Reflections in a Plastic Cave

Eldest just wrapped up a week spent helping a local church with their vacation Bible school. The theme for this year was Rome and the early church, done living-history style. Eldest played the part of a Roman Christian shopkeeper, dressing in a toga and serving “rat on a stick” (chicken), bread and fruit to the “townspeople”. They had canopies set up like a Roman marketplace, a room where Paul was imprisoned, and a realistic cave created in one room complete with dripping walls and an electric fire.

Youngest, Middle Child and I attended the last night of VBS. We donned bed-sheet costumes, tied sashes round our waists and money bags containing three plastic Denarii to the sashes. We met with our family groups (Go, Tiberius!) and sang worship songs to the jingle and thump of children with bells and drums. I took Youngest’s hand and descended the stairs to the basement, where Rome was set up under bright canopies flanked by walls of Styrofoam rock. We made tin-can lanterns at the metalworking shop, we painted swords and shields at the armory, ate dates and dried fruit at Eldest’s booth and had our picture taken dressed in full Roman attire. We visited Paul in prison, where he told us about his faith in Jesus and where a Roman guard who had spent the week harassing the Christian shop keepers professed that he had decided to follow Christ after listening to Paul’s testimony there in jail.

My favorite moment, however, was when we met in the plastic-walled “cave.” It was dark, damp, and quiet as the group of mis-matched and humorously dressed kids gathered together. We solemnly drew the Jesus fish on one another’s hands with magic marker in the artificial gloom of the makeshift hiding place. A part of me was there with the kids, but another was drawn back centuries into the reality of the early church.

Secret meetings, meticulous vigilance, persecution and hardship. Stonings, floggings, the constant threat of discovery. The brave martyrs and persecuted secret Christians of the early church are the foundation on which our faith was built, they are the roots of the church in which we now stand–unafraid and free–to profess our faith. I am reminded to be thankful for our ability to do this, for the beauty of being able to worship together freely and openly.

And I am reminded that in many places still, this is a freedom that other people do not have.

The days of the martyrs are not over. There are still places where Christians meet in secret places, pass out Bibles smuggled in by visitors, sing their hymns and pray their prayers knowing that they face prison, exile, financial ruin and even death if they are discovered. I am reminded, in a cave made of duct tape and plastic sheeting and surrounded by children in pillow-case tunics, to be thankful that I will go to church on Sunday and fear no reprisal for expressing my faith.

I am reminded to pray for those who will meet in secret this week, who will sing the same songs and pray the same prayers but risk more for it than has ever been asked of me.


Random Acts of Poetry…silver coin

I caught
a glimpse of God
in the open palm of
a street beggar and as the sun
glinted on my silver coin in his
hand silver-round like the head of
a nail I thought what I have
given you is the least
of what you

The prompt for Poetry Friday this week is to write a poem using the words “I spied God in…” I changed the prompt a bit…is that cheating, or poetic license?

More Poetry:
LL’s Black Box
Laura’s poem about the ocean

Ten Years Old!

Middle Child turned ten yesterday! It’s hard to believe a decade has passed. She is such a joy…so sweet, creative, and kind. We celebrated with a sleep over, followed by a family party. We’re a little tired after all the festivities, but it was a fitting way to ring in the double digits!

The celebration started with gluten free pancakes on the “You are Special” plate. I had lots of help making them! We had whipped cream and fresh strawberries on top.

The sleepover was lots of fun. I was suddenly reminded of what it’s like to be a ten-year-old girl at a sleepover! We went out to dinner at a favorite restaurant, came home and listened to the girls giggle and giggle and giggle all night long. Easy gluten and dairy free lemonade cupcakes were for dessert, followed by more giggling and opening presents. Little to no sleep was had, but it was a lot of fun. The next day, Hubby took the girls out for donuts for breakfast. They went swimming and returned home, where I gave them all pedicures with Middle Child’s new nail polish. After a hard day of play, there’s nothing more relaxing than sparkly nail polish and cucumbers on your eyes!

After the girls went home, family came over for dinner and cake. The adults enjoyed talking and catching up, but the problem with sleepovers is that by dinner the next day…well, we had a bit of a hard time waking the girls up to have cake! Youngest was almost sat on more than once.

Strawberry cake! Middle Child received some grown-up gifts this year, two beautiful necklaces, a purse, and a gift card for shopping. She also received some toys and a beautiful handmade outfit for her American Girl doll, Nellie. My friend Dawn is an amazing seamstress! It is fun to see the confluence of little-girl and little lady that this age brings. It’s going to be a fun age.
Happy Birthday, sweet child! You bless us in so many ways. May God watch over you this year and always, and may the year bring you much joy. How blessed I am to be your mother!

Claim Your God

Our church has been doing a series on Genesis, and we are studying the story of Jacob. One of the great things about this story is that through reading it, you can see how Jacob grows in his walk with God. You can find the series and listen online here if you are interested.

Do I claim my God? The story of Jacob has me thinking about this. Jacob, like many of the people God has chosen to work through, didn’t always show what we’d call “Christian” behavior. He lied, he cheated his brother, he failed to lead his family (talk about marital issues!) and his relationship with God wasn’t always strong. During his life, Jacob refers to God as “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac.” It is only after he spends a night wrestling with God (what a sight that must have been!) that Jacob finally begins to show signs of truly claiming God as his own…as his God, the God who personally loved, protected, disciplined and blessed not just his forefathers but Jacob himself.

God is the God of my fathers, the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. But is he also my God? Is my relationship with him personal and one-to-one? Do I know him and claim him on my own? It’s so easy to hitch a ride on the shirttails of others. Our parents’ God, the God of our religion, the God of tradition and doctrine and habit. Not that this is necessarily the wrong God, but until we have a personal relationship with him we’re missing out on so much. I know that for many years, I knew God and loved him but my relationship with him was shallow. I lacked an understanding that God wants me, personally, to get to know him. He wants to be more than “just” the God who created the Universe, the God of all history, the God who inspired cathedrals and oil paintings and masterworks of marble. He wants to be the God who personally dries my tears, the God who hears my every prayer, the God who I seek for guidance and understanding and mercy and unconditional love.

He wants to be the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of insignificant little me. He wants me to claim him: He wants to be My God.

A few weeks ago at church, I watched asYoungest pulled another child along by the hand. Weaving through the crowded entryway, she proudly guided her new friend across the room until she could see me. She pointed proudly right at me. “See!” She told her companion. “That’s my mom!” That was all, she didn’t need anything from me right then. But in her desire to claim me, she blessed my heart! I wonder if God feels the same way when we claim him?

And Oh! To think of how we are also on the other side of this. As we point to God and claim “That’s my God,” he points back and says…“That’s my child.”

Lord, let me claim you as my God in my actions and in my words! Help me to remember to claim You when I am weak and when I stumble. Thank you that nothing…fear or pride, complacency or persecution, can cause Your claim on me to falter. Let me rest in the knowledge that You are my God, and I am your child!

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The rain drums down, music falling lightly on bright green leaves. We’ve rescued warm sweaters from their summer exile, snuggled under quilts and read page after page as the sky shifts in shades of gray.

Friends have joined us, played outside in the wet and dark as peals of laughter harmonized with peals of thunder. Capture the flag, monkey-in-the-middle with the dog as monkey, bike tires splash though puddles and mud cakes and slicks everywhere. The dog shakes droplets all over, squeals and screams and more laughter. Rain ran in rivers down happy faces–eyes alight, gap-toothed smiles.

Shivering clumps of little girls gathered in front of the warm fire, played games and let fire-warmth dry slick rainbath from legs and arms and twisted strands of hair. Castles were constructed and fell under siege, the piano rang out with joyful notes and mis-notes. Joyful noises were made, and shushed, and made again.

And over it all, the steady thrum of summer rain closed us in and made cozy the little daily things that slip by otherwise unnoticed. A long, rainy, happy day.

I love the sun, but these rainy days are precious in the desert. Thank you, God, for this cool rain!

This Week’s Gluten Free Menu

Monday: Chicken Quesadillas. Rice tortillas with rice cheese (I know it sounds nasty, and if you can have real cheese by all means go for it! But the rice cheese melts better than soy). Hormel natural cooked chicken is gluten free and great for things like this! We also add chopped onions, red or green pepper, and any other vegetable that sounds good. Serve with a dip made of salsa mixed with dairy-free sour cream.

Tuesday: Pork Chops (grilled) with baked beans and salad. Bush’s baked beans are gluten free, but my dad’s recipe is amazing…so if you have the time, give it a try!

Here’s the recipe for Pop’s Baked Beans:

2 cans large red kidney beans (rinse and drain all beans)
2 cans great northern beans
2 cans pinto beans
2 cups BBQ sauce (more if needed…many Kraft sauces are GF)
1 lb ground beef or turkey
1 onion, chopped
4 tbsp. sweet pickle relish
4 tbsp. brown sugar
1 chopped jalapeno pepper (optional)
1 can chopped chili peppers

Brown the ground beef and onion in the crockery part of a crock pot. Add everything else and let cook all day on low (or a couple of hours on high).

Wednesday: Polenta with chicken, peppers, olives and feta. Make the polenta without the toppings and bake it (recipe here, under Wednesday’s entry) and set aside. Cook four large chicken breasts and dice them into small bits. Set aside three of the breasts for tomorrow’s dinner. Saute several sliced red and green peppers, a sliced red onion, some Greek olives, and some crushed garlic with olive oil until the onions are transparent. Scatter the chicken over the polenta, then arrange the onions mixture over that. Add crumbled feta cheese on top. Serve with a green salad or some steamed broccoli.

Thursday: Burrito Bowls. Mix the chicken left over from last night’s dinner with 1/2 cup of salsa and some fresh chopped cilantro. Cook 2 cups of rice according to package directions, toss the cooked rice with some finely chopped cilantro and a little lime juice. Drain a can (or two) of black beans and season them with salt, pepper, and a teaspoon of chili powder. For each bowl, layer lettuce, rice, black beans, chicken, chopped tomatoes, salsa, sour cream (dairy or non dairy) and a dollop of guacamole. Serve with warm corn chips (Mission brand is GF…also check your salsa for gluten! We use Pace, but always check first. IMO is a good gluten free sour cream substitute, and McCormick spices always list gluten…the chili power is GF).

Friday: Quinoa salad and GF bread with hummus. Cook a package of Quinoa according to package directions. Chop a container of grape tomatoes, a cucumber (seeded), a can of artichoke hearts, and a red onion (very small pieces). Toss the cooked grain with olive oil, crushed garlic, and balsamic vinegar, add the vegetables and toss again. Serve with toasted gluten free bread (Glutano Bagels are great) with some hummus (Sabra brand is good). Quinoa is a gluten free grain that is very good for you, I used to make a couscous salad like this and was missing it…the Quinoa is different, but good!

Saturday: Chicken and rice with vegetables. Grill some chicken breasts, and cook brown rice in chicken broth with garlic, salt and pepper, parsley flakes, and a little gluten free poultry seasoning. Serve with vegetables…steamed broccoli or kale would be nice.

Sunday: Paprika Beef and gluten free noodles. I used this recipe and omitted the shorting (just cook the beef in a little olive oil), and used gluten free flour rather than regular flour. Be careful with mustard powder, as some does contain gluten! I ended up using prepared mustard (added a tablespoon or so) because I didn’t have any ‘safe’ mustard powder. Serve over gluten free noodles (Tinkanya) with a big green salad.


Random Acts of Poetry, Part Deux…my kids crack me up!

Hot dog photo and food art by Isaiah, last month some time

Ok, I had to throw this one in because I just love the way my kids think. Here’s a lovely bit of poetry that is completely off the wall. I think it’s hilarious, but then…. I’m biased ;o)

Turkey Dogs
(a collective effort by the Young Ones…)

Turkey dogs delicious
Turkey dogs divine
Turkey dogs are kosher
’cause they aren’t made out of swine!

(and no, we did not have turkey dogs for lunch. We had sandwiches….but for some reason, they decided to write a poem about hot dogs!)

Random Acts of Poetry: Blue Sky

The sky is an implausible shade
of June-blue spiked and riveted
with cotton candy clouds
and the air is a breath of warmth
laced with the perfume
of blooming roses
the earth is spinning
and rolling on its path
and somewhere on it
a child picks a dusty spike of goldenrod
in a sunlit field lit with laughter
and somewhere on it
a soldier not yet fourteen clutches
the cold metal of a gun to his empty soul
and somewhere on it
an old woman dies in the street
more from being untouched than from
the hunger that gnawed at her life
and somewhere on it
a sister bends inside
with the weight of poison secrets
and somewhere on it
a baby’s first laughter
ripples through the room
a child flies a red kite in the blue sky
and another lies dying in
a crowded hospital room
and the flowers bloom
and the water flows
the earth rolls on
and the same stars shine
over it all
and somehow, somewhere
God is there in everything
and somehow when
time folds in we will see
it is all good

Photo: Stock photo used with permission

Desserts, spelled backwards

Hanging in there, feeling stressed. Desserts, spelled backwards. Somehow today there seemed to be too much to do and too little time, money, and energy. The children were over-tired and bored, having had too much fun (and too little sleep) over the weekend. Middle Child whined and complained, Eldest snapped at Youngest, Youngest burst into tears at the slightest provocation. Heavy clouds rolled over us, painting the sky over our little displaced-farmhouse with blue-gray sweeps. The dog restlessly paced in front of the door.

The air grew tangibly heavier as the evening wore on. Dinner was rushed, moods seemed to decline with the coming storm. Every fiber of me wanted to crawl off to bed, nurse the headache that had been building all day and turn the lights off on this long, painful day.

Putting away the remains of dinner, my eyes fell on some strawberries, near the end of their prime. I sighed. Should I throw them away now, assuming that by tomorrow they would be too unattractive for little people to accept? Thunder rumbled, and from the open kitchen window I caught the fresh scent of rain.

In just a few short hours, the day would be spent and I could put this dreary day behind me. But was that my only option? I looked at the strawberries and decided that radical action was necessary. We had a thunderstorm brewing, three kids with moods in need of band-aids and a mother who was twenty minutes away from the end of her rope, with a hundred and twenty minutes left before bedtime.

Why not make pie?

Stressed, spelled backward. And that’s what we did!

Cut butter into gluten-free flour, added ice water. Chopped berries, ruby and glistening, with tart-crisp rhubarb. Little hands kneaded and pinched and shaped, made aboriginal dot-paintings on pie crust canvas before pouring in the filling. We cut a vent in the shape of a cross, to remind us who to turn to when we need to vent some steam.

As the storm rolled in and the rain washed down, our home filled with the scent of baking pie and the sound of laughter. We snuggled on Eldest’s bed, and read as many chapters of Little House as it takes for a pie to bake.

Lord, the next time I feel stressed please help me remember that I have other options. And thank you for sweet desserts and little hands to help!

The Rant

I’m feeling bad for going off on a rant, twice in the same week or so. That’s just not how I usually operate, and it’s not what this blog is about. Earlier I posted a rant about something that was on my mind…I have strong feelings about it and I am not ashamed of that, but I started worrying that what I said sounded too strong and my heart on the matter might not be coming across right. So, The Rant has been moved (not deleted) and can be read if you really want to read about my personal views on the issue of human microchipping. I just felt uncomfortable that it didn’t belong here….not because people may or may not disagree, but because it just isn’t in character with my blog. I wanted to post again because I also didn’t want it to just disappear without my being honest about why.

At any rate…trying again….

My verse for the day is:

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

And I’m off, to do just that!

Roses from our garden