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Father’s Day is bittersweet for me. I rejoice that my son’s have the father I never did – and I realize more keenly what I missed and wonder what I would have been like had I a father like they have. This post is for all the fatherless daughters, whether because their fathers were physically absent or emotionally absent, this is for you.

For these daughters whose father never said, “You are mine, a gift from God, to cherish and protect,”

or wrapped you in his arms to hug away your wounds, whether self-inflicted or inflicted by others,

If your father did not  provide security or chase away the night terrors,

or missed seeing you receive your award because he was standing outside smoking a cigarette,

If you missed those Father Words, telling you you were beautiful, filled with awesome gifts – well, every daughter should have a father who thinks she is beautiful.

If your father did not carefully help your mother choose your name and rejoice on the day you were born and every birthday afterwards,

Who did not stand between you and danger,

Who received your shabby chic gifts with careless disregard, saying your handwriting too small to read your stories,

Who never treated you like a princess, or the world’s greatest softball pitcher, or the next Jane Austen because your dreams just never entered his mind.

Never tucked you in or taught you to pray,

Who never said, “I believe in you” when the world did not,

Who left it up to someone else to teach you how to drive a stick shift with manly patience,

Who did not rejoice in your marriage or was there to hold your child in his arms when he was born, to be a doting grandpa who would say, “Don’t talk that way to my daughter, boy.”

Who never said, “I love you,”

If you had an earthly father who did not father you, I encourage you to ask our creator, our Father, our God to fill that empty void, to open your eyes to the true daughter-ship that you have in Him, your rightful place in His family. Brokenness through rejection is NOT God’s plan for you.

“But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour” (Matt 9:22)

God will be that Father you never had. He gave you great gifts that unfurl within you at just the right time He created you beautiful (Psalm 139).

He rejoiced the day you were born and on the first day you sought Him out – “When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek” (Psalm 27:8)

He knows the needs you have before you ask him (Matt 6:8) He wants to know what is going on in your life. He wants to hear every rambling word, every detail, every thought written in your heart no matter how small.

He not only takes care of the night terrors but the life terrors as well “I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalms 34:4)

He is a father who not only provides but is like the father who stops by and fixes your sink when your husband’s out of town, who checks in on you when one of the kids are sick. “And he sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God: and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him to prosper” (2 Chronicles 26:5)

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him” (1 John 3:1)

Stop swinging your arms like a small child fighting someone bigger. You waste your energy. Let Him stand between you and danger. He wants to fight your battles. It is like He is telling you, “Step back, little one. Take deep breaths. Stop shaking. Wipe your nose on your sleeve. Be still. I’ll take care of this for you” (Exodus 14:14).

The first thing I want to do when my spirit soars is to throw my arms around his neck for a massive father-daughter hug that I have spent my life reaching for, believing for. He wants it for me; He wants it for you, too!

Dear Father, I thank you that you called me away from a spirit of brokenness and rejection. Father, there are days here that I miss the tangibleness of an earthly father who loves me, but I pray that you will open my eyes to the relationship you offer me. Open my eyes to how you help me through the day. Help me to overcome what I do not feel or see – but have by faith and hope. I want a father/daughter relationship abundantly alive and real. Replace emptiness with Father Words and Father Memories. Help me to live that. Thank you Jesus your great sacrifice so that your father could be mine, too!

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MuddysCornFritters

Muddy’s Corn Fritters

Last week, I pulled out an old recipe. It my great-grandmother Muddy’s recipe – her corn fritters. I don’t know why I hadn’t made them in such a long time. For a season, Muddy’s Corn Fritters were a dinner-time staple. . . until they weren’t.

The old recipes, like Muddy’s corn fritters, handed down for generations mother to daughter, from Mary Francis to Sue Eva to Mary Eva to Mary Edna to Linda to me – Maryleigh –  always reminds me of this scripture: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6: 16).

There is comfort in the old ways – in handmade quilts that Nanny made, canning tomatoes and pickles like my husband’s grandmother taught me, in walking the same paths to church on Sunday morning, and meal-time prayers . . . and recipes handed down. The old ways aren’t adventuresome. They comfort and are comfortable.

My youngest son walked in – the one who last Spring had stood in the kitchen telling me, “Mom! You’re slipping. You used to make the BEST breakfasts. What happened? You have only two more years before I’m gone, ” he said, waving two fingers at me, moving into his oration zone. The zone where it’s time to just take a stool and listen because there’s no entertainment better in tow. “Mom! Mom! You need to push through. You need to start making all those awesome breakfasts you used to make: the eggs and bacon with ketchup on toast, the chocolate chip pancakes – and those things with the chocolate chips and the stuff that’s in the box with the man in the white wig!”

That gave me pause – who was this man in with a white wig in my  kitchen. Then I remembered.

The man in the white beard is the Quaker Oats man – and, he was talking about my granola bars.

I’d felt hugged and loved in the kitchen that night.  I pushed through the rest of the year to cook up some good breakfasts – with the old and true recipes.

Last week, he walked into the kitchen, saw Muddy’s Corn Fritters and didn’t remember them. The older boys did, though. That inspired look came into his eyes.  He drew himself up into his oration stance. It wasn’t those beautiful corn fritters that inspired him, though.

It was the deep-fryer.

I tried to steel myself against the effectiveness of this son in his oration zone. Really! I did!

“Mom! Mom! You need to make some deep-fried Oreos,” he said, waxing eloquent about the country fair’s deep fried oreos. He felt sure I could make them.

Dazed, I almost regretted enrolling him in a school a few years ago where he learned about logic and its fallacies, Socratic circles and argument development training, and oration.

There I stood with Muddy’s Corn Fritters stacked high on a plate. It was such a good thing – those corn fritters. An old way of doing things – and he was asking me to do something different. Something I’d never done before. Something radical.

Not just radical – I wasn’t sure Deep Fried Oreos was something a mama should  do: Unnutritional Decadence beyond anything I’d ever done.

“I don’t have a recipe,” was one excuse I used.

He found one on the internet similar to the corn fritters I’d just deep fried. I had the eggs. I had the pancake mix. Too late to hide them! Drats!

Really – wasn’t one deep fried dish enough for one day?

“I don’t have Oreos,” was another excuse I pulled out.

“I’ll go get them,” he said. Double Drats. (The silver lining of my son being able to drive himself to soccer practice betrayed me at that moment).

I tried negotiating: “How about I do them tomorrow?”

“You already have the deep fryer out,” he said. “Besides, aren’t you the one always telling me, ‘Don’t put off tomorrow what you can do today.’”

I cannot explain the combination of annoyance and pride I feel when these boys to men of mine throw my words back at me.

Exasperated and wise enough to recognize I’d been out-maneuvered, I threw out: “I don’t have any cash.”

“I have $5,” he said. “Mom. Mom! This is the best time to make them. You can do this,” he said – and he was out the door, triumph oozing.

Drat! Drat! Drat!

I’d made a stew with chuck roast, sweet potatoes, parsnips, and and turnip greens, which they thought were carrots, potatoes and spinach (laughing emojis here if I knew how to put them), and Muddy’s Corn Fritters. Wasn’t that enough?

Did good moms even make Deep Fried Oreos? Words like nutritional negligence, deep fried imprudence, fatuous fatty-liver enabling came to mind.

About 40 minutes later, those Deep Fried Oreos fried and bubbled happily in my kitchen. I wasn’t going to eat one – really I wasn’t. Who wants to fully participate in something they’ve been run rough-shod into, cornered and corralled?

But I wanted to take a photo of what the inside looked like. Just one bite – for the photo.

It was delicious. I ate more than one. It was a beautiful thing.

oreos

Deep-Fried Oreos

Someone I loved had walked into my kitchen on an ordinary everyday with a radical recipe. Maybe not radical to you, but it was decadently radical to me. Radical is not something I easily step in to. As a matter of fact, it makes me want to settle back more deeply into the comfort of what has become everyday ordinary – even if right now my everyday ordinary was once a radical idea (Let me just insert here, 5 sons was a radical way of living at one time. Now it is my everyday ordinary. That would be fun to do – to list what we do today that is everyday ordinary but was once something radical to our experiences).

Those Deep Fried Oreos aren’t a God-radical thing, but God calls us to radical living. Radical living is where we let God take our ordinary and turn that everyday ordinary into something extra-ordinary. As we draw closer to God, God draws us away from comfortable into a different way of living – a new way of living. New things are always uncomfortable. God-new things are worth being uncomfortable for.

Feeding my family is something everyday ordinary. Yet, God wants to turn the dinner table or kitchen counter living into something radical, something extraordinary.

He wants us to feed his sheep.

 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” 

He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”

He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 

He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” 

He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”

He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” 

Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” ~ John 21: 15-17

Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to talk about living a lifestyle to Feed God’s Sheep by making room for one more at the table. We’ll discuss who our sheep our, our responsibilities to those sheep,  and how to feed them.

Let’s turn the dinner table or kitchen counter living into something radical, something God-extraordinary.

I hope you’ll join me.

Deep Fried Oreo Recipe
(Modified from Lil’ Luna’s recipe my son found)

1 home-friendly deep fryer (size determines how many you can fry at one time)
1 large egg
1 cup Milk
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 cup pancake mix
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup powdered sugar
One package double-stuffed Oreos or any other cream-filled chocolate sandwich cookies. This recipe does not use up all the cookies.

  1. Heat oil in deep-fryer to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  2. Whisk together the egg, milk, vanilla, and 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil in a bowl until smooth. Stir in the pancake mix until smooth.
  3. Dip the cookies into the batter one at a time, turning them 2 or 3 times until the tops and sides are fully coated.
  4. Carefully place into the hot frying oil. Avoid over-crowding. How many depends at a time depends on how the size of your deep-fryer. 
  5. Cook until the cookies are golden-brown, about 2 minutes.
  6.  Drain on a paper towel-lined plate before serving.
  7. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Feed My Sheep Part I: When Kitchen Living Becomes God-Radical
Feed My Sheep Part II: Living a Lifestyle of Making Room at the Table for One More
Feed My Sheep Part III: Which Sheep are Mine to Feed
Feed My Sheep Part IV: How do I Feed All these Sheep? (When there’s Nothing in the Fridge)
Feed My Sheep Part V: A Heart Looking with Joyful Anticipation

 

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Mornings are easier now. I don’t load up a mini-van full of 5, 4, 3, 2 . . . 1 boys for a mad drop-off dash to 1, 2, 3 different schools. Half the mornings, I make a skillet full of sausage and eggs with either toast or biscuits for the ones heading off to work, college or high school. Other mornings, well, there’s chocolate chip granola bars in one of three cookie jars (One has granola bars, another chocolate chips, and the robust, yellow chef cookie jar is full of dog biscuits: know your cookie jar before grabbing and going – LOL).

“Have an exciting day,” a voice says over the phone.

“Exciting is over-rated,” I reply. With five boys, excitement conjures words like commotion (wrestling at the drop of a hat), instigation (“Mom, he touched me), drama (“If I don’t eat now, I’m going to die” drama), adventure (owls, snakes and turtles tales), passions (heart passions, emotional passions, hobby passions, temper passions), humor (note: the chances of five people in a car being in the mood for any kind of humor at the same time? Not often!), goal-tending (and I don’t mean soccer goals), dropping off, picking up and arriving fully equipped (which includes water bottles that often get left behind), finding the car keys, and general hullabaloo.

Excitement overload leaves little time for savoring the good stuff – with family, my husband or God. Surviving is not savoring. Morning grab-and-go-God-moments were standard fare for, well, ever, it seems like. The excitement is thinning out as my nest empties out.

After 32 years of mothering 5 boys, the daily is changing. The idea of getting up at 5 a.m. for an extra hour just about makes me shudder. I’d rather stay up until 1 a.m. to find the good stuff with God. But there’s been a change. One of those changes is an extra hour dropped into my daily. The grab and go is becoming sit and savor.

Not always, but more and more, I am learning how to fit into this more roomy morning hour.

This new, seemingly still hour has been refreshing to my soul.

Whether on my porch, or in a chair by the window, I settle into this quiet that feels like plain woven muslin. One of my sons recently finished the chronological bible in a year – and I thought I’d try it.

. . . . and the chaos of the daily seems held off, if just for 15, 30 or 60 minutes.

The chaos that’s held off? It’s held off by the one I invite into this space – who draws near to me because I draw near to him.

This still space in my daily has become a place of peace where I have room not to just realize contentment, but to allow this contentment to unfurl without it being crowded out.

He wraps this peace that feels like plain woven muslin close about me and gives me time . . . time to vintage the blessings he gives me daily, to sort out what he says to me in those blessings, to let the things of Him redeem my day before I’m in the midst of it, to thank him for all he’s done.

Sitting on the porch as the morning comes along – or by the window where I can see the garden, he wraps me in this peace and offers me a long, refreshing drink of his living water. This peace isn’t binding or restricting. It’s liberating yet protective, comforting yet stretching – like a plain woven muslin blanket.

When I invite him, he brings that peace with him that calms the seas,

that makes me think I can walk on water if he’s beside me,

he brings me the peace that withstands the I-don’t-have-enoughness-to-do-what-needs-doing:

like the wedding host who didn’t have enough wine,

the apostles who had nothing to eat but needed enough to feed 5,000,

or the widow who had only one jar of oil and no means for more –

He generously brings his peace, so much of it, that though I don’t have enough within me to be enough for the day  on my own – He does.  He doesn’t just provide more than enough, either. He has such an ever-lasting supply, that he overfills my soul – overfills it so much that it spills over into the space around me, into the people around me, and the chaos and excitement trying to creep upon me.

Sometimes the only thing separating us from the Spring of Living Water are those doors either we have constructed or doors others have constructed. Either way, we find ourselves separated from what our souls need to survive. The only way to take down those doors separating us from those living waters Christ offers us is to ask him to remove those doors – and he will. Once we have drunk deeply of what he offers so freely, we need to make sure we neither rebuild walls to separate us from him again and that we, ourselves, don’t use doors to God’s Spring House to keep others out ~ Blue Cotton Memory

Oh, yes! There are changes at the blue cotton house, sweet, supposed-to-be changes. It’s a part of my boys growing up. It’s a part of my growing up, too, though I’ve been at it longer than my boys. They would say I was being silly. That I was already grown up. But you and I, we know we are still children to what God knows. Yet, when I invite God into the changes, He brings grace into them and redeems the change.

What changes are you experiencing? How are you sharing those changes with God?

“But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a fount of water springing up to eternal life.”  ~ John 4: 14

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(Celebrating 34 years Sunday! God is so good!)

mllkwedding22A Letter to My Granddaughter on the Event of My 30th Wedding Anniversary

Sweet Grandbaby Girl,
I hope you grow up to be a Forever Girl – and by Forever Girl, I mean a wife full of love for her husband – feeling it in your heart, thinking in with your mind – and choosing it in moments you don’t feel it. . .

. . .who even after 30 years, 50 years, 75 years of marriage looks at her husband with bigger love than when she said, “I do,” who never stops seeing him as an amazing man. Despite moments of frustration and imperfection –  you still say “Thank you, God”, that his smile still dazzles you and a single word melts the anger away because trust, faith and love endure.

I pray that he is the Elkanah to your Hannah, that you are the Leah to his Jacob – that you would never sell a night with your husband to another woman for a basket of fruit, that he is the Joseph to God’s call on your life and that you are the Sarah to God’s call on his life.

mlkeith2I don’t know what my marriage will be like in heaven, but I cannot imagine it without my Forever Man– that I met over 30 years ago at a Mule Barn social– and he picked me to be on his football team. I want to be his Forever Girl – Forever.

I want you to be a Forever Girl, too – a Forever Girl who waits for her Forever Man.  At age 12 I entered into a covenant with Jehovah-Rohi, the Lord my Shepherd – that He would guide me to my bride groom – and in return, I wouldn’t be a Bond Girl , a Breck Girl, Harvey Girl, a Girl Friday, or a Girl who Just Wants to Have Fun– I wanted to be a Forever Girl – a girl who loves and is loved in return by her husband for as long as forever allows.

A Forever Girl asks ““Let me know, Father, who the right man is?”

I wish someone had explained to me that just because some young men had all the pre-requisites for my list (yes, I had a list – from a writing assignment my Sophomore year of high school) – just because that relationship doesn’t click doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with me – or you. I wish someone had explained the following:

  • No answer to “Is He the one” means no or not now.
  • No means God has something better for each of you, better than you can imagine. After all, we only know what we have been taught, experienced or God-revealed: Our knowledge is limited to what we know; Understanding how little we know and how much God knows is the first step to having faith in a Forever marriage.

A Forever Girl is a Faith girl who by faith waits for her Forever Man. She doesn’t give up and give herself away. By trusting Jehovah Jireh, she knows God will provide in His time.

mlkeithWhen Forever Girl meets Forever Man a faith-kind of trust grows. Her mind might struggle with trust issues – but her heart will trust – and trust like children innately born to trust their parents. Only God can create that kind of trust between two people.

A Forever Girl
Isn’t taken for granted
is seen as an angel, like a rose (Psalm 5:18)
Is ingenuous, honest, courageous, full of valor
Striving to encounter challenges with tranquility and firmness
Delighting in benevolence
Not seeking revenge
Sacrificing personal ease, interest and safety
For her Forever Man
She is her husband’s crown (Proverbs 12:4)
liberated through submission

So many  think pledging their life to Adonai, Lord and Master, limits and confines – when really, in Kingdom principles – it liberates, frees us to be as we were designed. When we pledge in marriage to submit to our husbands, kingdom principles work the same way – it liberates. Our Forever Man is to love us as Christ loved the church.  A Forever Man allows his Forever Girl to soar, yet provides shelter from a harsh world (Ephesians 5:22-23).

Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor—since they’re already “one” in marriage (Ephesians 5:25-28).

Go all out for your Forever Man, too!

A Forever Girl is made whole through her Forever Man.

Forever Girl + Forever Boy + The Holy Spirit = One

IMG_6850The writer’s of the movie Jerry McGuire plagiarized with this statement., “You complete me.”  The world calls it a cheesy line . Cheesy implies infantile, unbelievable – but God wanted us to complete each other – through Him. Malachi tells us so (Malachi 2:15). Don’t let the world diminish your relationship potential.

A Forever Girl Champions her Forever Boy.

  • Do your Forever Man good and not harm, all the days of your life (Proverbs 31).
  • Don’’t diminish, excoriate, mock, talk down to, belittle, undermine, manipulate, harden her heart, threaten.
  • Don’t  see him a Neanderthal, a bumbler, a lower-being, which society encourages women to do.
  • Understand that God created man for himself – and God created woman for man ( I Cor: 11:9) – and they both need each other. That God took Adam’s rib – and made him incomplete without her testifies to that.
  • Strengthen all parts of the whole. Build it up:  respect, encourage, seek to understand, forgive, find merit in innate differences, lift him up when he falls down, keep each other warm in the cold (Ecc. 4: 9-11), strong in the challenge, comforted when you each reach the end of yourselves.

A Forever Girl doesn’t stop believing that God knew what He was doing when He said, “Yes, this is the man.”

Your daddy told me once when he was moderately little that when God answers prayers, He answers them abundantly. He grew up to be the Forever Man to your mother’s Forever Girl.

Praying you choose to be a Forever Girl – both for God and your husband.

Love,

Your Grandmother

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zinniacrown
“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary” ~ Galatians 6:9

I was in the garden with my half-hearted tomato plants, the whole-hearted cucumbers, gracefully quiet chard sitting quietly between the two, admiring the turtle-paced eggplant slowly but surely contributing enough – and coming to terms that one may be enough.

The chocolate mint is sneaking its way back in, but, then, it is a good place to be – this back yard garden. The bees and butterflies agree, but they don’t notice the chocolate mint. They’re much more interesting in the zinnias.

The zinnias at each end of the raised beds sway in the breeze, smile up at the sun, burst into yellows, pinks, reds, oranges – and a lot of whites his year. The zinnias despite their raucous petals, rays, discs and stigmas and, seemingly, breezy behavior – they always teach me something. Or maybe it’s really God teaching me through the zinnias.

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I’ve been thinking about this circle of life, this growing older, roles changing as needs change of both my children and older family members. In the process, I’ve been thinking about what 75, 85, 95 will look like on me. Not the petal part of aging, but the seed-planting part and harvest part – how the condition of the soul shows itself – either in waspish and testy ways, cheery and good-humored, bitterness or sweet savory, lost or found.

When my petals have fallen away, and all that remains of me as I sit on my front porch wrapped in a blue sweater are a few soul seeds left to be brushed or blown off, I want those soul seeds to be
joy-of-the-lord seeds
faith-is-the-substance-of-things-hope-for-the-evidence-of-things-not-seen kind of seeds
gentle seeds of God’s amazing love that go
soul deep
encouraging, spirit-lifting,
hands-raised high seeds
helping my neighbor seeds
holistic generosity of spirit seeds
delivered with hands and heart wide-open
so that when all is said and done,
all has been spent that could be spent
but for the crown no one noticed
in the days of petals and youth
the crown of whose I am.

Cultivating a cheerful heart given to smiling and laughing, a hope-and-faith heart, a daughter-of-the-king heart – I need to diligently cultivate that now. So, if you see me driving down the road with a crazy smile on my face, I’m practicing for 90!

“Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting. He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed, Shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him” ~ Psalm 126:5-6

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When the words don’t come, it puts me at a loss. That the words don’t come doesn’t necessarily herald a hard season. Sometimes it heralds a season to be savored. A season to just pause and take it all it – the sweet and the sour, the high and low,  the tough and the tender.

It’s been a year! Not a 2017 kind of year. Just a 365 days kind of year. This time last year, walking was terribly painful – after pneumonia and surgery – my muscles thought it was time to curl up and stop. Thanks to yoga, muscle stretching and time, I am myself again – which means I am still not an Olympian, but I can get the job done and then some!

These 365 days have been full of loss, birth and the in-between stuff.  I haven’t known how to write about it. God stayed my hand from writing, so I just watched and soaked. . . soaked up family during the loss of my aunt – the oldest of the sisters –  in September and my mother-in-law in early November . . . soaked up my 4th son’s final soccer season and graduation . . . soaked up a crazy-wonderful holiday full of laughter and adventure . . . still soaking up my first grandson that came over a week ago.

Soaking meant an lot of watching, a lot of listening and a lot of quiet, like watching one son face challenges to gain something more than he imagined – not what he wanted to gain – but something more valuable in the long run.

The daily living in between the mourning and the celebrations was the mortar that bound the bricks and stones of my soul house together during this year of extreme highs and lows.

No, I didn’t journal the tender or write through the tough. I took a lot of photos that helped me process – and I cooked through – and shared the fruits of both with family and friends.

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There were stews, and soups, pasta and chicken, fried chicken and gravy, grilled cheeses, bacon and cheese pastries, and garlic butter biscuits.

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There were scones, chocolate chip cookies, garlic buttered biscuit, and all types of Muddy Cakes: Muddy Cakes for birthdays – friends and family. Muddy Cakes for celebrations. Muddy  Cakes just to love others when I wasn’t sure what else God wanted me to do (Muddy is my grandma name – so I started calling them Muddy Cakes).

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Someone said, “You need to open a bakery.”

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No – they’re not for sale. They’re for love and friendship.

Toward the end of the school year, the boys had had enough cake.  I detected a potential revolution ahead.

The  youngest, he said to me, “You’re slipping, Mom. You used to cook the most amazing breakfasts. Remember those granola bars you used to make with the stuff with the man with the white hair?”

“You mean Quaker Oats?”

“You only have two more years, Mom. You need to push through.”

I pushed through, finishing the school year with granola bars made with the oatmeal that has the man with the white hair. I made eggs and bacon on toast with ketchup. I did it all – and then bought some Lucky Charms to give me a brief rest.

Maybe this pushing through made me remember other recipes from other times – tasty memories. This Spring, in the middle of soccer season, I remembered the Thousand Island dressing I’d made in high school for school lunches. It was a tasty memory that started a craving. Timing was somehow right, too. I found myself rummaging through Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook that I received when I married. It had the recipe for a salad dressing from my grandmother’s Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook (not so new I guess) that I’d used in high school. About 35+ years later, I wanted to see if it was good now as it was then.

I modified mine a bit, probably just like I did all those years ago – the spices, pantry items and fridge contents aren’t all that different. I am my grandmother’s granddaughter after all. I mixed and stirred – and tasted.

Thousand Island

I cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup relish and 1/4 cup ketchup (not chili sauce)
2 finely choppped hard-boiled eggs
2 tablespoons each finely chopped: green peppers, celery, and onion (I spun mine in a food processor)
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
If  you think it’s too thick, add 1 tablespoon buttermilk

It was – as good now as it was then.

Then, during our family holiday in France, yes –  France! I’ve always wanted to do a bicycle tour through the Loire Valley! And we didn’t because, well, I said I wasn’t an Olympian. ! We drove – through the Loire Valley, up past William the Conquerors place over to Normandy’s Utah and Omaha beaches and on to Paris. There was still miles and miles of walking a day.  I got the job done and then some!

Three of our sons went with us to France. After 48 hours, they missed my cooking.

“Mom,” they each said.” You could open a restaurant here, and it would be packed every day.” To them, I was the best cook in France. I tried to explain that the French would be just as miserable with my cooking. McDonald’s was greeted by these guys as a long lost friend after three to four days.

The most gorgeous art work was in the patisseries – Delectable! Divine! Delicous! Besides the patisserie offerings – one cafe’s buttermilk dressing on a salad made me want to make a Mason jar of it when I got home.

This newly discovered appreciation of my cooking increased my value in their estimation. When we walked – and we walked a lot, I found myself hedged in before and behind me. Losing me seemed a real possibility. Of course, the time in Chambord Chateau their dad offered them 5 Euros to whoever could find me first might have had something to do with it. They weren’t taking any chances of losing me again.

I found unlooked for treasures in France. Maybe these young men did, too.

I’d tried one of the buttermilk dressing packets months ago, but it just didn’t dazzle me like the recipe at the little French Cafe. I decided to try Martha Stewart’s Buttermilk Dressing. I didn’t veer much from her recipe.

Buttermilk Dressing

3/4 C. Buttermilk (I used whole Buttermilk)
1/2 C. mayonnaise
1/4 cup finely chopped shallot (about 1 shallot)(I used a garlic press)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (I used sea salt)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon celery salt (I used celery seed)

I made it when I got home – and it was a good thing! Martha’s tasted like the little French cafe’s buttermilk dressing that was so very delightful. I will admit that I just might have possibly fell in love with shallots!

My youngest, he tasted my Buttermilk Dressing – and liked it. “Not for salads,” he said. “Great for dipping. It needs to be thicker or salads – so just pick that up at the grocery story”

However, he’s keeping me busy keeping the mason jar full. I have trouble keeping this one for more than 3 days. It goes fast.

There’s a bit of chard in my little patch of garden. The cucumbers are ready. The tomatoes are taking their time. The grocery provides the broccoli – my youngest’s favorite. Carrots, onions and other items Peter Rabbit would appreciate come from the Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings. I wouldn’t want to grow everything, I enjoy my Farmer’s Market Saturday mornings too much.

Then there’s Aunt Joyce’s Salad Dressing. I make it year round (you can find the recipe here). Aunt Joyce started making it my freshman year of college.  It reminds me of all those nightly dinners with Grandmother, Mom and Aunt Joyce. I miss a kitchen filled with these women. I guess that’s the price you pay when your husband says “You’re a pioneer woman” when his company wanted him to move to Detroit and he found a different job in this little town in Tennessee about 26 years ago. We both left our families, packed up our red Ford truck, our first little boy and set up house in this sweet town. It’s our boys’ hometown now. All 5 of them. Except they’re not boys anymore. Not really even boys to men. They’re men – even the 16 year old. If you treat them like men, instead of boys, they tend to act like how you treat them.

Good recipes, like these salad dressing recipes, are reminders of the good things from where I came from and where I’ve been.

Someone messaged me wondering how I managed to do everything I do. To be honest, there’s a lot I don’t do – or do well. The dishes get stacked up, the socks left unmatched, this and that piles us. I plan for a Monday stew to last through Wednesday (Is that cheating?). There are dayswhen I feel like I’m being whirled in a lettuce spinner.  It takes me 3 hours to create a spotless kitchen that takes someone else 30 minutes. There are days when I need either to have taken more seriously conversations with my sons – and other days when I need to have been less serious.

“Mom, do I need a sign on my head that says, ‘Sarcasm?” the 4th one, the one with the humor so dry it is self-combustible asked.

“Ummmmm, Yes! Can you take care of that?” I say, really hoping that one day he will have one for me. It isn’t encouraging when your mom laughs at the wrong time or takes jokes seriously resulting in unwanted lectures.

This has been a year where doing what I love for the ones I love has also meant doing something things I love rarely, like writing.

In a soaking year, when the words don’t come, and loved stories ended, other stories wove themselves while all I could do was watch, love, and cheer – cooking was one of the few things I could do.

It feels like a new season is beginning. Something different is in the air. The words finally came. I knew God would send them when He was ready for me to have them.

If you’ve read this far, you deserve a Muddy Cake! It has been an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink kind of post – but it felt right to do it this way.

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The Joy Bearer being Tossed into the Ocean

To Barrett on the Occasion of your 21st Birthday,

I’ve always said since you were a little boy when I gave you and your brothers spirit-filled names that we should have named you Joyful Barrett Bucher. God saw fit to give you an extra measure of the Joy of the Lord, equipping you to be a Joy Bearer.

Being a Joy Bearer doesn’t mean you always feel joyful. Just like an Everyman, you might struggle to always choose joy. Sometimes you might balk and rebel against choosing to find the joy God leaves for us in the messiness of everyday living. . . . but just like building muscles, I pray that you will train yourself to choose joy for yourself.

There is a difference between choosing joy and being a joy-bearer, though. Choosing Joy is about your internal happiness. Being a Joy Bearer is about carrying joy into another’s circumstances.

You are a God-designed Joy Bearer. You have a gift for bringing joy into any room, any moment, any situation – and you bring it in all different ways. You bring joy with a word, an expression,  an act of compassion, encouragement, service or insight. Sometimes it can be called comic relief – though it is not an entertainer-kind-of-thing. It can be called unconditional love, hero to the rescue, faith for healing, beautiful timing that redeems a conversation, or simply a hug. It looks and feels like God’s grace being inserted into a moment  or situation.

Today you are 21. Your life is your story now. You hold the pen and eraser. You are its editor. Dad and I are now secondary characters in your story. It’s a hands-off, hands-up time, meaning the greatest impact we can have on your story now is through prayer.

My prayer for you is that you continue to be a Joy Bearer as you grow into independence. Yes, The Joy of the Lord is your Strength ( Nehemiah 8:10 ).

This strength can only be built in his presence – and, as you spend time in his presence, you will hear his guidance: “You will show me the way of life. Being with You is to be full of joy. In Your right hand there is happiness forever” (Psalm 16:11).

Faith is maintained through real, intentional relationship with the one who created you. Maintain that belief that God designed (Psalm 149) you to be exactly who you are even when others don’t see what God sees or know what God knows about you, even when you don’t see it or feel it.

There will be those who don’t believe – from teachers to peers, to strangers to even family – but as long as you know God knows- and hold on to that knowledge, you will fulfill your God-designed life, and a lifetime of people will be blessed by you, the Joy Bearer.

While the Joy-Bearer carries God’s joy into other’s lives, he doesn’t leave the joy-bearer a solitaire individual. God has people – and those people are the friendships and mentors who see you as he does. You will find them in likely and unlikely places, expected, but most often, unexpected. If you can’t see them or find them, ask him and he will reveal them to you.

I have so many stories of your Joy-Bearing moments in our family. One of my most treasured memories is the time you sneaked up behind me in the kitchen – you were the only one who could sneak up behind me – and gave me a hug. I consider that moment my greatest mothering failure.I was cooking and fraught over a different mothering situation when you sneaked up behind me, wrapped your arms around me and gave me a Bear Hug. I shook off that hug saying, “Not right now.” I regret that shaking off and not just allowing myself to enjoy the complete hug. I regret how it possibly made you feel. You haven’t sneaked up to give me a hug since then. You were a Joy Bearer bringing joy into a space and to a heart that needed it. I learned a lot from that moment. I learned to let go of the messiness and accept joy, accept love when offered. Sadly, in that moment, for you, Joy-Bearing proved itself not always comfortable.

The lesson in that for you is to never under-estimate the impact of giving a joyful gift. You might not see the impact in the moment of giving. As a matter of fact, it might be shaken off. However, like a mustard seed, it can grow into something bigger and more  beautifully life-changing than you intended, estimated or imagined. Today that mother-fail moment is a treasured moment because it taught me to love better, to find, accept and choose joy in a fraught-filled moment. Being a Joy-Bearer might not always be comfortable, but I don’t think any act of kindness returns empty. Sometimes it takes time – and that is a faith and hope thing.

You have blessed our family for 21 years as a Joy Bearer. Like all of us, you will have moments of living life all wrong and moments of shining rightness. From the wrong to the rightness and in-between, choose not only to be a Joy Bearer but a Joy Chooser, redeeming the messiness of everyday living into the God-designed life he intended for you.

“You always show me the path of life. You will fill me with joy when I am with you. You will make me happy forever at your right hand” (Psalm 16:11)

We love you. Happy 21st Birthday! Praying you have blessing, joy and sweet surprises as you write your story!

Love Mom and Dad

Below are some of my very favorite posts about the Joy-Bearer in our family:
The Center of the Brotherhood and Commemorative Poem
Lemonade Joy
Not Everybody Can Whistle; Not Everybody Can Wink
The Freshness After the Storm
Mystery of the Missing Turtle Head
The Owl and the Puppy Dog
Mother Words

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