Monday, June 30, 2014

Dear June


Dear June,

Please don't go away. You have been glorious. Your days have slipped by like nearly perfect pearls on a string. Now we are down to the last pearl, and I want to knot the string and hold it still for awhile longer.

What I have loved best about you is that everything is growing. Growing so fast that from one day to the next, seeds burst into life, leaves burst into green, flowers burst into beauty.

Maybe the reason I want you to hold still is that my baby is growing, too. He is a big boy, running everywhere, not talking much but understanding almost everything we say. I have had four other babies, and they have each and every one insisted on growing up. But those babies were born when I was a young mama, and I welcomed their independence. This baby came to us late in life. I want to cradle him longer, sing to him more, stare at his face while it is yet soft and dimpled. And even though I treasure all these moments with him, still he grows and grows.

I am not going to ask for the impossible thing. I know these early summer days are giving way to mid-summer, with heat and harvest and in our family, a wedding. I know that July will be memorable.

But Oh! June. I am going to miss  you.

(The soundtrack to our summer has been "Rivers in the Wasteland," the newest album from Need to Breathe. Caleb took Julia to the concert when, at the last minute, Krista couldn't go. Julia was overjoyed. I told her - It's a good thing you were vocal about how much you like that band. Ask for what you want. In particular, ask God for what you want. He delights in giving us the desires of our heart!)

Listen to one of my fave tracks  here.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Three Peonies

In beakers, in a vintage lime-limned planter, on my kitchen sill.

This makes my heart sing.
Because there's no flower like the peony,
and no leaf like the hand-painted hosta,
and these are the last peonies of the season.

Place something beautiful above your sink,
and the daily chores that march through this space
will be brushed with beauty as well.

Have a lovely weekend, my friends.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Bounty and the Very Good

 My date for the weekend, not looking too happy.
He thought he was going outside to play, then he got roped into picture-taking.

This week:

~Another lovely bridal shower for Krista, my son's fiance. When we walked up to the front door of her aunt's house, we saw beautiful chalkboard lettering that read, "33 days till she's Mrs. Murphy!" I got teary-eyed. It's such a precious time for them. Also, WHAT?? Mrs. Murphy? I'm hardly Mrs. Murphy myself. That would be Nate's mom. She's the real Mrs. Murphy!

~My adored Gramma Ericson's piano was delivered to our house, courtesy of my aunt and uncle. Anna Kate has been over the moon about it. She learned by leaps and bounds on our keyboard, but she was always hankering after a real piano. She will not stop playing. The other morning, Nate and I were trying to pray together, and finally he hollered at her to stop the music. Then he muttered to me, "It sounds like a freaking saloon in here." She spent most of the weekend taking off the bench upholstery and painting the seat of the bench. It's white, but she might give it a coat of green eventually.

~The garden is growing, but the weeds in the yard are growing faster. When we moved here, this had been farmland. Not one useful thing grew on our 2 1/2 acres. We planted trees and sculpted hills and created gardens and sowed lawn. Now the perimeters of our property have become a sort of wild beast. There's an unidentified weed that is climbing along the hills, snaking up into the pine trees and threatening to overtake  them. Our weed trees, which are Siberian Elm, are pure evil and must be eradicated. Suddenly there are thousands of them. Nate and the boys used to cut them down every summer, which is sweaty, dirty work. The trees have to be cut about an inch below the ground. I'm trying to cut down about 20 per day. Nate and his knee are still out of commission, so he can't do heavy yard work. And of course we miss our handy dandy big boys, who after years of manual labor around here decided to become an engineer and a doctor. Whatever.    

Today I'm going to replant some of the garden rows where nothing has come up. I found these striped zucchini seeds, and I'll plant about two of them. They're saved from our harvest of a few years ago, and I hope they still "work." We want zucchini, but we don't want to be overwhelmed by zucchini.

The upcoming wedding, the garden, the seeds, all remind me of a post from last summer. Here is part of what I wrote then. If your life seems barren and hopeless these days, remember that something is always growing. God is in the business of creating, every day, every minute. Someday you will see fruit. Until then, rest in the hope of a future bounty, a feast so delicious that it will fill every empty space.

As I listened to Michael and Brooke say their vows to each other, I thought,
These vows are thorough, they cover just about everything.
I liked that they promised not to slander one another.
My husband and I talked about those vows, as we drove home after the wedding.
Maybe they were idealistic, we agreed.
It's impossible not to be a bit idealistic, when you're twenty-one years old and full of love.
When you say "For richer or poorer,"
you're imagining richer.
When you say, "In sickness and in health,"
you cannot predict what sickness might look like, 
or how it can destroy peace and rob joy.
We know something about that.  
I think of the marriages I know
that have begun in a cloud of hope and optimism, 
and have been ground down to death.
Usually the death is brought on by either generational curses
or by addiction.
We know something about that, too.

I have great hope for Michael and Brooke,
and for the other couples we saw married this summer.
The way I see it, 
they're part of the story of God,
part of His "tov," His "very good,"
and what they did, in this culture of death and man-made definitions, 
was to choose life.

I thought a lot about life, about "tov," about God's plan for renewal and rebirth,
when we planted our garden this spring.
The Hebrew word "tov" has subtle variations of meaning, 
one being "its good is hidden within it."
Some seeds don't grow.
They have no life in them.
Other seeds, the good ones, the very good ones,
grow beautifully.
And what they produce, the fruit that we can eat and not be afraid of eating,
is so good that it too contains seeds of life,
seeds that are very good,
seeds that we can use again next year.

And that is "tov."
It regenerates.
The life in it grows, and nurtures, and gives birth to more life, more nurture.
And that is why I still believe in marriage.
Because it's not just about love.
It's about life.

Genesis 1:27-31
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth." And God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food." And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.  

Another excuse to hear a favorite song by Josh Garrels.  Listen to it here.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Rhubarb Jam for 85 Cents

These are glorious days. We've had lots of rain (too much, some would say). The earth is warm and all the gardens, along with their weeds, are growing with wild abandon. When I'm outside with the baby, I give up on getting any work done. He runs for the road as often as not, cackling with joy as his strong little legs carry him towards disaster. I am constantly scooping him up and taking him to safety.  

When I do get outside alone to garden, the task is daunting. I'm just chipping away, doing what I can.
I moved this Strawberry Rhubarb plant to the big garden. It's a delicate variety and it won't take over. In fact, it needs a fair amount of fertilizing in order to thrive. I harvested a bit of it and added it to the bigger stalks of rhubarb that my mom gave me. 

Here in Minnesota, rhubarb should be free. It slays me when I see it for sale at the grocery store. Surely a neighbor or a friend has rhubarb to share. If not, plant some, quick, and you'll enjoy it forever. It freezes beautifully, so it can be enjoyed all year long.   

I wasn't going to make jam this year, but with the rhubarb from my mom, I had so much that I decided to whip up a quick double batch. This recipe is shameful, full of sugar, and ridiculously easy. I got six jars of jam for under $5.00, so I figured that came to about 85 cents per jar. This week we are living on hot buttered toast with jam. It's delicious and summery, piquant and bright. There's nothing in the world like the taste of rhubarb.

Rhubarb-Pineapple-Raspberry Jam

6 cups finely chopped rhubarb
3 cups sugar (I used scant cups and it turned out fine)
1 20-oz. can crushed pineapple, with juice

Combine above ingredients in a large pot, stirring, and cook on medium heat. Cook for at least one hour, turning heat down if mixture starts to boil too much.

After one hour, turn off heat and add:

1 pkg. raspberry Jello (with sugar)

Stir well till all the Jello is incorporated.

Pour into jars and seal.

(I don't seal my jars, but keep half the jars in the frig, since we eat it up so quickly, and the other half in the freezer).

In other rhubarb news, today I'm making the Pie Bars for a grad party tomorrow. If you haven't made them, I promise you, they are beyond delicious. We decided it's because they are more like lemon bars with rhubarb. So in other words, the best, most original lemon bars we've ever tasted.  Here is the link.   

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Something New, Something Blue

"There are two ways to get enough.
One is to accumulate more and more.
The other is to desire less."

These days, it's all the rage to have Less Stuff.  
The best rooms, the nicest houses, have almost nothing in them.
Nothing on the counters, nothing on the floors.
Very little on the walls.
It's as if people have stopped cooking, or playing, or making messes.

Well, not here.
In this house we cook. We eat. We play a lot.
And we make messes every day.   

And through it all, we try to make do or do without.
(Especially since our breadwinner broke his knee and can't work for three months).    

But you guys.
I found this pouf, this ottoman, this perfect comfy thing. On clearance at Target.
I should have two, but they only had one. And one costs half as much as two.
So it came home with me.
And although it's hard to see from the pictures,
it matches the blue fabric of our throw pillows almost exactly (but not quite. I do like things a bit off).
This is a blue I love, a robin's egg color, restful but not boring.
It's one of the colors I sprinkle throughout the house.  

Here it is, a trifle more icy blue, on the mantel in a Japanese fishing float. 

And here, in a vintage Ball jar and a mini fishing float.   

And here, more electric, in merest traces on a piece of old farm junk.
From a distance the gray and blue make a hazy robin's egg color.

Here is the pouf and here is the pillow,
here are the books,
and here is the golden sunny corner,
where I will cuddle and read with my toddler.  
Here is sacred space.    

So what do you think? Should we get another pouf?
The room isn't big, only 13x17 feet, another ottoman might make it feel too crowded.
But I do so love things in pairs.

The mantel painting (from hickory to white) is in progress, I'll post about that when it's done.   

Ektorp chairs from IKEA
Pillows made from linen and velvet fabric scraps (Joann Fabrics)
Blanket from IKEA
Canvas photographs of Malachi by Bellasaluti, Minneapolis
Vintage telephone from Yarinacocha, Peru
Pouf from Target

Saturday, June 14, 2014

One Morning in June

What happens when a garden is filled with free plants?
Beautiful chaos happens.
This long rock garden represents almost no money.  Virtually all the plants were given by a friend who inherited overwhelming gardens and decided to replace some of them with lawn.
But I have spooled out precious hours here, weeding and yanking and moving things.

These days, I don't wander through my gardens sipping coffee and meditating.
I chase a toddler.
But a few times a week, I go out to work a bit, and it is so peaceful.

For the last few weeks, I've been singing the same hymn while I work.
It's my current favorite, and it sums up everything that I hold to be true.
Isn't it amazing, that a song written in 1834 can bring me so much peace?
That's how it is with beauty and truth.
They hold up well.        

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.    

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
Words by Edward Mote
Composer: John Stainer
Tune: The Magdalen

Friday, June 13, 2014

From Good Stock

For twenty-four years, I've been parenting children with this man.
In the early days, we look like kids ourselves.
The moments have tumbled by, faster and faster with each baby,
and we have been blessed to always have a little hand to hold.         

It's not always been easy.
We've been, some years, poor and exhausted and impatient and immature.
Many times, our energy ran out before the day ran out.
Somehow we hung on.

When he was born, it seemed as though Malachi was a kind of reward,
a prize of untold worth, a treasure that arrived, unbidden, after years of famine.   

His tee shirt is from his aunt who lives in Germany.
When she gave it to him, she translated the words: "From Good Stock."
Then she laughed and said, "Literally, it translates, 'The Parents are Not Bad.'"

And my friends, that about sums it up.
The parents are not bad.
We've made many mistakes, we promise we'll make more.
That's the way of parenting, even with the shreds of wisdom we've earned.

Happy Father's Day.

While I was pregnant with Malachi, we decided to read the book of Malachi. These are the words that amazed us. They seemed to give context to the wonder of our late-in-life, late-in-marriage, baby. We were seeing the reward of our covenant. "Another thing you do: You flood the LORD's altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. 14 You ask, "Why?" It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. 15 Has not [the LORD] made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth." (from the book of Malachi, Chapter 2)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Black Bean Dip

(Adapted from The Foster's Market Cookbook)

First step: Start this recipe well ahead of time, or the day before you plan to serve it.

This dip isn't very photogenic, but it's seriously one of my most delicious recipes. It's easily the thing I make most from this cookbook. It's a flexible recipe so feel free to tweak the garlic, tomatoes and spices. It's a bit more work to cook the beans from scratch, but I always do, and I usually use organic beans.

1 cup dried black beans (If you have time, soak them first for a few hours)
1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced
2-3 bay leaves
1/2 cup tomato juice, or 6-8 small tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil and roasted till soft
juice of 2 limes
1 Tb. cider vinegar
Drizzle of olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves, smashed and diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped (I skip this)
1/2 red onion, chopped
3-4 scallions, trimmed and chopped
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1-2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/3 cup fresh cilantro

Place the beans in a large pot, cover with water (extra water so beans are covered with about 4 inches of water). Add bell pepper and bay leaves, bring to boil (covered). Take the lid off the pot, reduce heat to medium and cook about 1 1/2 hours, till beans are done.  

Rinse and drain beans, discarding pepper and bay leaves.  

Into bowl of food processor, combine beans and all remaining ingredients except for the cilantro.

Process till smooth. 

Add half the cilantro, pulse till cilantro is roughly chopped.

Serve with remaining chopped cilantro sprinkled over the dip.

This will keep for up to 5 days in the frig (covered), but if you're like us, you'll eat it all within two days. 
It makes a great spread for sandwiches and roll-ups, too.

Sunday, June 8, 2014


Somebody turned two.
And it's surreal, how fast his babyhood is tripping by.
The interrupted nights and frantic days are blurring into a rollicking childhood.

I want to bottle these moments, slow them into something I can sip instead of gulp.
I want to remember the dawning wonder of the early days of pregnancy,
when I was filled with terror that slowly turned into acceptance and then, joy.

I want to cradle his newborn body again, and smell the top of his head,
and stare at his perfect little square face.
He was so cute that I couldn't stare at him enough.

But I get today.
Today I have a sturdy boy who dances to the music of Little Big Town.
Today I get to hear him say "Mama." He's only been saying it for a few weeks.
Talking is not his strong suit.  

Today, when I pull his shirt over his head,
he'll giggle and squirm because he knows I like to kiss his armpits.
Trust me, they're the only armpits in this house worth kissing.  

Today, if we're in the kitchen and I stoop down to his level and say,
"Should we go outside?"
His face will wreath in smiles and grins,
he'll be overcome with excitement,
and we'll be off to the grand outdoors,
his favorite place to be.

Happy birthday, little man.

(Here is the first post I wrote after Malachi was born).

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

My Someday Funeral

If you happen to know me and love me, do not panic.
I am hale and hearty. As I often tell my children, I plan on living to the age of ninety. Ninety is a good number. If I get there and things are going well, maybe I'll hang on a few more years.

Guess what? I don't get to decide. The Lord knows the number of our days.

Oh that is such solace!

But I'll tell you this: we have had too many funerals this year. At each one, I wondered: would the person have liked their own funeral? I know these ceremonies are for those who mourn.

 And yet. The funeral should be a tribute, a lovely frame to show the beauty of a life.

I have warned my kids - if you don't sing hymns at my funeral, I will sit up in my casket and shake my fist at you.

Not to scare them or anything. I just feel very strongly about hymns.

So kids, here are the details.  For one, because I doubt I'll be looking very pretty at ninety, it's closed casket. You heard it here. With just a few pictures of me - one or two as a child and young woman, one current. Oh thank Jesus that He knows exactly what "current" will be!

Not too many flowers. I love pink roses, but otherwise, I prefer fresh flowers from the garden (if anything is blooming).. I'd rather you donate any gifts to whatever missionaries I'm supporting at the time. If you aren't sure where to donate, Wycliffe Bible Translators is a good choice. Also, maybe set up a small fund to help Northwestern students pay off their parking violations. Not kidding. Those poor kids get slammed with too many fees.

Then, guys, I don't want a lot of talking or tributes or long sermons. Tell me now how much you love me. Tell me now what I've done right or wrong, and what needs forgiving, and what has been forgiven. Tell me now what you remember about the way I raised you to love God and His Word. And if I didn't do that enough, tell me that too. Remember that your Dad and I are raising your baby brother, we have a bit of a chance for a do-over.

So, short sermon it is.. By someone who knows me, so probably not an Open Door pastor, as much as I love the teaching there. Mike McCabe, if he outlives me. Or one of you, if you feel up to it.

I have a lot of favorite verses, but my life verse has always been Psalm 16:11, "Thou wilt show me the path of life, in Thy presence is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand are pleasures forevermore." Otherwise, pick whatever you like. Scripture abounds with words of life and victory.

And after the very short "talk," not too preachy, a hymn sing. 

Yep, all hymns. For quite awhile, since I have so many favorites, so you'll need a good song leader. Amanda Ellison will probably still have the voice of an angel so she can do it. Or Falicia if she's not too famous by then. You know how I adore folk and bluegrass. So that vibe would be better than pointlessly loud. But - whatever you decide is fine. Basically this is my only chance to pick the worship songs at a service, something I've longed to do. And although right now I'd choose a few current songs, what I love best, deep in my soul, are the rich words and melodies of older hymns. The truth in them has been bedrock for me. 

Here's a list off the top of my head. I might tweak it later.

How Firm a Foundation
Oh For a Thousand Tongues to Sing
How Great Thou Art
All Creatures of Our God and King
Come Thou Fount

If people are getting bored,  you can call it a day.

Otherwise, you can continue with:

It Is Well with My Soul
Be Thou My Vision
Blessed Assurance

I'm sure I'll think of more later.

A hymn sing by a lake would be perfect.
A final hymn, family only, at the grave site would also be nice.

A few more details:
Bury me and Dad together
I used to like the idea of cremation, but now I'm not sure. Jesus wasn't cremated. So if funds allow, let me return to dust the old-fashioned way.

And finally, be sad, be as sad as you want to be. Jesus was sad when his friend died. We aren't made to die, although we are born to die. We are made to live. And I plan to live a long, long time yet, probably annoying you and blessing you and serving you and needing you, for as many years as God wills.

I love you all to pieces.
(But I'm serious about the hymns).


This is the song I've been singing most these days. The words are sound and true, the melody is fresh and lovely. C'mon and sing along with me! 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Perfect Little Bowls

I now have two of these vintage Pyrex mixing bowls.
They are just right for making Oatmeal Crepes every morning.
Ah breakfast, every morning we welcome you.

Find the recipe here.