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“The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him,
and he delivers them.
Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” ~ Psalm 34:7-8

(Note: Cooking isn’t just cooking at the Blue Cotton House. There’s always a story, a Mom Lecture Nugget, a little nourishment for the soul with words or without. As my first born said a long time ago, there are some people you can run by and spend a second with – and there are some people who really want to know what’s going on, who want to sit long and talk, listen, discuss the heart of what’s going on. So, if you just want to avoid that, The Recipe is at The End)

I’m behind – I need to finish Part II of the our miracle story  – there’s so much to say . . the miracle, God’s amazing mercy and lavish generosity, the post-challenge-post miracle living, the everyday ordinary of the daily challenges, and the littlest of our boys graduating high school, a 10 Year Blogaversary – it feels like yesterday I hit the first publish button – and Blue Cotton Memory was born.  Instead of the usual everyday ordinary where little stuff tumbles  until the shaken out of its monotony by pops of Big Stuff,  it has been a season marked by Big Stuff happening one on top of another.

Some friends asked for a recipe – a recipe that’s been so much a part of this season, starting when Christmas, Easter and Passover collided in December. There were a lot of showerless days in the hospital though the rain poured constantly outside, about an hour and a half away from home depending on traffic – and a Panera around the corner with its chocolate croissants and huge Kitchen Sink Cookies. Across the street is a favorite little restaurant that makes the best salads, and a fast-food drive-through with strawberry lemonades that tasted good to my husband.

For 14 days (first stay 2 days, second stay 6 days, 3rd stay 6 days), the hospital room became a nest, a home away from home. Pillows, a quilt from home, books, bible, knitting projects – and savories like chocolate croissants and huge Panera Kitchen Sink Cookies –  littered a corner of the room with the chair that folded back to make an impromptu bed. These bits and pieces of home created a cocoon of comfort, vigor and hope.

All our boys, the ones still in the nest and the ones with their own nests pulled together keeping the business running, the dog walked, the cat and each other fed, the high school and college class work successfully done, chores normally ignored and left to mom weren’t ignored – I was completely hands off, (though, friends – I was hands up living)! Basically, these boys were not so much boys as men who kept the everyday ordinary running smoothly, so we could work through the extraordinary. I was so very proud of how they handled The Season of the Great Challenge.

The Last High School Soccer Season started before we were home for good. High School soccer started for us in 2000 – all five boys played. It was the littlest-who-wasn’t-little-any-more ‘s senior year, the last soccer season – yes! But it was the end of an era . . . and, Thank You God! My husband was here for it, his health blooming from the miracle after miracle. I think I understand the parts of the story the gospel doesn’t tell us about – life after the miracle, after Jesus opened the blind man’s eyes, healed the leper, restored the health of the soldier’s valued servant, called life back into Lazarus.

Living life after the miracle has been all the sweeter. Sweeter maybe because we’ve been more intentional about it. There’s still challenges, still frustrations – still all the everyday ordinary ups and downs – but maybe it’s also more intentionally living with thankfulness, macro focusing on the goodness He gives us – in each other, in those around us, in the blessing details of the daily. Sweeter for sure because when you’ve walked so close to God,  where you didn’t take your eyes off him as he fought the battle for you, when you’ve been ensconced under his wing, covered so securely in his Holy Spirit protection – the saturation of His presence seeps into every place you go, everything you do, affecting how you do it!

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It was time to focus on the little one grown up and graduating high school! It was a Big Stuff Moment! What a semester he had! He kept up with two college classes, did an internship, and an on-line class at the high school. He wants to be an engineer like his dad – and he played his best soccer – earning All-District First Team. He graduated with Honors. What I’ll remember most about this season? The first is when he said, “God’s got this Mom!” His quiet, confident assurance in a challenging moment! Then the hugs! Such sweet hugs! Later when he said he wanted me to do his senior photos instead of paying someone else!

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Soccer leads up to graduation where we live – and if it’s a particularly good season, it goes beyond. Our team played their heart out – and a couple of seniors who’d played soccer with our guys for years started a new tradition: The Kitchen. They came with pots and pans, with big ladles and spoons, with chefs hats and aprons – and a menu. Even on away games hours away. They came and they banged those pots and pans and cheered! I’ll admit – sometimes they out-noised the home team when we played away games. I loved their heart – and their out-of-the-cake-box creativity!

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I thought The Kitchen needed some Kitchen Sink Cookies – because, friends, when you’re on the game field – your cheer section can carry you through – and it’s important that the cheer section is cheered on, too.

Cost and Cookie Size prohibited me from ordering Panera’s Kitchen Sink Cookies for The Kitchen, so I tried an on-line copy-cat version. I don’t know what I did wrong, but they ended up  in the garbage. It was an utter fail experience. So, I thought and pondered – and the light bulb finally flickered on – I just needed to use my chocolate chip cookie recipe as the base – and add everything and the kitchen sink!

The response? A Savory Memory to a Season of Big Stuff! It was a particularly good season. Graduation came – and soccer continued. The team made it to The Final Four of the State Playoffs! What a run it was! But now we’re back to the everyday ordinary. The depleted schedule has left us in a quiet season. It doesn’t smell like soccer cleats and jerseys that reek of hard, sweaty work. My husband is walking six miles a day – and we had our first kayaking outing of the season. We’ve entered a new season of living but we’re keeping our eyes focused on The One Who Saves. I don’t ever want to lose that feeling of being saturated with His presence – that being wrapped up in a cocoon of his love and protection, regardless of whether it’s Big Stuff or Everyday Ordinary Living.

Muddy’s Kitchen Sink Cookies 

3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter (one stick)
1/2 cup Crisco Baking Sticks
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 10-oz package chocolate chip cookies
2-3 cups tiny twist pretzels (measured BEFORE spinning in a food processor)
Caramel sauce (I use Torani Caramel in squeeze bottle)
(Recommended: (2) 12 X 17 cookie sheet or(2)13 X 18; a small melon scoop; parchment paper to line cookie sheet.)Preheat oven to 375°

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and Crisco Baking Stick until creamy. Add granulated and brown sugar and vanilla to the butter mixture. Blend until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated. Beat in flour mixture a half a cup at a time until you don’t see any white flour. Stir in chocolate chips. Then add the broken up pretzel twists.

Using small melon scoop, space two inches a part, then drizzle caramel syrup over the tops (if cold, it will not slide down sides but melt as it cooks). Set timer for 9-11 minutes and check. Bake time depends on the individual stove.If the cookies have spread together, separate when warm. Let cool for at 5 minutes.

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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
Mary Geisen/ TellingHisStory

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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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.

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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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barnhouse

My husband and I were driving to town when we passed a white clapboard house nestled under big shade trees. Standing tall and sturdy next to the house, just the right amount of space to the left was a big, old barn. It reminded me of a knight standing ready to protect his lady.

A For Sale sign was in the yard.

“Your house is for sale,” my husband said. He knows how much I love old houses. This one was a red tin-roofed, two-story with a balcony above the front porch. A house with a porch – a real porch, wide enough for a swing and chairs. It had lots of windows, too. A house with lots of windows looks like a house where its inhabitants chose happiness. It seems like it would be filled with stories of people who loved life fully, both inside and out.

A house with a barn, or a barn with a house, would know of barn owls, chipmunks, barn cats and sparrows, goats, chickens, dogs, and cows. Maybe lambs, too. Wheel barrows, water troughs, muck rakes, forks, hammers and crowbars wouldn’t gather dust or get lost from lack of use. A weather vane, too – on top of the barn, along with a barometer. I wonder if that would be more reliable than television weather forecasters and radar.

Words and phrases like seed-time, reaping a harvest and storehouse would be common place. Plowing, gathering, threshing and winnowing, knowing how to collect wood for and how to build a fire – well, those would be every day living things, every day working out the physical examples of God’s spiritual principles. I think that would help his spiritual message plant somewhere deep in our souls.

About four weeks ago, they  tore down that white clapboard farmhouse that had stood beside its barn for longer than a lifetime – to make way for a new neighborhood. Bulldozers and gravel trucks bellowed freely now between where the house had been and the barn stood, its life companion gone. I pulled in and took a photo of the barn before they tore it down, too. What good is an empty barn in a field replaced with yards and houses? A few days later, it was bulldozed down. They didn’t take it apart to rebuild somewhere else. A heap of brokenness, someone burned it up a few days ago. It saddens me.

It saddens me, just like it saddens me that my great-grandmother and grandfather’s farmhouse burned down after my Uncle Jim died. The milk barn is overgrown with weeds and viney things that wouldn’t have been allowed to grow near either the house or the barn. The barn roof is falling in. Sometimes, I want to go back, to feel the stories, to sit on the porch steps worn with the footprints of those whose story set up mine, whose faith stories have become a storehouse of blessing, a rich spiritual inheritance that point to relationship with God. But the porch, along with the house, are no longer there for sitting and remembering.

The stories are being forgotten – and the buildings aren’t there to retell them. These stories, they’re the love and faith stories, these farmhouses and barns. If the walls could talk, they would tell over-coming stories, forgiveness stories, being born and born again stories, funny stories, loss and crying stories, cat and mouse stories, laughing stories, every day ordinary stories, growing up stories, feast and famine stories.

barnhouse848484dcThe farmhouse remembers the children’s bedtimes and where the jam, apples, butter and potatoes were stored. It knows what Christmas smelled like and what the cooling breeze in summer hotness felt like.  It knows the sound of big and little feet on the floorboards and which steps creak in the stairwell. It knows the goodnight stories and songs, and the sound of little ones breathing in sleep and the bigger ones sawing in sleep. It knows the challenges that spilled over, disrupting its peace, shaking its hope and faith.  It knows how the hard was softened, and that love which never gives up lasts a lifetime. The farmhouse, while a hive of activity, is where the place of refreshing lives, where the broken can be made whole.  It is where God’s word is read and then walked out to the barn, to the neighbors, and into town.

The farmhouse and the barn,
a boy and his girl,
a mom and a dad,
a grandmother and grandfather,
a barn and his farmhouse,
a farmhouse and her barn,

It’s a love story of give and take, provision and comfort,

of small town entrepreneurs in charge of their own destiny

where a full barn allows a house to become a home full of heart.

the barn is like the spirit of a man, the farmhouse the spirit of the woman

a symbiotic kind-of-love

He braves the harsh elements to fill the barn with the stuff comfort and security are made from. From the storehouses of barn he brings – and from the heart of the house, she gives. . . .

He gives her the grain – and she gives back bread.

He gives her the wool – and she gives back scarves, hats, sweaters and socks.

He gives her the cotton – and she stitches together crazy quilts for the bitter cold times.

He tears and she mends.

He gives honor and love; and she gives it right back.

He gives her trust to be who she is, and she gives him respect to be who he is.

He invites God into every dusty corner of the barn of himself,
and she invites God into every corner of the farmhouse of herself.

He gives her children, and she gives him a legacy,
but together they give their children an inheritance of blessing.

Each gives the other purpose; one without the other are incomplete.

Side by side,
storm after storm,
quiet after quiet,
year after year
the farmhouse and her barn
the barn and his farmhouse

They just might fade from memory, may even be exchanged for a different kind of living. The inheritance, though, it runs deep into the very fiber of a God-designed DNA. While the barn might be torn down, along with the farmhouse, and the faith and love stories forgotten, God redeems the faith, hope and love in story – he has the floor plan to rebuild what was forgotten, to redeem those who belong to the story.

The farmhouse and the barn,
a boy and his girl,
a mom and a dad,
a grandmother and grandfather
who built something more
than a barn and a farmhouse

“Listen, dear friends, to God’s truth,
bend your ears to what I tell you.
I’m chewing on the morsel of a proverb;
I’ll let you in on the sweet old truths,
Stories we heard from our fathers,
counsel we learned at our mother’s knee.
We’re not keeping this to ourselves,
we’re passing it along to the next generation—
God’s fame and fortune,
the marvelous things he has done” ~ Psalm 78: 1-6

**None of the farmhouses pictured belong to the barns in the photographs. The first barn above is the one I discuss. The first house is one that was torn down a few years ago.

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A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children,” ~ Proverbs 13:22a

 

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What if . . . if we treated Facebook as Faithbook.

Billy Graham says, “If  you want to change someone’s life, tell a story.”

Hope would rather I find encouragement to not give up, to give my challenges to God, to believe that God saves from the encouragement of another’s faith story walked out or the blessing redeemed in the daily.

Facebook is full of Faith Stories. Let me tell you what I see on Faithbook:
~ I see mothers of children with health challenges not just asking for prayer for healing but walking in the faith and hope of a healing God.

~ I see friends lifting each other up when they’re down, both in prayer and deeds.

~ I see  people suffer heart-breaking loss choosing to go forward with God rather than without God.

~ I see mothers of prodigals who live daily -in faith, in hope, in a glass not just half full but overflowing attitude – and I see friends not bashing their friend’s children’s waywardness, but believing along side them, trying to see their children as God sees them, too.

~ I see overcoming stories – women overcoming eating disorders, bad relationships, rebuilding the broken in their souls with the help of a Savior who does not let them down.

There are stories of times of laughing and crying, mourning and dancing . We cannot forget the laughing and the dancing, the blessing and overcoming. Faithbook is full of celebration, too.

I see blessings counted – to 1,000 and beyond. Faithbook wouldn’t need to justify giving or receiving blessing. Just as Salvation cannot be earned, neither can blessing. Both come from the gracious, unconditional love of the Father.

I see stories that honor mothers and fathers – and in the honoring, I understand more clearly what kind of father God is.

I see big and little moments in life celebrated. In the midst of a world in turmoil, I see grace given and received, for big and little things.

I read about the enduring love a wife has for her husband, and the enduring love a husband has for his wife.

I see people who define their lives, not by the challenges they face or the size of their savings account, but by the God-redeeming moments, again, both big and little.

There’s a lot of big and little in Faithbook. The Big is just, well – big, like weddings, graduations, births and birthdays and prayers answered. Don’t be deceived by the days and moments of the small things, though. It’s in the small things where the most important part of living takes place. In the wait of prayers sent out, of zinnia seeds being planted, of dishes being cooked up and cleaned, where bedtimes stories are, socks need to be matched and school lessons are worked through,  and where rain falls in a summer hot moment – all this and more happen in the days of small things. The days of the small things are sometimes the sweetest.

What if . . . we treated Facebook like Faithbook – telling our faith stories to encourage one another, to the lost and the found.

“Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins” ~Ecc. 7:20.

What if . . . every time we clicked  to “friend” someone, we treated them as someone God gave us to lift up, to encourage, to bring closer to Christ, creating a kind of contract in our hearts that says, “O.K. God, I’ve got them.”

“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow” (1 Cor 3:6). Could Facebook  as Faithbook be a Holy Spirit watering hole? A seed bag for God’s children to plant God things in others’ lives?

Jesus didn’t come for the righteous; he came for the sinners – for you and me and everyone else out there missing it in big and little ways.  Could Faithbook also be for people who haven’t experienced the crazy-amazing love this Father God has for them? Could Faithbook give them a taste what God is doing in other lives, and by tasting, draw closer to him, until one day, they fall in the the arms of the Father who has loved them since before they were born?

Mark Zuckerberg might think  he’s controlling information with the hopes of shepherding our decisions toward what he supports. Yet, with every FaithBook story, every scripture, every praise for blessing found, every two or three standing in agreement for God to move, the power of God changes lives. Zuckerberg doesn’t realize that when God’s on the loose in something – man is powerless against God’s work.

Instead of relinquishing the field that is Facebook, let us claim it for Christ!

Nobody’s life is perfect. Every day has challenges. There are seasons of refreshing and seasons of just plain hard. Faith would rather I shout about God’s amazing love both in the refreshing and the hard, from both high and low places.

There are no better stories – than the God stories in our lives.

“If anyone speaks, he should speak as one conveying the words of God. If anyone serves, he should serve with the strength God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen” ~ I Peter 4:11

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