Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Response to Cultivating Friendships

Inspired by the blog article this morning on the Art of Simple about cultivating friendships and the perfect timing of the need in my own life, I thought about this example:

I want to take the time to cultivate a garden. 
But the thing about gardens is that they are not self seeding, self weeding or even self harvesting. 
The work has to be done every season and sometimes weekly & daily. Same goes for our precious friendships that we cultivated seasons, even decades ago.
We can't walk away and leave them hoping for the same state as last year's crop. 
Otherwise, in it, we will find quack-grass, dandelions, and weeds of all sorts where lush strawberries used to abound.

In this harried season (hence the last post), it is important to carve out time even if it seems as if there is none.

Thank you friends for being patient and urging me to remember what matters most.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

"something is not right"

Sometimes the mind is so foggy. The brain so dense. All that matters is the immediate.

the dishes. the pleas. the schoolwork. the laundry. the bills. dear neighbor knocking at the door.

When all that matters is the immediate, the future becomes a mere response to the present. Sound too philosophical? Let me explain.

I thought this season with my husband home would be easier, lighter. In actuality, it is richer & happier, but no less full. Days pass with laughter and gratitude where a year ago, there was yearning and emptiness. That being said, the whirlwind of life has left my body in the dust. Juggling roles of entrepreneur, mom, homeschool teacher, WIFE, writer (not really), and custodian has left me wondering where I last placed myself.

i do not mean the "lost sense of self" in the way that advertisers appeal to our core of indulgence and self-gratification. (i.e.: "you deserve it", "take time for you", et al) but the way you can drive 60 miles home and enter your front door and find you never thought once about a right or left turn signal. the way i have been on overdrive out of necessity has left me and everyone in my path able to witness my harried, distracted, inattentive self.

something has to change. ..
parched. pulled. dry. barren. stretched. weary. exhausted. 

Late night talks, mid-day discussions, dreams of a better way led us to this morning. A morning of emotional/spiritual health inventory (Peter Scazzero's book the Emotionally Healthy Church applies to individuals just as well as a body of believers) left my husband and I identifying the lurking tumor beneath the surface of our fast days. Sometimes the 911 call doesn't just come from drive-by shootings in the Bronx, or drug overdoses in addicts, but also in the mundane, a middle-aged person slips and falls from a ladder hanging Christmas lights. There can be danger lurking, sin unexposed in the most admirable circumstances. We aren't dealing with the scandal (thankfully not like 3 years ago), the violent, the cataclysmic or the catastrophic, but the ever present itching that "Something is not right", to quote Miss Clavel.

it takes a leader, a lover of Jesus, one attuned to the Holy Spirit, one who years for shalom- peace. it took my husband to say "this is not sustainable and things will change". 

the how-to, plan-of-attack, follow-through, action plan is another issue. what will our new restructured lives look like as i learn to let go, trust God and lean on Him everyday other than myself? i am not sure of the future, but i am sure that He is privy to much more than i can even conceive or imagine.

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? -Psalm 56: 3-4
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5
I know that his will is perfect and in that I have hope. I have a new heart and a renewed joy. A joy that is dependent on Him who is faithful and just. (not a hope in security, safety, jobs, weight loss, new purchases, etc. as all of those are not faithful and enduring. esp narrowing of my hips.)

what about you, sweet friend? is there something lurking beneath the surface that leaves you sleepless, wanting and exhausted? take it from a fellow burden bearer (ask my chiropractor) that the burdens you bear, no matter how mundane and conventional, eventually add up and never get lightened on their own. something eventually breaks. i pray it is your heart before your back. as He can give you a new heart and take up residence in it. may the yoke of this life not be one you try to bear on your own, as it is too heavy. 

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Sunday, October 27, 2013

a perfect fall day

Our fall welcome home party went off without a hitch, (despite the fact we were probably over capacity  in every room of the house!) and we were blessed with joyful fellowship and laughter. Some of the images from the event follow. The menu turned out to be perfect for an oversized crowd... We didn't get an official head count but are thinking at lease seventy people came and went over the course of the day's festivities. Thank you all for coming, bringing cards, gifts, smiles and hugs. We were overwhelmed with your love! It was a day for the record books.

fall+friends & family+ food= freakin awesome

menu & recipes:
pumpkin maple soup (i believe 6 pumpkins donated their lives for this hearty dish)
proscuitto wrapped pears & blue cheese bites
dark chocolate sea salted caramel krispies (these were addicting!)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

eucharisteo in Molasses

Slow like molasses...

Time moves slow like molasses.  Or should I say I feel like I am moving in molasses amidst a spinning whirlwind. I am not sure exactly why this is happening. All right, maybe I can give one reason time seems like a fickle mistress. My husband of ten years will return to our home and our little lives after being gone for almost 2 ½  long years. 

I have measured time in all sorts of fonts and formats. How many more cups of coffee will I have until that fateful day in October arrives? Too many. Each cup seems to pass through my mouth like sludge. My belly is sated but I drink voraciously as if my present life couldn’t keep ticking if I took my lips from the mug. As I gulp breaths of air in vain, I see the vessel is empty and another day is done. Another cup of coffee finished in a rapid slow motion.

In this midst of this limbo I have longed and yearned vocally to the Lord. Please, take me away from this house- just for the remaining weeks, days and hours I have left to abide in this no-man’s –land dwelling. Anywhere but here, Lord. Didn’t I cry out this same plea at the beginning of our sentence two years ago? Am I such an irreverent soul that I learn not my lesson of ungratefulness the first time?

As I vocalized my growth and valleys to numerous sisters and friends, I would transparently share in a slightly arrogant and reproachful way: “I found myself wanting to move from the pain, escape it. As humans we want to slip from under the pressing weight of discomfort and agony. Sometimes we are meant to just abide in the “Dark Night of the Soul” and find God’s redeeming love amidst the storm.” I would say. Like the Psalmist trying to have a self “pep talk” with my soul, I am reminding myself of truths I once learned, but like a child have forgotten my way. I want out. Out of pain, waiting, enduring and longing.

What can relieve this palpable state of gray? A splash of color from a vacation? Distraction in a project? Mindless wandering elsewhere? A shot (or two) of whiskey?

My heart knows the truest place I feel content is when I am giving thanks. Ann Voskamp’s voice has been a beacon in my ears. As I bustle throughout my days and chores- I learn how to give thanks. You’d think something so simple would be easy. If it were so, she wouldn’t have written a compelling book on one thing: eucharisteo: Giving Thanks. Self-diagnosing can be a dangerous sport when using a tool such as WebMD. However, self-diagnosing CAN be done when the Holy Spirit is the one actually doing the recommending. What have I been prescribed for this restless discontent heart is THANKS.

“ Suffering nourishes grace.” “Labors of grief birth into greater grace. Isn’t this the crux of the Gospel?”- Ann Voskamp

In the  coming 27 days, I will  take the Joy Dare and “Give thanks in all things”- finding the beauty, glory, joy, peace, rest and gifts that my precious Saviour has lavished on me since the day of His death. How can I demand anymore than that? I can’t. Yet, like a proud lover, he lavishes my days with trinkets, tokens, gifts, words, blessings far beyond my comprehension to create- if only I can have the eyes and ears to behold them.

27 days
of  looking and listening to my Saviour’s voice to keep me in a state of homeostasis
27 days
of  learning to consciously give thanks
27 days
and then 27x1,000,000 thereafter to be content.

Here is September’s Joy Dare, will you join me?

Friday, August 16, 2013

weep with those who weep

"Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep."

For some reason I can't explain, my heart is palpably pierced by the situation in Egypt. Of course one should be moved and saddened by the news, I am not questioning my emotions to that degree. But why the passion rises up like violent wave inside, leaving me breathless, brimming over with a heartfelt plea and a box of emotion waiting to be unleashed on the nearest listening ears.

In case you haven't been following the violent crisis happening right now in Egypt, find out about the brutal massacres happening at the hands of brutal protesters and the Egyptian army. While the Muslim Brotherhood seeks to restore "democracy" with their beloved and ousted Mohammed Morsi, the Coptic Christians are left caught in the middle. Targeted not just for their neutral or negative stance against Morsi, but are being martyred as we speak, for their faith in Jesus Christ. The city is left in utter despair and ruins with no hope to see recovery on the near horizon. The city has also suppressed the civil rights of the citizens, as they put in a state of emergency - a throwback to the nearly 30 years of authoritarian rule under U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak, toppled by a popular uprising in 2011. While the Muslim mosques and Coptic Christian churches have been burnt to the ground, the Egyptian government's promises to rebuild falls on deaf ears. Right now there is fear. Right now there is opposition. Right now violence persists. No matter the faith, race or age, those in the middle of the crisis will be feeling the tumultuous ground shaking pains for a long time out. (heart-wrenching slideshow of the violence from CNN)
Muslim Brotherhood children are participants in the brutal protests

Please pray for our fellow brothers and sisters in Egypt and throughout the world who face opposition from those who do not know the truth, but delight in evil. Pray for the innocent blood that is being shed, not just of Coptic Christians, but the Muslims and human rights activists caught in the midst of a coup. (although Obama has his hands tied and is reticent to call it a coup- so as to shake the current aid negotiations set to take place...)
A majority of the injured are those MB involved in the protests..

"Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy." Proverbs 31:9 ESV

"Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees, and the writers who keep writing oppression, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be their spoil, and that they may make the fatherless their prey!"-Isaiah 10:1-2 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

This ain't no drive-thru religion

Feast: A four-course succulent meal. Complete with: a fork(salad and dinner), spoon, knife, napkin, bread plate, water glass, wine glass, dinner plate and of course- an appetite. 

Snack: A nibble here or there of granola bar, bites of this or that, enough to eat and run.

Dear Jesus,
Do I feast on you like a satisfying meal giving me strength and satiety?
Do I take nibbles of your Word, sips of prayer and crumbs of attentiveness to your Spirit? 
If I were to encounter You lakeside on a beautiful sunny day like today, would my attention to you be divided and distracted? Could you count on me to pour liquid gold (my time and adoration) at your feet and not be worried over treasure lost?
ok, ok. maybe for a day or two i would rise early, stay in the hot sun, hang on your words and fall in love with you. 

but love can fade if not tended on a normal basis. i don't mean a familial kind of love where once you are blood when you always "love" someone no matter the distance or detachment. i mean the verb love. the one that is active and alive.

i would (as i now do) fall into the reliability and predictability of life. the day-to-day grind. my feet would dance in the same two-step pattern they had taken the previous 24 hours.

The answers hurt because the truth of the matter is that my months, days, and hours are spent scurrying to and fro. Not staying, not lingering. But instead, nibbling your Gospel as if peanuts can fill this ravenous whole of myself. Your love, your sacrifice is food to be devoured like a burger to a starving beggar. Because, after all, that is what I am.

"Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day." John 6:54

Thursday, July 18, 2013

But we have hope.

But we have hope.

All throughout God’s Word, we hear the resonant sound of hope being rung. Overall, this Hope that much of the New Testament (namely Paul’s writings) refers to is something that we will see not here on Earth, but once we are resurrected with Christ. 
the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel” –Col1:5
But I am reminded that just as we wait expectantly, this hope is doing something beneficial in us as we wait for the Gospel to be fully realized in us. 

Just as I await the return of my husband to our home after a two and a half year absence, I know that even in the midst of this painful waiting process, God is doing a good work. So often I want to yell: “But what about in the meantime?! (July-October!)” (Take heart, Ashley) Alas, Christ is working in both my heart and my husband’s. May I wait like a bride for her husband in both aspects. Knowing that the one will only be a foretaste to actually seeing my God on That Day.

So I will not lose heart or hope in the waiting game, knowing that this “limbo” or “almost but not yet” is the anticipation to a much sweeter future than I could never imagine.
In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. “ -Col1:6

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Happy Muffins

These muffins are packed with vitamins, protein and are just so healthy but don’t taste it – if you know what I mean. Adapted from a blog here- I added a few more health nut treats. They are packed with flavor, texture even I really want to go back for another (trying to restrain myself)! The kids have no idea how much good protein, vitamins & fiber are packed in these “Cupcake Muffins”. Just don’t forget the happy sprinkles!

3/4 cup of cooked quinoa (I cooked a batch with 1:1 ratio of apple juice and water for sweetness)
1/4 cup of light brown sugar
3/4 cup of a flour (I only use King Arthur)
1/4 cup of wheat germ
1/4 cup of gluten free flour blend (I used Bob’s Red Mill blend)
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt                                                                                                                                   1/3 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

1 tbsp Chia omega oil
1/4 cup of melted coconut oil, at room temperature
1/2 cup of Chobani vanilla or plain yogurt
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract                                                                                                                 ¼ cup agave syrup 
2 eggs, room temperature                                                                                                                     ½ cup peanut butter                                                                                                                                1 mashed banana
1/3 cup of old fashioned oats
1 cup of blueberries (frozen or fresh- I used frozen)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line your muffin pans with liners or spray with baking spray.  Set aside.
In your stand mixer, paddle attached, mix quinoa, brown sugar, flours, salt and soda – blend.  In a separate bowl, blend the coconut oil, banana, Chia oil, agave, Chobani, vanilla and eggs.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry and blend without over-mixing.  Then add the oats and blend.  By hand, blend in the blueberries gently.
Fill your muffin cups 3/4 of the way, top with happy sprinkles to make the kids think they are a special treat and bake for 20-28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Let cool and enjoy!

Can you believe this dry quinoa was made into the delicious  muffins?

Don't forget the sprinkles!