Wednesday, December 31, 2014

the first twelve

In just hours our eldest sweetling will be thirteen years old. Born on Dad's birthday, she came into the world with the new year. I cannot think of a more appropriate, welcome, or amazing gift than to meet your first sweetling on the first day of a brand new year.

What a joy and a privilege beyond telling to be her mom. If you know her at all, you know why ♥ She is cool blues and sweet greens and lavenders and yellows. Her heart is gentle, enormous and so, so joyful. She loves riding horses, reading books, writing books and letters, drawing art and comics, being outside, riding bikes, playing with our lab, and spending time with special friends. Her younger brother and sister are her constant companions, and she cares for them with laughter and grace. She walks with the Father, earnestly, openly and carries such hope for the world in Him.

Ah, well, I could go on and on -- but I am the Mom, and she is my heart. Watching her, seeing her, listening to her, being here as she becomes is more than I ever dreamed of or knew to ask for, but I am simply blown away by all that was-- is-- and is yet to come.

Happy Birthday Eve, Sweet Girl ♥

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

ordinary

We are made to walk in the light of brilliant moments in ordinary ways and daily days. We have seen, and we know. Love wins. Hope reigns. Faith lives. How blessed we are! What joy!

Christmas Gift!
Happy, Happy Christmas Eve ♥
1 John 4:9

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

seeing Paige

I want to tell you about my friend, my sister. I could spend days and years in the telling and never touch on all there is to say, but this is a glimpse that the Father impressed upon my heart today...

She loves. She reaches out. She ministers. She sees with the eyes of the Father and has a measure of compassion that reminds me so of Him. If there is someone hurting who touches her realm of acquaintance, she cares very much, and you can see her tender heart as she tries to help. Finding joy is a gift of hers, as well as hospitality and sharing the hope we have in Christ.

If you met her, you would love her immediately. It is a uniquely marvelous experience to be present as she takes someone new into her life and heart.

She is a miracle.

Broken and bruised and really quite alone she searched for Life in Christ. For you see, true Life is only found in Him. Find Him she did - and what a story she can share about God's mercy and grace. She will do just that if you have a moment or if you have a few hours, she will tell you the story of His love for her and how He is keeping the moments of her days. The truth is not easy to hear, but sharing it comes easily for her (and more and more so as the years go by).

With clarity of heart and purpose she will explain that she is no longer the person she once was. With laughter and with tears she will tell you of her imperfection and the way there is yet to go. You will also find peace and assurance in her words and in the gentleness in her eyes.

She is walking with the Father, you see, and praising Him is her life song ♥

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Stable Where Jesus Was Born

If you have sweetlings in your life to whom you love to read, I have a recommendation for you ^_^ This gentle, lovely back and forth rhyme is a great favorite of ours every year. The children are captivated by the verse and by the wonderful pictures. We have been enjoying our copy since 2004, when "Mrs Susan" gave it to Meredith for Christmas.

My favorite page is the one with the star and the earth...
"This is the earth all round and bright
that glimmered with hope that first Christmas night
at news from a town called Bethlehem."

You'll have to ask the sweetlings what their favorite pages and verses are ^_^ and it's very likely that they will ask you right back ♥

The Stable Where Jesus Was Born
by Rhonda Gowler Greene
illustrated by Susan Gaber

Thursday, December 18, 2014

and after?

"Surrender is not the surrender of the external life, but of the will; when that is done, all is done. There are very few crises in life; the great crisis is the surrender of the will. God never crushes a man's will into surrender, He never beseeches him, He waits until the man yields up his will to Him. That battle never needs to be re-fought.

And after surrender? The whole of the life after surrender is an aspiration for unbroken communion with God."

In my thoughtful spot today with Uncle Oswald ♥

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

the very idea

It's simple today. I am absolutely blown away to know and love the One who came up with the idea of gift giving. A joy beyond all telling, it is ♥

Thursday, December 11, 2014

jack's heart

Hi Sweet Friends ♥ Thanks so much for the wonderful response to our request for prayer for Belle. I have an update for you today (below). Please continue to lift Belle and her precious family up with us and add them permanently to your prayer lists. I will update as often as we hear news. Love to each of you ♥

From Kelley this evening...
"We spoke with the kids Tuesday night. Taylor and Emily were really upset; Jack didn't say much except that he was going to keep asking God for a miracle. For 5 years we've always come up with a plan of attack even when we were in uncharted waters. It's hard to accept that there's nothing left to do even when we knew this day would eventually come.

Belle went back to school today, and I returned to work. We are going to keep things as normal as possible until we can't anymore. We are not going to say anything to Belle at this point, if at all. We don't want her worried or scared. We want her to continue enjoying life to the fullest everyday.

Please continue to pray for us. Pray for Belle to have peace and comfort. Pray for us to have the strength and courage to face what's ahead. Thanks for your continued support, love and prayers."

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

oh, please pray...

You may remember my mentioning our precious friend, Belle, who is seven years old. She dances, she sings, she plays, she is in the first grade this year, she is a miracle! She is also battling cancer and has been since she was two. Her latest scans were yesterday, and we just received news from them. Belle and her family need our prayers tonight. There are now three tumors visible in her brain.

The last word we had from the summer was that Belle has had all of the treatments that she can. I do not know at this time if that has changed, and Kelley made no mention of it in her note.

Please pray with us for Belle, her daddy and mommy (David & Kelley), and her sisters and brother (Taylor, Emily, and Jack). They know the Father, and they trust Him --and they are in great need of our prayers right now.

Thank you, friends ♥

storybook joy!

Oh, how we love books around here ^_^ and one of our favorite traditions with books is the keeping of the Christmas bookshelf. All year long, our Christmas books sit on the tip-top shelf waiting... for December to arrive! We take them down, sometimes all at once and sometimes a few at a time, to enjoy all the month-long.

We have decided to take a few down each day this year, so I have created a space for them on the "what we are reading" tab here on my journal. I added a few titles to our individual reading lists at the top and the rest will be added daily to the read-aloud section at the bottom of the page.

What are your favorite reads at Christmas-time?
We would love to add some of your favorites to our shelf this year ♥

Monday, December 8, 2014

in the morning

When I wake in the morning these days the first thoughts that come to mind are a prayer for the hours closest at hand. As I considered sharing about them here, it occurred to me that the things for which I ask the Father most privately and most particularly for our daily days are the very things I say all day long to the sweetlings. The very things I want so much to teach them are the very cry of my heart for myself as I grow alongside them.

I ask Him to give me a heart for my family
to help me be a blessing to them in every way possible in the coming day.

I ask Him to help me to really see them, hear them, know them
to help me be sensitive in the details of what they encounter as they are becoming.

I ask Him to help me be joyful, kind, and gentle
knowing that only with His help will that be so as the hours unfold.

I ask Him to jolt me to silence
when my voice begins to grow loud, when the challenges come.

I ask Him to help me choose the best words, give me His words
as I try to help young hearts learn to love, to serve, to mend, to grow.

I thank Him for the privilege of being a mom though it still scares me to absolute silence sometimes. I lie there, waking, silent, hoping, trusting in the fact that He has given the sweetlings into my care with His for a while. And I end up back at the thankfulness - aware of the awesome privilege - and there is peace to continue.

I ask Him to give us the opportunity to bless someone in the day
to help us allow Him to live and shine as we visit with those precious ones who cross our paths.

And as the day begins and passes, I find that I need every single thing for which I have asked ^_^ and I see Him there in the moments with such love and such faithfulness answering and answering and answering ♥

Saturday, December 6, 2014

o Christmas tree

The tree is up! The tinsel and lights are on! It is a beautiful tree, lovely in shape, just right in height. It was delivered a few days ago by our own precious Santa. Wayne, it is glorious! Thank you ♥

Over the next few days we will add the ornaments - all of the colors will go on, except for the reds ^_^ They come last (always) to balance the colors and make the tree pop.

We will laugh and chatter, the sweetlings will dance, and Jamie and I will tell the stories again of the people and places who have brought such sweet memories and special additions to our tree.

We will listen to Evie sing, "Come on Ring Those Bells,"and I will tear up as Christmas present takes a sweet moment to enfold itself in Christmas past...

After all is finished, we will turn the lights off except for the tree, squish onto the couch, and carol. Just we five ^_^ and it will be the heart-song of Christmas.

What joy ♥


Friday, December 5, 2014

two hundred forty three

Heartbroken today. There is a precious little brick house beside Elizabeth Church on the map of my heart. When I dream of home, it's the one I dream of most often. We lived lots of places growing up, but that one is, for me, the place where "us" resides. Jeff, Jane, Quinne, Paige. So many funny, wonderful, hard, precious memories there. The faces of dear family and friends - hours spent around the table laughing and loving and becoming together.

I remember Mom re-making the bones of that house - even with the old, green, shag carpet. Before we even knew it, our "new house beside our new church" became home. Dad's workshop was set up, Paige and I had our spaces defined and personalized ^_^ and Mom had the whole place singing "welcome" with her "just a little something" touches.

I learned more about hospitality there. Living right beside the church, across the little grove, driveways linked -- it was a crossroads of sorts. And I watched my mom and dad welcome everyone. My definition of life in Christ grew as I watched them gather in whoever came to call. Precious ones from our church family come to visit, dear hurting ones come to ask for prayer, a word of encouragement, sweet old friends from far away come to say hellos and to deliver long-missed hugs, wonderful family come to laugh and play and stay and celebrate.

I remember when the church decided to remodel the house - lol! Waking up before 7am to men on tall ladders outside my bedroom windows. Bidding farewell to that awful, adorable shag carpet. Having permission to choose the wallpaper for the upstairs bathroom - Paige and I chose very well (and very colorfully), to be sure - and the laughter that crazy wallpaper brought every time we proudly showed it off.

Yellow ribbons on the trees welcoming Dad home.

Cooking in the kitchen and laughing till we cried with Mom, Paige, Grandmother, Grandma, and Sarah.

Meals innumerable with the Blantons and the Selfs.

Racing across the grove to church, because no matter how hard we tried, though we lived so close, we always seemed to be running late for church - lol!

Hours in the yard, helping Grandma.

Raising a tiny little goat barn in the backyard with the neatest crew of friends ^_^

The trees around the yard in the spring... in the fall... and dancing for joy over how they looked with piles of snow on their bare branches.

This coming Monday, the house will be torn down. And every time I stop and think for a minute, that fact pops to mind and I am in tears again. Honestly, until I heard the news last night, I had no idea how many of my heart strings were still firmly anchored to that place. I do understand that it is not the wood and brick that hold my heart, but it is the home that was made there. And home is where the people we love are. I think it's just saying farewell to the "us" that still lives and breathes and is so, so gorgeous there in my heart and mind.

To each one of you who helped to make it so, I am sending love today. Thanking God for the time there and the ways that He can make every single thing beautiful and good ♥

Thursday, December 4, 2014

o little crafty one

Cutest sweetling crafty comment so far this week...

"Mom, I just finished my new project, and don't worry! I didn't use up the blue, 'doesn't pull the paint off the wall' tape --just like you said. I used the butterscotch tape from your drawer."

Now I have been using scotch tape for years, and it nevah had a better name than it does now ♥

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Josephine's Cranberry Apple Casserole

What wonderful memories are tucked into this dish! Grandmother made this at my request every Christmas, and even thinking of it shouts her name to my heart and brings such sweet memories to mind.

I made it for the first time this year and peeled apples and cried as I shared some special stories and memories with Ila. For example, Grandmother could peel apples more precisely (and quickly) than anyone I have known. She managed to visit with us, to allow us to help, and to peel all at the same time -- removing just the peeling, none of the fruit. Her apple peels were almost see-through they were so thin, and they made wonderful jewelry ^_^ as well as great treats for the birds and squirrels.

Another new experience for me was baking with fresh cranberries - neat! The cranberries and I stared at each other for a while as I tried to decide what to do with them. Should I pre-heat them with sugar as I do other fruits? Should I forget about them and just go with canned? How I wished for Grandmother! In the end, I figured it out and the result was just as I remembered. I hope you will enjoy it, too ♥

Josephine's Cranberry Apple Casserole


apples (4 granny smith, 1 gala), peeled & chopped
2 cups fresh cranberries, washed
2 cups sugar
1+1/2 cups quick oats
1/2 cup margarine, melted
1 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup plain flour

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Mix chopped apples with cranberries.
Spread fruit evenly over the bottom of a greased 9x13 baking dish.
Pour sugar over the fruit.

Mix oatmeal, brown sugar, flour, pecans, and margarine.
Sprinkle evenly over the fruit and sugar.

Bake for 1 hour. Can be served warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!

Notes:
• Do not chop your apples too finely, they should be chunky.
• I like the above combination of Granny Smith and Gala best, but you can use whatever apples you like best. You need 3-4 cups of chopped apples.
• You don't need to do anything to the cranberries ^_^ just wash them and pick out any yucky ones and add them in just as they are.
• I am an old fashioned oats person, but quick oats really do suit this recipe best.
• This recipe sounds like it will be super sweet, but the end result really is a good, tart fruit casserole with a gently sweet crumble topping.
• An excellent pairing with tea or coffee for a snack, it also makes a wonderful accompaniment to roasted turkey or chicken. It can be topped with vanilla ice cream and served as a dessert, and it would be a scrumptious addition to a holiday breakfast table ♥

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

roads


Perhaps you know the roads as told by our dear Tolkien and Baggins?

Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.

Roads go ever, ever on,
Under cloud and under star.
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen,
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green,
And trees and hills they long have known.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with weary feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone.
Let others follow, if they can!
Let them a journey new begin.
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.

Still ’round the corner there may wait
A new road or secret gate;
And though I oft have passed them by,
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the moon, east of the sun.

This has been a great favorite wandering melody of mine since we were first introduced ^_^ And I do love to try my hand at adding a verse now and then. Here's one of them ♥

Oh yes, forever, ever on!
Making way toward heaven-home
From frothy sea to aged oak
Till finally wrapped in trav’ling cloak,
Shedding frailty, age and time
His face, just there, His hand in mine
I meet the Master. Oh joy! That day!
And journey then the perfect way.


Monday, December 1, 2014

for my ladies

Our ladies group meets tonight ~ we will be celebrating together, and I am excited! Over the past month I have been planning and preparing for this time, and today all of the final details are clicking into place ^_^ I am jotting down notes, re-reading my plans, and baking like mad. What a joy to make things ready! What a privilege to prepare to share with these precious women who touch my heart and the hearts of others in so many ways.

Pray with me? Specifically that this evening will be a gentle refreshing for each one of them. A time of joy and love and laughter and sweet, sweet celebration with the One in whose name we gather ♥