Thursday, December 28, 2017

{seek}

He asked me, "So how do you pick a word?"

These years of a one-word focus sometimes seemed random, and sometimes they were born from disappointment. Whole-hearted came from too many people who didn't follow through on promises and plans. Community came from disappointment in places where I expected to find community but didn't.

This fall, as I felt a finishing with restore, a word emerged from many places:

Seek.

It was a comfort.

21 Yet I still dare to hope
    when I remember this:
22 The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
    His mercies never cease.
23 Great is his faithfulness;
    his mercies begin afresh each morning.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
    therefore, I will hope in him!”
25 The Lord is good to those who depend on him,
    to those who search for (seek) him.
26 So it is good to wait quietly
    for salvation from the Lord. (Lamentations 3:21-26, NLT)
It was a promise.

 “And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever. 10 Consider now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a house as the sanctuary. Be strong and do the work.” 1 Chronicles 28:9-10, NLT.

It was an invitation.

 My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”
    And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” (Psalm 27:8, NLT)

And I accept.

My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
    Your face, Lord, I will seek. (Psalm 27:8, NIV)

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The pause

A gift bag. Golden tissue paper. Inside, a mug painted with sunshine and full of warmth. Pause. Underneath, I felt the softness first and lifted it out. It unfurled and opened, colors and softness, comfort. A bag full of hygge--mug, tea, scarf.

I held it up and held it out and wrapped myself in it.The grays, the greens, the browns and rusts--like they told a story of woodlands and warmth and change. And this, for me. For me.

***

Christmas music and the repeated refrain of "no place like home for the holidays." (Christmas night), Shane eagerly approached the house radio and announced he was turning off Christmas music until next year. Ironically, the tune still played in his head the next morning.

***

Cleaning up. A friend commented how she was already (Christmas day) packing up the decorations. I laughed and commented I wasn't far behind her. I love the season, but it's rare that I stretch it out much longer. Especially not past the new year.

Tuesday, laundry loads, dishes, tidying up. But also, slowing down, fires, leftovers and games.

***

Lori went with us to Christmas service this year. She sat next to me. I could hear her singing. We held candles in the congregation's reverent hush. And Drew's special message of loss and remembrance likely struck us each in very different ways.

She was a special guest at our second annual Christmas feast yesterday. Life is still in transition, but bigger tasks are coming to a close. Next year, we should find a steady rhythm.

***

Home fires, laundry, leftovers, warm tea, playing games, readingreadingreading. It was the most relaxing, peaceful day of this entire year. Then bedtime and a burst of laughter when he said, "George Jet" suddenly turned into stifled tears of buried grief rising and overwhelm. Downstairs for reading and more tea, this time with chamomile. Grief, fresh.

***

Today, snow flurries. More laundry. More fires. Bread spinning in the new bread machine. (I'm so excited to, hopefully and expectantly, find a good gluten-free bread. This time, a paleo version, until I can get the other flours to make the recommended blend.)

Maybe, on some level, warm bread, warm fires, warm tea and moments of peace can bring healing. At least, I hope so. Hopefully. Expectantly.

***

This week is my favorite of the year. The week between Christmas and the New Year. Pause. Yes. To catch up. To rest. To regroup. To center. To seek.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

And still counting (11,340-11,375)

eggnog at the neighbor's table--community
the encouragement along the way: You're almost done
Saturday night worship with Shane and Lanie
good recipes
shared recipes
warm fires

pictures of his place, emptied
a lock box on the door
chamomile tea
gifts to give to neighbors, our very introverted run
Miss Pat

eggnog with Joanne
Trader Joe's tea
soup nights
Christmas music
advent readings with Erin

chocolate kisses
the Christmas card from Ben's family
Rebecca at the table for tea
pizza for dinner with Lori
Christmas Eve nachos

texts and messages with friends as we look back on a year, each of us
foggy Saturday morning, somber and still
new sheets in the mail
a full fridge
another year (the 11th) for 66 Books

chats with Lori
a congregation by candlelight
singing next to my sister
miracles
the kindness of neighbors

It's a Wonderful Life on Christmas Eve
cocoa in mini mugs
my sisters
loved dolls
good stories

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

A bloggy brief look back at 2017

Every year end I enjoy taking time to reflect upon the months that preceded. This year is no exception, as hard as it was. When I look back with a mix of emotions, I see God's hand in the days, and I'm grateful.

Here's a glimpse:


1. What was the single best thing that happened this past year? Besides surviving? Reconciliation with Lori.


8. What were the best books you read this year? I loved The Pearl by John Steinbeck; found some new cookbooks I love—anything bento related, Weelicious, The Korean Table, Soup Nights, Wellness Mama; Gilgamesh the Hero by Geraldine McCaughrean; the Bible; The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett ; (Babette’s Feast on video); All Who Go Do Not Return by Shulem Deen. (no compensation to mention any of these titles)
 


15. What was the most enjoyable part of your work (both professionally and at home)?  The most enjoyable part was spending time with people. I enjoyed meeting new people through this journey and was especially moved by those I met in the nursing home, both residents and staff. For homeschooling, I enjoyed planning out the lessons, discovering new curriculum, and engaging with my kids in fun ways. And at home, it was a rich reward to plan out meals and cook for my family. I’m so thankful for these things.




19. What was biggest thing you learned this past year? The little things are the big things. It all matters. The choice to hug or not hug. The choice to give or not—it matters. The choice to show up or not. The choice to smile, love, invest—or not. It might all seem little, but whether once or repeatedly, these things accumulate to a life and a lifetime. It all matters. (omission of more) The little things are a legacy.

Big lessons this year.

December

December

December

December

November

November

November

October

October

September

September

September

July

July

June

May

May

May

April

April

March

February

January

January




Monday, December 18, 2017

Day story

December


Outside my window, it's dark. The snow has finally melted off. I'm wishing to fit in a last trip over the leaves to mulch them up. It doesn't seem like any wind will blow them away. Oh, brown season.

Giving thanks for lots of things, but especially how Sofia has said it to me recently, and her assistant said it today: you're almost done. Those words. You're almost done. That is sweet encouragement to finish strong in a year that has been full of heartache and, what seemed like, sucker punches. To hear someone from the sidelines, watching me run this race, saying with encouragement, "You're almost done."

In the school room, thank you notes awaiting addresses. Stacks of work for the week. A bottle of wine for our piano teacher. (It seems most of my gifts this year are about beverages.)

From the kitchen, I made a grain-free Italian Wedding Soup. It came together so fast. I was apprehensive at first, but then after the spinach wilted, the broth seemed to clear, and it was stunning. The green of the spinach, the orange of carrots, the clear warmth of broth, and the meatballs. Oh. So good. While dinner cooked, I fixed a decaf tea. I've had to give up afternoon caffeine for a bit. Stress is no fun. Especially when it messes with afternoon coffee. But this tea? I'm glad I took a chance on it this afternoon. I want to drink it all night long. Chamomile work your magic.

I am puzzled how the closing down of matters has opened an unexpected door of time. I thought things should be easier as I crossed off items from my to-do. Now with more time, I find all the thoughts I couldn't entertain earlier this year are waiting for me. Grief feels fresh again.

I don't want to forget that I am alive. A friend from high school posted an image of a lighted candle in memory of her dad who died a year ago, and she invited anyone else to message her and she'd light a candle for them as a sign that we don't stand alone in our grief. I messaged her to light one for our loss and grief this year. It was a welcome sign of solidarity and a reminder that I am still alive. From our advent reading of Jotham's Journey by Arnold Ytreeide:

"Shh! Shh! small one, I know. Our friend Silas has gone to be with Jehovah." Then Nathan held Jotham at arm's length and said, "But we are still alive, and I think we should stay that way!"
Around the house, twinkling lights. The start of wrapping packages. Christmas music. Candy canes. Immunity diffusing. And a looking forward and ahead. Next week, I relish the break.

I am hearing the girls' laughter. I'm almost finished here and will go join them.

A view of my favorite things:
This tea! That soup! Hygge!

I got one for myself a year ago when I was gifting for neighbors, and it's still alive. A reminder. Life goes on.
Nella got a new bed and I had to put her on it myself.

She asked my favorite verse and it was a long one. I love that she focused on this part. #seek


We don't mess around with this game. #strategy

Slowing down to play a game with her.


At the table, I went by a neighbor's this afternoon, and her husband pulled out a beautiful bottle from their refrigerator and poured me a tiny taste of their eggnog. It was delicious. I sat down at their table with a little shot of a sample and sipped slowly, enjoying their conversation and welcome. We talked about real life stuff. And I appreciated their honesty and vulnerability. I needed that kind of connection after months of feeling disconnected and task focused. I've missed so much this year. I've missed my friends. (When time is my love language, I think long on how it was spent this year.)

I told Shane how lovely the eggnog was, and he asked me to get the recipe.

My neighbor's eggnog

1 can condensed milk
1 can coconut milk
3 egg yolks
1 cup white rum
1/2 can coconut cream
1 cup evaporated milk

Mix in a blender. Sip slowly with loved ones. Give thanks.

And still counting (11,312-11,339)

Anita
Marshall's Mom
Kellie
tea in the mail

fires in the fireplace
birthday celebrations
her tears and hugs
sleep
birds at the feeder

snowfall
"no" days
laundry, washed
breakfast for dinner
watercolor paintings by Erin

the mental "click" of understanding
closer to closure
"Matilda" in Linda's honor
Christmas cards, addressed and mailed
lunch with Michi

Erwin's yes
books from the library
Lanie's hugs
slippers gifted to her
cardigans

frankincense
book reads long distance with Amy
lunch out with Lori
a Sunday at home

Friday, December 15, 2017

(good life)

The warmth of blankets.

The creamy sweetness of morning coffee.

Well wishes with Sofia. Laughter with Christy on the phone.

The cashier who was homeschooled and recognized us as kindred spirits.

A new dog bed, Christmas cards for neighbors, coffee bricks and chocolates.

Snowfall.

After lunch, stealing (Hershey) kisses out of sight of the kids.

A hot tea in a favorite mug. Rooibos. Honey. Warmth from the inside.

A chat with my sister.

A fire in the wood stove.

Erin, outside. The thirty-minutes granted, turned hour. Because you're only a kid once. She's rosy cheeked. Tongue out catching flakes. She could do this all day long.

Christmas music in the rooms.

Books stacked, waiting.

But still the snow falls. The woods are so beautiful in winter.

So grateful for this day. 


Thursday, December 14, 2017

Gifts

When she turned two, friends braved rush hour and rain to celebrate my girl. I will never forget her face as she opened her gift. Sweetie Bell. A treasured friend, returned from the abyss of lost toys. 



Two
We had a little party for her. Friends showed up and we ate cupcakes at the kitchen island. Sang song to her sweet beaming face. Later, after playing, she approached me. "Mama, can I open my gifts now?" 

Three
I remember when she peered through the railings from the cat walk, down to our Christmas tree and gifts below that Christmas morning. She was three years old.

"It's too much!" she exclaimed. Her words stick with me, humility at abundance.

Gifts have always been her love language.

This year, we celebrated her eleventh birthday--Sunday, she had some friends join her for a tea celebration with dolls;





eleven

Monday, we celebrated her family-style with brownies and ice cream (mint, her choice, and she even went into the store, picked it out and paid for it because she wanted to be independent.).

She opened the gift Shane and I gave her. It was something she had really wanted, and she rushed into my arms in gratitude, laughing and crying. She was so overwhelmed, and overwhelmed in such a good way.

I've experienced overwhelm too.

Like when Anita drove over on Monday with gift in hand for Erin. This grandmother/mother who has adopted us and has never failed to remember a birthday or anniversary. She has taught me through example, how to love and live well. Truly, I cried from a gratitude overwhelm when Shane got home.

Or when a dear friend who drove an hour and a half with her daughter dressed to the nines to celebrate us with cheese crackers and savory muffins and song. I am overwhelmed.

Thanks to all who sent wishes through Facebook, Ig, or text. We are so very grateful for you in our lives. Your love is a gift.


Monday, December 11, 2017

And still counting (11,276-11,311)

66 Books
a broken heart
a Father who loves
purges
tears, released

cloudy days
a sky blue sweater, warmth
a sewing project with Erin
phone chats with Lori
early morning hours

books in the mail
books from the library
the farmhouse mug of coffee
their laughter from the living room
Sophia's happy voice

coupons from Joanne
grace for (piano) history
a full fridge
a full table
abundant life

the splatter of fat raindrops
sunrises through the woods, glorious
and sunsets, equally beautiful
the wrestle
a word for 2018

her open mouth catching fat flakes
snowfall, the season's first
Suzanne's happy text at finding the chocolate snowmen
an actual Christmas card to send this year
these girls, who tell me they love me a million ways


a day of "no" for a day of "yes"
the quiet of snowfall, all day long
a birthday party that didn't get snowed out
edible flowers
savory cupcakes

tea with friends