Friday, February 28, 2014

Still Life

Well would you look at that.
The Grip-Stand bowl from Downton Abbey,
spilling over with orange-gold grapefruit.

How thankful I am, to fill my house with fresh fruits and vegetables
all the year 'round.

Every morning I juice half a grapefruit
and two clementines,
and I pour the juice and pulp into the glass.
Malachi and I can't get enough of this sun-shiny start to the day.

Have a glorious weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Love Extravagantly

Another cold morning.
Another polar vortex.
Another day of sunshine flooding into the house.
It's so deceptive.

This week we have another funeral.
We didn't know the man who died, but we are old friends with some of the family.
It seems to us that he was robbed of about forty years.

A dear friend of mine is a young widow,
and I have seen her walk this path of loneliness.
The evenings are especially hard.
Time hasn't made things much better.
She has grown accustomed to this new life,
but she doesn't like it.
What does one say to a widow who was happy in her marriage? 
Words can't make up for the loss of a person. 

After a funeral, a house fills with flowers.
But I say,
buy flowers today.
Fill the house with life today.
Be generous with your love, today.
Forgive, and bless, and cover with kisses,
the flawed humans that grace your little world.    

12 We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!
13 But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.
(from I Cor. 13, The Message) 

To hear the most epic of his many epic songs, listen to Josh Garrels here.

Monday, February 17, 2014

My Favorite Things

Someone I'm close to can get out of sorts when she reads my blog,
because she thinks I am effortlessly cheerful and full of joy.
Um, nope.
The winter has been long.
My days have sometimes been lonely.
The baby sleeps in our bed, and he gets me up at least twice every night.
The errands and chores and quiet times
that slowly became achievable as the kids grew,
have now become difficult again.

I don't always see the gifts in ordinary days.       

Today we are in the midst of another winter storm.
Since this is the Year of the Broken Snow-Blowers,
(yes, we have two, and they are both broken)
I'm going to get to shovel about six inches of snow.
I'm finding it difficult to feel happy about this.    

Here are a few gifts I've been given this week. 
I have learned to seek out and reach for all the things within my grasp that increase joy.
No one else can do this for me.
I think of joy as a cistern that is always full,
but I have to grab the dipper and ladle out what I need.
This requires a spirit that is calm enough to receive,        
and eyes wide open to see the beauty each day brings.  
This week, I noticed:  

 ~ Sunlight pouring into our living room.   
(Oh, and a toddler playing with a vintage toy makes the room even more fetching).

~ Hearty breakfasts can make me pretty happy.
(I usually make Oatmeal Crepes for Malachi, but lately I've been eating eggs over-easy on oatmeal toast.
So yummy that I often have seconds. I also squeeze a grapefruit and a clementine, and share that with the baby. Sometimes he gulps it all down and I don't get any).  
 ~ My church is a wonderful place to be.
Yep, it's always good to have a favorite day of the week (Mine is Sunday). That way you have something to look forward to every single week.

 ~ Old hymns are a continual comfort and delight.
Which one is my favorite? I don't know, but "Come Thou Fount" is near the top of the list.

If I picked worship songs, the list would include one newish song and five hymns. 
Since both radio and church leave me thirsty for more hymns, I have faves at home and in the car.     

~ I can give a present for no reason at all.

So if no one is showing up at your doorstep with a lovely surprise, be the one to give the gift.   
It can be so small, just a card or a single flower.
It's crazy how giving a gift makes you feel even better than getting one.
~ It lifts my heart to hear an old friend on the radio.
Michele's encouraging voice, reminding me of God's promises, fills my heart with hope. The words (often straight from Scripture) are perfect for my day and my situation. If you live in or near the Twin Cities, she's on Praise FM 95.3.

It's easy to forget that our days are laced with joys unspeakable and full of glory. (....and for those who know that song, you're now humming it, yay!)          

What is one thing you do that makes your joy increase?
I'd love to know.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Banqueting Table

Isaiah 55:1-5 “Hey there! All who are thirsty,
    come to the water!
Are you penniless?
    Come anyway—buy and eat!
Come, buy your drinks, buy wine and milk.
    Buy without money—everything’s free!
Why do you spend your money on junk food,
    your hard-earned cash on cotton candy?
Listen to me, listen well: Eat only the best,
    fill yourself with only the finest.
Pay attention, come close now,
    listen carefully to my life-giving, life-nourishing words.
I’m making a lasting covenant commitment with you,
    the same that I made with David: sure, solid, enduring love."

 (from The Message)

A few weeks ago, I was invited to a feast.
I knew it would be a great feast, because I've been to the house of this beloved friend before,
and that's how she rolls.
And yet, I was bowled over.
By the freshness of the flowers,
the gleam of the silver,
the glow of the candles,
the beauty of my friends around the table,
and the richness of the food.

Oh, the food.
For one thing, there was enough of it.
More than enough.
Plenty of everything and to spare.
Since I am always hungry (yes, still nursing, in case you're wondering),
I purely enjoy seeing a plate piled with delicious fare.
I won't describe the entire menu, but imagine perfectly cooked skinless Norwegian salmon,
topped with a buttery, olive-y spread. Yes. Seconds, please.
Then a filet mignon, thick and juicy, drizzled with a butter-wine-shallot sauce (I think that's how it was described, I was pretty busy with eating at that point).
And a roasted sweet-potato side dish that I will definitely be making soon.

And when the meal was over,
the feast was not,
because it was time for presents.

We had been instructed not to bring gifts,
but this was a birthday party,
so of course we all disobeyed orders.

As the birthday girl opened each package,
and listened to the blessing that accompanied it,
she responded with a blessing in kind.

You know, sometimes words are the best gift of all.
"I saw you, and I knew I wanted you for a friend."
"You are beautiful to me."
"Your journey has given me hope."
"You did something for me that no one else has ever done."

"I love you."

Now that I think of it,
the entire evening was one delicious, comforting, embracing "I love you."

"He has brought me to his banquet hall,
and his banner over me is love."
Song of Songs 2:4 

 (Sweet-potato dish: the recipe my friend used was from The Pioneer Woman. I found a similar one here)

Monday, February 10, 2014

World's Best Cookies

This week:

Nate and Anna Kate got cabinet latches on many of the drawers (we didn't think we could, but he figured out a way), so now I have a few minutes to get things done. For several weeks all I did was run interference on a busy toddler.

Caleb and Krista visited on Saturday, the first time they've been here since Christmas. I was relieved to find that Malachi had not forgotten his big brother. He adores Krista too, she's stronger than she looks and she hoisted all 32 pounds of him with aplomb. Next time Caleb comes home (realistically that will be around Easter), I want to see him practice his stethoscope skills on his baby bro. And while he's at it, hammer a few knees. Basically I want to see the "real" doctor kit in use. When Isaac and Caleb were two and three, I overheard this conversation while they played with a toy kit:

"Caleb, you are dying, wite?"
Then, "No, I'm the goctor I said."
(Loud cries from Caleb).
Isaac, emphatically, "You are dying I said."

Somehow they (and their little sisters) survived childhood. Every now and then I have a jolt of terror that we have to go through all this again, only this time we are much older and more worn down. And the culture around us seems more damaging. And we have pulled out of the amazing charter school that gave our kids safe - and it turns out, life-long - friendships.

But back to our week. Isaac got a job at Boston Scientific. Yes, Praise the Lord! Honestly, Praise Him. I don't think I've ever seen my husband so happy as when he found out our first-born was offered that job. He was offered another job in a neighboring state, but we're delighted that he chose Boston Sci. As soon as he took the job, Nate sat right down and figured out the expenses that would now be lifted from our shoulders. Drum roll, please. It's about a thousand dollars a year. Yep, that's it. Turns out Isaac is our cheapest kid. He's been paying his own rent and food through most of his college years. We truly don't coddle our kids. We nurture them, but more in the way of prayers and cookies than with outlays of cold hard cash (which we don't have anyway).

On Thursday, we went to the Como Conservatory  again, this time with my parents. It was as warm, tropical, fragrant and green as last time. This time we had the benefit of my dad's stories from the jungle. When we came across a palm tree with a thorn-covered trunk - these thorns were serious, about three inches long - he said that once in Jungle Camp (where Wycliffe members used to go for jungle survival training), he was yanking open a tube of plastic and his hand flew back, right into the thorn-covered tree next to him. The thorns were removed, but his hand became infected. Then he told a worse story. A man from the Shapra-Candoshi people was running like fury through the jungle, trying to escape a herd of wild boar. He was forced to climb the nearest tree. You guessed it. A thorn-covered palm.

As my dad said, that Candoshi man was between a rock and a hard place. And although most of us haven't had to run from wild boars and escape by climbing a thorny tree, we can relate to that awful trapped feeling. I hope at those times we remember the great "yet" of God's promises. Amy Carmichael said, "We accept our Father's will and know that He has given us the victory over all the power of the enemy. Nevertheless, there are times when we do need special strength if we are not to break down before the end. Our Father knows this; He does not say, 'You accepted all at the beginning; this that tries your spirit now was included in that.' His love understands and He sends an angel to strengthen us."

His love understands. What a beautiful phrase.

Finally, back to the title of this post. One day last week I found this recipe on Summer Harms's blog. She said these cookies were the best thing to come out of her kitchen. It's the truth. They are so thin, crispy, chewy, almond-y and chocolate-y, that Anna Kate and I couldn't stop eating them. We had to hide them from ourselves. I recommend making a double batch.


Monday, February 3, 2014

Field Trip to the Capitol

We walked into the Minnesota Capitol on a hushed morning in February.
It was the perfect time to go.
The politicians don't arrive till the end of the month.
From June until next January, the entire building will be shut down for repairs.
As it was, we drove up the Hill with the back of the building on our left,
and its backside is covered, sealed, in white plastic.
Artisans and photographers and tour guides were the only ones there.
And a small group ahead of us.
And we four.

Nate has not had much work since Christmas.
Stressful, yes, and not as relaxing as one might think.
But things appear to be looking up, work starts tomorrow,
and we decided to get out of the house on this fine sunny day.

Here is what I knew about the Capitol:
It was designed by Cass Gilbert.

Here is what I did not know:
It was built when Minnesota had been a state for only 37 years (begun in 1898, completed in 1905).
It is a Civil War Memorial.
Cass Gilbert designed not only the building, but also the decorations (furniture, lighting,
and commissioning of artwork).

The golden sculpture at the base of the Dome is called "The Progress of the State,"
but is commonly known as the Quadriga.

Babyface and one of the spectacular hallway ceilings.

This window is in the ceiling of (I think) the Chamber of the House of Representatives.
All around, in every grand Chamber and in each hallway, are words (in both Latin and English),
quotes that extoll government and law.
I guess the words didn't impress me much.
I kept thinking of the terrible shouting matches that have taken place here,
and how many times "my side" has lost. 

Malachi was all for running around and climbing stairs.
The stairs are shallow and wide,
so he was thrown off his normal crawling pattern. 

With my baby in the Rotunda,
next to one of Cass Gilbert's lamps.
Malachi is looking up,
which is always the right thing to do,
whether we are in the middle of a long winter,
or mired in our own particular sorrow,
or simply unsure of our next step.

The building was so beautiful, so complete, so authentic,
that as we wandered its hallways,
I wasn't as burdened by thoughts of Rome
(and its inevitable fall)
as I thought I would be.

I'll leave you with a glimpse of heaven,
where the Designer is perfect,
judgement is merciful,
the halls ring with music,
and nothing, nothing,
separates us from perfect joy.

"I did not see a temple in the city,
because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb
are its temple.
The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it,
for the Glory of God gives it light,
and the Lamb is its lamp.
The nations will walk by its light,
and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it.
On no day will its gates ever be shut,
for there will be no night there.
The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.
Nothing impure will ever enter it,
nor will anyone who does what is shameful and deceitful,
but only those whose names are written 
in the Lamb's book of life."
(Revelation 21:22-27)