhelming feeling that we didn’t know what to do with this new creature, the shock of all the amazing, the frightening, the beautiful, the sticky things that newborns do. We knew she was strong, she was perfectly created, she wasn’t going to break. We knew a hundred thousand things that cannot be put into words, that parents learn by instinct and God-given grace. We’d done this before, we were no longer neophytes. We’d done first child, we’d done new siblings, we’d done boy and we’d done girl. We were relaxed, and able to just be there, breathing in this moment, feeling this completeness, knowing this new child for the first time. Breathing in God’s grace, His blessings, the miracle that He would bless us again with a child of His to raise.

The next day, Thanksgiving, brought another gift. Empty of all but the most necessary staff, the hospital was quiet that day. Peaceful. Eldest and Middle Child came with Hubby, bearing gifts and curiosity. They held their new sister in eager arms and graced her with wet toddler kisses on her silky little head and soft pink cheeks. It felt right, it felt whole. The lesson of the Third Child began to work its magic. Let go. Enjoy. Don’t worry. God has us in His hands, each one of us. Our children will rise, they will grow, they will learn from both struggle and peace. What control we thought we had was always His, not ours. The fear of the loss of it was an unnecessary illusion, a waste of time. There is no limit to love, no loss in the adding of it that is not worth the incalculable gain.

That evening, after everyone had gone, I lay alone with Rachel in the deepening shadows of that beautiful Winter day. In the still and warm, blessed quiet of just the two of us. There would be few moments like that, for this child…an unavoidable part of being third. We had these hours of quiet stillness, before the bustle and clatter of life…the blessings of a growing family…began in earnest. I held her on my chest, her breath warm against me. I stroked her silky hair, marveled at her little toes, inhaled the indescribable smell of a newborn’s head, curled her tiny fingers around my mine. I breathed her in, and every breath was a prayer of Thanksgiving.

____________________________________________________________________

Thank you to L.L. Barkat for her wonderful idea of a festival of thanks. This post is in response to her invitation, which I in turn extend to you:

“You are cordially invited by L.L. Barkat to join a Thanksgiving Celebration. Just post about a Thanksgiving memory, something you are thankful for this year, a special family Thanksgiving tradition, your favorite “thanksgiving” bible verse, or anything else you can dream up.

Be serious, spiritual, creative, beautiful, humorous, whatever… it’s a celebration and good celebrations welcome all kinds of expression!

As a token of thanks for joining us, L.L. will link to you in the Thanksgiving Celebration post (and Christianity Today and High Calling Blogs will link back to said post, so their readers can check out the full celebration). You can make L.L.’s link-love job easier by dropping a comment at the Thanksgiving Celebration post. See you at the pie table!

To participate in the Thanksgiving Celebration:

1. post your Thanksgiving reflection with the invitation above and this little list of two
2. send the invitation to 5 or more friends (or just stash it in your cyber-drawer as a keepsake and take another bite of pie)”

Many blessings to each of you, who I am also thankful for!

This Week’s Gluten Free Menu, Thanksgiving Edition

No gluten free dinner menu this week. We’re going out of town for the weekend, and meal planning for the week sort of…didn’t happen.

My parents, brother and his girlfriend Siri (and their dog Sasha) are all coming in for Thanksgiving dinner! I am so excited. This is one of the few times a year that we’re all able to get together, and we look forward to it! My dad, step mom and Siri are wonderful cooks, we eat like kings whenever we’re all together. I can’t wait!

So instead of a regular dinner menu, I thought I’d post a sample Thanksgiving menu instead. This may not be what we actually eat this Thanksgiving, but here are some recipes and ideas from family favorites…

Turkey: We usually brine the turkey overnight, which gives it a wonderful flavor and makes for some really exceptional gravy. This year, though, we may try rubbing it with salt and lots of black pepper, then criss-crossing it with a pound of bacon and roasting it very slowly all day long.

Gravy:
Use the drippings from the turkey plus some gluten free chicken stock (I like Pacific brand) and thicken with corn starch. My dad taught me to always mix the corn starch with some warm water before adding it to whatever you are trying to thicken, to prevent lumps.

Mashed Potatoes: We like garlic mashed potatoes. Boil some whole cloves of garlic with the potatoes, then mash them together with butter, salt and pepper, and maybe a little cream.

Cranberry Relish: A bag of whole cranberries, a large can of mandarin oranges plus the juice from the can, two cups water, two cups sugar. Cook until the berries burst and the sauce starts to thicken a bit, it will thicken considerably as it cools. I canned some cranberry sauce this week, so I won’t have to make it later!

Stuffing: When we had to cut gluten out of our diet, I thought I’d never have “normal” bread stuffing again. Which was sad. However, I have two very good gluten free stuffing options that are so good nobody will notice they’re not “real” bread! The first is my dad’s Southern Style Cornbread Dressing. You make gluten free corn bread, and then proceed from there…it has fried oysters and onions in it. I will have to get the recipe from him, though…it’s one of those that he carries in his head and I don’t have it written down. The other recipe is for a wonderful sausage and green apple stuffing, my mom found it online at epicurious.com and we adapted it to be gluten free. I am not normally a fan of apples in stuffing, but this is amazing…you don’t taste *apple*, but instead the apples just make the stuffing very tangy and savory. I look forward to it all year! Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
  • 5 cups chopped onion (about 3 large)
  • 2 cups chopped celery
  • 6 cups diced cored tart green apples (such as Granny Smith)
  • 1 tablespoon dried rubbed sage
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 5 1/2 cups Ener-G stuffing/croutons, gluten free (Order these NOW or find them at a health food store…or you could toast a loaf of Ener-G bread until it’s hard and cube it yourself).

Preparation:

Sauté sausage in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat until cooked through, crumbling sausage with back of spoon, about 10 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer sausage to large bowl. Add butter, onions and celery to skillet; sauté until onions are tender, about 15 minutes. Add apples; sauté until apples are tender but still hold shape, about 10 minutes. Add sage, thyme and allspice; sauté 1 minute. Add to sausage. Stir in stuffing cubes. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill.)

Preheat oven to 325°F. Generously butter a baking dish. Transfer stuffing to prepared dish. Cover with foil and bake until heated through, about 40 minutes.

Turnips with peas and bacon: This is a new recipe, but looks like a fun vegetable side dish. You need 8 slices of gluten free bacon (Hormel), cooked and crumbled, 1 stick butter, 4 Tbs. fresh dill, chopped, 4 cups turnips, peeled and diced, 2 lbs. frozen peas, salt and black pepper. Melt 1/2 the butter, saute turnips until tender, add crumbled bacon, peas and remaining butter and cook until peas are heated through, add the dill, salt and pepper and cook 30 seconds until the dill is just wilted.

Sweet Potatoes: My mom does a great sweet potato dish. I’m not sure if this is the exact recipe, but it’s really close…I found it on Martha’s website ;o) it’s sweet potato rounds with butter and pecans…MMMMMmmmmm!

Pumpkin Pie: Of course you can’t go wrong with the traditional pumpkin pie…you can use the pie crust recipe found in my apple tart post and use the pie filling recipe from the back of a can of Libby’s Pumpkin. Everything in it is Gluten Free except, of course, use your own crust! If you’re making the Pumpkin Cheesecake below, you might use another filling for the pie. Pecan? Chocolate? Apple or Cherry? Most fillings are easy to do gluten free or are naturally gluten free, so once you’ve got the crust covered it’s easy!

Pumpkin Cheesecake, gluten free: This is one of my very favorites! I use the basic recipe found at epicurious.com and instead of the wheat crackers, I use Mi-Del gingersnaps (about 3/4 of a bag). They work perfectly in this recipe! NOT dairy free, sadly. I have made dairy free cheesecake before…using Toffuti instead of cream cheese, and non-dairy creamer instead of cream etc. They do work, but will cost you a small fortune in supplies. Still, we’re talking about cheesecake here, and it’s sometimes worth it! I prepare the cheesecake as the recipe describes (substituting the GF cookies for the crackers), then top it with lots of whipped cream seasoned with nutmeg and vanilla. A drizzle of warm caramel sauce on top makes it…perfect!

Apple Tart: I may make this for Thanksgiving, or I may have it ready when my family comes in (sorry to ruin the surprise, mom….if you’re reading this, pretend you didn’t hear). You can find the recipe in this post.

Related posts: Thanksgiving, Passover

Do you know Him?

I love this video clip. I love the words, the passion, the love and hope and grace that pours out of every syllable S.M. Lockridge pronounces. I love the simplicity of the message, how he uses just a few choice words to describe Jesus. Bible words, words woven throughout scripture to describe that which eludes description.

How do you describe the indescribable? How can you truly capture something so astronomically enormous, so un-graspable with mere words? It’s like trying to paint a roll of thunder, or smell a rainbow, or describe a sunset on the keyboard of a piano.

The words provide a hint, a suggestion, the edge of the very corner of the tip of the iceberg…these powerful words that bring tears to my eyes and send shivers down my spine and quiet my soul, that light a little fire inside and make my heart swell…they only begin to describe that which is so glorious we cannot hope to hold it in these vessels of clay. It’s the promise of how much more there is to the picture, how one day I will see my King and the glory won’t stop, I won’t have to turn away, I won’t be filled past the limit and I won’t be consumed! How some day the full capacity of the LOVE of our Creator will be made evident and will surround me and will never, ever end…one day I will be full with His love beyond anything I can now even start to hope for.

Wow.

That’s my King! Do you know Him?

Grab a cup of something warm and take a minute to listen….even if you’ve heard it before, I promise you’ll be uplifted. (You’ll have to pause Steel Croswhite’s music in the sidebar to the right…Sorry about that!)

Sewing Project…."Bitty Twin" Outfits


Sarah’s best friend had a birthday this week! Happy Birthday, Sammi. She got the “Bitty Twins”, the little toddler dolls from American Girl. Sarah and I worked on a pair of matching outfits for the new arrivals….we used some scraps from the girls’ outfits that Dawn and I sewed awhile ago. I had a lot of fun sewing these, and Sarah did too! Rachel even spent quite bit of time next to me, watching the sewing machine’s needle go up and down and snipping and stitching little dresses for the felt dolls we made earlier this year. There is something just wonderfully cozy about sewing with my girls, it’s one of my favorite things to do!

Also, Sarah sewed Sammi a pillow using felt. She stitched little rats on the front, for Sammi’s pet rats. I’m looking forward to doing a lot more sewing in the next few months!