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Archive for the ‘Blue Cotton Memory’ Category

brokenurncc1(I’m not going to qualify or quantify my story by trying to prove to you that my brokenness was worthy of God’s healing – I am just going to tell you of the part of the journey of one of God’s girls being made whole.)

For the first 36 years of my life, God had gradually revealed himself to me:

  • First as the God who made himself known to me.
  • Then God who sees me, even when I’m hiding, misbehaving, even when no one else sees me.
  • . . . as The God who is There (He is not a God who walks out, abandons His children)
  • I didn’t know God could be a refuge, but I saw a father should.
  • He was The God who answers prayers.
  • The God who meets me anytime, anyplace, for any reason.
  • My God, My shepherd guiding me on the paths I need to take.
  • My God, my Shepherd teaching me to develop a heart for forgiveness.
  • My God coming alongside my broken-hearted self.
  • My God stopping my heart from being crushed.

I had been searching for God. . . and I found my Father.

“You will seek me and find me
when you seek me with all your heart
~ Jeremiah 29:13

At the end of Part II Wilt Thou Be Made Whole: God Becoming Father, I didn’t just realize whose I was but who I was – a daughter of the King – a realization that came alive all the way down to my soul toes.

Happily Ever After? Right? I’m a Daughter of the King – and, like any princess in a fairy tale who has been kidnapped from her rightful place, saved after much suffering, and returned to the place she belongs – life resumes to a happily-ever-after rhythm. Right. . . . Right?

A Daughter of the King! – The knowledge of it was alive in my soul! I finally knew whose I was! I knew that . . . . but there was a gap between knowing and a lifetime of no father memories, no father words, no father hugs, no father fighting for me – just empty space where memories should be. My love language is words of affirmation – those missing words were really more missed than the hugs.

There were days I really missed having an earthly father who was tangibly there for me, who would look out for me in this “Happily Ever After.” The song “Butterfly Kisses” tore me up – I didn’t have that kind of dad who loved his girl like that – and, oh, friends, how I yearned for that kind of father-daughter relationship. I just wasn’t feeling it as a Daughter of the King.

I remember working on my rose bushes, talking to God, saying, “O.K. God. I get it. I really don’t want the mail man showing up saying ‘I’m your dad.’” That just might be more trouble than it’s worth. I know you’re the best dad ever – but, God, I’m really needing something down here. I’m struggling.”

In the rose bushes, I laid it all out –  I poured out exactly how I felt—the fear, the doubt (I believe; help my unbelief), the tangible feeling that my heart—my literal heart—felt like it was going to give out, the honest inability to talk my way through or find the solution through sheer determination and smartness—the soul shattered—because it is only when I am honest with Him about my soul condition—that He can truly save me—because only then can I allow myself to be saved – and in the saving, be made whole.

All those years ago when I’d asked him,  “Show me how to love you like I used to when I was little,” He was just waiting for the invitation – and he took me on a journey that opened my heart to that kind of love again – only better.

That day in the roses, with candid honesty, no blame – I told him how I was struggling. It was like a daughter telling her dad, she’d failed him—just wasn’t good enough, strong enough, smart enough. .  . . and all the while the daughter didn’t realize she hadn’t failed her father; the daughter’s timeline for wholeness was not her father’s timeline for wholeness. She didn’t realize her Father had long before seen her need and had already put everything in place for mending part of her broken self.

I don’t remember how long after I said that prayer a speaker came to our church one night. My husband was in the soundbooth, and I’d arrived just in time with four sons (that’s all we had then).

I scooted into a seat, when the speaker said, “Pull out your bibles.” I remember thinking, “Oh, No! It’s at home,” and feeling a small victory as I thought wryly, “But at least I got here with all these boys. ”

A white-haired, white-bearded man sitting a little further down the pew stretched his arm toward me, handing me his bible, with a gorgeous leather carved covering, engraved in exquisite detail.  I shook my head to decline his generosity. The family I came from would never have trusted so beautiful a book to a frazzled woman with a passel of boys. It might get ruined. The gentleman accepted none of my polite declining – and handed me his beautiful Bible.

Amazed, I accepted his generosity.

urnc2. . . and just like the day I was getting my nails done (See Part II), God infused my soul with a life-changing truth, another big reveal in this divine redesign, the master potter  using Kintsugi to the broken pieces of my soul. Kintsugi is “the centuries-old Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with Gold.” When mended with Kintsugi, the previously broken pottery is not only more beautiful but stronger.

This stranger handed me his bible – in the same way a father would have handed it to his daughter.

This truth started making connections to other moments of generosity over the past two years, examples of how God had been giving me Father Words through other people. (***At no point did anyone expect/ask anything in return – only Father Words were given. When God delivers blessings to us at the hands of man payment is NOT expected).

  • We’d been building our dream house, contracting out the workers and doing a lot of work ourselves. Let me tell you, the first time drywall has been painted is a lot more time-consuming than “re-doing” a paint job. As soon as the drywall craftsman (who was old enough to be my dad) finished sanding and drying, I painted. We’d debate politics and God. I kept trying to talk him into relationship with God. Every now and then, when I was paining, he’d check out how I was doing. More often than not, he’d say, “That’s now how you roll.” Then he’d take the paint roller – and show me how for about a quarter of the wall. One day during our debates, he said something that made me mad. I kept painting while he went for lunch. When he came back, he’d picked some flowers from the field next to the house and handed them to me. The drywaller, the one I kept trying to save, simply said “You’re a good kid. I’m sorry I made you mad.” The debates, drywalling and painting continued. But this man, who didn’t believe in God – was used by God to give me Father Words.

God’s Kintsugi, a broken soul piece mended, the Holy Spirit poured like hot gold filling the cracks and chipped seams. I am no longer too proud  or ashamed for God to pick up the broken pieces of myself, to mend what I cannot mend.

  • A Mennonite grandfather built our stairs and mantles.  He was paid hourly – and he probably had the highest pay per hour of many of the workers. So exact was he at his craft, that he rarely had more than an inch of scrap. I’d bring him coffee thinking to speed him up (you know – the hourly costs). He’d thank me for the coffee, but the coffee never increased his steady work speed. Each morning I’d bring coffee, and each morning he checked out work the plumbers, electricians and et al had completed the day before and advise me on what needed attention (either re-doing or re-checking). This man, who was just there to build stairs and mantles–was used by God to give me a father memory of a dad looking out for his girl.

God’s Kintsugi, another broken piece mended, the Holy Spirit poured like hot gold filling the cracks and chipped seams.

  • A couple at church became my spiritual mom and dad. My boys loved them. Everett on a Sunday morning, Sunday Evening or Wednesday service would say, “Maryleigh, you look lovely today! Keith – have you told Maryleigh how lovely she looks today.” At first, I didn’t know how to receive these Father Words because I’d never had them before – let me tell you, friends, do not discount the idea that a girl gets her self-image from the words her father gives her. I didn’t know how to receive them, though I knew he meant them honorably, fatherly. . . but once I understood, I was able to receive them as blessing, as words of a father to his daughter.

Broken piece after broken piece, God’s Kintsugi mends, the Holy Spirit poured like hot gold filling the cracks and chipped seams.

Such little things, you might think. Some might think derisively that these were crumbs being treated as gold nuggets. Others might be embarrassed at a soul starving in a love poverty caused by fatherlessness.  A beggar taking scraps and counting them a feast. Maybe they are – but whatever these incidents were – my soul felt filled, satisfied of Father things.

Broken piece after broken piece, God’s Kintsugi mends, the Holy Spirit poured like hot gold filling the cracks and chipped seams. 

That night, when the white-haired, white-bearded man handed me his bible, and God opened my eyes to the Father Words He’d been giving me, even before I asked him that day in the roses, the broken girl within felt less broken.

Broken piece after broken piece, God’s Kintsugi mends, the Holy Spirit poured like hot gold filling the cracks and chipped seams. Piece by broken piece, He remakes me more beautiful and stronger than I was before.

A few years passed–a Sunday morning found us sitting left rather than right. In the pew before us sat the white-haired, white-bearded man with his beautiful leather-covered bible.

During Praise and Worship, God dropped the idea into my head that I needed to let him know what his simple generosity had done for me.

God kept nudging me, “Tell Him.” We nudged, God and I, back and forth, He persistently in His, “You need to tell him.”

“He’ll think I’m nuts,”  I countered back.

The persistence of God won. My boys sometimes think I’m crazy when I step out and do things God tells me to do. I’ve learned heed His nudgings. It might look crazy to the world – but the results are anything but.

My husband, well, God knew just exactly the man I needed. He’d come to accept my out-of-the-box ways. He stood by me as I talked after the service to the white-haired, white-bearded, telling him how his simple act of generosity of spirit had opened my eyes to what God was trying to show me:  the love of a father.

It was such a simple act of kindness, sharing his bible, that he had no recollection.

Friend, I would never have told him if I knew what he was going to say in response: First he showed me his bible – it was the same one, a beautiful work of craftsmanship: “I make these bible covers. And I make them for whoever God tells me to make them. God told me today that there would be a couple here I was supposed to make these for. I thought it was for a couple that usually sits over there,” he said pointing a few rows up to the right. “They aren’t here today, so I believe he meant me to make them for you.”

At that moment, he turned to my husband and said, “When God tells me to make a bible cover for one person, I always make one for their spouse, too.”

He then pulled out a binder and asked us to choose the art work we wanted. While we were looking through his drawings, he measured our bibles.

My husband chose a minimalist cover. My favorite drawing was a cover with lots of flowers and an angel holding a lamb on the front, with flowers and a dove on the back. It was labor intensive.

I was battling. . . .What? Guilt? Unworthiness? Unfairness in asking him to spend so much of his time on someone he didn’t know? An orphan mentality of not knowing how to receive a father’s lavish love? Was it this kind of mentality that God spent 40 years in the desert trying to work out of the children of Israel?

The man saw my conflict – and said kindly, encouragingly, “Choose the one you want. He wants you to have the one you like.”

. . . with those words, something spoke to my soul saying, “Your father would spare no time or challenge to do this, or anything for you – do not diminish the blessing gift I am giving  you. Choose  the one your heart desires.”

bible2I did choose the one I thought was so beautiful, the labor-intensive one because a father does not count the cost to lavish his children with love. I had to learn to live like a beloved daughter.

“Happily Ever After” – the stuff of fairy tales? Maybe “Happily Ever After” is living fully as Daughter of the King, knowing whose we are, to know how He sees us – and knowing that whatever the challenge, no matter the challenge’s bigness or littleness, no matter the pain of walking through it

My Dad’s going to make sure I know He’s there,
My Dad sees me, even when I’m hiding, misbehaving, or crying in the closet,
A refuge, my Dad tucks me under his wing when the challenges threaten to beat me up. Yeah! My Dad has wings!
My prayers whether whispered, written in small handwriting, or spoken awkwardly? My Dad listens intently anytime, anyplace, for any reason – and He always answers in His Best time in ways I never imagined. 
My Dad meets me when I call out to Him. Always! I never have to wait on Him, though, sadly, I often make him wait.
My Dad shepherds me on the paths I need to take – and teaches me to walk those paths with a heart for forgiveness.
When I’m crushed or broken-hearted, my Dad doesn’t just come alongside – He makes sure I am not crushed.
My Dad shows me how to love my brothers and sisters – and the ones who don’t know He’s their Dad.

Maybe that is the Happily Ever After in the Fairy Tales. Maybe it is the story with the redeemer Father taking care of His daughter after saving her. The challenges don’t change because that is life this side of heaven – but who I go through the challenges with – That is the Happily Ever After, the hope, the faith, the Father-God in it.

My God who made himself known to me became My Father who made himself known to me.

My Dad loves it when I come to him, am honest with Him about my struggles, with how I feel in the struggle, with my confusion sometimes in trying to understand Him or His plan – He loves it because until I’m honest to Him about how I feel, He really cannot begin the process of fixing the broken places. I am so glad I told Him.

biblec

Part I: Wilt Thou Be Made Whole: A Broken Daughter
Part II: Wilt Thou Be Made Whole: God Becoming Father
Part III: Wilt Thou Be Made Whole: Learning to Live as Beloved Daughter
Part IV: Wilt Thou Be Made Whole: A Whole Healthy Daughter

Linking with these blogs this week:
Trekking Through – http://www.trekkingthru.com/
http://www.richfaithrising.com/ Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/ Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://www.messymarriage.com/ Messy Marriage
Mary Geisen/ TellingHisStory

Inspire Me MondayLiterary Musing MondaysPurposeful FaithTell His StoryRecharge WednesdayPorch Stories Linkup, Welcome Heart, Worth Beyond Rubies WednesdayEncouraging Word WednesdaySitting Among FriendsDestination InspirationTune in ThursdayHeart EncouragementMoments of Hope Faith and Friends Faith on Fire FridayFresh Market Friday, and DanceWithJesusFriday

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lilies101In the movie Darby O’Gill and The Little People, Father Murphy asks who is willing to go to the next down and bring back a bell that has been donated to the church. The town bully offers, allowing that he be paid more than the good Father is willing to pay.

Darby O’Gill, a poor single father, finally offers and says, “I’ll do it Father. I’ll do it for nothing. The kindly Father has compassion on Darby, knowing his short-comings but recognizing the innate goodness of his heart, accepts his offer, saying, “No, as a reward, you, you may have the music of the bell.”

What a beautiful gift – to be given the music of the bell.

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” ~ Luke 6:38

I don’t know what I’ve given sacrificially that that sounds as noble as fetching the bell for the church tower but He has given me . . . the beauty of the lilies that bloom right now – and the hydrangea that froze in a late frost last year leaving us without hydrangea until now – He has given me the blue hydrangea in abundance. The seeds of the zinnia have popped their greenness out of the ground – and He promises all the zinnias offer, too – the beauty, the butterflies that come to snack, the joyful color.

Today, He has given me the coolness of the day, too – the coolness under my feet, to my skin, the cardinal’s song, and the call of the red-winged black bird.

. . . and he has given me home after a short journey that he filled with gifts of unanticipated blessing.

Maybe the key to contentment, to a choose-joy life is to give without expectation while living expectation full of God’s goodness, knowing He is gracious, generous, good, lavish with His love. After all, He does collect our tears in a bottle, he offers the warm, comforting protection beneath his wings, he plans the best plans – if we don’t spoil them. Even if we spoil His plans, He’s got the plant to pull us out of our mess. . . and He makes miracles.

“I’ll make a list of God’s gracious dealings,
    all the things God has done that need praising,
All the generous bounties of God,
    his great goodness to the family of Israel—
Compassion lavished,
    love extravagant.
He said, “Without question these are my people,
    children who would never betray me.”
So he became their Savior.
    In all their troubles,
    he was troubled, too.
He didn’t send someone else to help them.
    He did it himself, in person.
Out of his own love and pity
    he redeemed them.
He rescued them and carried them along
    for a long, long time.” ~ Isaiah 63: 7-9

He wants us to remember; it grieves him when we do not. As parents, do we not want our children to recognize, remember the love we have lavished on them – and does it not grieve our hearts when they forget, when they don’t remember?

“But you did not remember. . . you have forgotten” – God says over and over again – forgotten what he has done in the long ago past. . . and our daily past. . .

I want to remember his lavish generosity. . . . because He wants me to remember. . . to remember and acknowledge He gave it to me, He loves me, “He will never stop doing good to me” (Jeremiah 32:40).

I want to remember because in remembering, I draw closer. In remembering, I my eyes are opened to more of Him. In remember, my heart grows in love.

“Because you did not remember”, he says, (Ezekiel 16:43, Hosea 13:6, Psalm 78:43, Psalm 106: 13)

Good relationships remember the good! The good is cataloged, savored, told about over and over again, so much so that some people might go, “Here she goes again.”

“Remember Me,” God is continually saying. It grieves him when we don’t.  Selfless hearts remember the generosity of others. Hearts that practice love remember the goodness of others. I want to live selflessly, to practice love. I want to live thankful!

I never want to stop  remembering, so today, I remember the blessing of the lilies. Thank you, Father, for in remembering me, you teach me to remember you!

yellowlilies2c

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pasta

“‘Is all well with you? Is all well with your husband? Is all well with the child?’And she answered, ‘All is well’” ~ 2 Kings 4:26.

72 days into 2019 – 7 days of doctor visits, pre-surgery testing, 2 surgeries, 3 hospital stays totalling 14 days. There has not been much Everyday Ordinary. . . . , but there have been miracles, stunning displays of God’s timing, and God with us . . . . and such a story to tell – of what God has done for my husband,  for the desires of my heart, for my family, but the telling of that is not for today (but soon – and if you didn’t know, it’s o.k. because only a handful did because we focused on God throughout the journey). Today is for the Blessing of the Everyday Ordinary.

My youngest, the saucy one, he’s a senior this year. His soccer season started about a week ago. Home is mama cooking, as he calls it, “The good stuff.” I remember baking my granola bars two weeks ago. I’d even made my Chicken Noodle Soup and Grilled Cheese – was it about 10 days ago? Even a Chicken Piccata. But there wasn’t any consistency. No Everyday Ordinary.

He’d tell you I hadn’t been cooking at all. He even used my Instagram account to prove I hadn’t been cooking: “Where’s the pictures, Mom?”

Moving out of A Time of Great Challenge back into The Everyday Ordinary, God knew I’d need some help with the transition.

The youngest, somewhere in 2019, woke up wanting to eat Banana Pudding. Maybe it’s his taste buds maturing. Maybe it’s because it’s his dad’s favorite. Regardless of the reason, just because he asked, I bought all the ingredients, but I just couldn’t seem to get the timing right.

“Today Mom?” he’d ask.
“No, not today,” I answered, eyeing him. “Someone ate the vanilla wafers.”

“Now Mom?” he asked another time.
“No, someone at the bananas.”

“Banana Pudding, Mom?” a third time.
“Milks all gone.”

He wasn’t used to this kind of project fail from his mom, so he determined I needed coaching,  his own special, saucy brand of coaching – a lot of verbal sauce with a hug thrown in to get me to cross the finish line – really, to help me cross over into Everyday Ordinary – and I couldn’t resist his entreaties, so I promised, “Tomorrow” – and yesterday I did. He even offered to help me so he could learn.

When I tried to get by with just one box of instant vanilla pudding (because that’s how my husband’s mama made it – so that’s the way I make it), he made sure I pushed through and used both boxes: “No slackin’ Mom.”  A few layers later, my husband walked through the kitchen, checked out my progress, “Yes,” I answered before he even asked. “Meringue on top just like your mom made.”

Whew! I was being hen-pecked in my kitchen. . . . I loved every minute of it, every minute of this special brand of Everyday Ordinary that is Home to all of us at the Blue Cotton House. Apparently, they needed the Everyday Ordinary I’d cultivated for over 36 years just as much as I did.

When I set the Banana Pudding on the counter, if I had doubted that I was back in Everyday Ordinary, I knew, when, instead of admiring how beautiful it looked, the youngest asked, “What’s for dinner?”

I was ahead of him this time because I’d been planning on putting a new spin on an old favorite recipe.

Monday I had cooked my Muddy Cheese Steaks with green beans and salad, yesterday was grilled ham and cheese because of an away soccer game, but last night – last night we experienced the grace, the extravagant beauty of finally moving into the Everyday Ordinary, where we sat around the counter eating, talking, friends coming in, sharing a bowl, followed by a mile walk in a early spring trying to blow winter out.

God knows! He know sometimes we need being sauced back into shape, sometimes we need someone cooking “the good stuff,” and sometimes, we need the “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” that allows God to work his miracles in our lives, and we need the rhythm of The Everyday Ordinary, with its God-designed blessings and grace,  to come home to after the challenge has been redeemed.

Chicken, Pancetta, Lemon and Garlic Pasta

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Package Capellini Angel Hair Pasta Nests
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 ounces diced pancetta
  • 3 boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
  • 1/4 cup hot sauce
  • 2 cup whipping cream
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Directions

In a medium nonstick saucepan, heat butter and Olive Oil over medium-low heat. Add minced garlic and diced pancetta, stirring frequently, for 1 to 2 minutes until aromatic. Add the chicken, lemon juice, and hot sauce. Cook for 5-7 minutes on each side until chicken is cooked through. Stir in the cream and heat through. Season with salt to taste.

While chicken is cooking, prepare pasta according to directions.

Layer with pasta nest, chicken and sauce, pepper and sprinkle with parmesan.

* * *

One of the scriptures my husband would recite each time before he went under anesthesia and when he came out:

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” ~ Numbers 6: 24-26
bananapudding

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green beansc

I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees” ~ 2 Corinthians 12: 9 The Message

After walking through A Great Challenge, in the middle of an everyday ordinary moment, when rinsing out the upteenth glass of chocolate milk, filling the dog’s water bowl, or clearing away the clutter on the kitchen table –  that is when the courage, strength and resilience dissolve, leaving me nothing with which to hold myself together. Maybe it’s just God’s timing, telling me that it is in the everyday ordinary where it is safe to let go, to let the frayed edges recognize they are frayed so they can then mend, the tiredness rest, the bedraggled soul refresh.

No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,

My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.” ~ 2 Corinthians 12: 9 The Message

Mending time is where I need to give myself space for healing to wholeness. The Everyday Ordinary can be a re-set space, where the hum of routine soothes, even familiar acts of organizing the forks, knives and spoons, of rummaging through the socks for mates. . . of measuring ingredients for the green beans. Routine allows thoughts and emotions to simmer, to steam up and release in the mending space of. . .  the everyday ordinary.

I cook maybe like some men fish. I imagine fishing centers one into an everyday, ordinary hum of a routine, a kind of going home where the right now can be poured through the sieve of memories of those who mentored, teaching things about fishing that were more than fishing, to better process what needs processing – and, by remembering, ennoble the heart to indirectly help face a challenge directly – or the aftermath of a challenge.

Cooking is that kind if processing for me – connecting to the past – to the future and to the right now. Cooking allows a particular kind of busyness that allows the spiritual and emotional effects of challenges to safely bubble to the surface, letting me face issues at first indirectly, then directly.

auntjoycekitchen (2)c

My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness.” ~ 2 Corinthians 12: 9 The Message

Sunday I made a pot of green beans, just the way Aunt Joyce showed me not quite 36 years ago when I married. She doesn’t remember anymore, how to make her green beans. Dementia steals the good stuff: the stories, the good conversations, even the recipes. She is 3 1/2 hours away – and I miss our conversations about the nothing going on or about the challenges, the quirky stories and the recipe sharing – and so I make her green beans, the everyday, ordinary, home-cooked but not garden-fresh green beans (I fail at cooking fresh green beans) because in the challenges I miss being with these women who taught me to be resilient enough to overcome the challenge. That Never-Give-Up Spirit is a Pass-It-Down Thing – and it’s something I want to pass down to those God gave me – and to show them how to never-give-up with God beside me! Cooking in the kitchen reminds me of them, which reminds me of the things they taught me, which always leads me to inviting God into whatever has led me to stirring, mixing or whipping up an idea of something that tastes like savory or sweet, feels like a warm hug, conjures joy – whatever the needs in the everyday ordinary.

Cooking Aunty Joyce’s green beans makes me feel less alone in the challenge. Making my mom’s caramel icing or chocolate fudge or creamed spinach, though she’s eight hours away, makes me feel the same way, like she’s right there, encouraging me.  Fry Chicken – well, that’s time with Grandmother – nobody could fry chicken like she could – or make a Charlotte Russe. When I cook, sometimes all the women who poured into me, are there – and, though I’d rather they all be there still, sitting in my kitchen pouring into me, I remember the lessons they taught me, and it encourages me.

Sometimes, the fried chicken is more than fried chicken, the caramel icing is more than caramel icing – and the green beans are more than green beans. Sometimes God uses the recipe to do a healing, shalom kind-of-work within me.

Cooking takes me back to the kitchen where I grew up – filled with Grandmother and Mom, and then later to Aunt Joyce’s kitchen, filled with Grandmother, Mom and Aunt Joyce – and I miss those kitchen moments of long-ago home, and this sadness has indirectly created a release valve of today’s challenges walked through -where the courage, strength and resilience can dissolve making space for mending, resting and refreshing – and it started with those never-ending glasses of chocolate milk that needed cleaning out, followed by the green beans that needed making, my mind a rabbit warren full of memories, and a soul desperately trying to rest in its creator but not quite knowing how to achieve it on my own.

Maybe the kitchen isn’t your refreshing, soul-mending space. I’d love to know 1) what you busy yourself with to ennoble the heart to indirectly help face a challenge directly, and 2) the mentors who poured into you as you grew into your soul-mending space.

Aunt Joyce doesn’t remember the recipe anymore, but I do – and my grandson loves them by the plate full, my husband by the heaping big spoon full.  The boys?  I’m not sure they really care about green beans. Me? They taste best right out of the pot!

 Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” ~ 2 Corinthians 12: 10 The Message

Aunt Joyce’s Green Beans
(I’d never measured for green beans before, but I did for this. I’m sure if you love them as much as I do (and my husband and grandson), you’ll soon get into pouring and mixing without needing to measure.)

Green Beans (50 oz can), drain,  rinse and pour them into a pot. Fill the pot with water, turn on medium heat.
Add the following:
1/2 the juice of one lemon
1/4 teaspoon. marjoram
1/2 teaspoon. summer savory
2 tablespoon bacon drippings (or vegetable oil for a healthier choice)
2 bouillon cubes
1/2 a regular onion, quartered (quartered so those who don’t like onions but respect the flavoring they add can easily remove before serving)
salt/pepper to taste

Bring to a boil for 15 minutes, then simmer on low for hours, maybe all day. Some think green beans are best when cooked all day and served the next. I tend to agree. Like a good marriage, the longer some things simmer together, the more they blend into something delightfully more savory.

“What grace is meant to do is to help good people, not to escape their sufferings, but to bear them with a stout heart, with a fortitude that finds its strength in faith.” ~ Saint Augustine

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Let me set the table here – the historic table – about recipes and reputation. Growing up in my grandmother’s house, I had the luxury of learning all sorts of recipes – daily recipes, bridge day recipes, celebration recipes and feast recipes. It was long after I married that I came to recognize that a recipe wasn’t just a recipe – a recipe had the potential to be reputation defining – if you could create a delightful dish others couldn’t, then the day you hosted a table full of ladies for bridge was a guaranteed culinary success – because bridge was so much more than bridge.

As I collected recipes for my family cookbook, I also collected their history – the story of how they came into the family. Machiavellian cunning in the kitchen? Deliciously so!

For example, Aunt Joyce’s Grits Gruyère recipe came from her husband’s Aunt Ruth who had been trying to wrest it from one of the ladies in her bridge group, Mrs. Curry, for quite some time. Not one to concede failure, Aunt Ruth called Mrs. Curry’s youthful daughter, inexperienced in Machiavellian tactics, when the lady was out of town – and successfully filched it. Aunt Ruth had the ability to play a deep game – with gloves, cotton or kid, on or off.

I was oblivious to the undercurrents, the power plays, the Machavillian side to these sweet ladies – probably just like Mrs. Curry’s daughter who so trustingly gave over her mother’s secretly guarded recipe. I can understand, looking back. We hadn’t yet entered a world of culinary competition and intrigue. We were just babes in the kitchen, enjoying plateful after plateful of deliciousness, year in and year out, who never imagined a good recipe was social currency. We probably didn’t even know what social currency was.

Years later, I remember watching a dining-room table discussion with two of my very favorite aunts about whether or not to share my great-grandmother’s, their grandmother’s Corn Fritter Recipe. It was a contentious moment, a throw-back moment to a time that doesn’t really exist any more. It both saddened and gladdened me.

The internet, cooking blogs, and cooking channels have changed how women by their cooking. Recipes are neither soul defining nor social currency. Instead, cooks are defined by the generosity of spirit of not just recipe sharing but showing how to make it successfully. That is one change I adore!

I grew up with good cooks who enjoyed kitchen competition in a very lady-like fashion (a competition probably born out of The Depression and WWII when produce was so hard to come by),  but when I met my husband’s family, I learned it was a grace thing, too.

Recipes, expectations and cultural differences have the potential to create big messes, little messes, short-term messes and life-long messes. Messes, I have learned, are happenings in need of God’s kind of grace – not just given, but received, too!

Saturdays and Sundays always contained the ability to burst into family day at my husband’s parent’s house – both when we were dating and after we were married, living down the road, over a few hills, around a few curves. It’s where I learned a bowl of ice cream was more than a few tablespoons, and hot chocolate didn’t just come in tea-cup sizes – but tumbler sizes, too. Mountain Dew came out  of the water faucet – Really! For a girl who grew up not even having one coke a week, it sure seemed like it did!

I remember the first time I had soup beans. My father-in-law showed me the best way to eat it: take a peeled onion, bite into it, along with a spoon full of beans – and, well, I just couldn’t enjoy it as much as he did. I remember trying to make Soup Beans early in my marriage because my husband so enjoyed them (sans the onion). I threw in salsa, cheese – and, well, utterly failed with the soup beans. For about 30 years, I gave up on Soupo Beans.  It wasn’t until a few years ago when someone used the words, “Chow-Chow” that I was able to cook them without trying to make them something they weren’t. I just put some Chow Chow on top! Success!

But one day, after the souop beans and onion,  Ann had a pot of Chili cooking on the stove, simmering, just getting ready to fill a bunch of bowls. Thinking Keith’s mom had been waiting for the chili to simmer before she added the spaghetti, I thought I’d help her out. I pulled the spaghetti out of the cupboard (we must have been engaged by then), broke it into pieces and was stirring into the chili when she came in from the other room. Remember the girl who haplessly, naively gave Aunt Ruth her mother’s prided recipe? I think this was my haplessly, naive moment – totally unwary, unsuspecting of potential territorial recipe undercurrents.

I met the Grace of Ann, not in the breaking of the spaghetti into the chili, but in the no-turning-back, stirring-it-into-the-chili moment. There I was, eager-to-please, oblivious to the fact that people outside of Louisville, Kentucky ate chili without spaghetti. Face-to-face with my mother-in-law who’d just walked into the kitchen, I learned my lesson – but there was no territorial battle, no sulks, just unmerited favor, forgiveness and acceptance. She gave me grace – and I gladly took the grace she offered.

I remember both of us laughing, but I am sure she must have thought her son was marrying one crazy girl.

I’ve spent about 36 years trying to pin down my own recipe for making chili. I haven’t had any complaints, but I hadn’t yet been satisfied enough to write one down and say, “This is it.”

I believe I finally have a chili recipe for my family cookbook! Yes – there’s spaghetti in it because that’s just the Louisville girl in me! That it took me 36 years is just the never-give-up in me!

Maybe it will be made even more complete when one of my boys brings home a girl with enough good kind of crazy in her to add a special ingredient from where she comes from to make it even better. But for now – this is what’s in the family cookbook:

Chili Recipe
Brown 3 lbs. and drained and place in dutch oven
In a food processor, dice up the following:
One large sweet onion
1 green pepper
10 oz. cans whole green Chile peppers
Add onions, peppers and Chile peppers to hamburger mixture, let simmer for 5 minutes, then add the following:
1 – 46 oz. V8 Bloody Mary Mix, original
2 packet/boxes Carroll Shelby’s Chili Kit mix
Stir well.
Next blend in the following:
1 – 15.5 oz. cans Dark Red Kidney Beans (Dark Red for Color)
1 – 15.5 oz. cans Black Beans
1 – 15.5 oz. cans Chili Beans
Salt and Pepper to taste
Bring to a simmer.
Add 8 oz. spaghetti, broken into 2-3 inch pieces
Simmer until ready to serve.

I always serve with some kind of hot sandwich. Grilled Cheese, Bacon Cheddar Twists, or Jalapeno Cream Cheese Crescent Rolls are my favorites. See recipe or links below.

Grilled Cheese Recipe:

Melt butter and dip both sides of two pieces bread in the butter.

Depending on size of bread, I use one to two pieces of cheese (two much cheese makes it just too much) and possibly a slice of country ham.

Grill until golden on each side.

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Bacon Cheddar Twists from Farm House Rules
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Jalapeno Cream Cheese Crescent Rolls from Jen Around the World (When you run out of croissants – biscuit dough works just as well! Made mine with Mild Italian Sausage! Held some filling back for my low carb diet. It’s a recipe that makes for happy people in my house!)
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. . . and the naysayers said she wasn’t good enough, smart enough, creative enough, worthy enough . . . who said her dream was just that – a dream – and nothing would come of it. . . and the thief called Doubt tried to pick her soul pockets, steal her identity, take away all she held dear, all the goodness that her Lord had seen fit to give her.

“All is well. . . ,” she said as she ran, choking back her despair, unable to see beyond the tears . . . she ran to her Savior, grabbing hold of her Lord. . . and she didn’t let go.”

. . .  and the girl said to the wolf stalking to destroy her and all she held dear, “All is well.”

“What have you to be ‘Well’ about?” asked the wolf, encroaching on her peace and safety, as the wolf shadowed her, threatening her. “I am more powerful than you!”

“All is well,” the girl repeated. “Because my Lord has said so.”

The shadow of the wolf receded as he slunk away; Her Lord was more powerful than the wolf.

winterwell2 2019c.jpg. . . and the girl spoke to the storm that bore down upon her to rip her apart from root to heart, “All is well.”

“That cannot be,” said the storm, a vortex of chaos, rage and coldness, twisting the dirt, roots and limbs of the earth up to the heavens. “For I have more strength than you. ”

“All is well,” said the girl. “Because my Lord said so.”

. . . and the storm for a moment quieted as if deflated, then roiled itself up into a rage, unleasing its full force on the girl, bashing against her like a tsunami to a shore – and the storm saw her Lord, standing between the girl and the storm, protecting her with his gleaming shield – and the storm raged onward, searching for those who didn’t know “All is well,” those who didn’t have the protection of the girl’s Lord to save them.

. . . and the girl spoke to the fever that came quiet and hot into her home, trying to break the life of someone the girl loved very much. . . and the fever taunted her, as she dipped the cloth into the cool water, squeezing out the excess, and laying it on the forehead of the one she loved so, she spoke saying, “All is well.”

“I have come to break your spirit and to destroy your  heart’s desires,” the fever whispered, knowing she alone could not control the army of unknowns that gave the fever its authority to determine life and death.

“All is well,” said the girl,” dipping the cloth into the water, wringing the excess out and gently placing the cloth onto the fiery forehead of the one she loved.

. . . and the fever surged, burning her fingertips, “How can that be? You don’t even know from where I come. You have no wisdom to stop me. Love and determination cannot sway me.”

“All is well,” said the girl. “Because my Lord said so.”

. . . and the fever broke, withdrawing his army of unknowns, abdicating his position of influence to the greater power of her Lord.

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. . . and the girl sat in a quiet moment, time after time, with her Lord, thanking him – that because of him, “All is well.”

We at the Blue Cotton House have been walking through a BIG challenge since a few days before Christmas. I couldn’t quite wrap my brain around how to talk about the challenge – or how to pray about the challenge. It was in my kitchen, as I was cooking through the challenge, that God sent me to 2 Kings 4: 8-36 – and “All is Well” became my battle cry. I couldn’t determine how to write about it until this morning – because it’s not my story to tell but I am a supporting character in the story – and this morning, while a Little Snow came, my husband and I drove to a mountain view where we will build one day – and God showed me how I could write about the challenge – and his amazing grace and saving power. Not long after I finished writing this, we received an answer where the fullness of joy overflowed our home and hearts. There is still a Little Ways to journey to the Challenge’s End, but, let me tell you – miracles do still happen, God makes ways where there was no way, and He will, if you let him, stand with you every step of the way, and, while sometimes when the journey isn’t a journey we want, “All is well.”

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”  For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence” ~ Psalm 91:1-3.

“The God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my savior; thou saved me from violence. I will call on the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies” ~ 2 Samuel 22: 3-4.

“How precious is Your loving kindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings” ~ Psalm 36:7.

“For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusts in thee” ~ Psalm 84: 11-12.

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Linking with these blogs this week:
Trekking Through – http://www.trekkingthru.com/
http://www.richfaithrising.com/ Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/ Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://www.messymarriage.com/ Messy Marriage
http://holleygerth.com/ Coffee for Your Heart
Mary Geisen/ TellingHisStory
abounding Grace/Graceful Tuesday/
Creativity with Art

Inspire Me MondayLiterary Musing MondaysTea and Word TuesdayPurposeful FaithTell His StoryRecharge WednesdayPorch Stories Linkup, Welcome Heart, Worth Beyond Rubies WednesdayEncouraging Word WednesdaySitting Among FriendsDestination InspirationTune in ThursdayHeart EncouragementMoments of Hope Faith and Friends Faith on Fire FridayFresh Market Friday, and DanceWithJesusFriday

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February 26, 2018: The snow trees came at winter’s beginning – and I’ve been waiting for the snow trees to come again, but they haven’t. The snow holidays have been too few, though there was a flu holiday, which is not the same at all. The crocuses and daffodils have made an appearance, the Bradford Pear buds are on the edge of blossoming. Easter egg green grass, robin’s egg blue skies, the barometer herald Spring coming, but there are still 23 more days of winter. There are 23 more days of nature’s mischievous, impish, sly ways. In Five Windows by D. E Stevenson, the shepherd and the minister’s son talk about whether March borrows days from April, or whether April borrows days from March: “We get April days in March, and then they’ve got to be paid back; so we get March days in April.” I may get my snow holiday yet, but back porch living is starting to look much more appealing than fireside living, but whatever kind of living, it seemed time to pull  out, “When Winter is Late” – in a kind of tattle tale way to warn all my Spring-happy friends to beware of winter jumping out at them when they least expect it – but like all tattle tales – nobody wants to really heed what’s being said, but I just wanted to say it anyway because sometimes I just cannot help being a little mischievous, too!

January 19, 2015: Winter is playing it’s games right now. The sun shines like Springtime. There’s no frost on the windshield in the mornings – and I find myself thinking of tomato and chard seeds . . . . but I’m waiting. The more it feels like Spring, closer comes the snow . . . . and I love snow flakes and snow days . . . . and so I wait with expectation of God’s grace in coming changes, like weather patterns, seasons and how time fills the daily.

January 30, 2013: I felt like I needed to say this again – for many reasons, inside and outside reasons.

January 3, 2013: The boys, they have been moaning – moaning over weather channels calling for snow and snow not coming. Tonight, the boys kept looking at the weather radar – hoping. Too big to put ice cubes down the toilet – they just plain, old-fashioned hoped, with a dose of moaning for garnish!

At 11 p.m., when my husband and I were locking up, turning lights down, he called me to look out the door: The Snow Trees had come. I danced. I twirled. I trotted upstairs, to shake each boy gently awake, point out their windows, announcing the arrival of The Snow Trees – and wrapped in their sleepiness, they had now joyful greeting for the snow trees.

Feb 1, 2013 – They didn’t even remember me announcing: The Snow Trees have Come! – but they were so happy they had come!
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Winter 2012

Winter is late.
The snow hasn’t come yet.
I am
waiting.

The Daffodils and lilies arrive
too early
not suspecting
Mother Nature trickery
in mercury messaged
invitation
and stems climb out
of  warm brown covers
turning their hope
to an unreliable sun
so vulnerable, so unprepared
for Winter coming late

Even Dogwood Blossoms
are deceived
with sun signs and
mercury tricks

Wouldn’t at least
the dogwood
know
with the story of our Savior
imprinted on the fibers
of its design,
that signs and seasons
are unreliable
time clocks
for announcing
jobs and tasks,
like blooming and snow fall,
seed time and salvation

Unlike winter
God is never
late

Unlike rising mercury in January
God does not deceive or lead
falsely

God is never
surprised
about disappointments and troubles
we find ourselves
in
He is never
late
to redeem us from
our rushings into places
not ready for us

or maybe
places and tasks
we are not
yet
ready for

Only we
are surprised,
disappointed,
our budding faith
nipped
by trusting sun signs
and mercury
instead of God Words
God Whisperings

God always plans
Time to grow
into
His plans
for our lives
seed time
and harvesting.

“He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1: 7-8)

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