Monday, August 13, 2012

Gratitude and Grief

Some friends of mine were over for tea just a few days ago.  We laughed about the way a first time mother might think she can predict her baby's whole life, as she just KNOWS she can tell what his personality MUST be, by the timing and force of his kicks within her.

I remember the assumptions I made about my first babies' futures, because of the way they either slept through the night early, or screamed more loudly than any other baby in the hospital nursery.  I am so very guilty...

The longer I'm a mom, or just a human being, for that matter, the more I know how much of my future is not predictable or controllable. So, when others are busy making New Year's resolutions, or deciding the year ahead will be the "year of love", or "year of God's peace", 

I just wonder... 

what does God have in store for me this year?  

I always know I will not be the same person at the end of the year, that I was at the beginning of it.  The birth of the year will come.  Life will happen.  I will try to keep control, while most of the time realizing, it's no use.  Lessons will be learned daily, 

and I wonder all the time... 

what is God working in me?  What kind of thing is growing in this year?  What is this year's name?  What is it's personality?  What kind of future is in store?  

It's usually about this time of year that I realize.  

I see it, all of a sudden- my year's name.  

Without any warning, I shift from trying to learn the small daily lessons, 

and wondering...

to seeing.  

THIS has been my year's journey!  It's not over yet, but the clarity that God allows in this revelation is energizing.  How many soft heart whispers have I heard?  How many conversations with dear friends?  How much emotion I have felt!  And then it all starts to come together.  Not the theme of a life, or an entire epic story, but this small puzzle piece of one year's time.

Today my year has a name.  It has unfolded little by little, until I now see it so clearly.  A year of learning gratitude, yes!  That doesn't mean it's been all butterflies and roses, and I just can't help but feel gratitude.  It's been a year of life- like always... 

miracles and messes all mixed together.  

And in the midst of it all, I am learning what the word gratitude really means, and how a grateful heart really feels, and what being thankful in everything looks like in a real life.  And for some providential reason, gratitude's companion for my year is grief.  A few years ago I grieved over losing an important part of life as I knew it.  But this is not that.  And I do not mourn over any immediate relatives... thank the Lord!  

I grieve over especially precious people whose losses have left huge holes to so many.  And I try the impossible carrying of others' grief... to lessen their burden.  I try, but it can't be done.  I cannot love and empathize their own grief away.  I watch grief.... and feel it.

I feel an empathetic grief that does no one any good.  

And so, I keep my eyes open, looking around me for the evidence of the engulfing grace of God... it is everywhere.  Even in the grief of so many.  I become especially grateful, because I know how much harder it is for some others at this moment, than myself, to be overflowing with gratitude.

I grieve alongside, and am grateful for emotion, for compassion, for family and friends, for love, for lives lived well...

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Baby's 3rd Birthday

Janie Kate turned three!!!  

(Sorry about the pic quality, but the camera died, so the ipad is filling in for now.)

Precious Janie Kate

Great Grandma Lois!  Love her so much!

Mr. Joe is so good to the girls!

What can I say?  The girlie loves piggies!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The clouds open when we mouth thanks

I'm re-reading Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts, and just couldn't help passing along this one particular paragraph. Such good words...

"I know there is poor and hideous suffering, and I've seen the hungry and the guns that go to war. I have lived pain, any my life can tell: I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks for early light dappled through leaves and the heavy perfume of wild roses in early July and the song of the crickets on humid nights and the rivers that run and the stars that rise and the rain that falls and all the good things that a good God gives. Why would the world need more anger, more outrage? How does it save the world to reject unabashed joy when it is joy that saves us? Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn't rescue the suffering. The converse does. The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest Light to all the world. When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows. How can this not be the best thing for the world? For us? The clouds open when we mouth thanks."

Monday, July 23, 2012

Macy's 7th Birthday

Since the birth order starts over after a five year gap between siblings, I call sweet Macy, my second firstborn.  So, earlier this month, my second firstborn, my firecracker baby, turned seven!  

She gets a few more freckles every year... gotta love this red-headed sweetheart!  

(Thank you, Sydney, for another wonderful photo shoot!  These pictures were taken by my talented daughter, the big sister, in May.)

Happy Birthday, Macy!!!  Your daddy and I love you SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO much!!!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Beef and vegetable soup

Here's another garden-inspired recipe I've been using a lot this summer... 

Every time hubby and the kids bring in a cabbage from the garden, I know this will be making it's way onto the menu in the next day or two!  My parents were visiting when a cabbage was carried in from the back yard by a freckle-faced, bare-footed cutie recently, and my dad went on and on about how much he loved this soup!  So, here's the recipe (if you call using no measurements and adding all ingredients "to taste" a recipe) Dad wanted me to send you, Mom:  

First, brown about 1 pound of ground beef in bottom of olive oil drizzled pan, 

When the beef is about halfway browned, add a generous layer of dried Italian seasoning to mix in as it finishes.

After the beef is completely browned and cooked (and grease drained, if necessary), stir in a box of beef broth, a family-size can of tomato soup, and a can (same soup can) of water.  If you want the soup to go further, you can add a second box of broth, or more water, keeping in mind that more water always makes it necessary to add more salt!

As the soup warms up over a medium-high heat, have veggies sauteing in about 4 T of butter.  (I use about 1 yellow onion, 3 stalks of celery, and 3 carrots- here I was finishing up a handful of baby carrots)

While veggies are softening over medium heat, add chopped cabbage (small head, or half to more of a bigger head) to the soup pot.  

As the veggies continue to soften, sprinkle another generous layer of the Italian seasoning to the pan.

Once stirred into the vegetables, the veggie/herb combo should look like this...

Add a couple good sized tomatoes, (canned would probably work just fine... these are fresh from the garden...mmm!) to the soup.

Add the vegetables, and let the soup simmer as long as you'd like.  Your vegetables will probably need at least another 30 minutes or so with the rest of the soup, but as a rule, the longer the flavors meld on a low simmer, the better it tastes.  

And soup always tastes better the second day, after it's been hanging out all together for a while, especially when cabbage is involved!  

I didn't get a picture of the soup in the bowls, but we love to top ours with shredded cheese and a tiny dollop of sour cream.  So good!  Everyone at our house LOVES this soup, from the two year old all the way up to Daddy.  It's super easy, and makes everyone happy!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Homemade salsa

The abundance of the garden, even in a drought, promises our favorite recipes being put to use! (Thank you, wonderful husband, for faithfully planting, watering, and harvesting!)

Here is one of our favorite uses for the overflowing tomato platters...

4 tomatoes
2 small cans of green chilies
2 small cans of diced black olives
10 green onions
2 tsp garlic salt
2 tsp sea salt
3 T extra virgin olive oil
2 T tarragon wine vinegar
Jalapeno peppers to taste (if desired)

Chop- purée the tomatoes to desired consistency in food processor. Chop green onions in food processor separately. Mix the chopped ingredients with remaining ingredients in big bowl. If desired, add jalapeños that can also be chopped in the processor.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

My 40th!

My birthday started early this year, with a nice long weekend spring break trip to Branson, Mo.  The drive through the Ozark mountains was breathtaking, with the bright green rolling hills, budding trees, white dogwoods, beautiful redbuds, blue skies, and the perfect temperatures.  Before the trip, my husband treated me to an early gift of some spending money for a shopping spree, and he let me know that when we got back home, the maids would be cleaning my house for my birthday!  He's a keeper!

The day of my birthday was wonderful, with a house being cleaned from top to bottom, a lunch with my dear parents-in-law, phone calls from my precious mother & father and my cherished grandmother, a very quiet afternoon in which to read (!), and it ended in a lovely, memorable evening!  One of my very best friends invited our family, including Kurt's parents, who were visiting, to a birthday dinner in my honor.  

I had told Kurt not to throw me a party, because all I could imagine was one of those black balloon birthday parties, since I'm hitting the big 4-0.  I secretly thought about how one day it might be fun to have a real cake ordered, since they make them so pretty now, instead of our usual birthday tradition of making a simple homemade cake the night before, and having cake for breakfast.  I love our tradition, but the realization that my sweet friend, Joyce, was planning a birthday dinner complete with birthday cake had me abandoning my thoughts of the black balloon cake or the breakfast cake, excitedly!
One of my secret birthday wishes... a beautiful cake!
In Joyce's living room... look at that view!
My crew with my friend's awesome young adult children
Joyce's family with mine

My sweet bunch with the digital photobook Joyce helped them make for me
With my love...
The "10 Reasons I Love You" photo storybook from Kurt 
Thanks for helping make my birthday special, Joyce!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

At The Villages with Grandma & Grandpa (Vacay Part 1)

After seven years of wishing, hoping, and planning, we finally got our Florida vacation! This was a long time coming, let me tell you! And I've got lots of pics to share.

The pics in this post are of our visit to see my parents at the new home in The Villages. This place is amazing! And it's always amazing to spend time with my incredible Mom & Dad!

In The Villages, so many of the residents use golf carts to get around within the property, which is a city all it's own.
Here are the girls, ready for their first golf cart ride 

My beautiful Sydney with Grandma & Grandpa

Walking around one of the many town squares within The Villages

In Spanish Springs square

Kids & Grandparents!

Janie & Grandma taking a break from looking at the shops

Kurt & some of the kiddos behind our cart

Macy lost her second tooth in Florida!

Wind blown as we buzz around town

Grandpa takes the front cart for our first time through the turn-a-bout

Janie learned how to grab a rest while you can, when you're on vacation

See the cars and golf carts driving together?  This is how they roll in The Villages.

Off to check out another town square!

A rowing team out past the dock... what a way to spend retirement!  Either on a rowing team, or cruising along the dock. They've got something for everyone... including dance teams, belly dancers, and Bible studies.  How do you like that?!

All of us!

enough said...

My look-a-like girls

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