Friday, December 31, 2010

He still whispers

A beginning in January, an ending in December. These words a journey through his power, his grace. In his pages, the story of love and redemption. My story, forever touched.


Writing today, this last day of the reading plan and of 2010, over at 66 Books.

(Fortunately, we start fresh again tomorrow. Same plan, new writers--and some returning ones too.)

Relationship

I wonder how many bloggers who chose their word for 2010 still remember what it was? I was writing one day, commenting on this "word of the year" focus, and I had to check the archives to retrieve mine. Whoops.

It was God. 

Perhaps I should have written that out and framed it. He was an ambitious contemplation for a year. Reflecting these months of 2010, though, I see him ... even though I had forgotten he was my focus word for the year.

Because of counting gifts, I sought God and his work daily. (Ann Voskamp wrote a book about counting gifts, due out in January. Gift counting has been a valuable practice for me.)

By not having the fourteenth writer at 66 Books, I then became a weekly contributor. He would saturate this year for me with a growing understanding of who he is.

But more than words on a page and weekly time reading and writing, he became a life preserver, a rock, and a teacher during difficult times: a pivotal moment; a struggle for peace--a constant theme for me this year; I learned about love. And forgiveness.

In the midst of stresses, strains and broken hearts, he showed me friends. Through grief, I would go deeper with others and with myself--and he would use my grief for good. As I set my hope in him, he has taken me higher and higher.

More and more, I am filled in this: God is not religion.

God is relationship. I had heard people speak of this relationship thing and never quite understood how it was obtained. But thankfully this year, I got it--and I'm not letting go.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Pink flippy phone
















The random shots on my phone. I had no idea how to get them. It's a pink flippy little phone I've had for about three years. It was horrible for texting, having to tap out on a key up to three times for each letter to get to the one I wanted. If I needed to say something so badly, it was better to just make the call.

A friend sent me a message on Christmas Eve saying about how awesome the instrumental was at the end of the service. I replied, "Ty Mc."

She wrote, "Huh?"

Translation: thank you merry christmas.

Shane showed me how to get the pictures off my pink phone, displayed randomly above. Pictures of me taken by Lanie and Erin. And other shots of us out and about.

Monday, December 27, 2010

One thousand gifts and still counting (1263-1277)

1263. Hard, racing heartbeats fighting fear.
1264. Chamomile tea.
1265. My neighbor's mom.
1266. And my neighbor.
1267. Angel bread.
1268. Meeting John for the very first time after blogging with him for two years.
1269. For returning bloggers at 66 Books.
1270. A full rotation on the blog--with still a week to go, we are full. !!!
1271. Snow flurries on Christmas morning.
1272. Singing my favorite Christmas song during the Christmas Eve service at church. As loudly as I could, and I still couldn't hear myself--the room so full of music. Wonderful.
1273. Girls giggling, unwrapping gifts.
1274. Their joy and thankfulness.
1275. A day of pajamas (for me); tiaras, necklaces, high heels and perfume for the kids; Shane in red sweat pants.
1276. Candlelight on the mantle.
1277. Hugs, kisses and cuddles.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Flurry

Lanie was awake at 6:01. I had to wake Erin just after seven, reminding her it was Christmas morning. Coffee in hands, Shane and I sat down on couches and watched the flurry of paper flying, listened to squeals of thanks, enjoyed the quiet of snowfall.

"Santa! Santa!" Erin cried out. We don't push Santa around here. So I was surprised when she would say, "Look what Santa gave me!"

"How did that happen?" I whispered to Shane.

Lanie painted Erin's toe nails with nail polish. Then she painted mine. We spent the day playing games over and over. We read books, sang songs, ate cookies. The girls pranced around in Princess shoes. I changed clothes on Polly Pockets so often, I felt like I was actually the one playing with them. In the basement, Shane and I created an obstacle course for dueling remote race cars, and the girls raced them in the dark (the cars had headlights). I never changed out of pajamas.

It was a full day--full of nothing and full of everything. Enjoying family, relaxing, thinking over things, anticipating other things--hope springs. I felt thankful for propane heat, socks on my feet, sweet and creamy coffee, books to read, a comfy couch, cuddles from kids. 

Hoping you had a merry Christmas.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Seeing red

It's early morning on Christmas eve. My house is quiet. In a corner, the kids' gifts, wrapped--tucked in a bag until later to go under our Christmas tree. On my desk, Bible open. Coffee, second cup. And a melody in my mind, O Holy Night--my favorite Christmas song this year.

Writing over at 66 Books today.

Monday, December 20, 2010

One thousand gifts and still counting (1249-1262)

Deck the Halls--Lanie playing at the quaint Christmas concert at the piano teacher's house.
Her excitement at being first to play.
Friends over for lunch.

A house showing ... a week before Christmas.
The woman who got bit by a dog in front of our house--and her unexpected message to bolster my faith.
The quiet of snowfall.

A clean house.
Free tickets to a holiday performance, with dancers, orchestra and pup tricks.
Coconut Christmas trees, gifted.
And M&Ms.
A smile on my face in perma-grin.

A treadmill.
The "yes" of new writers at 66 Books for 2011.
God's faithfulness.

Monday, December 13, 2010

One thousand gifts and still counting (1233-1248)

1233. morning donut run, frosted with sprinkles in Christmas colors
1234. a good pair of jeans
1235. my husband's smile, returned

1236. peppermint whipped cream
1237. a mermaid pony
1238. savoring the last days of a three year old



1239. cuddles to little ones through nighttime coughing fits
1240. Vicks on bare fee
1241. Santa slippers

1242. snowflakes
1243. snickerdoodles
1244. snow flurries




1245. the unwrapping of gifts
1246. the deep blessing of David, Anita and Denise in our lives
1247. Grammas who scoop up little ones to cuddle on laps




1248. Thankful always for people who love us because they want to.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Four

I held my three close on the eve of four.

"Don't worry, Mommy. I will still love you when I'm four," she said. I held her closer. She said we could pretend she's still three for one more day, but then she'd be four. Even she knows wishes are sometimes just wishes.


Happy winter fudge cake with sugar snow.


Erin and Gramma Nita making wishes.






Happy birthday, sweet love.

Friday, December 10, 2010

A comfort food

I forgot to take anything out of the freezer for dinner last night. So I had to cook with stuff on hand. I found this recipe for Spaghetti Carbonara.

1 lb box spaghetti
6 slices of bacon, cut into pieces
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
black pepper
salt to taste

Cook spaghetti to package directions. Meanwhile, in a skillet, cook the bacon pieces until slightly crisp. (I drained some of the fat out because I felt too guilty to leave it all in.) Add garlic and saute for one minute. Add wine and peas. Simmer for several minutes. Beat eggs in another bowl, then mix in bacon mixture (bacon to bowl. Not eggs to skillet). Mix in cheese and pepper. Drain the pasta and return to pan. Add egg mixture and stir to combine. Stir until heat from the spaghetti slightly cooks the eggs, but mixture is still like a sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serves 6-8.

I didn't tell Lanie about the eggs in it. She loved it. I did too.

Photo fiasco--the making of the annual Christmas card picture

November flew by, and so did the mild temperatures for an outdoor picture. I thought the kids would look so nice posed on one of the farm fields in their fancy Christmas clothes. Didn't happen. Then the cold crept in. I wondered how I'd work with the heavy coats, because that could look cute too. But it always seemed too cold, or I'd forget, or it was crazy windy for a week.
Yesterday, I went to the mall to make some returns. I thought the girls would look sweet on the carousel together, and I brought my camera.

I managed to get them on the horse, despite protests at having to share. Lanie forced out a toothy grin. Erin flat out refused. I kept saying, "Look at Mommy! Smile!" We only had a few seconds before the ride began, and the operator was rushing me, "Let's go!"

"SMILE!" I'm pleading.




So we tried another location.


Oh well. Off to combing through the photo archives to find a substitute.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The privileges of being the birthday girl, unless Shane is serving

Busy baking day today. I had some overripe bananas to use up so I made a couple of banana chocolate chip breads. Tomorrow we are celebrating Erin's birthday with her Wednesday play group friends (she turns four on Saturday). I was baking chocolate cupcakes for that. Saturday we'll celebrate her real birthday with ice cream cake. You're only four once.

I had the banana breads and cupcakes cooling on a rack. Erin walks into the kitchen.

"Mommy?" Because all sentences start that way. "I get to pick the cupcake I want. And the banana chocolate chip bread I want. And the cake I want. Because I'm the birthday girl."

I had to explain the breads were for the freezer, but she could certainly pick her cupcake. And her slice of cake on Saturday. Lanie is still a bit indignant over Shane serving her not even the first or biggest piece of cake at her birthday!

I wish I had stumbled onto these little treats at Bakerella a couple weeks ago. Cute!

Monday, December 6, 2010

One thousand gifts and still counting (1192-1232)

1192-1232

balcony views, red velvet seats, nearby parking, crossing guards

orchestras, tutus, sugar plum fairies, nutcrackers

happy meals, biggest blues across the table, hands in mine, Christmas music

emptiness in night shopping, feather comforters, toe socks, furry rimmed gloves

three hours of sleep, quiet time, crocheted blanket fifteen years old

ornaments, twinkling lights, lunch tables scootched together for seven, pizza with caramelized onion and applewood smoked bacon, cookies as big as my hand




melancholy days, pillow forts, tiny tire tracks in the carpet, cold-calling in faith, spontaneous hugs

a child yelling, "Mommy is the best!" into the play phone recorder, advent countdowns 

birthday party invitations, a warm scarf, brown socks

conversation with a great grandmother, her 87 years, her story

Christmas trees lighted and decorated, the Tigger talking box, snow flurries

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Recovering

It was really late one night, talking to a friend about hurtful things, tears welling up from places I didn't know existed, words tumbling out that linked experiences in ways I never imagined. I was grateful when she said I should read this book: Recovering from Losses in Life by H. Norman Wright. I perused the Amazon Look Inside feature and checked out the table of contents and first pages. I ordered a copy. It became a book read for a weekly book club. We just finished our study that started in September, my bookish friend and I ordered several copies to share with others. The sum: a must read. For everyone.

How many years did I brush aside losses in life, minimizing hurt, writing off disappointments, stunting grief? I was surprised by what I discovered.

Memorable quotes, like the chapter on losses we never considered. "With every loss, we are reminded of the fact that we are not in control and we are not self-sufficient. Every loss allows us to rest in the grace of God."

Saying good-bye, and the family that was preparing to move saying goodbye to each room so that they could "look forward to where they were going more than missing what they were leaving."

The loss of identity, however, proved wonderful affirmation.

The final chapter on helping others was eye-opening, if not convicting. Good advice for what to do and what not to do when someone is grieving. (I purchased two other books of his--one on helping kids through losses, and one on helping others--because of how much I stand to learn in this area. And that he has good stuff to say.)

In the back of the book are questions for reflection. I got a composition notebook to journal through, even though I had shredded all my journals years ago. I will also look forward to shredding those pages sometime soon, when I have completed my work.

In retrospect, in loss, I found gain, growth, hope, understanding, and God. Without my losses, perhaps I would have attained some level of happiness, but with these losses: a deeper, richer life experience; a fuller love, appreciation and reliance on God that never would have arisen had I continued to rely on man; and an unexpected confidence through survival and my identity in Christ.

Sounds like it wraps up neatly? It is a messy journey. Some losses, once held in a better light, I could move past with a clearer perspective. But other ones, sometimes those are just the shadow of who I am--nothing I can grasp, not defining, but a darker reflection of me, stretching out long in a winter sun.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Also known as grudge

Sometimes, “I repent” is never uttered. Sometimes wounding continues intentionally. And sometimes forgiveness is not feeling, but action. I am learning this daily, and often it’s not easy. Sometimes I feel like a big fake, putting on smiles and kindness when inside I groan and grieve. A persistent weight that does pin and stick, unforgiveness. But where does it lead? Bitterness? Hatred?

No thanks.

Writing today at 66 Books