to know and be known

My first post from Cary, NC.

Let me tell you, life is not easy. Good, but not easy. I am glad we moved here, and I see signs that it will be worth it. I like it. I like our house, our neighborhood, the family near by, and what I have seen so far of the surroundings. I like the new furniture in our house, the view into the woods, the flowers on the table. But I am longing for home. It doesn’t feel like home yet. I remember this kind of lost, un-tethered feeling from other moves.

The hardest part is that at the same time there is so much stuff to be done, and we’ve been going non-stop for weeks now, experiencing profound change, and I haven’t been taking stock of my personal inventory of emotions. So it all builds up inside and I feel awful and not sure why until I make myself sit down and pray and self-examine for awhile. And I have a hard time giving myself the green light to “feel” all the negative stuff. My pep-talk voice is notorious for kicking in and telling me why I shouldn’t. “After all,” it pipes up, “you’re not a refugee in Sudan. You’re not fleeing bombs in Syria. You don’t have any right to feel this way. Look at how blessed you are! Praise God! Dwell on your blessings!”

The problem to listening to Miss Pep-Talk is she is twisting the truth. Yes, I am glad I am not a refugee. But this is how I feel whether you like it or not, Lady. And I can still praise God and feel like crap inside. He doesn’t want me to stuff it down and just sing Him la la la life is lovely songs. See, I am pretty sure He wants me to Know Myself. Know who he made me, not pretend I am something I am not or try to clone myself into one of the people I look up to. But I don’t Know Myself very well. Sometimes I think some of you out there know me better than I know me. I want to be known. In the story of Hagar and Abraham in the Bible, Hagar runs out in the desert to flee Abraham’s mad wife Sarah and finds God. She says to Him ““You are the God who sees me.” I want to be fully seen, inside, by Him, and by me. And I want others to know me too, not hide myself and clam up. When I meet new people, as I have a lot these days, I find that I don’t talk about myself much. I ask them questions. I turn the conversation back to them, because I am afraid that if I talk too much, share myself too much, they will think all I care about is talking about Me Me Me. But then I end up not feeling very known. And I don’t do this with just new people, you might have noticed that I do it with you too. I have a very hard time sharing myself, and when I do, I feel like I’ve been talking too much and you won’t like me.

This is hard stuff. And of course, very few people here know me for the simple reason that I am new.  I never like this new phase of moving somewhere. It takes such a long time to really connect with people, and know them, and be known by them. I think I don’t ever really feel like it’s home until I have that.








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Mother’s day post: a happy and sensory-rich childhood

I have a wonderful mother. And I have been thinking lately how much I am grateful to her and my dad for providing me with such a happy childhood. It wasn’t entirely without trouble and tribulation, we did live on planet earth. But even in the hard times, I was never without the security of their love and the knowledge of their unconditional acceptance of me. Those qualities undergirded my whole childhood. But beyond that (and what I am about to tell you about would never happened without that coming first), there is something else that they gave me that makes much of the life I live today full of many nuances of joy and emotion: memories.

I have been recently realizing how much memories shape my day to day life. I don’t know if other people are blessed with such a rich sensory memory, but the smells, sounds, and qualities of light of my childhood are regularly with me. This warm spring day, bursting with light and birdsong, is delightful not just in itself, but also because it stirs up the feeling of running out into our garden early on a summer day, lying in the grass under the maple tree, smelling grassy, earthy smells, the lilacs all in bloom, the sounds of robins and cardinals, no school, mom baking muffins in the kitchen, dad reading the New York Times on the side porch and drinking tea, the quiet background sound of the basement exhaust fan, the sound of squirrel claws scrambling up the Norway maple, Chumper or Grimmy (our very fat cats) coming out to blink in the sun and look up at the squirrels, someone’s lawn mower starting up.

On any given day of my life, smells or tastes pop up that instantly transport me back to my childhood and the security and love arrives right along with those sensory memories. The smell of someone’s aftershave: going into the bathroom on a Sunday morning just after my dad was done shaving for church (and drinking his mug of tea at the same time), the noise of people running around getting ready, the mug of tea forgotten on the bathroom shelf. Wading along the riverbank with my children looking for rocks:  a million other weekend afternoons by the river catching crayfish and minnows and floating on inner tubes and dad over there on the sandbank with his hat pulled down over his face having a snooze. Reading with my children: my mom’s voice reading that same book to me as I struggle to keep my eyes open and mumble “just one more chapter.” Smell of hot vinyl: driving to viola lessons and reading out loud to my mom.  I just re-read Roald Dahl’s autobiography “Boy,” and I could even hear her laughing at the places I remember her laughing as we drove along.  Smell of broccoli steaming: I inhale deeply and am standing in our old kitchen while Mom gets dinner ready. Smell of freshly dug earth and chilly breeze and sun shining: I am helping her dig a new vegetable garden behind the neighbor’s barn on a March day (I am sure I didn’t like it at the time, I was always complaaaiiining about weeding and yard work-amazing how even things I didn’t like then bring pleasant memories when I turn over dirt and pull weeds now). Taste of hard salami and sourdough french bread: sitting high in the golden meadows of Mt Tamalpais on one of our many pilgrimages back to California, looking down at the blue, blue Pacific and planning to end our hike with our feet in the water.  The smell of things baking in the oven: chickens, pies, cookies- all envelop me in warm feeling of comfort of being a child at home. And the instant transport into peace that just walking into the woods and smelling deep, earthy leaf-mold smells and hearing the sound of the wood-thrush that also sang in the woods along the river across the street where we canoed all summer long…

I remember these things being a mother now: and it inspires me to give me children many sensory-rich memories to carry them into adulthood. I don’t know if they will remember things in the same way I have, but I hope that the many muffin mornings, cookie baking afternoons, times reading together, hiking, exploring, wading and splashing will all add up, layer upon layer, into memories that will be evoked and stir up joy in their life as they live their adult lives.

Thank you, mom, and dad, for doing such a wonderful job, and God: for putting me in my family. I am so blessed. Happy Mother’s Day!

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Sick day goodness

It is so good to feel GOOD! After a nasty sick day yesterday, and still waking up a few times last night with my stomach in rebellion, it was such blessedness to wake up feeling sort of myself again.  Brynny’s school had a delayed opening and the toddler slept in, so, O Bliss, I slept till 7:45 this morning. I could snuggle the toddler in bed and get up and make a leisurely pot of oatmeal, which, I am happy to report, is being happily eaten again by oldest son after a long oatmeal strike. We started a new devotional I downloaded for Valentine’s Day on love and kindness and the first one was really good. I hope it sinks into their little hearts. I hope my voice isn’t just a blah-blah-blah sound floating over their heads, sometimes it sure feels like it. I have to ask a lot of content questions to check in and make sure they are actually receiving some of my broadcast.

Yesterday was a challenge, being sick and exhausted at home with kids but it was a good learning time for me.

1. I need to put the kids to work more. They can do it. Sure, they have their normal chores, but the truth is, I do so many things on a daily basis that they are capable of doing.

2. It’s my job to teach them the little things that I don’t realize they know how to do until such a time as this. Like, if mom is in a fetal ball groaning on the kitchen floor, you don’t walk by singing and dancing and go on playing. You stop and ask “are you okay, mom?” Or, the next morning after your mom is sick you should come in to her room and say “how are you feeling today?” It’s funny how as a grownup you do these things so naturally you don’t realize they need to be taught.

3. Verses like Philippians 4:13 (I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me) don’t really have much effect until you are in a position where you *can’t* do it yourself. This is a hard lesson to learn. You aren’t going to personally learn the truth of many of God’s promises until you are knocked down, dragged out, at the end of your rope. Yesterday was one of those days.

Yeah, it was a good day for me, at the same time as being awful. I got to finish Hudson Taylor’s biography (19th century missionary to China, a man of stupendous, incredible faith), which was a stream of goodness flowing into a thirsty soul. Nathanael played happily and his siblings played with him.

Time to get a move on the day! Thanks for stopping by.

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Whipping up a little chowda

Salmon Chowder!

We happened to have 2 small salmon fillets in the freezer and I thought I would try my hand at salmon chowder on this cold, blustery night. I did some internet research and got the general idea of how you go about making it, and then made my own version since I didn’t have a lot of the ingredients. It came out so darn tasty that I felt a blog post was required. If you have frozen salmon, as I did, and you didn’t thaw it overnight, just put it in a tub of cold to lukewarm water while you prep and cook the veggies. It will be thawed by the time you are ready to put it in. Everyone pretty much gobbled this soup down, including picky toddler who regularly shakes his head and pushes away most anything you try to offer him, so I’d say the evening was an unbridled success.

Olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large potato, peeled and chopped
2 small or 1 large fillet of salmon, skin removed and chopped into small pieces
2 T flour
3-4 cups chicken broth
1 c. heavy cream
salt to taste
liberal dash of dried dill (fresh would be even better!)

Saute all the veggies in olive oil and throw in the salmon. Sprinkle in the flour and stir it to coat everything. Add the chicken broth (or boiling water and boullion, which is what I did). Veggies should be covered, so add more or less as needed. Cook for about 15 minutes. Add the cream, salt, and dill and cook about 5-10 more minutes. Serve with nice hot rolls and a crisp green salad. A little white wine would probably go nicely too. A little splash in the soup would likely also be nice!




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Autumn Gallery: Cromwell Valley Park

Two weekends ago, on a stunning Saturday morning, I headed to Cromwell Valley Park for two luscious hours *by myself* (thank you, dear husband) to indulge in some refreshing nature photography. The light was perfect. The woods were ablaze. My only dilemma was where I should hike: through the fields? Slosh along the creek (I was wearing my Bogs, wonderful waterproof rubber boots)? Woods? Yes. The forest was calling, the upland woods. And the trail did happen to see a field or two and a trickling creek along the way. I breathed deep draughts of cool autumnal air. Listened to blue jays announce my presence from the mottled canopy overhead. Snuck up on tangles of bittersweet and wild grapes. And, shockingly, got myself lost along trails I had actually never been on before. Bravely utilizing the position of the sun and the chance happening of stumbling onto the communications tower in the park, I did manage to get back to the parking lot. I enjoyed myself completely. I hope you will enjoy this little display of fall in the Mid-Atlantic.

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Good Food

The house is sold. I can feel the stress of many months evaporating through the top of my head. And with that, my passion to cook good food comes roaring back. When I am stressed out, you don’t have to say the words “take out” twice to get me interested.

This morning Brynn and I headed to the Waverly Farmers Market. She was wearing her ladybug tutu and looked very cute. No, sadly, no pictures were taken. It was blisteringly hot so we moved fast. I grabbed things like mustard greens, asparagus, got a deal on three bags of new potatoes and a bundle of green onions thrown in for free. Corn, local kielbasa. Rainbow chard. 2 sticky buns for the kids. Yummy things. I came home and began plotting my plan of attack. First, use up leftovers and have lunch:

We had some grilled chicken on a plate in the fridge so I made a dressing of garlic, olive oil, dijon mustard, red wine vinegar and greek yogurt. In went chopped chicken, cukes, tomatoes, and dill pickles, laid tenderly on a bed of mustard greens on a whole-wheat flat bread. I noticed a just-right avocado laying around so I put that to work right on top. I ground up the salad in the baby food grinder for Nathanael and he liked it just fine. I love his expressions when trying something new: eyes squeeze shut for a second, he shakes his head back and forth a few times, and then, if he liked it, opens his mouth for more. He also got the flatbread toasted, buttered and cut into triangles to hold in his fat little hands. Bear laid down under the high chair, looking up expectantly with his mouth slightly opened, until I realized he was there and sent him packing. He’s not allowed to perform baby-food cleanup duty until *after* the meal.

For dinner: apple latkes. I got a full-of-gorgeous-color-photos “Cooking from a Polish Country house” cookbook at the library and these caught my eye. I made thirty of these inviting little fellows with a delicious applesauce and yogurt dip on the side, and they were gone in three minutes. I should have doubled the recipe. Sixty? That might sound daunting, but as you may know I have a super-duper-fabulous cast iron griddle that can make 10 latkes in one go. Yum!

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Free & Clear.

It’s so good to wake up right. Not on the wrong side of the bed, grumpy, tired, eyes stuck shut. But feeling free, loved, and ready to jump into life. I don’t usually wake up that way. I’ll be honest, my first feeling of the day is usually: guilt. It’s often been that way for me. Not for any particular reason, usually. Just a state of being. Stained, guilty. There is only one way to conquer this- head on. I don’t know how I would tackle this state of affairs if I weren’t a crazy, head-over-heels-in-love with Jesus girl. But since I am, I reach out my arms to Him. I hear him saying to “I love you so much, my precious girl,” and gladly lifting my little inner-toddler-self up for a snuggle. I say to myself with joy “You are free and clear! Washed clean with the blood of Jesus and not a single item is held against you to feel guilty for. You are LOVED by the KING!” This is how to start the day right. And then you run out into a clear, brisk day of brilliant green leaves and startlingly blue sky and birds singing and even children sniping at each other on the couch don’t annoy you as you run by to open the door and leap into flight.

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The Most Spectacular Day

This morning over ebelskivers (frozen- this mama with little kids was not up at the crack of dawn making a homemade Easter breakfast, she was up at the crack of dawn with excited kiddos woken up by a dog yowling in his sleep), we read from the Book of John, which is, I think, my very favorite book in the Bible. It’s told from the perspective of one of Jesus’ very best friends, John, who was one of the few that didn’t abandon Him in fear on the night of the cross. John is the one that Jesus told, from the cross, to adopt Mary as his own mother and take care of her. You can see Jesus thought he was a pretty special guy and the book just glows with John’s love for Jesus. If you let go of the fact that you may have heard this read many times and imagine you are there, this scene will send chills down your spine, and fill you with astonishment and amazement. Imagine you are Jesus’ friend Mary. Ever since He rescued you from being possessed by demons, you have followed Him like a faithful golden retriever everywhere He’s gone. In horror and unbelievable grief, you watched your beloved arrested, nailed to a cross and die. You’ve spent the last three days crying till there were no tears left, and numbness has set in.

“…Mary had returned to the tomb and was standing outside crying. And as she wept, she stooped and looked in and saw two white-robed angels sitting at the head and foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. “Why are you crying?” the angels asked her.

“Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” She glanced over her shoulder and saw someone standing behind her. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him! She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”

“Mary!” Jesus said. She turned toward him.

“Master!” she exclaimed.

(John 20:10-16)

If you have ever lost someone that you deeply, incredibly loved… well, I think you can imagine how Mary felt when she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, alive and well. And this is only the glorious start of something incredible, like that scene at the end of the Return of the King when the ring is destroyed, and in a giant shockwave of light, all the forces of evil and the army of Mordor are destroyed. Long live the King! Harken to his side! To war! To life! To joy! I raise my standard high and rush to stand at his side!

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Easter 2012 in Rhode Island with Mama Boyer

Happy Easter! He has risen! Joy and new life! And there’s nothing like the taste of chocolate at 7 am to let you know it’s Easter. I feel tremendously blessed to have my own little family around me with happy kids hunting eggs early in the morning. But for some reason… I always want to be in Rhode Island at Easter. Last year we were! This picture was taken with my sweet Mama Boyer. The Boyers took me in like one of their own when I was a college student at URI. Jan and Margie have some of the most loving and hospitable hearts I know… and last year they let us be part of their family again for Easter. I miss going to the sunrise service at Narragansett beach, eating breakfast in the church basement at West Kingston Baptist, and giving and receiving a million hugs at the Easter service. Happy Easter everyone, especially to my Rhode Island family today- you are loved and missed by this girl!

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Dark Night of Light

Sixteen years ago I gave my life over to the King of the Universe. Two thousand years ago on this night He prepared to give up His life for me. I owe Him my all, all that I am, and I give it willingly. There is no one like Him. You might think I am crazy to do such a thing, crazy to believe that a man could be God, crazy to believe that I am sinful and need saving, crazy to believe He is the only way to God. But I have met Him. I know Him. I trust Him. Tonight, I give Him my thanks, my love, my everything.

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