God is a Terrific Host!

The last few years have been about breaking out of my comfort zone, taking leave of the small space I had pinned myself into between the walls of doubt, fear, failing confidence.  Finding the courage to do those things that God is calling me to do, even when I don’t see how someone like me could ever manage to do them.  About taking leaps of faith, standing on the promise that God has it all under control, His plan is perfect, and He doesn’t miss any of the details…even the ones far into the future that I couldn’t even conceive of yet.  About opening home and heart.  And about reaching out, becoming part of community even when that means accepting the hard parts of community, learning to find balance, set boundaries, say “no” when the yes would mean taking on too much.  It’s been a journey, and a blessing, hard work, heart break, surprising joy.  So when (in)Courage bravely offered their new idea…(in)RL, a teleconference to be webcast all over the world– a virtual conference for the hearts of women in community everywhere….I took the risk, signed up to host a gathering in my home.

This was all new, I didn’t know what to expect and I had to trust that God had plans for it.  I had a vision in my mind of a bunch of ladies from my church hanging out together and watching some videos, chatting and laughing.  And it was that…it was.  But God had other plans, He brought new women to my home…ladies I knew from church and had always wanted to get to know better, women who I’d never met, women from different denominations, women from different walks of life.  The conference videos were not out yet, the topics looked good (but would they appeal to such a wide variety of women?)  Up to the week before the conference I wasn’t sure what to expect.  For a long time, all I could say when asked what the webcasts would be like was…”Well, I’m not sure yet but I do know that I’ve never read anything that was less than inspiring and a blessing at (in)Courage, and I’ve never ‘met’ anyone there who wasn’t a beautiful, honest, loving sister in Christ”.  But there were questions that would pop into my mind and raise fearful moments: (in)Courage is all about online community, bloggers and writers…what about the women who had never read a blog?  The conference was open to the public and anyone could have signed up, or even just showed up…how comfortable would I be with meeting these new people?  How would this group of women mix, given that many of them had never met?

And I was able to do something wonderfully new for me:  Let it go.  Let God take care of the guest list, the conversation, the flow of the day.  Trust in Him to provide all the details, even the ones I could not have foreseen. I re-arranged the text blocks on my mantle so reflect the word I was relying on:  Grace.  Grace to be open to the unknown, grace to take whatever God had planned and accept it, learn from it, be blessed by it.

What a blessing!  To really find peace in the unknown, to really be able to look forward to whatever God was going to do with this thing I’d agreed to try.  I opened my door, accepted the help of friends who offered, set my table and hooked up the TV (oh, the blessing of technology when it works!) and let God do the rest.  

It turns out that God is a terrific host!  The videos were perfect, and there was something for everyone from new mother to grandmother, from a variety of denominations, from a range of seasons of life.  It was a blessing to get to know each of the ladies who came, and I am looking forward to getting to know them better.  The conversation inspired by the study questions was wonderful, the food was great, and seeds were planted that I am eager to watch God grow.  In the end, the gathering wrapped up after husbands started texting, having run out of things to do with the kids.  We could have talked all night!  And I hope we’ll have many more opportunities to do so…I’m planning to host a gathering of ladies once every few months in the spirit of (in)Courage.  Desserts, conversation, and community.  Jesus, with skin on…the hands and feet of God lifting each other up.

So, thank you (in)Courage!  Thank you ladies who came (and those who couldn’t).  Thank you, husbands who took the kids and encouraged their wives to step out of their comfort zones.  Thank you, God whose plans are greater than I could ever know.  Thank you for helping me have the grace to step out in faith, and thank you for the blessing of community!

Note:  We were too busy talking to take pictures, although I’d intended to…and we weren’t able to watch all the webcasts that we had planned to.  If you missed this conference and would like to watch it, or if you’d like to use the materials as a small group or women’s conference at your church, I’d encourage you to head over here and pick up the DVD and study guide set.  I’m planning on it…because the topic of community is so relevant to the hearts of women that I know it will bless many more of the ladies I know!


Sand Dollars and Broken Glass

photo from Big Box of Art

It’s been four months now.  Four months since our lives tipped over, spilled out, righted again and left us with a new equilibrium, left us seeking a new balance.

A sweet sister in Christ gave a talk this week about Hannah, it left me thinking.  Thinking of those childless years for her, the joyful gift of baby Samuel.   And how, when he was so very young, she kept her promise and gave him up. How, though she was his mother, all she could do was make him a little robe each year. How she must have stitched her love for him up in those garments, woven what could have been into the fabric that would hold him when she couldn’t.

I promised, too.  Promised to live His will and to be at peace with whatever the outcome.  How hard it is, sometimes, to keep a promise.  And, then, what does it mean to be at peace?  How do you do this? When suffering is what you are called to do, when the outcome isn’t peaceful.  The physical noise and turmoil in my life when the babies were here with us some days is so much less than the emotional turmoil in my heart now that they are gone.

On the outside, things look the same.  Days go on like they used to, life goes on.  There are blessings everywhere, washed up on the shore in the wake of the year we spent parenting those two precious souls. I see the growth, like opalescent seashells shining there in the wet sand.  I see the love, gleaming gem-like against the washing waves.  I see the way we have learned to depend on God, the way He has broken us, the way He has arranged the pieces into something more able to hold all that He has planned for us.  I see the things we have learned and the ways we have changed like treasures there in the tidepools, sand dollars bearing the marks of the cross, their shells protecting five small doves.

And I see the glass that washed up, too.  Sharp, broken edges embedded there in on the beach, cutting deep.  I feel it, an undercurrent of anxiety that wakes me at night.  The dark uncertainty, the helpless feeling of knowing them, longing to mend their broken hearts, their broken lives. I have dreams of losing things, frightening dreams in which our children are in danger. Somehow these days I feel more tired, more wrung out than I did while juggling five children and a full, busy schedule. My mind seems to be tip-toeing around the broken glass, trying quietly to avoid it while continuing to carry on as though it were not there.

Maybe I need to just sit down, let the water wash over us, add the salt of my tears to the waves that wash over it all.  Maybe I need to give up trying to pick my way around it and let God in His time wash the sharp edges off the brokenness, turn the ugly shards of hurt into polished gems of beach glass. Maybe I need to weave little robes from the fabric of my grief and send them out on the waves, bright spots moving toward a distant horizon.

Linking up with a few blog communities….

On In Around button   Seedlings in Stone

This is the Passover Festival….

 A post from the archives, as I prepare for this year’s celebration…..

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 remembrance 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, spared death
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 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.

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.

Passover Recipes (Gluten Free Seder)

Planning today for our Christian Passover celebration.  Here’s what’s on the menu:

The Traditions…
Charoset (Apple and honey mixture to represent the mortar the Hebrews used when they were slaves in Egypt)
Matzo (Unleavened, cracker-like bread to represent the loaves baked in haste as God’s people were leaving Egypt…and to represent Jesus, striped by the lash, pierced and broken for us.  Try the gluten free matzo from the link, or use another gluten free cracker)
Parsley (A green herb to dip)
Salt Water (To represent the tears of slavery)
Horseradish (bitter herbs to represent the bitterness of slavery)
Hard Boiled Eggs (Representing new life…we will be dying ours with natural, homemade dyes first)
Shank Bone (To represent the Passover lamb….a reminder of the Lamb of God whose sacrifice delivers us from the bondage of sin)

The Meal:
Roast Leg of Lamb with Red Wine Sauce
Basil-Mint Pesto (This is a family tradition to serve with the lamb…pulse fresh basil leaves and a few mint leaves in a food processor with pine nuts, olive oil, fresh garlic cloves, and a dash of salt.  You can use this recipe as a guide, I always end up winging it with the proportions and we eliminate the cheese.)
New potatoes with herbs
Roasted green beans or asparagus
Green Salad
New Life Dessert (for the children, found this idea at Ann Voskamp’s but we will probably use a simple cake mix.  Fun for the kids!)
Chocolate Espresso Torte served with Pomegranate Reduction (For the grown-ups, of course! It’s flourless and gluten free, rich like cheesecake. I use the recipe in the link, but pulse the chocolate in a food processor and then add the hot espresso while pulsing.  This melts it all together nicely…then add small cubes of butter and finally the eggs and egg yolks and continue to process until it’s smooth as silk.  For reduction, simply simmer several cups of Pomegranate juice until it forms a syrup.  Drizzle the syrup onto a chilled plate, and then serve the flourless cake on top. So Good!)