Friday, April 18, 2014

Matthew's Account: My Underlines

Two months. In seven years, I don't think I've gone two months without writing here on my blog. And there's lots to tell ~ which is part of why I haven't written. Too much activity to sit for a while and put the words down. Lots of urgent things taking first place over the important things at times, but many important things being accomplished, too, which just means that writing them down has not been as important as doing them.  But I miss writing them down.

One important thing that the Lord has supplied grace to do almost every day, though, is take in His Word. I began reading the Bible from cover to cover a while back. I've never done that before, and it has been an incredible experience ~ to read each book in succession gleaning an understanding of the big picture as I go.  I tell my Bible study gals almost every week to read. their. Bibles. and I promise them (because God has promised them) that He will meet them there every day ~ guaranteed. In my Genesis to Revelation pursuit, it didn't matter if I was reading Numbers, or Jeremiah, or Malachi, or Haggai ~ the Lord met me in each book, each chapter, each verse, and gave me new insight, increased knowledge and understanding, but most importantly, He allowed me to worship Him more due to a deepening realization of His holiness and sovereignty. That is an answered prayer.

A couple of weeks ago, I finished the Old Testament and landed on Matthew ~ which seemed perfect, because I always tend to go to the gospels for reading during Lent. I've also been underlining as I go through the Bible this time. I even started with a NEW Bible in this new beginning-to-end-endeavor ~ which is not as easy as you might think, since I happen to love the NASB version. Sadly, it seems to be a dying version due to the popularity of the ESV, so finding one that was brown leather and not a Charles Stanley version was no easy task!

So, today, on Good Friday, instead of telling you about my incredible trip to the Dominican Republic, my winter-sanity trip to Texas, my super-fun group of Challenge II students and seminars, my weekly boot camp Bible study, the Shakespeare play the kids were just in, Kayla's first spring track season, or my Easter Sunday lunch menu for a houseful of anticipated guest, I'll just leave you with what I underlined in the last few chapters of Matthew.  May the highlights of the final few days of Jesus' life draw you in to worship Him as they did me.

Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be handed over for crucifixion
The chief priests...elders...
Plotted together to seize Jesus by stealth
A woman came to Him with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume
She did it to prepare Me for burial
Wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will be spoken of in memory of her
Judas Iscariot...What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you
One of you will betray Me...Woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed
Take, eat; this is My body
This is My blood of the covenant poured out for many for forgiveness of sins
Singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives
You will all fall away because of Me this night
I will never fall away
You will deny Me three times
Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You
My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death
My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me
Not as I will, but as You will
Found them sleeping
The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak
If this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done
Judas...accompanied by a large crowd with swords and clubs
Laid hands on Jesus and seized Him
One..struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear
Do you not think that I cannot appeal to My Father and He will at once put at My disposal twelve legions of angels?
How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?
Then all the disciples left Him and fled
Peter was following Him at a distance
This man stated " I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days."
Tell us whether you are the Christ, the Son of God
You have said it yourself
He has blasphemed!
He deserves death!
They spat in His face and beat Him with their fists
Others slapped Him
Now Peter...and a servant girl...but he denied it
Another servant girl......"This man was with Jesus of Nazareth."
I do not know the man
I do not know the man!
Before a rooster crows
And he went out and wept bitterly
They bound Him and led Him away and delivered Him to Pilate the governor
Judas...felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver
I have sinned by betraying innocent blood
Hanged himself...Potter's Field...Jeremiah
Are You the King of the Jews?
It is as you say
He did not answer him with regard to a single charge
The governor was quite amazed
A notorious prisoner, called Barabbas
Barabbus, or Jesus who is called Christ?
His wife sent him a message...Have nothing to do with the righteous man
Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?
Crucify Him!
Why, what evil has He done?
Crucify Him!
I am innocent of this man's blood
His blood shall be on us and our children!
They stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on of thorns
They spat on Him...began to beat Him on the head...and led Him away to crucify Him
Golgotha...Place of the Skull
Crucified Him...divided up His garments
Those passing by were hurling abuse
Mocking Him
My God, My God. Why have you forsaken Me?
Cried out...yielded up His spirit
Veil of the temple was torn in two
Earth were split...tombs were opened
Truly, this was the son of God!
A rich man from Arimathea...asked for the body of Jesus
Rolled a large stone against the entrance of the tomb
Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary
Chief priests...Pharisees...remember..."After three days I am to rise again."
Made the grave secure...guard...set a seal on the stone
An angel of the Lord descended from heaven
Rolled away the stone and sat upon it
The guards shook for fear of him
To the women..."He is not here, for He has risen just as He said."
Go quickly and tell the disciples
Jesus met them and greeted them
Chief priests...elders...gave a large sum of money to the soldiers
You are to say, "His disciples came by night and stole Him away..."
This story was widely spread among the Jews
When they saw Him, they worshiped Him

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Growing and GOING: Right Before My Eyes

As I write this, I'm imagining a delirious Cooper getting off an airplane after nearly 24 hours of total travel time ~ and all without an iPod, which is definitely some sort of world record.  I woke up this morning praying that he would be energized and strengthened, not missing any detail of the incredible adventure he is on for the next week. I really could not be more more excited for him.

And Tuesday, the day he left to meet up with his Quest 15 team, I couldn't have been more proud of him. The days leading up to Tuesday were full, as usual.  We're always scrambling to get ready for our Classical Conversations days, and this week those days were full of the extra tasks required prior to making your first international trip. Cooper had to complete a long biology module, write a short screenplay for a scene out of Alice in Wonderland ~ after reading ALL of Alice in Wonderland.  He had to write an essay on the classical period of music history, complete several algebra II lessons, 8 Spanish lessons, and to top it all off, be ready to compete in a public policy debate on climate change.

Oh ~ and pack, shop for travel necessities, make copies of his passport, and have it ALL ready to go at 7am on Tuesday morning BEFORE his big day of classes.

I was doubtful about the confidence with which he kept telling me, "I've got this, Mom."

But you know what?  He did "have it."  He had it all done.  ALL. OF. IT. And he didn't miss a beat.

When I got home that day and tallied up the debate scores, I read the comments about his hands in his pockets, and his casual approach, and I realized that his judges couldn't see all that I saw ~ a young man who is maturing rapidly and right before my eyes, and who has never been as confident and diligent and responsible as right. there. before. our. eyes. Never before had I seen him so prepared ~ all notes and quotes typed on a grid for easy access, tucked purposely into opposite pockets of a specially chosen folder ~ and ALL of his own doing. Oh, I checked in on his progress throughout the week, and kept getting the same semi-irritated, "Mom, I've got this." He truly did all of his homework, and all of his research, and all of his organization all by himself and according to his own careful plan.

He also got feedback on the score sheets regarding his casual outfit which was certainly not as formal as the opposing team, it's true.  But what I saw was a formal, logical, confident, compelling argument and presentation that stayed closer to the actual resolution than the other team. That other team ended up being the winner by about a point. A coat and tie may have pushed the technical win in his favor, but in my book it was a definite win for this middle son of mine who was leaving for a journey to South Africa in less than two hours and has always had difficulty managing his time and being diligent to do excellent work.

Did I mention that he (and therefore, I) had to dissect a large perch before the debate started? Yes, that, too.

It was a very proud mama moment.

And I don't blame the judges for their discerning feedback at all.  If anything, it helped me to rejoice in my own ability to see the incredible growth and developing character in my boy.  This has not always been the case, and Cooper would be the first to confirm it, unfortunately.
Getting Cross-Examined by Noah
Oh, that I could have the mind and eyes and heart of Christ with my own children ~ careful with my words, much, much slower in my anger, and more generous with grace.

Quest is a leadership development experience for high school juniors through our regional denominational youth ministry and fearless leader ~ Allyson Clark.  It entails nearly a year of Bible study, mentorship, and training, and culminates in a mission trip to one of three locations.  Some of you know that Kory already participated in this program and traveled to a major metropolitan city located in the 10/40 window two years ago.  Well, Cooper's trip is to Durban, South Africa.

Here are photos of the three mission teams ~  and teens/chaperones in the Quest program:

Top: Dominican Republic team.  Middle: "The City" team. Bottom: South Africa team!

I just Googled "distance from Boston to Durban," and discovered this:

That's a LONG WAY.

Cooper worked on this study every night before bed as part of his Quest requirements.
No prompting from Mom and Dad.

While there, Coop will have all sorts of stretching experiences.  He will share his testimony and Bible stories in public schools, which he has been practicing throughout the year with his team.  He will visit an AIDS trust and hospice, learning about the epidemic, and ministering among those suffering. He will play basketball in an outreach to school kids, give away a pair of his own precious high-tops, and share his faith there, too. He will visit rural areas, metropolitan areas, and last, but not least swim in the Indian ocean!

Can you see Durban?  It's in the purple section, right on the coast.
Cooper and all of the Quest participants were required to earn $500 of their own trip expenses.  (Total cost: $2200) Only after that could they reach out to their churches, families, friends, and community for support.  This was THE most challenging part for Cooper ~ working hard for all that cash, and then handing it over, not spending a dime on himself.  God blessed him so abundantly, though, through the families of our church hiring him for all sorts of jobs.  He really didn't think it was possible, but the Lord showed him otherwise!

The Official Quest backpack is most definitely a badge of honor!
And here's an Instagram video that Cooper made and posted to thank those who are supporting him financially and prayerfully.  I love it!

My goodness. I've been in tears off and on all throughout the writing of this.  It is so wonderfully difficult to be a parent.  I'm not sure who is benefiting from Quest more ~ my children or me. So grateful for the experience of watching children grow and for being reminded continually that though I and they don't usually "got this," God does.

Nothing but pure grace that allows for these continual, patient, and loving reminders.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Hello, Snow Days. (And School Days, Sadly.)

Today is a snow day for our entire state. Even the local college campuses are not having classes or meetings.  We've gotten over 6 inches so far, and it is still coming down in abundance.  Even though a snow day for a homeschooler is not quite as exciting, it still feels different and special. Here is my writer-in-residence, working on her newest short story.  It's actually an assignment for her Challenge B class, and she's decided to go "vintage" and write the whole rough draft by real typewriter.  She also begged her Daddy to start a fire for her. Perfect writing conditions, I'd say. She has a cup of coffee nearby, too, of course.
A winter wonderland view from my upstairs window
Robert and I did brave the storm to go to Planet Fitness this morning. I don't like what missing my run and workout does to my mental health and emotions, so he turned on the 4 wheel drive and we forged the 1.5 miles to the gym. Feeling happy and motivated now!
 Coop is hard at work, too.  He has to prepare for a big debate on climate change coming up on Tuesday, read Alice In Wonderland and create a short script for a chosen scene from the book, not to mention lots of Algebra II, Spanish, and biology. This is his preferred study spot.

Added to this load of homework is the packing and preparation involved with traveling to South Africa next Wednesday!  That's right.  He'll have a very full day of school including a formal debate, and will leave straight away for Northborough, MA, where he'll meet up with his team, spend the night, and leave Wednesday morning from Boston for the VERY LONG flights to Durban. I couldn't be more excited for him, and am praying that his life will be changed forever by the things he sees and the experiences he has serving and traveling.
 I just barely survived our crayfish dissection yesterday.  Ours is the warmest room in the building, which, normally, is a wonderful amenity, but not yesterday.  The smell was almost more than I could handle. Warm, dead, preserved crustaceans. Oh my.
This dissection team left their poor crayfish completely mutilated.
Their tray looked like a monstrous murder scene when they got done,
 but they did identify all pertinent parts and organs.

During music history seminar, Noah and Cooper played "Here Comes The Sun."  It was quite a jump forward in musical eras from the Franz Liszt piece Jesse played last week, but so wonderful to see each student use their gifts for the benefit of others.  And those socks. Wow.  He helped me pick out some socks to put in Kory's stocking at Christmastime and then picked those for his own stocking.  Not many people can pull this type of fashion (or non-fashion?) off, but Coop most certainly can.  
That's Coop and Kayla in the top left and bottom right boxes.
So hard to tell everyone apart with all their gear on!
Monday was another snow day of sorts ~ our weekly trip to Vermont's Mt. Snow for morning lessons and afternoon free skiing.  It didn't snow on us much while we were there, but there was fresh snow from previous storms and it made everything so beautiful. The group I was chaperoning happened to have the best ski instructor we've had yet.  His detailed instructions about center of gravity and where to lean and shift weight were so helpful to me!  (Lean forward. Heavy foot, Light foot. Turn Shoulders. Rotate!) I've skied quite a bit without much difficulty, but his expert wisdom made things even easier and more fun.

Cooper used Kory's short skis (a.k.a. trick skis) for the first time this week, and could not wait to ski down Carinthia ~ which is nothing but jumps and rails.  I was a bit nervous about this knowing his feelings of invincibility.  Not long after he took off to that run, I saw the ski patrol pass by with stretcher attached heading straight to Carinthia.  I just knew it was for him, partly because he had a pretty nasty wipe out a few weeks before.  I texted him, called him. No answer. Ugh.

Thoughts of having to find the nearest Vermont hospital flashed through my mind. Visions of having to cancel his South Africa mission trip, and worse, plan a funeral (motherhood does this...) were causing me much anxiety until another mom told me she had just seen him intact and happily heading back up the lift.  Kayla reported later that he wasn't doing anything crazy, and Cooper himself told me that his fall from the time before caused him to be extra cautious. Natural consequences can have amazing effects, and I was grateful!

Now, I'm off to do some homework myself ~ getting dinner in the oven and outlining a few talks that I need to give at upcoming retreats. I'm really excited about both, but nervous, too, as the chosen topics can be kind of sensitive and controversial.  More on that later, maybe.  Praying that I'll only write what the Lord leads and gives ~ that my words will be His alone.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

From California To Christmas Like Crazy...and More Crazy

This could also be known as "the post with 32 pictures," but it seems the best way to recount many of the things that have been happening around here since October.  If you haven't noticed, I just love to archive everything, so this post is more for me than you! (But, OH the things that this mom and pastor's wife just can not blog about, so I'm sure you realize that this is the fairly sanitized version of life! When I die, you can read my journals and get the real story ~ ha!) 

 I also just enjoy keeping connected with you guys by sharing what's up around here, so thanks for indulging me in my love for show and tell.

So now here is my attempt to recount the major events of the last four months:

Kayla and I went to California in October!  It was wonderful.  We planned it early in the summer knowing that our new little nephew and cousin would be born in September.
We spent nearly a week doing this...snuggling, cuddling, bouncing, cooing, and marveling at the cuteness of little Uriah, and trying to help his incredible mommy, Rachel.
But we also snuck in a couple of hours of this:

I texted this photo to Robert in order to make him jealous of our warmth and sunshine.  It was about 90 degrees in Palm Springs, and about half that back in Massachusetts. Ahhhhhhh.....Vitamin D, how I love thee!

We also got a nice tour of Uncle Stu's swanky country club golf course over which he is the superintendent.  It is absolutely beautiful, and he does an incredible job with the landscaping. We also got a tour of the new Bocci Ball courts (all the rave this year!) and the immaculate garage filled with state-of-the-art mowers that have very sharp blades.

Here's a pic of my bro and his family now.  Aren't they the cutest things you've ever seen?
Another reason we went to California was to surprise one of Kayla's best friends who recently moved there.  Now California is a VERY big place, but happily, Jayden's family moved to a town only about 45 minutes from my brother in Palm Springs.

Somehow, we managed to pull off the surprise, but it entailed us telling NO ONE about our plans... well, except for Jayden's mom, my friend, Rachel (not to be confused with my sister-in-law of the same name)!  And since it remained a surprise, we wrapped Kayla up in a large box and stationed her on Jayden's doorstep...

 We rang the doorbell, and I ran and hid behind the cars in the driveway. Jayden came to the door and was sort of stunned, not knowing what to do with the box.  Finally, Kayla popped out, and Jayden calmly said..."Oh, hi! How are you?"  It was hilarious.
 And then Rachel took us all to San Diego's Safari Park ~ not to be confused with the San Diego Zoo. It was so much fun, and meant that we got to spend precious time with Jayden's newly adopted brothers from Ethiopia.  Truly a privilege.
Such a fun trip for us!

Back home, we hit the ground running....literally in some cases:

Cooper had his best cross country season yet.  We went to most of his meets and watched his times get better and better.  He views it as conditioning for basketball only, but still.

Then we ran to Texas for a quick weekend. We didn't really run, but it sort of felt like that.  We got to spend a bit of time with Kory at Baylor and meet lots of his friends and take him shopping at Target, and since his baseball game (which we planned to be there for!) kept getting postponed and eventually canceled, we took him with us to Austin for the weekend and let him lay on the couch watching football with my dad.  It was his fall break, and I think he enjoyed getting out of town for a while.

We took him and my sister, Melinda, to see the Congress Ave. Bridge bats one evening.
 And the next evening was spent at my 25th high school reunion, which I already told you about, so I won't go into detail.  It was really wonderful to catch up with some special old friends.

I went to my friend, Izckra's, citizenship ceremony, and was unprepared for the emotional time it would be. 800 people became citizens there that day, and the judge's speech was incredible.  He also read off every country represented in alphabetical order.  It took quite some time, and there was clapping from those who represented each country when theirs was announced. So beautiful, and I'm so proud of this lady.  She is one of the most courageous, persevering women I know.

We fully indulged in the college football season this fall, especially since Baylor had a historical season and went on to win the Big 12 championship. Never in my life have I cared much, but somehow, having a son off to a school with an exciting team fully converted me into a Baylor Bear fan.  We all wore "blackout" shirts for the OU game...
...but maybe we should have saved them for the OSU game, because it was the only one we lost.  Overconfidence got the best of us, but Kory was still able to enjoy the weekend due to a little reunion with our dear friends, the Meffords. He and their oldest daughter sort of grew up together for at least a few years before we moved from Oklahoma to Massachusetts.
And now they are both freshmen in college! Whoa. Can hardly believe how fast the time goes, and it is just so much fun to watch these kids grow up. Kory and a friend from Baylor spent the weekend with the Meffords and went to the Baylor game at OSU all together.  The game was quite a disappointment for the Baylor boys, but the weekend was wonderful due to the love and generosity of the Mefford family. And I loved getting text messages from Brent and Tamyra all weekend updating me on how they were doing and complimenting Kory on the wonderful young man he's become.  Always good to hear.
Robert and I went away to Cape Cod for one very chilly weekend and stayed with dear friends who live about a block from this beautiful beach.  I don't know if you can tell, but those frothy waves washed up on the sand are FROZEN.
It was SO COLD, but that didn't stop us from a long stroll on the beach.  At least is was sunny, but it was so windy and so we spent some time hovered against a rock ridge on the beach and just watching the wind and waves.
And then it was Thanksgiving, and the house was full of people...from toddlers to teenagers to college students to grown-ups.  We all love to have a houseful on Thanksgiving. Kory spent Thanksgiving with dear long-time friends of ours in TX and got to see his first football game at UT in Memorial Stadium.
The day after, we went to our favorite Christmas tree farm...

...and FINALLY found the perfect tree after much deliberation and defending of our individual choices and finding the most perfect ones already tagged, of course. Kama spent the day with us, helping to decorate, asking theological questions all day, and watching our favorite Christmas movie that evening ~ Elf.
We spent every Tuesday at Classical Conversations where I am teaching Cooper's Challenge II class this year. I totally enjoy the students in my class ~ they are so delightful and intelligent and witty, but sometimes the subject matter is a stretch for me... Algebra II and Logic especially.
But I really enjoy Art History and British Literature!
Christmas arrived and so did my dad from Texas!  I was so glad he gave in to my pleas to spend Christmas with us, because it was really fun to have him with us.  He went to the gym with us, ate breakfast at Whole Foods with us afterwards, played two on two basketball with my boys, took us to movies and enjoyed dinners out and movies in and out.
These two won the first round.  Robert and Kory won the next round, and now Robert is in physical therapy due to throwing his back out while trying to protect his pride.  Pray for him!
There was a science fair, and I don't think I have to tell you the amount of prep that takes.  Yikes.  Somehow, Kayla and I found ourselves making Jell-O at midnight before the last day of Classical Conversations, so she could have enough test subjects.  The science fair happened to be the same day I needed to get Kory to Boston to catch his flight back to Baylor and that Cooper had a basketball game in the afternoon and a friend to pick up on the way home.  Don't tell anyone, but I drove about 85 mph through the pouring rain in order to pull this day off.  It was dumb, and unsafe, and unwise, but I caved to the demands of the day and my kids.
And now we're skiing all day on Mondays in Vermont, because it's just not okay to pass up skiing at a beautiful mountain and resort for $16 a day.  The program only lasts 6-8 weeks, so we're packing one more thing into the week for now, but what fun!  Here's a ski lift selfie which we texted to Robert while he was in Texas on a preaching/fundraising tour:
It's also currently basketball season, and we're enjoying watching Cooper give his all to his passion.  He loves everything about basketball, and we love watching him improve his game and contribute to his team like never before.
And I'm back to teaching after a nice long Christmas break.  This semester involves a dissection nearly EVERY WEEK for biology. Ugh. I think I already mentioned my love for Art History and British literature, and I'm pretty sure that equals NOT loving biology and dissections. But I ordered all my specimens (frogs, earthworms, perch, crayfish, and fetal pigs) and I'm delving in for the sake of these great kids.  The earthworm dissection was just this Tuesday, and I survived. I also survived cleaning all of the dissection tools and trays yesterday here at home.
I received this book in the mail this week ~ anonymously. I have to admit that I felt a bit ashamed in opening it.  I realized I must be complaining about the pace of life and my inability to thrive and stay positive and joyful when things seem so out of control.  But I've read more than half of it so far, and it is WONDERFUL.  I am finding so much encouragement and practical wisdom from this pastor who is ME in male form. It is a relief to me to discover that I am not the only one who struggles with performance based acceptance and pride and lack of trust and the tendency to think everything is up to me.

So, if YOU are the anonymous book-sender, then THANK YOU.  It has been a huge encouragement already in 75 pages, and it's funny, too, which helps lighten my heart and the seeming seriousness of the situation.

Okay, there are probably a million typos here and a million things I left out, but it will have to do for now, because the day calls, and a friend is on her way over, and there are algebra problems to help with a logic truth tables to decipher!

But I hope to return soon, because sharing all of this with you is also an encouragement and helps me to see what an absolutely full and blessed life the Lord has given, despite the struggles and the things I can't blog about!

Thank you!  Have a wonderful Thursday!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Twas The Night Before My Birthday...

Twas the night before my birthday, and all through my abode
Lots of teenagers stirred, friends new and old
The dishes were washed, dried, returned to their places
In hopes that tomorrow would be easy, slow-paced
The electric blanket turned on, the bathwater running
A magazine and epsom salts awaited for soaking
Kayla in her flannel pjs, and me in Smart Wool
Trying to stay warm in weather much, much too cool
When up on the wall, in peripheral view
My calendar loomed scary with activities anew
Check-ups, play practice, lots of chauffeuring
Gymnastics, basketball, grocery procuring
The moon on the breast of the iced-over snow
Revealed work to be done, obligations to uphold
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
but my burgundy Bible and journal so dear
And a short, little book, so intriguing, so bold
I knew in a moment, Daniel had truths to uphold.
In unmistakable clarity a theme was revealed
"There is a God in heaven." Simple, unconcealed.
Now, Worry! and Anxiety! now Stress and Fatigue!
On Discouragement! On Despair! on Pain and Frailty!
To the Old Rugged Cross! To Christ's Calvary!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away, flee!
And as leaves that before the wild winter winds fly
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky
So to the foot of the Cross, the darkness it flew
With the burdens of grief and tragedy, too
And then in an instant, as I kept on reading
Heroes of faith I just kept on meeting
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, of course
Refusing to bow, not fearing recourse
They were dressed in belief though of outcomes unsure
Cast into the furnace, hearts and minds pure
And the bonds with which they were angrily tied
Were loosed by a fourth man mysteriously arrived
His eyes - how they loved! His protection, how near!
His arms were so strong, His sovereignty so clear!
His glory brought even King Neb to his knees
Declaring His might, instituting new decrees
"How great are His signs! How mighty His wonders!"
Yes, this is the truth I must line up under
He has power, control, and a purposeful path
That sustains through the furnace and worldly wrath
He promises no freedom from the affects of sin
Except be it in found in salvation, be it known in Him
He spoke, it is written, His statutes, my songs
When life feels so hard, when things seem so wrong
His every word, breathed straight to my heart
Hope He teaches, right perspective He imparts
My calendar still swirls fast and furiously
I still look at life much too seriously
But He springs to my side, loosing bonds, taming fires
Assuring me that circumstances aren't quite so dire
So in the warm bath I sat and breathed deep
Praying that my mind, His promises would keep
And while laying my head down at half past eleven
Came Daniel's refrain, "There is a God in heaven!"

Apologies for the sporadic blogging to the ten of you who love me enough to keep checking in. I'm not sure how I ever found the time to read, let alone WRITE a blog!  Yes, the calendar is swirling, and never in my life have I felt like I had no control over my schedule like I do now.  Every day seems dictated for me with not a moment for much else but what is necessarily on the agenda that day.  When did I ever cook before?  When did I clean my house?  I have no idea! Blog? Ha! 

Though Robert is out of town for 12 days ~ in TX and OK ~ preaching, reporting, fundraising ~ I did have a great birthday!  It started with time on the treadmill and circuit weights at Planet Fitness.  The kids had breakfast made and gifts on the table when I got out of the shower. Next, I had to take Kayla to her 13 year well-check at the pediatrician ~ complete with immunizations that I've delayed for years. (She only got one of the 5 they wanted to give ~ no flu or Gardisil for us!) But we sweetened the deal with manicures and pedicures afterward and lunch at our favorite gluten free burger joint. Then we came home and made a paleo, raw, vegan cheesecake, which sounds horrific, I know, but is really one of the best things I've ever put in my mouth! We took it over to my friend Betsy's house to eat for dessert after the birthday dinner she made for me.  Played Wits and Wagers and Up and Down the River (interesting version of Spades), and finally got home around 10pm after I made Cooper drive me to CVS to get MORE epsom salts, because yes, God heals and strengthens me through His Word on a daily basis, but He also gave us epsom salt (magnesium) and Vitamin D to help us get through the dark and dreary ~ and ARCTIC, FRIGID, INSANELY COLD (this year) New England winters!

Thanks for loving me and wondering if I'm ok when I don't blog and for the sweet, sweet birthday wishes I received from so many of you.  (Facebook makes you feel extra important and special on your birthday!)

Life feels like a perpetual furnace sometimes, but there is a God in heaven!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Gluten Free/Paleo Friday ~ Christmas Prep & "Coffee" & Homecomings

 Christmas can kinda make you (or just me) crazy, it seems. Here's evidence...

On Wednesday, I was frantically running around town doing errands and frantically running around the house trying to clean it and make Kory's bed for his arrival home from his first semester at Baylor.  Somehow I got it in my head that his plane arrived in Boston at 5:30pm.  This was perfect, since we had tickets to a really special version of A Christmas Carol at 7:30pm in Concord, MA. We got on the road at about 3:45 after having to make two trips to the bank, since the teller forgot to give Robert back his driver's license.  Kory texted about 30 minutes later: "On the ground in Boston!"

Boston is 80 miles from my house, and we had traveled only about 10 of those.

Robert had thought Kory's pick up time was 3:45pm, and indeed it was ~ with a 30 minute delay due to snow in Boston.  I pulled up his itinerary, and 5:30 was not a time anywhere on the thing. So, Kory was right on time and I am crazy.  The poor kid had to wait in Boston for TWO AND A HALF HOURS before we arrived.  How's that for a warm welcome home?

And I'm not even going to describe the traffic going out of Boston to Concord and how we missed the opening scene of the musical and how I was in tears over missing this long-planned-event and how everyone's bladder was going to burst in the process and how we ate dinner at Denny's at 11pm and got home at 1:30am.

Hordes and hordes of these
 Last night we planned a family shopping trip to the "big" mall half an hour from our house.  We knew we wouldn't make it home in time for dinner, since the trip had to be after Cooper's driving hours scheduled with his Driver's Ed school that day.  We all had a great time, got most of our gifts purchased, and had a fun Mexican food dinner out.  Watched a movie when we got home while some of us took turns upstairs wrapping gifts. (Not me, though.  NONE of my gifts are wrapped, and only about half of them are purchased. Sigh...)

This morning I realized that while we were out having fun and accomplishing tasks we also missed Kayla's final gymnastics class before the holidays, which she also missed last week due to being sick, which we also paid quite a lot of money for this semester.

I am losing my mind.
Gingerbread house-making supplies
 But it's okay.  The Lord is teaching me to trust Him and not myself, and showing me that despite my failing at my to-do lists and obligations, HE is accomplishing things, and we're having Christmas just like we always do.

There was a tea party ~ or "cupcake and cappuccino" party as we called it this year ~ for Kayla and friends, complete with a French theme. (And yes, I know that cappuccino is not really French.)  And it was complete with all the usual gingerbread-house-making, treat-eating, and craft-for-mom-creating.
Ready to be decorated by Kayla's guests!

Madeline HAD to make an appearance at our France-inspired Christmas Tea Party
 We even managed a family cookie baking night for the 3rd Sunday in Advent.  Dad, Cooper, and Kayla ALL got in on the action, and while that is a bit stressful for me (I like to be in control of outcomes in the kitchen), it was nice to all be working together and listening to Dean Martin, Amy Grant, and Karen Carpenter sing our favorite Christmas tunes.
One of my favorite Susan Brach Cookbooks ~ opens to this page automatically!
 There was an eye doctor appointment which led to shopping for a new winter coat which led to Christmas shopping for siblings (and self!) and then a lunch at Whole Foods with Cooper, who is quite entertaining to be with at all times, except for when he texts people from my phone and says questionable things without making the true author of the text known. He's a laugh a minute, that guy.
Did I mention it was an intense snowstorm and snow day for most while Cooper and I were shopping?
This is the front of Whole Foods right as the snow started.
 More cookies were made in anticipation of my dad's arrival Monday, and for dinner guests on Christmas Eve. ALL cookies are snug in the freezer, and I stationed an armed guard in the basement to protect them from pre-Christmas thieves.  Well, not really, but "out of sight" has so far resulted in "out of mind."
 And while I don't really have time for trying new recipes, let alone creating them, I have been sipping on a new form of "coffee" that was inspired by a recipe my friend Karla posted on Facebook, as well as a recipe my chiropractor sent out to patients for tea.

It's delicious, and I look forward to a cup every afternoon if I am home and can spare a few moments to prepare it.  I haven't had coffee since the beginning of October when I read about its cross-reactant properties with gluten, and I can tell a huge difference with digestion/tummy issues. Here's the recipe:

Coconut Milk "Coffee"

1 1/2 cup coconut milk/almond milk
1/2 tsp tumeric 1/2 tsp cinnamon 1/2 tsp cardamom (I LOVE cardamom!) 1/4 tsp ginger 1/2 tsp vanilla 1 tsp grass fed butter
1 tsp coconut oil
1 Tbsp honey

In a small saucepan heat milk and add spices, butter, coconut oil, vanilla and honey. After about 5 minutes of heating make sure butter and oil are melted and then blend in a blender for 15-20 seconds until frothy. (Be very careful blending this hot mixture, though.  Hold on to the lid of the blender!)

It's sort of like drinking chai minus the tea, but you could certainly steep some tea in this if you desire.  I think it is delicious, and a delightful coffee replacement.
Here's a photo of the homecoming.  This was taken at about 10:30pm on Wednesday night AFTER the musical and BEFORE a late night Denny's meal.  Aren't they cute?  It's so nice to have everyone home together for Christmas!
I hope you are not feeling as crazy I am right now.  Still so much to do here. Now, I'm off to shower and then head out to buy LOTS of groceries, ribbon, gift tags, gift cards, and a few remaining gifts.  We did manage to get our 250 Christmas cards in the mail early this morning on the way to the gym. Whew!

Here's what I'm trying to keep in my heart and mind as I go about the dizzying list of tasks.  It's what Scrooge said, or actually what he prayed, down on his knees, in Wednesday night's beautiful performance, (based on Charles Dickens' own spiritual transformation) when he finally understood what God was trying to reveal to Him all along...

How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts the blessing of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray.
Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels, the great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord, Emmanuel.

Yes, descend to me, abide with me, enter in to my world of sin and chaos,  keeping my heart meek, soft, and open to You being WITH me, as I forge ahead in my own strength all too often to "do" Christmas.

I pray you are also able to experience His nearness despite the frantic pace, and will have a very merry weekend-before Christmas!