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Posts Tagged ‘Life’

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Chocolate Chip cookies, Muddy Cakes, Hamburgers and Hotdogs, chili, chicken soup and beef stews, bacon twists and grilled cheese – and tomatoes and lettuces: Kale, Spinach and Chard, even chocolate mint leaves! Turkey, stuffing, oyster dressing, mashed potatoes with sour cream, cream cheese, parmesan cheese, butter and garlic, homemade salad dressings – Feast Day and Everyday kind of food – mostly the everyday kind of food.

I love cooking for people, making sure they’re filled up, that they don’t leave my house hungry – but I have no efficiency for keeping a pristine kitchen. If you came to my house, you’d find me behind the kitchen counter. I’d ask you to pull up  a stool while I poured you a cup  of coffee or a glass of sweet tea, offered you some honey or creamer, maybe a smackeral of something if I had it – and we’d talk while I tidied up my kitchen. Most likely, my sons who are students and sons who work might pop in, might even pull up a stool for a small bit, weave themselves into the conversation and out again.

A homey diner with one short-order cook? Sometimes it feels like that. By the time you’d leave, you just might notice the kitchen still needed cleaning and organizing, and you might wonder how it wasn’t with the time I was behind that counter – and at the same time understand why it wasn’t.

When you left, I hope you would have found yourself filled up, found comfort and understanding of brokenness in challenges, maybe like you’d found a place to belong – a place that had a stool just for you, an outpost on your journey where you can re-store your soul supplies and that you’d leave a bit merrier, a bit steadier, more ready for the challenges outside the door.

We all have our little soul re-storing “outposts” – the places where we feed the sheep and lambs. But the kitchen isn’t my only outpost. My outpost – your outpost – is wherever we walk in the daily – and by whom our souls pause in the daily.

Our outpost is where the lambs and sheep are that Jesus asks us to feed.

 “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.'”  ~ John 21:15

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about these sheep and lambs. Just who are these sheep and lambs he tells us to feed? Aren’t they the ones I was born to? The ones I gave life to? Am I to feed more than these . . . MORE? 

When my youngest was baptized, I wrote, “Joining a bigger brotherhood,” saying the following:

“Today, precious son, you publicly receive a mighty inheritance. You become a Son of the King. You were born into a remarkable brotherhood, the youngest of 5 brothers. Today, you publicly join a bigger family, a bigger brotherhood that includes Peter, James and John, an amazing, miraculous brotherhood. I am so proud of you!”

The day we said, “I do” to Jesus, we joined a bigger family, not blood relatives, but soul relatives with God as the Father of this big, ever-growing family – the lost and found relatives.

Jesus tells Peter, you and me to feed his sheep and lambs – the lost and found relatives of our family, but who are they? How can I recognize them? Do they come with ear tags? Are they good sheep? Easy sheep? Spotless sheep?

All 2,000+ students at my son’s high school? The thousands at our local college? Plus every single person in the borders of my county?

Sometimes we make it so much harder than it really easy. We are to feed those God gave us in our daily. It’s that simple. I sat down to make a list of those God gave me and where I find them in my daily.

  1. My husband
  2. My sons, their wives and my grandchildren
  3. My parents, aunts and uncles, cousins
  4. My husband’s family who became my family, too, when we married – my mother-in-law and father-in-law, my husband’s sisters and brother, my nephews, their wives and children.
  5. My friends, my knitting group, my bible study group
  6. Those to whom I say, “Good morning!”
  7. Maybe even the fellow driver on the road who irritates me (you don’t have to have a conversation to pray for someone).
  8. The grocery store greeter and checker, the product stocker, the deli lady slicing my country ham, the bookstore clerk, the school’s attendance office volunteers and employees, the receptionist at the doctor’s office – where have you been today?
  9. Anyone my boys bring through the door.
  10. The person sitting next to me at church, the soccer fields, at a play, or the ballet.
  11. The disagreeable person in a check-out line. God doesn’t always give us the easy to love. Sometimes he wants us to pursue for him the challenging, the rebels, the ones who think they don’t want him.

“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.'” ~ John 21:16

isheeponecWho are your lambs and sheep to feed? Look through your FaceBook Friend list. If we accepted Friend requests as if accepting them as someone God gave us, a sheep of his to be fed, a soul in which we are to plant seed and water – would our Friend list be smaller? Are you willing to feed all those sheep you are friends with in Facebook? To love them? To make room for them at your table? At your kitchen counter? In your prayer time are you willing to pray something deeper, more interceding than a “bless his/her heart” kind of prayer – but a warrior prayer sent out to save? Are you willing to lay down your life for every friend on your Facebook Friend list? Shouldn’t you be willing – in a feed-my-sheep kind of way?

 “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: 17

Maybe you are praying the prayer of Jabez, asking God, “Oh, that you would bless me indeed and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me,” (1 Chronicles 4:10a). Maybe you have a heart for missions, a heart for feeding the lambs and sheep in Uganda? Haiti? China? Romania? If you aren’t seed planting and watering seeds either you planted or others have planted in those God gives you in the daily – how can you do it across the world in another country? God will not enlarge our borders to take care of sheep in other places if we neglect the sheep God gives us where we walk every day.

“Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them.  And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’  His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’” (Matthew 19-30).

Has God given you lambs and sheep that you need to make room for at your table? Love is a choice – and love invites both the easy and the hard to our kitchen counters, our tables to share a cup of coffee or a glass of sweet tea – grilled cheese or a feast. As we lay out our plates this week and set the table, think about who is coming, who isn’t – and who your lambs and sheep are?

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You might be thinking, “How can I feed more when I have trouble feeding the ones I have? Stop by Monday for how God prepares and provides for us to feed his sheep.

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? – Monday, December 12

Linking up at Journeysingrace

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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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“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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“What greater thing is there for two human souls, than to feel that they are joined for life–to strengthen each other in all labor, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be one with each other in silent unspeakable memories at the moment of the last parting?” ~ George Eliot, Adam Bede.

The oldest son walked in first, into the hospital room that Saturday in late February. I’d been admitted just long enough to have IVs placed. The antibiotics hadn’t even been started yet. I was septic with double pneumonia. My husband had gone home to bring back what I’d need for a stay. The second son and his wife came with my two youngest about 30 minutes later, followed by the 3rd son. I couldn’t talk; it wasn’t worth the effort, but, like any time all the boys gather, there is more entertainment to be found in the listening than by trying to add my 2 cents worth. It was an unanticipated gathering where love doesn’t need to invite, love just comes.

2016 was a year of unanticipated gatherings. I call them grace gatherings.

Gatherings: fellowship, belonging, inside the circle, storytelling, listening, laughter, tears, highs and lows, memory-making, engaging authentic caring, maybe just a just-holding-hands, sharing, quiet or loud, praying, believing, forgiving, hoping, choosing love, a just-being-there kind of gathering.

You see, there are the on-the-calendar gatherings with cakes and candles and a year added to someone’s count. There are holiday gatherings with feasting, thanksgiving, sparklers and fireworks. There are Soli Deo Gloria gatherings reminding us of God’s love and faithfulness in the birth, crucifixion and resurrection of His son. There are back porch gatherings, kitchen counter gatherings, breaking bread or sharing a cup of tea gatherings. People arrive either through formal invites or the casual, southern-styled, the-door’s-always-open invitation to stop by, sit long and talk much over a glass of sweet tea or lemonade.

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Ben and Katrina’s June, 2015 Wedding

Then there are the big-moment, still-planned gatherings like weddings and graduations with suits, ties and starched shirts. Or planned family gatherings in flip-flops, sand with a dab of beach soccer. Last summer,  35+ members of my husband’s family gathered at the beach. We’ve done this since 2009. This was the first year all my boys (with their family) have been together like this since 2008. It was a memory-making gathering.

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Family, June 2016

. . . and then there are the unwanted gatherings where grace just brings you to stand with others in the hard moments when illness threatens or death comes . . . . unwanted gatherings redeemed by grace.

Grace:
1. 
Favor; good will; kindness; disposition to oblige another; as a grant made as an act of grace
2. Appropriately, the free unmerited love and favor of God, the spring and source of all the benefits men receive from him. ~ 1828 Noah Webster Dictionary

Twice this year, Grace gathered and lined up, gave hugs, shared stories that touched our hearts and brought smiles.

Grace always makes time to love.

Those memories we’d all gathered?  Memory stories overflowed with more than enough grace to pour on aching, loss-sore hearts. Nanny had sowed enough love to bring grace to every one of our hearts when she went home to heaven in November. Those memories we’d gathered? Whether 6 or 66, we each had within us a lifetime of memories gathered to pull out when we miss her, to pull out to comfort in her absence.

It’s hard when a beloved character in your story leaves your story. It’s like when Beth dies in Little Women. The gatherings are never the same kind of sweet as when she was there, and it leaves the reader poignantly homesick for earlier chapters, even though the story continues on, fulfilling the designed hope for each character remaining in the story.

Yes, I would have preferred only the birthday sparkle and back-porch kind of gatherings in 2016. Who wouldn’t? But I find myself humbled by a loving God who instills in the hard gatherings grace that redeems through His unfailing love, a love so big that not only does he seek a one-on-one gathering with each of us, but manages to give each of us what we need in the table-packed, porch-packed, house-packed, beach-packed easy or hard gatherings.

2016 was a Grace-in-the-Gatherings kind of year. I don’t know God’s design for 2017. I do know there will be birthday gatherings with cakes and sparkle. When Spring comes, the back porch will open up again and sweet tea and lemonade will taste mighty fine with those who come to sit long and talk much. My 4th son graduates in May, a new grandchild will come in July. The one thing I can rely on is my reliable  Father-God who always shows up, whether I’m alone or in an easy or hard gathering – and brings His abundant grace to share with all who come.

Praying grace in your gatherings in 2017!

“Remember: He WANTS your fellowship, and He has done everything possible to make it a reality. He has forgiven your sins, at the cost of His own dear Son. He has given you His Word, and the priceless privilege of prayer and worship” ~Billy Graham, Hope for Each Day: Words of Wisdom and Faith.

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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!
snowday9c2

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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Launching into independence “feels” perilous. Two of my sons have launched into independence differently: one gradually, one immediate.

As one son described it: “I loaded my truck 2 scoops at a time. He took the load all at once.”

Nervous? Frustrated? Sad? Scared? Freaking out? Some people might suggest these feelings mean a diagnosis and pill are needed, maybe they’re not ready, maybe they don’t have what it takes. While sometimes these reasons maybe be viable, most often they are just growing-independence-becoming -responsible pains.

I think all parents want to eliminate stress, hurt, failure and fear from their children’s lives. However, keeping children in a bubble, un-stressed, ill-equipped for responsibility is doing them a disservice. Learning how to handle being uncomfortable, how to face the unnerving challenge of living independence should be essential parenting.

Blue Cotton Dad says, “I would be concerned if someone newly on their own wasn’t [stressed out, frustrated, scared]. This means they’re engaged. They’re thinking about what they need to do.”

However they leave the nest, it is important to let them build their wing strength to eventually soar. It is hard to be a hands-off safety net. In this growing into responsibility and independence, my prayers can go where I cannot. When Change Comes is a prayer for these sons growing into men, facing challenges that separate the men from the boys.

When Change Comes

When changes comes
seemingly unasked, unwanted, uncomfortable
you might be surprised
but God isn’t

When change comes
so does frustration, fear, sadness,
humility, deflated confidence
because change brings new things
new challenges, tasks, heart-issues
new things bring out the gracelessness
of who we are without Him

“We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character. Hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

When change comes,
in the fine print of the change
is a note from God saying,
“You are ready for this next level.
You are equipped for this. You need to walk this path to collect
things important for the rest of your story.
Trust me.”

“There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!” (Romans 5: 3-5)

When change comes,
you will first cry out, “Help me”
until one day, you will realize help is
a journey, a short story journey
in the midst of the anthology of your life
and you ask, “Be with me”
and He is with you, even on the days
when you can do nothing more than stand,
in the night terrors when all you can do is breath in
“Lord Jesus Christ,”
and breath out, “Have Mercy on Me.”

“We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken.” (2 Cor. 4:8-9)

When change comes,
it heralds God calling you to greater
intimacy
where faith, hope and love become
more real than your skin
where God becomes more than 3 letters
in a book

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze” (Isaiah 32:2)

When change comes,
and the world questions you
it is your faith that shields
you from the arrows that would pierce
your dignity,
while you grow into God becoming
more than you ever knew

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way”(James 1:2-4)

When you come upon change
remember change is the next stepping stone
closer to God.
He placed each stone there before
you were born
so you would know how to find your way
back home
the path is true
the end
is assured

“When we see that you’re just as willing to endure the hard times as to enjoy the good times, we know you’re going to make it, no doubt about it” (2 Cor. 3:7).

196) Standing between my boys, our hands raised in prayer, blessing our week
197) Walking during my lunch break, talking to my mom before surgery to clear an 80% blockage in her right carotid artery
198) News that my mom’s heart is healthy as a horse
199) Friends calling on God in their prayers to battle for my mom, to make miracles and healing for my mom
200) “What’s that?” my mom asked about the sound. “The blustery wind” and I thought about the trees above me. Were they praising God and was their praise going up to God and the sweet blessing of it falling on the students and me walking beneath it, like cherry blossoms in the spring?
201) The next day after surgery, my mom’s speech flowing more freely than it hand in a long time. It is amazing what 100% blood flow to your brain can accomplish.
202) robin egg blue, butter yellow, heavy-whipping-cream white, baby girl pink – all in the bags of mini-Cadbury eggs!
203) A candle jar turned into a candy jar that hollars to my sons who come for a handful. We’re working on 3 – I told them this was the not-gluttony jar. The discussion that followed made me smile.
204) pictures to my cell phone from my husband when my son graduated from AIT Thursday.
205) My soldier son walking through the door, asking if he could do laundry.
206) The energy to cook his favorite meal, Cajun shrimp and pasta, as I learn to get the hang of all day working.
207) Praying with a son before he leaves the house to face living independent
208) a squirrel foraging beneath a shrub beside the door entrance to work
209) a black umbrella with blue, green and red polka dots
210) baby showers and animal print blankets
211) A sweet friend and husband surprising us on our porch Fat Tuesday to celebrate friendship. God knew we needed to come out of our box! Just further proof that God sends beautiful gifts of friendship.
212) my little guy saying bedtime prayers and including his baby niece like she’s been part of the “God Bless” list forever.
213) peace beyond understanding
214) fluffy pillows and my white down comforter
215) That how I feel is not what determines the outcome, that it is my faith in my Father that determines the outcome!
216) My husband’s joyfulness, his humor and his smile – through it, I am able to see life more beautiful, more joyful.
217) Orange Dulce tea
218) Sunday afternoon when the sun was shining springtime, and the oldest son of them all stopped by, and in all the talking, each brother walked through, hugging, talking, teasing, and it felt like family when it’s good
219) Clean, white sunshine, falling from the blue sky into my house.

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