Waiting for the Light

This, this is the season of waiting.  Advent.  I adore this season.  The time of the year where the world seems to quiet in anticipation.  People are close.  Yet there is a strange dichotomy of bustling about, busyness and the incessant list making commercialism.  A stark contrast to the stillness of waiting.  Wondering when.  Listening.  Just how do the two coexist?  I will tell you they are both alive and well and within me.  A constant tug of rope between.  Which side usually wins?   It's a toss up these days.  I have been redefining the waiting season for myself.  Preparing my heart for the Savior King.  The night love came down.  Reflecting and analyzing the to do list.  Not for sake of efficiency or anything like that but so I give myself permission to choose that which brings joy.  The kind of rejoicing that is active and stems from a source not seen.  That is what I want more of this Advent season.  A heart which easily gives because it's not clouded with the unimportant.
And I pray that it be so.

I pray that it is so because the light always trumps the darkness.  And this light we are all waiting for, whether we know it or not, is coming in the form of a baby in a manger.  Humble beginnings.  Not so humble promises.  One being that those that walk with Him will NEVER, yes He said never, walk in darkness.  In John 8:12 Jesus says to the people, "I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life".  Let's not miss the irony here friends.  Jesus was speaking to the people right after the Feast of the Tabernacles.  They had celebrated on the mountain top and had walked down into the pitch black of night with their dimly lit candles.  Attention being drawn to the power their light had in guiding them.  Trying to make their way.  With help from the light.  See, irony is never lost on Jesus.  Jesus came to be our light.  The one that always shines and NEVER allows the darkness to triumph.   Here's what I need to remember this waiting season.  There are dark crevices in my heart.  You know, the stuff you never want to say out loud.  The secrets that might make you cringe in shame if ever repeated, if someone knew.  Well Jesus knows.  And He came just for that.  To be the light in the darkness.  He alone can shine light into those places where shame and doubt and fear and self loathing reside.  And He does it all for grace upon grace.  No condemnation.  He came for that and in spite of that.  What other light has that power?  

This Advent as we all search for the light let's recall the promise of His coming.  When darkness can feel so strong and the conflict rages allow the light to shine within.  The darkness we speak of surrounds daily, different for everyone.  Some like me, feel it in the busyness, others in the commercialism, the struggle to stay afloat, in hurt without family, lack of finances, you name the darkness and the one that brings it and then claim the light for your own.  That is our anthem this actively waiting season.  Present.  Hope.  Peace.  Light.  Allow the twinkly lights to mesmerize you without the guilt that nothing is getting done.  Really.  And then wait.  Wait for Christmas morning.  And remember that love incarnate was born and the world has not been the same ever since.  Thankfully friends, neither have we.

"Our darkness may be thick, but it is FOREVER transformed by the brightness of Christ".
Amanda Williams, She Reads Truth




And Then We Gave Thanks

Preparations for our Friendsgiving began the day before.  Our list displayed on our kitchen plate, ingredients scattered on the counter, aprons at the ready and my helpers willing.  At least that's what I told myself.  We had quite the list to conquer and that we did.  Thing 4 was in charge of corn casserole, Grandma Ellen's recipe, as he has been for the last few years.  Thing 3 took charge of organizing our morning and the Italian sweet potatoes.  Thing 2 had GF pumpkin pie and pumpkin pie cheesecake for her tasks and Thing 1, always pecan pie.  This time pecan chocolate chip pie with bourbon sauce.  Oh yeah baby! As for me, everything else, with help of course.  Stuffing, homemade pie crusts and from scratch yeast rolls.  The music was playing and in between laughs and spills we had the best kind of fun together.  And bonus, our list was checked off by late afternoon.  

Thing 4, grating chesese. refrigerator door wide open, ugh.

Thing 3 painstakingly placing butter on top of the sweet potatoes.  Just right.

Thing 2, scooping pumpkin and making that face!

Thing 1 "helping" me move the pie crust for her pecan pie. 
Or maybe she was just making eyes at the camera.
 
The prep counter! (before)
 
Anyhoo, that was our afternoon of preparations.  Then we prepared for one of my favorite services at our church.  On the eve of Thanksgiving we participate in communion together, there are baptisms and hymns and a sermon.  Oh the baptisms, they get me every time.  And this year was no exception.  Two years ago our three girls were standing in the water making their commitment public, unashamed.  I sat gripping Husband Jared's arm hoping the ugly cry would not come.  It did then and this year was no exception.  An elderly man stood before all and said, "He must not be finished with me yet".  Man alive if that didn't get me. I felt the tears well up and they rose and then my chest started heaving.  What courage. What grace.  What kind of love.  Friends, so long as we have breath He is not finished.  We are not finished.  Amen.  We sang, we broke bread and we rejoiced in gratitude.  Then we ate blizzards.  It's what we do. 
 
Thanksgiving day had us all up early.  Well, some earlier than others.  Ahem.  The oven was on and coffee cake made.  Time for the Macy's Day parade.  We all watched intermittently between cooking and readying the lefse ingredients.  Seeing these four together enjoying our tradition had my heart doing back flips. 
 
 
At the conclusion of the parade or maybe somewhere in the middle we all took part in lefse making.  The potatoes were boiled and riced and rolled and ready for the griddle.  Everyone had a job and everyone helped in throwing flour all over the kitchen.  Most of us like the end result, hot lefse spread with butter and sprinkled with sugar, all of us are not so fond of the work and mess it takes to get there.  We sure missed Mema's expertise this year.
 
 
Once the lefse making was completed the turkey went in the oven, side dishes were baked, the place settings ready and Husband Jared and I went on a nature walk to fill our table with a festive touch, all while the Things cleaned themselves up and the kitchen too! 
 
 
Despite the afternoon being a tad chilly the sky was clear and gorgeous and nature had plenty to offer.  Leaves and pinecones and dried flowers and remnants of fall.  They all made a great table-scape for our feast.  Polo was not too fond of the experience at all, obvious from the photo. He's most definitely not a fan of icicles in the beard. 
 
We returned, cleaned up, added our treasures to the table and had our annual antipasto plate pre-turkey.  American football was on the tele, which doesn't happen too often in this house and we were ready for our friends. 
 
Adult table, plus the two eldest Things

Four Things, they have my whole heart.

Chalkboard art.

Kid table lined with craft table and filled with crayons and markers to make art!
 
Once again I was too busy in the moment and have absolutely no photos of everyone around the table, our scrumptious turkey or the sides.  I will share a photo of Husband Jared carving the bird though.  Because tradition. 
 
 
Oh and Thing 2 shooting a photo of me, shooting a photo of Husband Jared, shooting a photo of her...  You get the idea! 
 
Nope, not even the pies got camera time or the lovely family that joined our Friends-giving celebration for dessert.  Take my word for it, the turkey was the most delicious one we have ever cooked, all the accompaniments were fantastic and the pies and caramel bars(thank you North family) were mouth watering.  We ended the day reading our thankful stones from the month of November.  My heart was filled with gratitude for the gift of friends who are more like family, a table where we can gather and the love that binds us all together in community.  Until next year, another Thanksgiving, oops, I mean Friends-giving, is in the books. 
 
 


Slowing Down

Here we are.  The beginning of Thanks-giving week.  With it there are long lines in all grocery stores, traffic filled parking lots overflowing with people missing the mark on the whole "thanksgiving" notion.  In fact, when Thing 3 and I were in the crosswalk yesterday at our local Target we were almost ran over.  Yes, the vehicle had a stop sign and well the pedestrians have the right away law and such was completely dismissed.  I just shook my head at his impatience.  Then I thought, how many times have I been that person?  You know the one that is hmming and hawing in line because the cashier is moving at molasses pace, the one shaking my head at those around me who "don't know how to drive".  Ahem.  Guilty.  After feeling the conviction with yesterday's encounter I thought what better to write about than gratitude.  Joy.  And filling our hearts with those so that we may in turn share that with those around us.  How much better would that be?  I'd say the possibilities are too numerous to list.  So friends, bare with me, through yet another list of simple ways to show thanks-giving to your peeps as our doors fling open this week and we are together.  This is definitely more as a reminder or rather inspiration for myself than anything else.

1. If you are hosting Thanksgiving, remember to say thanks.  Look those peeps in the eye and just say thank you.  Thank you for being a husband, a daughter, a son, a friend, a grandparent, etc.  You get it, right? They're the ones you chose to have around your table, so why not let them know you are grateful for them.

2. How about a glass of bubbly pre-guest arrival?  Why not?  Toast to the sacred space that is your table.  Your home.  Especially when it is filled with people you love, whether that's two or forty four.

3. Do as much prep before the big day as possible.  Make sides, cut, chop, assemble, bake the pies, etc.  Freeze and thaw or heck, order out.  There is no shame here.  The goal is actively rejoicing with those gathered.  Not sweaty and stressed in the kitchen.

4. Perfection is not the goal.  Hospitality is not Pinterest worthy table scapes or gourmet meals.  Hospitality in it's truest sense is opening not only your home but  your heart to the community that surrounds you.  

5. Given the story above, how about we slow down?  Just for a spell.  No rushing.  Not running from fridge to oven to stove top to table to and to and then more.  Slow.  Intentional.  There is no magic time for serving a meal or prayer or toasting.  Let the day, the season, flow organically.  Those impromptu moments will be the memories that bind and the God kissed interventions that make you smile after the fact.

6.  Hang some twinkly lights.  Why not?  Go ahead and give in to your inner kid.  They are really pretty.  And shiny and plain fun.  Any dinner can be special with twinkly lights.  Oh and candles.  Light a candle or two or twelve.  Candles don't have to match or be fancy and they make a meal feel special.

7. Go with it.  If something is burnt or falls on the floor laugh.  It happens.  Just last week I was preparing Italian sausage sandwiches.  I had just assembled them and placed them in the oven on a baking sheet, you know so the cheese would be all bubbly and golden and then as I was sliding the sheet out of the oven, crash.  I lost one.  Sauce all over the door, sausage caught with my oven mitt and bun holding said sausage tore in half and came crashing down.  The Things looked on in horror, unsure of how I would respond.  Then, they laughed.  Me too.  And just like that, crisis averted. Kind of.

8.  Linger at the table.  Start a story or ask table questions, or share something big or small or both that you're grateful for.  Listen to what everyone says.  How beautiful it is when we share around the table. If there are littles at your table invite them to share too.

9. Have everyone help with clean up.  Everyone.    

10.  Play music throughout the day.  That's all, music is good for the soul.  Always.

There it is.  My list of ten, not only applicable to Thanksgiving but maybe any meal we share around the table.  Now go forth and give thanks.  Every day, all day.   

Rhythm

Y'all we had our first snow storm here.  While we braced for the foot plus that was forecasted I don't think we even hit more than a couple inches in our suburb.  In fact the ice was the worst of it.  Not to mention the bone chilling winds that accompanied the cold front.  All that to say I am not ready.  This is our fourth winter here and while it seems that every weather anomaly that could take place has I am unprepared.  Both mentally and physically.  

Typically by now I, I mean we, the six of us, have developed a certain rhythm of life that personifies fall and the colder months here in the frozen tundra.  At least it has been so the past couple of years.  Slower days and longer nights mean more time together.  Playing board games, cards, talking, movie watching and popcorn eating.  There has been a serious lack of that.  The rhythm I'm feeling these days is controlled chaos if you will.  And I can't discern whether that is just the season of life we are in or if there is a road block somewhere that we just can't overcome.  

Does this sound familiar to anyone else out there?  Our summer was quite the whirlwind of activity and frankly fall has been more of the same.  Husband Jared's travel schedule, Thing 4's football season, Things 1 and 2 are employed outside the home, Thing 3 had been fighting off illness for the better part of the beginning of the school year, not to mention church retreats and lock outs and, and, and.  Please don't mistake my list making for complaining.  As a family we tend to be protective of our time and I do pray that we are teaching the Things to choose wisely.  At times though the schedule and it's demands can take it's toll.   One coming and one going.  Another needing a ride.  Plans made with friends.  Plans made for extra curriculars.  Did I mention driving?  Oh and my work schedule has been sporadic, at the very best, requiring more of me than in the past.

The struggle continues.  It is nothing new.  Whether rhythm defines it or negates the situation the truth lies in recognizing.  And right now frustration with the unsettled nature of our living rhythm is what I'm experiencing.  With no foreseeable "slow down" in our immediate future the question remains, how do I manage?  Can I manage this?  Well, maybe not and maybe so.  I don't want to simply push through to the next I want to thrive.  Learn in the here and now and be present for it all.  That requires being brave and embracing this season.  Doing some self examination. That way the rhythm is found.  And it is the rhythm created for such a time is this.

What I'm realizing is the intentionality this stage of parenting, oh heck, life, requires.  The unpredictable nature of life on earth means that I cannot try to replicate what's gone before.  Sure, we may have had steadiness and quiet before but that is not our current state.  Maybe the road block I referred to is more of an unwillingness or stubbornness of my heart.  A resistance to change.  To staying the same.  Probably to  current circumstances.  And wouldn't you think that after walking with the Lord for this many years that I might understand that this is where the refining is done?  Where the clay is fired and shaped.  All for the growth.  Character building is how we refer to it in this house.  Life's lessons where we are privileged to have a Father who cares just that much.  He won't leave us or forsake us and He alone brings freedom.

Here's to handing over the reigns.  To digging in deep to this new rhythm being created and refined and molded.  By the potter Himself.  The season of change and not of circumstance.  Not what has been done before but something different and formative.  Intentional and real.  Authentic and messy and full.  To slowing down in the midst of the whirling dervish.  Connecting during the driving.  Or after school at the counter while snacking.  Staying in the room a bit longer at bed time to pray or listen.  To hearing their rhythm and stepping in line with it.  For listening and allowing the old to be swept away and carving out a place for this season with a rhythm of it's own.

Farewell Fall and Pumpkins and Halloween

The week of Hallow's eve started with this.  Pumpkin carving.  A tradition we have been carrying on since the Things were wee ones.  Only now they clean and carve and create all on their own.  I get to watch from afar.  I love watching their creative juices flow and their personalities shine through.  


And then because I wanted to preserve this memory I forced them to sit on our porch with their finished pumpkins and Polo photo bombed our family pic.  Of course.  Thing 1 spray painted her pumpkin black then drilled holes in it for the light to shine through.  I feel a metaphor coming on here but I will resist.  Thing 2 carved the Batman symbol after spray painting her pumpkin black as well.  Thing 3 drilled holes of different sizes in a pattern all over her pumpkin and Thing 4 carved a traditional face in his jack o lantern and then carved out the word "Halloween".  His knife skills were impressive.  And all this before the weather turned on us. 
  

This was Wednesday and Halloween was on the Friday. Since the Things were off school this day we headed into the city for a tour of the Federal Reserve, one of only twelve in the United States.  The building is newer, built in 1987 when they moved from the original.  This one is high tech with security and concrete pylons outside all entrances that could stop a semi truck doing fifty mph.  We were in awe.  There was all manner of security measures to enter the building and once we did we were rather impressed.  A larger than life mural hangs on the foyer wall depicting the terrain and monuments of the 9th district that the MN Reserve serves.  The best part of the tour might have been seeing the underground, where money is counted and transported and also shredded.  Three million dollars a day to be exact.  Oh and the robots of course.  The Reserve boasts a people-less vault so there are three robots that are given charge of moving the money.   We toured and upon our departure we were gifted with a bag of shredded money.  A puzzle if you will.  Once we had our money in hand we ran outside to take in the North Loop and the remains of fall.  It was a crisp, beautiful day in the city.


Then it was home for friends and chili and trick or treating. Two different types of chili were made, white chicken chili and spicy red chili.  Snacks were at the ready and the Things were putting together costumes.  I must say I rather enjoyed their costume choices this year.  Thing 4 was resourceful and used the money bags we had received at the Reserve to add to his burglar costume.  Thing 3 was Rosie The Riveter, Thing 2 a sock monkey and Thing 1 a deer.  

My deer.

My sock monkey.

My Rosie.

The four Things, Thing 4 is holding his pillow case that has become his trick or treat bag.  And yes, it was filled to the very top this year!  

We hosted a few of Thing 4's buddies, as well as some sweet friends and neighbors.  Our doorbell rang and rang and we were treated to the sweetest trick or treaters this  year.  I just love seeing all the costumes.  The candy dish was emptied and the porch light was off by 8pm.  A record.  The Things enjoyed all manner of sweets and fun.  As evidenced by this picture of our table.  Full, just the way we like it to be.  


So now we say farewell to fall.  Winter has arrived with fury.  We had our first snow and temperatures continue to dip in the twenties.  This photo was our last attempt at taking autumn for all she brought us, colored leaves and all.  And now for what's next, a winterized Thanksgiving perhaps?






For My Daughters

There is so much I want to say.  The urgency felt with one graduating high school and beginning the next chapter of her life.  Another right behind her and then still one more navigating the high school years.  And while at times I feel as though we share more, discuss more and love more there is always a nagging feeling that there is more to say.  Plenty that is left unsaid and still more that I yearn to ensure that they know.  That they are equipped.  That they are ready. 
 
What it is exactly they need to be ready for I am unaware.  Because really as the adult here, with plenty of years of life experience, ahem, we are never truly as prepared as we'd like to believe we are.  Daughters, that is a great place to start.  With the realization that we can prepare, arm ourselves and further book knowledge, which is all well and good, but we can never be "ready".  Not unless we are trusting Jesus with our lives.  Leaning into His purpose.  Which at times, let's be clear here, is not always revealed to us.  Sometimes not in the midst of the happenings, sometimes not before and sometimes not until after.  Even then it may be a mystery.  There are other times though that you will feel His push before you take the leap. Be grateful for those times.  And be grateful for the others too. 
 
I hope that you always remember you were knit together by Him.  Made in His image and are daughters of a King, which in turn makes you royalty.  Of the very best kind.  Clothed in His majesty.  There is no other out there like you.  From your stunning physical features to your beating heart and constantly working brain.  No one.  Daughters that alone causes this Mama much joy.  Knowing that I was chosen to parent you.  Three purposefully designed females, entrusted to me for such a time as this.  If that doesn't make me slack jawed I don't know what will.  Talk about being ill-equipped.  I have learned as we've lived together.  It hasn't been neat and tidy or Pinterest perfect nor would I want it that way.  I've made mistakes.  Yelled.  Cried.  Ignored.  Lacked empathy.  Not listened to you.  Not seen you for who you all are.  Thank you for your forgiveness.  And thank you Jesus for grace.
 
This can all sound clichĂ© I'm sure.  Things I've said one hundred times before.  It bears repeating.  So here goes with some one liners, if you will, to carry with you all.  Maybe you want to print this out and keep it handy when you leave our home?  Or for now?  Just saying.
 
Your body is a temple.  A gift from God.  Treat it as such.  Take care of it.  Know what to say if the situation arises where someone isn't treating you as a daughter of the King.  Whether it be a boy, a man or another woman.  Remember that I will always be your fall guy when you don't have an out.  That's my job.  Brush and floss your teeth.  Trust me on this one.  It really does matter.  Exercise.  Good, heart racing, sweaty exercise.  Alot.  Especially when you feel down or upset or like giving up.  Science backs that one up.  Make your bed everyday, before you leave the house.  You will feel a sense of accomplishment all day.  Read.  Books, magazines, articles, cookbooks (wink, wink) blogs.  Just read.  It will help you find answers when you're searching.  It can take you to a far away place.  It can bring you back home when you feel lost.  Serve.  Get outside yourself and share a piece of who you are with others.  Think of someone else first.  Find a way to give of your time.  Your finances.  Even when you think you have nothing to offer.  Do it anyway.  Wash your sheets once a week.  There are bed bugs and dead skin and other stuff.  Wash them, please.  Eat your vegetables.  Green ones preferably.  Wash your face at night.  Take your make up off.  Look people in the eye when you're talking to them.  Always shake with your right hand.  Mind your manners, a thank you can go a long way.  Remember that we do not know everyone's story, use kindness when dealing with difficult people.  Honey from our lips, not venom.  That is a great bit right there.  Wear sunscreen.  When you're old and have wrinkles like me you will thank me for this one.  I could mention drugs and alcohol here.  Might be controversial.  Just know that both can inhibit your decision making ability.  They can make you say and do things you wouldn't otherwise.  Trust me on that one.  Please remember that if you have questions you can ask me, you can ask your Dad.  Sometimes asking Google is not a good idea.  Or a peer group.  Other times it is.  But still, ask me after.  For another opinion.  Have dance parties.  Like loud music and singing and dancing.  Then laugh till it hurts.  Often.  Travel, take chances and dream big.  Then pray and step into the next of your journey.  Wherever that may be.  Your story is important.  Live it well.  And share it.  It matters, so very much.  Every part of it.  Even the chapters we don't want to discuss out loud.  Those are irreplaceable.  Love.  My favorite.  Such a simple word.  Only four letters.  Yet so profound.  Love God, love yourself, love others.  And remember that love does.  ALWAYS. 

I am quite certain that there are at least a million more quips to share with you.  This might be a recurring post.  Changing and edited as we go along.  For now this is it.  I am honored to be Mama to you three.  If I adored you any more my heart would surely burst.  Be strong, be courageous and know you are loved.  By me but even more so by our heavenly Father.  Carry on beloved warriors.  

Football in St. Louis

 
Exactly one month ago we had yet another road trip planned.  This time for football in St. Louis.  The eldest two Things had a previous engagement so it was the youngest two and Husband Jared and I on the open road!  We left early on a Friday morning after dropping Thing 4 with his team and their bus.  Thing 3 was beyond thrilled that she was the only child for this stretch of our adventure.  In her mind that equated to multiple Starbucks trips and stopping at a moment's notice.  Let's just say it didn't exactly work out that way.  Although there were plenty of treats throughout the weekend. 
 
This is what teenagers apparently do on road trips...make up application when told we are actually getting out of the car for lunch. 

For most of our stay Thing 4 was with his team; For meals, traveling back and forth from the games to the hotel and for team meetings.  It was just the three of us for dinner the first night and we found this great gastro pub, The Shaved Duck.  Located in a quaint neighborhood and filling the corner with it's hanging sign and dim lights we did not know the greatness that awaited us.  We were amongst the locals and the vibe was laid back, mellow and cozy.  Just our style.  Definitely a place we'd visit again. 
 
 
Now I know I've only been talking about food and here is my disclaimer, the matches were not anything to write home about.  I'll get to those after breakfast.  I was desperate to introduce our friends to Park Ave coffee.  Saturday morning we drove into the  historic Lafayette neighborhood and feasted on ooey gooey butter bars and some of the best coffee.  What a fantastic start to our day.  I can not even begin to describe the goodness that is this cafĂ©.  They've been featured on The Food Network and I have written about them before. If you are in the St. Louis area check them out, you will not be disappointed.  From there it was back to the hotel to meet Mema and Gpa, they were driving up from TN to watch Thing 4.  Unfortunately there is not much to report.  Thing 4 played alright, when he was on the pitch.  His team however did not fare so well.  On the bright side we knew there was another match to be played the next day.  Whew.  Thing 4 remained with his team mates to watch the other squads play and we went exploring.  Off to another historic neighborhood where the oak trees towered above and the lamp posts were nostalgic of a time long ago.  All afternoon we strolled and talked and laughed.  Then we made our way back to the hotel and lounged around all afternoon, making silly faces together.
 
The grandparents watching Thing 4.
 
Lamp posts lining the streets.  Aren't those just magical?
 
Phone selfie.  Husband Jared did not get the memo here. 
 
He did better here!
 
Since Thing 4 was dining with his teammates Gpa, Mema and the three of us headed out to dinner together.  Husband Jared had researched and discovered a great bbq place, Sugarfire Smoke House.  Oh my, I loved everything from the mosaic walls to the hot chicken biscuit and the local sodas made with real sugar.  Yum!  Mema and Thing 3 liked the inflatable dinosaur that greeted us.
 
Look at those lovely smiles.
 
Mosaic wall and menu, complete with bumper stickers and other accessories.
 
The night was complete and once again we returned to our hotel with full and happy bellies.  Time to turn in, we had an early morning ahead of us and a full day with another match and the drive home. Sunday brought us breakfast with the grandparents and another lack luster day on the pitch.  Thing 4 once again played well, taking some hard knocks and battling the entire game.  Even though the outcome was not in our favor we always enjoy watching Thing 4, I know Mema and Gpa did too!  After a quick recovery and team recap it was time for the trek home. 
 
Consoling the boy after a rough match.

He's almost as tall as Mema! 
 
And that about sums up our weekend in St. Louis.  Food, fun and footie.  Hugs and goodbyes and thank yous and see you soons.  Until next time St. Louis.