A quick note

Just wanted to let everyone know that I have not been abducted by aliens, we have just been very busy with finishing up school. We’ve also had one illness after another since Easter, which has contributed to the pile of things I’m trying to get caught up on! I hope to be back to posting more often soon.

Random Acts of Poetry: Petals


Petals

Gilded magnolias
nod on
the breath of
the fragrant
breeze
that tugs
confetti petals
from pop-corn
branches
and tosses them
white-pink-violet
against periwinkle blue
they twirl
and swirl
and fall
catch
and wink
in the light
like wedding party
flowers
caught
in the hands
of laughing
children

A Letter to Matthew

Dear Matthew,

In your short time here on earth you blessed many people. Your loving family and their faith and obedience to God blessed many people as well. I know you are in Heaven, safe in the arms of Jesus. I know you are free of pain, and that you are now able to do all of the things you were never able to do here on earth. The suffering and pain of this life must now seem like a dream, quick and insignificant compared to the glory you are now experiencing.

Many of us down here are left missing you. Many are wondering: How can a loving God allow a tiny baby to suffer so? Why do these things happen? And although we will not understand until we ourselves stand there with you in Heaven, we can know this: That God loves us. He understands what suffering is, because He was once here to experience it himself. And He does not let one tear go unnoticed or one cry go unheard. When we look back on this journey, we will see the thread of our lives woven into His magnificent tapestry and we will understand that all we did here on earth– our suffering, our joys, our hopes, all our prayers…was a part of something much bigger than our earthly minds can comprehend. We will look on the whole of His glory, face to face rather than in this dim mirror, and what we see will be more glorious and bright than words can describe.

I have learned some things about prayer through you and your family on your brief journey here. How do you pray for a situation like yours? Do you dare to pray for healing? If your prayers for healing go unanswered, does it show a lack of faith on your part? A lack of power on God’s? These are hard questions, questions that have the potential to shake a person’s faith. I went to the Book in search of answers, looked to how Jesus prayed to find my answers. I saw that he was unafraid to ask for miracles, and that his perfect faith was able to work wonders. And I saw in the prayer of Jesus at his darkest hour, his greatest time of need, the perfect answer to my question. We pray without ceasing, we petition God for our needs. We ask that this cup pass over us, that we be spared this suffering. And yet, after it all, we must add…but Your will, not mine, be done.

Jesus prayed for the cup of suffering to pass over him, and yet still He suffered and died. Did He lack faith? By no means! Did God fail to hear his cries? By no means. Sometimes His will is incomprehensible to us. Sometimes we must drink from the cup. But we never do so alone, and our hope is in the One we trust to weave our lives in His perfect way. Our hope is in the future, where every tear will be wiped away and every wound will be forever healed.

Matthew, I pray that your family will know joy even in this pain, that they will feel God’s love for them every day. I am thankful for your life, and for their example of faith and their love for you. And I pray that they know in their hearts that they need not hold back to keep you and their memory of you alive, because moving forward is moving toward you as well. You are their future now as well as their past, a future woven by a loving God who will not forsake us.

Yours in Christ,

The H. Family

Baby Matthew has gone to heaven.

For those of you who have been following the life of baby Matthew Patrick, it’s been a bittersweet road. Baby Matthew passed away on Sunday morning, his family is grieving but giving glory to God for Matt’s life and especially for his freedom and joy in heaven. They have been an amazing and inspiring example of God’s love at work in the world, and I know that their story has touched many lives. Please pray in the days to come for peace and comfort for Matt’s family.

Poetry Friday (R.A.P.): Bend

Bend

I would like
for this moment
to shed
the bonds of body
the restraints of mind
and reach upward
through pure blue
sweep aside clouds
stretch and bend
through time and space
touch for a moment
with Light itself
rest there
before returning
settling back
into to shape
of now

More Poetry Friday:
New Media: Honks, Tweets, and Sassy Talk at HCB
LL’s Poetry Speaks in Tweets
Cindy’s Mysterious Gentleman
Monica’s This Wrath He Bore
Ann’s All Things New
Steve’s This is Just to Say

This Week’s Gluten Free Menu

It’s not Monday, but maybe you can stash this week’s menu away for next week! We had leftover lamb from the Passover, but I put the roasted leg of lamb in this week as Monday’s meal since I use leftovers twice this week. Leftovers doesn’t really do it justice…we only have lamb once a year, but we sure have enjoyed it!

Monday: Roasted leg of lamb, asparagus and pepper salad, roasted red potatoes. See the Seder Menu for recipes. I also ended up making a regular basil pesto with pine nuts, garlic, olive oil and Parmesan cheese.

Tuesday: Lamb Pesto Pasta with asparagus. Prepare one package of gluten free fettucini noodles according to the package. Toss with both the mint and basil leftover pestos. Chop some lamb meat into small squares and chop the leftover asparagus and peppers into bite-sized pieces. Toss the lamb and asparagus with the noodles and pesto, and add a little more grated Parmesan cheese on top. We had steamed artichokes with this meal…mmmmm!

Wednesday: Split pea and ham soup. Six cups of chicken broth (I made ours with Better than Bullion, although we usually use Pacific brand. Both are GF), one package of organic split peas, one package of gluten free ham chunks (Bar S), about a cup of chopped carrots, and one minced onion. Throw it all in a pot and cook until the peas are mushy…I cooked mine for a couple of hours on low but you can use a higher temp and accomplish the same thing in less time. Season with salt, pepper, a dash of garlic powder and serve with fresh fruit, vegetables, or a salad.

Thursday: Hamburgers and fries. Not the most healthy meal ever….but we have some 100% beef patties in the freezer and the kids have been wanting burgers! You can make home fries by slicing potatoes, tossing them with olive oil and salt (or seasoning salt…check for gluten), and baking them at 400 until they are brown. Or use frozen fries…but check for gluten first! We’ll serve our with steamed Kale.

Friday: Lamb and bean stew. I froze the rest of the lamb (on the bone) and some leftover chopped meat along with quite a bit of broth. I’ll put some Great Northern Beans (white beans) out to soak over night and take the lamb out of the freezer the night before so it can thaw in the fridge. Put the lamb (bone and all) and the broth in a large pot. Add a large can of chopped tomatoes, two cups of red wine, and additional liquid if needed into the pot and let it simmer most of the day. About 2 hours before dinner, put in the soaked beans and a chopped onion, plus several cloves of crushed garlic. About half an hour before dinner, pull the meat off the bone and chop up any large pieces (toss the bone). Return to the pot and simmer. Add a chopped zucchini and a chopped yellow squash about 20 minutes before serving. Serve with a gluten free bread (toasted bagels come to mind…Glutano and Kinnikinnik make good bagels) and a tossed salad.

Saturday: Ham fried rice, chicken salad rolls. The Chicken Rolls are rice paper (gluten free) wrappers, soaked in water and stuffed with chopped boiled chicken, lightly cooked (crisp-tender) red cabbage, scallions, and soaked mung bean noodles (also gluten free!). Serve with a sauce made of GF chili sauce, creamy peanut butter, GF soy sauce, and a bit of rice vinegar.

Sunday: Barbecued chicken breasts, steamed Kale, baked potatoes. Kraft is good about marking anything that has gluten, most of their barbecue sauces are safe (but always read the label first!)

Enjoy!

Messy, Noisy Love


I walked the aisles of the supermarket, pushing the cart one handed while reading the list…written in green colored pencil on torn notebook paper…held in the other. Three children, weary of the rainy weather and needing an outlet for their energy, followed behind me like little sheep, barely containing their energy but behaving themselves acceptably. My mind was on dinner, getting the house clean, hurrying home to let the dog out of her kennel.

I ran into her on aisle eight, by the breakfast cereals. An acquaintance, the wife of a childhood friend of hubby’s. I greeted her warmly, smiled. Felt the once-over she gave me and my straggling brood, the disapproving look she didn’t quite conceal, her quick nod before hurrying off.

I thought about how we looked…Eldest, with his pant legs rolled up and one ankle streaked with dried mud due to an earlier romp in the yard with the dog. Middle child, her favorite sweatshirt dirty across the front and a cap from the zoo perched on her head..with her name scrawled across the back in magic marker, since Youngest owns an identical one. Youngest, humming aloud to herself and trailing a few steps behind the rest….adjusting the green twist ties wrapped on her fingers in an imitation of tiger’s claws. There were worn patches on Middle Child’s pants, both knees. Youngest had dressed herself, and had on a striped shirt, a fancy black velour skirt, and a pair of flowered tights. We were a motley crew as we paid for our groceries and headed out the door. A noisy, messy lot.

She was perfectly coiffed, wearing designer clothes, looking beautiful and put together. Alone, her one child probably at one of the many classes he attends after school. We seemed, as I loaded my groceries into the back of my old (but reliable) car, to be worlds apart.

But as I drove toward home I didn’t feel shame in that. Maybe a few years ago, I would have felt inferior or embarrassed or angry at the slight. But as I glanced back in the rear view mirror, I realized what we had…a car full of love! Messy, noisy, inconvenient love. It isn’t always pretty, but it is always beautiful. My heart hurt for her, because her clean, new car lacked the happy chatter of excited children. She was going home to an empty, quiet house…where even when family gathered few words would be spoken and few hugs exchanged.

My supermarket acquaintance’s life looks very pretty on the outside. Over the years, though, the parts of her life that don’t show have brought such heartache that I hurt to think about it. I wish I could share with her that what matters, what makes you happy and what gives your life true beauty is not in all the things you surround yourself with. It’s in what your heart surrounds that brings you joy. My heart is full…full of the joy of my faith in Christ, full of the blessing of my marriage, full of the smiles and laughter of my children. There is something very beautiful about muddy feet and torn jeans and the joyful sounds of happy children. It can’t be bought or contrived. I’m not saying that order isn’t a good thing, or that cultivating chaos is a good idea. It’s just that living life to the fullest sometimes means muddy feet, mismatched clothes, and the singing of off-key tunes.

I pray that I remember to see the beauty in that, even when the world frowns on it. And I pray for more messy, noisy love in the lives of those who miss it.

Jazz and Balance


Do you like Jazz? I’m a fan. The town my parents are from hosts an annual Jazz festival at the University, and people come from all over to hear several days of music. I love the way that melodies meld, bend, twist around each other and then part for a moment, going their own way in variations on a theme. The way musicians in a Jazz band bring these variations back together amazes me…it seems as though they have one mind, taking individual turns with their melodies and then magically coming back to the theme as one.

Bill Strickland, in his book Make the Impossible Possible, relates good Jazz music to life. He speaks of the song we all have in our hearts, and tells us to sing it out loud. Whether your song is sung with voice, or written with pen, painted with a brush or woven in the complexities of the corporate world, if you sing it long and loud enough then the world is sure to hear it.

I’m a cautious person by nature, and I have to admit to struggling a little with this. I think it’s true that the secret to success is to believe in your dream and not be afraid to pursue it. I just have a hard time carrying that out, and I can’t help but recognize one silly little thought that keeps slipping into my mind….

Have you ever heard bad Jazz? It’s….well…..not good.

One thing that I think we forget when we sit back to enjoy a jazz trio is that these people are not all about improv. Yes, that’s a key point of Jazz music that distinguishes Jazz from other forms of music. It’s the genius of it, the soul of it, the reason we shake our heads in appreciation and jump to our feet in applause when it’s done well. But a part of the art is making it look as easy it does. It is seamless and beautiful in part because of the genius, but also because of the hundreds of hours spent in practice. The hundreds of honks and squeaks and wrong notes that come out in private rehearsal, to be ironed out the next time…again and again…until it’s smooth and presentable. A good Jazz group has spent enough time together (or at the very least enough time in similar situations) that they know the other musicians the way a couple celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary knows each other. They seem to read each other’s minds, because they know each other’s habits and graces and foibles, and know exactly how to work with that. It shouldn’t take away from the amazement and appreciation we feel, but add to it….the determination and hard work that goes into this is every bit as important and impressive as the raw genius ever was.

So what’s my point here? I guess it’s just that while it’s important to aim high and to sing your song aloud, it’s also important to realize that in the process of making what you have to say and do work well, you’re going to run in to some harsh wrong notes here and there. You’re going to have to suffer through some bad Jazz to get to that satisfying moment when it all seems to come together. Here I am remembering my sixth grade Orchestra recital….and believe me, twenty five eleven-and-twelve year olds armed with stringed instruments, each playing their own song as loud and long as possible…isn’t pretty. The ones who kept playing despite that fact….well, they’re the ones who stayed musicians.

Personally, I need to be reminded of that again and again. A good, inspiring success story is wonderful…but a bad middle school orchestra concert is also valuable. True success is balancing genius with practice.

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Our Seder gathering

We gathered around the table, eighteen strong, from grandparents to the child of six years old
This is the Passover Festival
.

Covering my head and saying a prayer, I lit the candles
As the woman of the house lights the fe
stival candles, so a women brought forth our Savior, Jesus.

We filled the first cup, the cup of blessing
Blessed are you, O Lord our God! King of the universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine.

I washed my husband’s hands in a silver bowl of water, dried them with a square of linen
He arose from supper…took a towel…then he poured water into the basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet…

The children’s table

We ate parsley dipped in salt water
...And he answered and said, He that dips his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me.

We broke the middle matzah
The matzah is unleavened, striped, and pierced…as Jesus was free of sin, striped by the whip, and pierced in his hands, feet and side. Jesus broke this bread and said, “This is my body, which is given for you: do this in remembrancee of me”.

We hid this broken piece, the affikomen, to be found by children later
And Jesus was hidden for three days, separated by death yet in three days returned again.

We recalled the way the Lord brought the Hebrew people up from Egypt
Dayenu…it would have been enough for us!

We recalled how the Paschal lamb was sacrificed, a lamb perfect and without fault or blemish, and its blood was sprinkled on the doorway so that families would be passed over
Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.

We drank the second cup, the cup of Plagues
Which passed over us, as Jesus saves us from our sins.

We ate the passover supper together
Jesus said, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: for I say unto you, I shall not eat it, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.

And the third cup: The cup of Redemption
Jesus said: This cup is the new covenant in my blood, even that which is poured out for you.

And the fourth cup: The cup of Praise
His mercy endures forever.

The quiet aftermath

The supper has ended, an empty table stands in a quiet, upper room. Traces of wine in the cups, bits of scattered bread, empty seats pushed back. The Lord is gone, gone to the garden.

The disciples try, but do not understand. Unknowing, they cannot even manage to keep watch with him.

Youngest, asleep on the stairs

The darkness surrounds and seems to overcome, broken only by the cold dawn of Good Friday. The Lamb of God, some thousand years foretold, walks toward the fulfillment of a thousand prophesies.

We stumble through the darkness, until the third day dawns.

Sweeping out the leaven…

Just a quick thought today, slipped in between preparations for tonight’s Seder…

Sweeping out the house from top to bottom is a part of this Passover Festival. We scrub, dust, and sweep through the house, finding dirt and grime that we fail to see from day to day.

“Be careful,” Jesus said to [his disciples]. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (Matthew 16:6). They didn’t understand what he meant, and he had to explain…he was talking about the religious teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees, not about bread.

As I swept and dusted this week, as I found dirt and grime that I had walked past a thousand times over the year and not seen, I thought of my own heart. I thought of all the leaven I have missed, the little parts of my heart that want to lean towards religion and not faith, the little black marks that I grow used to and stop seeing when I ought to scrub them out.


Brush away the leaven! Scrub out the marks. Prepare for the feast!

And I watch the children, who have been my helpers this week. They take joy in polishing the silver, watching tarnished black become shiny and beautiful again.

There is a liturgy, a sanctity, a holiness even in cleaning house. It’s good to notice that, and to be thankful that even in little tasks of life–especially in the little tasks– the chance to grow closer to Him is always there. The chance to be thankful for His power to remove even the darkest stain.