Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A deep sigh of relief

Finally, after a hectic spring complicated by tough emotional battles and wrestling with God and myself, it feels like I can settle into a summer routine. I am facing summer with a healthier perspective on some personal issues and hoping to carry forward the lessons learned.

I woke up extra early this morning and wandered into my garden to plant just a few more things - a "Farmers' Market" blend of lettuces and some swiss chard. I had my headphones on, listening to a playlist that includes pretty, pensive songs like Michael Buble's "Home" and and Alison Krauss's "Gravity". The sun was up but hadn't made it's way past our garage roof or the trees in our backyard, so the light was still cool and green. Worms wriggled in the soil I loosened. I sprinkled the tiny seeds, then gently spread the dirt over them. In a week or two, that black dirt will be covered with a fine layer of tiny green seedlings. It makes me smile.

This process of gardening does something good for my soul. Every spring I enjoy thinking about what I'll grow that year. I do pretty much the same thing each summer, but have experimented occasionally with pumpkins, various cucumbers, and varieties of green beans. I love choosing my seeds, preparing the soil, waiting for those tiny plants to push their way into the light, then picking and eating something that God and I grew. It is like a tiny miracle in my own yard.

As I pick up my tools and get ready to head inside, I hear the tinkle of Ruca's collar. My neighbors' dog is my good buddy. I put my hand through the fence and she comes close so I can give her ears a good morning scratch. And then here comes Kai - the little boy who has done so much to heal my soul, to heal the hurt of not having children of our own - a miracle in itself. A smile breaks across my face as he toddles over, smiling and cooing, bringing me one of his dad's yard tools.

I am so thankful for this quiet morning full of lovely gifts. An early snuggle with Egg. The joy of my garden. Ruca's moist kisses. Kai's smile. The peace of my garden.

How wonderful the quiet of summer mornings. How wonderful the neighbors and friends who fill my life. How wonderful.



Another milestone...



May 9th of this year was the 28th anniversary of Tim and my first date and we have been in love ever since. Not a day, since that first date, have we been apart in our hearts. Perhaps this is why we tend to celebrate our first date more than our wedding anniversary. :-)

I am so thankful for the man, the friend, the husband with whom God has gifted me. He is my best friend, my strongest supporter, my funniest friend, my love.

He is an extraordinary husband who works hard to provide for me, who desires to love me the best way he can, who wants me to have peace and joy every day. What a privilege to live each day knowing I am loved, adored, appreciated.  

Our marriage is, by no means, perfect, but we are so thankful for the special relationship we have, the peace we've cultivated, the trust we have in one another, and the healthy patterns that God has helped us learn. 

Happy anniversary, baby. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Rich

What is fruitcake? Why is it such a big deal?

Just recently I was asked about the history of fruitcake, and I had to make some guesses, but here's what the Smithsonian has to say:

...the modern fruitcake can be traced back to the Middle Ages as dried fruits became more widely available and fruited breads entered Western European cuisine. ...variations started springing up: Italy's dense, sweet and spicy panforte dates back to 18th century Sienna; Germany's stollen...has been a Dresden delicacy sense the 1400s....

In the 18th and 19th centuries, due to the cost of the materials, fruitcake was a grand indulgence. And it still is! Some years I catch all the ingredients on sale. Bonus!

How it became associated with Christmas and how it fell from grace are both mysteries; however, the nail may have been ...driven into the coffin in the early 20th century when mass-produced mail-order fruitcakes became available, creating the regrettably classic image of a dry, leaden cake encrusted with garish candied fruits and pecans.

Leaden? Dry? I say, "Fie on thee!"

I think the first time I had fruitcake was about 10 years ago when my sister was visiting me. We pulled out the Joy of Cooking (classic cookbook!) and made our grand baking plans. And why not include fruitcake? Wasn't it supposed to be delicious? Wondrous?

So began my tradition of baking fruitcakes. I love them. And what's not to love? I start with premium dried fruits - dates, cranberries, golden raisins, cherries, currants - and then I soak them in good quality rum. Seriously? What's not delicious about that? :-D


 













Then I cream together a rather large amount of butter and brown sugar, and add a good number of eggs. Oh, the luscious combination of butter and sugar ... and to add the richness of eggs to that? A classic batter. Delish.

Then I mix it all together (along with a few other things), line my pans with parchment and more butter, spoon in the thick concoction, cover it all with foil, and bake it slowly, allowing my house to fill with amazing smells. Ooooh!


The result?

Rich, sweet, fruity, buttery cake that I slice thinly and serve on beautiful china. It is worth the effort. It is divine to eat. I love it!

Still not convinced? Stop on by ... and we'll share some together with a nice pot of tea. I'm always up for a challenge. Changing your mind, that is... ;-)


Monday, December 9, 2013

Beauty

I am surrounded by beauty. 

Friday evening I went to a madrigal dinner that a very good friend was in. I've never before been to a madrigal, and oh how I enjoyed it! The costumes, the humor, and the music. Oh, the music! The voices were rich and full, the songs beautiful, the warmth of the evening warmed my whole heart. When I got home late that evening, I stood for a moment in my back yard in the cold, the snow, the quiet night and just took a moment to breath it all in. A special moment, an early Christmas gift.

Saturday I taught two lovely young ladies how to make jam - pear preserves, specifically. Laughing, talking, working together, the house filling with the sweet smell of sugar and fruit, the windows steaming from the boiling pots. Such fun! And such a privilege to be friends with these ladies. One of them told me recently that, even though I'm not that much older than her (she's being kind) I have a very motherly spirit. She said she doesn't see me as a mother figure - just a friend - but that motherliness touches her. Wow - that speaks right to the depths of my heart! Such affirming words. Another gift.

Sunday - we hosted a party for a newlywed couple who wanted to share their leftover wedding cake with friends. I make chili and coleslaw, they brought beer and bread, and about 20 people crowded into my little house and spent the afternoon together. It was downright jolly. I love it when my house is filled with friends - the sound of their voices, their laughter, just their presence is a gift to me.

And then this morning, I woke up unusually early. I needed to clean-up some from yesterday's party as my sister is coming over to bake today! Yay and fun! :-D I stood at my sink washing dishes, and at just the same moment, Harry Connick's "Ave Maria" began to swell and the sun broke through the clouds, golden morning sun lighting the snow and bare trees outside my kitchen window.
My heart feels so full this morning. I feel like I'm being given daily gifts - music, a peaceful home, friends, family, winter's beauty, affirming words. What a miracle for me to feel so much peace and joy. I am thankful.

Monday, December 2, 2013

December 1

We sang Christmas carols in church on this first Sunday of Advent, and it gladdened my heart.

To be honest, as many of you know, the holiday season has for many years not been a time of great joy for me. It has been a season of much hurt, stress, and sadness. There are lots of reasons for this, but much of the time it has centered around Tim and my loss of children and the loss of both my parents. These have left holes in my heart that are only highlighted this time of year by the innumerable family-centric events. Every commercial on television, every church event, every party it seems involves families celebrating together.

But this year feels different.

Just a week ago, Tim and I were involved in an event that highlighted these very losses. I came home feeling really down, teary, sad. It wasn't a good night. But as I closed my eyes for sleep, God spoke such words of comfort and tenderness to me. He reminded me that my life isn't an accident. He reminded me that the losses I've sustained are, in fact, a part of his plan, part of his master weaving of my life, and they are part of what makes me who I am and allows me to live the life I lead - to be involved in so many people's lives, to walk alongside friends who are hurting, to love friends in a special way when their hearts are broken.

Perhaps it seems odd that this was a comfort, but it indeed was. A deep comfort. It reminded me of the great things about my life, the many friends I have, the time I have been allowed to spend with friends - the kind of time that mothers of small children just don't have. What a gift that has been to me! How it has filled up the empty places of my heart in a real and palpable way!

And so this Sunday, I rejoiced in the truth of these lines we sang:

You are so good to me
You heal my broken heart
You are my Father in heaven....

How blessed I am that the God of the universe, my Father in heaven, loves me, cares enough about me to mend the broken places, fill all my needs, take my earthly father and mother's places, and walk with me through all of life.

The ultimate gift.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Ah, Friday

 Anyone who knows me knows that my house is a mess - especially this particular house in which my hubby and I live. Truth be told, we haven't effectively downsized from our previous house, and the result is pretty much a constant mess. I swing back and forth between feeling content enough ("This is just how we live") and feeling incredibly frustrated about it. 
Mom's bear - Nicholas

It's been an odd week. Monday I had a fever and in the afternoon a migraine. Tuesday I was still battling the fever, and that evening my left eye became very irritated. Wasn't sure what was going on. During the night it became clear I had conjunctivitis (pink eye!), and that raged all through Wed, but was much improved on Thursday (thanks, Becky, for the drops!). This morning (Friday), I woke up with a cold. Bother.

Not an ideal week on the health front.

But on the upside, despite feeling pretty crummy most days this week, I actually accomplished quite a bit. I almost kept up with the dishes, we ordered out supper only 1 time, I eliminated 1 1/2 large piles from my desk, I sorted through some of our storage stuff, I did some laundry (washed and put away), and I had a couple great conversations with friends. So all in all, it was a great week!

This afternoon the fall sun is shining in my windows, my hard wood floors and pretty flowered and striped curtains are practically glowing from the light, and the piles of stuff just aren't bothering me very much. Perhaps it's because I am actually making progress on the problem areas. Perhaps God is teaching me more and more about being comfortable in my own skin and loving myself enough to extend grace to myself. Perhaps it is just the warmth of this lovely November day.
 

 Whatever the case, this lovely feeling is a pretty darn good way to end such a crazy week! I'm feeling warm, thankful and peaceful. Wonderful! :-)

Monday, November 4, 2013

A lot to say about love and community...

It was a sweet week and a fun weekend. I feel like God is really showering me with love right now.

Halloween night friends gathered at our neighbors' house. We at chili and cornbread, we talked and laughed, we took turns holding their sweet baby. And as trick or treaters approached the house, we'd gather at their big front window and watch the kids coming to the door, taking turns handing out candy, being quite silly. It was a jolly evening that ended with just a small group gathered around a fire outside. Lovely, hilarious, filled with the comfort of friends and love.

Friday was a bittersweet day as my sister had to put down her beloved kitty. She'd had him for many years and so his passing was terribly painful for her. I was so privileged to be with her as the vet did what she had to do. We held Tootsie, loved on him, cried together. But I was so glad to be there.

That night my brother came down from Denver where he lives. Mutual friends were getting married on Saturday, so Matt came and stayed with us. :-) Since a whole group of our friends really misses him since he moved away, we invited folks over for dinner. I made one of Matt's favorites - fettuccine alfredo with teriyaki chicken. An oddly delish combination! ;-)

After dinner, a good friend and I again ended up outside by the fire - just the two of us - and we had a wonderful conversation. We talked about a lot of different stuff... What do our clothes say - are they a reflection of who we are, our personality? Do we feel free to dress the way we want? And we talked about my messy house. I said how happy it makes me just how comfortable people feel in my home, how they seem to feel free to just come over, hang out, chill. And my friend said he thinks the messiness adds to that feeling of ease - that there's no fear of messing something up, that our house exudes comfort and a relaxed spirit. What a blessing for him to say that! What a blessing to have my house filled with friends relaxing and having fun.

It was another evening of laughter, fire, food, and friends. What could be better?


Saturday was the day of the long-anticipated wedding! Many of us gathered to help decorate for the reception, and the room echoed with our talking, our laughter, just about everyone holding a cup of something hot. The wedding was magical, beautiful! I love that moment when the groomsmen are all in place, and the bridesmaids begin walking down the aisle. Almost without fail, the groom's expression changes - from relaxed excitement to just a moment of anxiety, nervousness, sometimes just a flash of fear. Whoa! This is really happening! And then he sees his bride, and everything changes again. His eyes widen, he smiles, and the love that he feels washes over everyone watching as we all stand and turn to watch his beloved walk toward him. I love it!

At this wedding, the bride and groom have had some real adversity to overcome, and the joy, relief, and excitement was so obvious on both their faces. There were lots of tears of joy, their faces were just shining with happiness. It was quite an occasion. The reception was fun, but some of us hadn't had quite enough of community, so afterward we gathered at a friend's house for take-out Chinese and a movie.

And for two nights over this sweet weekend Matt stayed with us. We don't have a spare room, or even a spare bed, so Matt just crashes on our couch. It is pretty darn comfy! ;-) But I hope he knows how welcome he is here. He just fits right in. He hangs out with us. He eats whatever is being served. He just slides right into our lives. I miss him! Sure wish God had seen fit to provide him a job here instead of Denver, but meanwhile, I just relish the times he's here with us. It's pretty darn sweet.

Quite a weekend - so filled with love, friends I adore, and the comfort of being together.

It reminded me of similar times we had when we lived in Rolla. Sometimes we'd just go back and forth from one house to another - lunch at one, dinner at another, never really ready to say "goodnight". My bestie and I used to joke about someday building a communal house in which our two families would live - with separate living quarters so our husbands could get their time alone while we spent all day together. ;-)

And so on this quiet Monday, I'm thinking a lot about these hours spent with friends and family. I'm thinking about the many precious friends I've had over the years. I'm thinking how blessed I am in so many ways. I'm thinking how wonderful each of you is who has blessed me with your friendship, and how rich my life has been.

One more thought: There is no doubt that our struggle with infertility was tough. Horrible. Painful. But as our hearts have begun to heal from our loss of children, I can see a glimpse of a plan. What a joy it is to see, to feel, to know how much love fills our lives. We are surrounded by love - family, neighbors, friends near and far. And our childless home has become a sanctuary for our friends where they can come and relax, leave behind at least some of their troubles, be fed with food and friendship, fire and love.

And it is sweet.