Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sunday Wonder

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth,
Burst into jubilant song with music.

Psalm 98:4

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Anchored Again

Oh dear . . . it has been such a flurry of activity around here and I truly lost my blogging anchor for a while. I simply drifted from day to day without mind of a word to share or a picture to snap and save. Floods of memories loosened the weight that held me here, but more so I found far too many delights and distractions in the gardens or among my family and I simply floated from meeting one need to the next.

Your precious comments comforted me where I needed comforting and brought smiles where smiles lacked . . .

You have blessed me beyond what you could know. My words do not adequately convey what spills over from my heart.

Thank you . . .

* * * * *

A quick recap never does justice to a leisurely chat, but alas, with a graduation party to attend later this day I have not the privilege to wax away as I did while laid up with my twisted ankle. For starters, my ankle has healed and I once again scamper about chasing bugs or marveling over butterflies -- like this one that Lydia raised in her room from a “kit.”

Country kids find it odd when they receive gifts like this, as we see the birth of nature in all forms at all times in our midst. But Grandma saw this fascinating opportunity and shared it with us. After painstaking attention, one butterfly managed to emerge and spread his wings and found the joy of the outdoors her reward. The others sadly lacked the strength to fully extend their wings. Life is harsh . . . and this little “experiment” just reinforced that.

In another arena of life, we saw wings expand and take flight as David, the young man courting Elizabeth, graduated Summa Cum Laude (with honorary tassels dripping from his gown) from Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego with a degree in Political Science.

David has moved up to Sacramento to begin working as a personal aide to the new California Assembly Minority Leader, Sam Blakeslee. David drove on up to celebrate all this good news with us over a Mexican dinner here at our home (I used the instant refried beans and they tasted FABULOUS!), but the stresses and strains of so much adrenaline and “push” to graduate, drive hundreds of miles away from the only home he has ever known in an aged but beloved pickup, interview for a job with one of the most powerful men in Sacramento – well, let’s just say young man and vehicle collapsed once they arrived here. David ended up in the emergency room and the pickup at a proper repair shop. Our guest house provided lodging and our busy little farm in the dell gave him opportunity to work on chicken coop building,

garden tending, and frantic garage cleaning (when we received a flash storm warning involving deadly lightening and hailstones designed to destroy cars). Thankfully the storm passed us by without a drop of rain or hint of hail and David recovered well, as did his truck, and he has returned to Sacramento to begin a new job, thankful for a bit of a vacation with home-cooked meals and garden strolls with his intended, amongst all the changes.

As for the rest of the family . . . well, we take each day as it comes and try to squeeze out every drop of joy to share amongst us. There have been many tears and bouts of laughter as we celebrate the time we spent with Andrew, as the 5th anniversary of his death snuck up on us. His lifelong battle with cerebral palsy ended on a quiet night of respiratory failure five years ago, but the song of all the days he spend living and loving and learning still sing sweetly in our hearts.

Likewise, May 25th (just the day before Andrew’s Homegoing anniversary) marked the one year anniversary of the Homegoing of my beloved mentor Rachel (my Rachel’s namesake). Many tears flowed as I continued the long goodbye to her. But . . . whenever the tears would well up the memories would flow and our family would end up laughing and celebrating two of the finest people the Lord has ever placed among us.

As the chicks become chickens (homely little critters right now and so scrappy as they all vie to be queen of the roost in that makeshift brooder that requires cleaning OFTEN), and the children grow to maturity, and the parents loosen the reins when necessary (opening the gates for more to join our ranks) I find such solace in remembering:

“For I know the plans that I have for you,”
Declares the LORD,
“Plans for welfare and not for calamity
To give you a future and a hope.”

Jeremiah 29:11 (NASB)

I walk my gardens in the evening and marvel over all the changes in just one day –

Some sheer beauty in blossom, others annoying damage from pests, and still other places celebrate new life or showcase the recent death in the flowers and grasses and weeds of my little Eden. Nothing remains the same from one walk to the next. A stunted area of growth brings sorrow not joy, as in the stymied butterflies that failed to fly and died. Pruning and deadheading of the roses consumes so much of my time these cool evenings, yet I know these labors and farewells will produce greater growth and future abundance of blooms to enjoy and then bid farewell. The cycle continues.

Life rolls along in a rose garden emitting beautiful fragrance and velvety soft beauty before a handful of petals cascade like confetti in celebration of life as it passes away. The fragrant memories of my rose garden in summer sustain me throughout the year as I tend and prune and coddle and nurture these plants who dance each year with a new cast.

Life has been a series of celebrations for me . . . some evoke applause some call for tears, but all have made me a richer woman for the celebrating.

Today will be no different.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Another Memorial Day . . .

Andrew James Unruh
July 8, 1988 - May 26, 2004

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul:
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness
For his name's sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil:
For thou art with me;
Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me
In the presence of mine enemies:
Thou anointest my head with oil;
My cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Psalm 23

[Oh how I miss you, my sweet boy . . . ]

Monday, May 25, 2009

Remembering Those Who Gave Their Life to Protect Our Freedom

We Must Never Forget.

Only take heed to thyself,
And keep thy soul diligently,
Lest thou forget the things
Which thine eyes have seen,
And lest they depart from thy heart
All the days of thy life:
But teach them thy sons,
And thy sons' sons.

Deuteronomy 4:9

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sunday Wonder

Knowing this,
That the trying of your faith
Worketh patience.

James 1:3

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Respite Wednesday

Of all the flowers,

Methinks a rose the best.

~~ William Shakespeare ~~

I agree.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Look what I found in my inbox this morning from Franklin Springs, the distributor of the West Ladies Homestead Blessings DVDs:

20% off savings coupon
Please take a moment and browse our entire library of seventeen different family edifying films that are available for purchase. For five days only, we are making available the below 20% off coupon code good for orders of any amount.
Browse our library of 17 titles

Your coupon code:


Since the fine people at Franklin Springs invited me to share this with my friends, I thought I would pop it right on here for anyone interested to enjoy the savings.

The email also included this exciting bit of news:


Three new Homestead Blessings DVDs
with the West Ladies

We are very pleased to announce that coming in late summer we will be expanding the Homestead Blessings series with three additional DVDs hosted by the much beloved West ladies...

The Art of Gardening

This exciting new DVD will show teach the joy of working in the garden. From the basics of seed preparation and planting, to the rich time of harvest, this DVD will provide a wealth of information.

The Art of Canning

From picking the right jars to storing the final items, this DVD will provide a complete overview of the process of canning your own food.

The Art of Herbs

From treating an injury, promoting better health, or simply seasoning a good meal, this DVD is packed with helpful instruction on how to properly use the hundreds of herbs available.

These exciting new films will be available in late summer. I can hardly wait!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Homestead Blessings

Another HOT day . . . another day of resting with my ankle elevated . . . one could tend to become a bit grumpy over these two factors in life, save for the cooler blowing a chill wind and the innate love of reading, writing, chatting over tea, and all the other “loves” that take a backseat to floors needing a sweep, dishes needing a swipe, and laundry needing a plunge in an ordinary day. So, in this additional extraordinary day I will simply grit my teeth and recline.(I can hear you all feeling SO SORRY for me. Truthfully, I’m so tired of it. I’d love to grab the powerhead and hoover away!)

So, you may wonder, how have I been spending my time? Well, let’s see . . . last Saturday, while Elizabeth and Lydia were away at weekend-long events and Rachel was waiting patiently for the clock to strike five so that she could attend her Sunday School pizza-and-movie night, Rachel and I popped on one of the Franklin Springs DVDs and enjoyed a visit with the West Ladies of Tennessee.

Wait . . . you haven’t met the West Ladies? Well, let me tell you – they are a delight! A treat! A breath of fresh air in a stale world of pop-culture.

I first heard of these ladies when they visited fellow blogger Jewels. Later I purchased a DVD set from Franklin Springs including Inherit the Land, a survey of several families who march to their own drummer and live closer to the land. This myriad of definitions for “Simple Living” delighted our whole family. We met some who live as we do and many who live quite differently. The West Ladies particularly interested us in their down-home style and overflowing JOY! My girls eagerly took mental notes of things to do and change and try.

The folksy charm of the West Ladies begged for another visit, and so I later added the Homestead Blessings DVDs to our library. Baking bread, making candles, fashioning soaps – what a fun bundle of visits with truly useful tips and inspiration. The West ladies invited us into their kitchen and began sharing from the heart and working with their hands. We sat and smiled, laughed and pointed at one another saying, “That’s you alright!” pausing often to rewind and take another look or write down a missed step. Creative energy always runs high in this woodland cottage, but the energy positively sparked from eager fingertips with each episode’s conclusion.

In addition to sharing home-spun skills, these ladies overflow with the love of the Lord. They truly strive to live thankfully and prayerfully in an Eden-esque setting they feel blessed with. I could so relate to this joyful way of greeting each day and all the work/troubles/joys/delights contained therein. I do not know the intimate details of their lives, but a family consisting of a mom and three daughters living off the land in rural Tennessee led me to believe that somebody (probably Mom/Vicky) knew a great recipe for taking the lemons in life and making a vat of lemonade sweetened with prayer and hope and the Love of Jesus . . . and she shares the sweet product freely.

We may not live in rural Tennessee and talk with the cutest l’il ol’ accents, but we sure could relate and even laughed as we found our counterparts with the West gals. The girls said Vicky/Mom and I share much in common save for the accent. I noted how the daughters all shared personality traits with my girls in the same birth order. We also oooohed and aaaaahed over their cute home-styled fashions – Hannah’s lace-up dirndl-style jumper won hands down as my favorite. More inspiration . . . more projects brewing.

By the time we finished the series we had loads of new ideas. (I breathed a sigh of relief a few days later when Elizabeth let go of the idea of beekeeping to acquire quality beeswax for the candles. Thank you internet for supplying a reasonably-priced source.) Our meals have been sprinkled with Hannah’s fool-proof “Pizza Bread” and other bread creations. Elizabeth’s tasty pasties employed the very same dough as the pizza bread.

In addition to the food and crafts, their FABULOUS PANTRY provided the needed push for Gary to get that project done and marked off the list. (Thank you, West Ladies! That bit of impetus was WELL WORTH the price of the DVDs.)

As Rachel and I re-watched one of the DVDs last Saturday, she remarked how much she liked their singing. The Appalachian “Hill Billy” style is sadly underrepresented in our music library (only a smattering of Smoky Mountain Sunday CDs fills that slot), so I popped over to CD Baby and ordered their recordings.

Here’s a YouTube sampling for you to enjoy:

If you like good ole time music you will love these gals. And if, like me, you appreciate a variety of styles to supplement your classical-leaning diet, I guarantee you will find something to smile about as you listen to the simple sentiments and enjoy the bucolic slice of life they inhabit. You may just find yourself tapping a toe and humming along. At the very least you will have appreciated a couple of minutes in the company of four very fine ladies doling out homestead blessings from their home, aptly named: Homestead Blessings.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sunday Wonder

Satisfy us in the morning
With your unfailing love,
That we may sing for joy
And be glad
All our days.
Psalm 90:14

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Saturday Ramblings from an Armchair

Crisp and Crunchy.
Whole Wheat and Healthy.
It's a HIT!

I found this simple recipe in a collection of essays entitled Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin. A simple recipe of flour, water, salt, yeast, kneading, and time with VERY loose time schedules yielded just what I was looking for in a crispy baguette. Though Laurie's recipe combines unbleached and whole wheat flours, I simply fulfilled the recipe with freshly ground Prairie Gold whole wheat flour. (I found it! My little organic market ordered 100 pounds for me at bulk cost minus 15%.) Combine approximately 3-3/4 cups flour, one heaping teaspoon salt, and one tablespoon wheat germ in a bowl. Dissolve 1/2 scant teaspoon yeast in 1-1/2 Cups warm water and add to dry ingredients.

Now mix, knead, let rise (for as long as you like, according to her, I chose 1 hour), punch down, knead a bit more, let rise again (you choose time -- I chose another 40 minutes), punch down, shape in loaf, slash top (to let the steam escape and save your bread's pretty shape), and finally bake in a hot oven with a pan of water for steam on the lower rack (450 degrees for about 30 minutes and then down to 425 for another 20 minutes -- my convection oven took FAR LESS TIME). The result: a proudly displayed baguette of crusty beauty to accompany our lentil-rice soup (cooked in the pressure cooker for 15 minutes). Voila!

On another note of unfinished business . . . how 'bout the results from the "instant" refried beans?

Well . . . it was F-A-S-T. Grind pinto beans into course flour in the grain mill (make sure your mill can handle beans) and then combine:

3/4 C. pinto bean flour
2-1/4 C. Water
3/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cumin
3/4 tsp salt
(1/2 tsp dried minced onions and smidgen garlic powder optional, according to the recipe in Country Beans by Rita Bingham

Cook for 1 minute over medium heat and then reduce to low and cook for 4 more minutes. The liquidy mixture began to firm up quickly, so I just shut off the heat and covered it so that it could absorb all the liquid. When I removed the lid I saw the smoothest refried beans BUT THEY WERE LAVENDER!

Now, in our household many have a sensitivity to color -- especially Matthew. The night I placed a magenta bowl of borscht down in front of him he honed in with his good right eye, sniffed, looked up at dad with horror in his eyes, and asked to be excused. (now mind you, this boy LOVES borscht and eats multiple bowls when I use the golden beets.) Magenta and lavender may seem worlds apart to most, but I calculated that Matthew would balk. So I set out to give these pasty-looking beans a makeover.

I tasted the beans . . . hmmmmmmmm, a bit flat. SO, I added a bit more salt (naturally), some pepper, a few tablespoons of tomato paste, and a variety of mexican-inspired spices to augment those already in the pot. I sampled again . . . DELICIOUS!!! Some may prefer adding salsa or picante sauce for color and texture. I must note that these beans have no "beany" chunks for texture; nor do they have the depth of flavor I get when I pressure cook beans and onions, garlic, spices, etc. for one hour. BUT, the rapid return from my efforts and the "cover" of tostada fixin's makes this a good option for those mealtimes that sneak up on me after a long day at play in the gardens.

I also found that leftover beans cooked the loooong style could be stretched pretty far with the addition of some of these "instant" beans. Experiment, have fun, enJOY! I am still playing with the recipe. (My family vetoed the red-pepper-flaked version . . . ooops! Guess I forgot to put the fire extinguisher on the table.) : D

Lastly, I promised to share my recipe for Whole Wheat Buttermilk Scones.

I adapted this recipe from a little palm-sized paperback cookbook entitled Simply Scones a sister-in-law had tucked into a basket of goodies years ago. It has lots of recipes (70, in fact), but this one particular one has become my staple. It's quite simple:

2 C. flour (I use whole wheat pastry flour)
1/3 C. sugar
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
6 Tbl unsalted butter, chilled
1/2 C. buttermilk
1 large egg
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract (or ????? Have some fun here.)
1/2 C. currents or raisins optional (No thanks!)

Cut butter into dry ingredients, mix wet ingredients and pour into dry. Gently combine, adding fruit at this stage. Form into a plump disc and score or cut through into eight pieces. (Scoring produces softer scones; cutting finishes the edges for a crisper scone -- just like biscuits). Bake at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes. Cut and serve with or without additional toppings (like jam, clotted cream, lemon curd, etc.). Wipe up crumbs later (you will have no leftovers, I'm certain).

You can do a myriad of things with this basic recipe. It is VERY FORGIVING. I have substituted flavored kefir (a liquidy yogurt) for the buttermilk to give it a berry or peachy tang. You can use ANY number of essential flavoring with some fruit tossed in. A particular delight graced the table when I added slivered up strawberries (you know the ones that have gone a bit too far to be simply set in a crystal dish upon the tea table for nibbling) and a dash of almond extract . . . or I should say I meant to add just a dash -- the bottle toppled in and splashed a gusher of almond extract into the nearly finished dough. I kneaded it in gently (always be gentle with your scones or biscuits) formed it, scored it, and popped it into the oven. When it arrived on the table all salivary glands cried out for a "quick" blessing and the first bites elicited oooooohs and aaaaaahs and WOWs! Serendipity Strawberry Scones stole the award for "best ever" served at teatime (or any time).

How does one share a recipe for a delicious boo-boo, I wonder? Well, you don't. I simply offer this basic little recipe and entreat you to fire up your imagination and fumble away. I have RARELY had to discard a "creation" from my kitchen, though it has happened. My most notable blunders include:

First Runner Up -- Butter Bean Stew. Hard-as-a-rock lima beans cooked for hours in a salted broth. Yep, I learned that one should NEVER salt the bean water before the beans have cooked tender.

GRAND PRIZE BLUNDER -- Once upon a time I entertained a romantic notion of taking our family to a monastery for a quiet retreat. Now, you correctly wonder if I had lost my mind in thinking five kids (two with special needs . . . often "noisy" needs) could enter a "silent" retreat and not shatter the necessarily contemplative mood or the sanity of the brothers contemplating. Well, you're right. We couldn't actually GO to the monastery, BUT . . . with my Bible, a selection of chant CDs, a plethora of candlelight, and this nifty Monastery cookbook I found at the library, well it would be a cinch!

I combed the cookbook after assessing my larder. Hey, this one is perfect: Potato-Brussels Sprouts Potage. The simple "water-based" broth with veggies looked to be perfect with a fresh loaf of bread and a jug of water (our standard beverage at mealtimes). I simmered and tasted and simmered some more. I tasted and tasted but NEVER found the flavorful broth promised in the beautifully-illustrated recipe. IT WAS FLAT! (and ugly -- all grey and murky.)

I began raiding the cupboards for spices, more salt, ANYTHING to liven up this pot o' dishwater that I intended to serve to a very hungry family. When Gary came in asking about the coming meal I melted into tears and offered a taste. He winced. He took a deep breath. He offered to go pick up pizza . . . after he tossed this in the compost pile. I collapsed in relief. (I also returned that book to the library without another thought of adding it to my ever-growing library of cookbooks.)

And so I ramble on this warm and beautiful Saturday morn. "Why," you may ask, "Are you not outside in your glorious gardens dancing with the butterflies and singing with the birds?" I heave a big sigh and reply by pointing to the ottoman that supports my swollen ankle. Yesterday, following a call to the local chinese take-out for a treat Friday night meal, I decided to grab a bottle of soapy water and run out to the gardens for just a minute before setting the table and readying the tea.

I gamboled up and over the stone bench and adjacent retaining wall in search of my nemesis: ROSE WEEVILS! I espied an immoral display by several and determined to interrupt the multiplication by knocking the whole group-thing into my organic bottle of death. Success! I danced around. "Now I really must get back inside and get the table set," I admonished myself. Then I saw it . . . a lone escapee on a distant bud.

I quickly calculated my chances for success at o'er-leaping a particularly prickly ballerina rose, reaching out to seize that offending bug on a far-distant grootenhorst rose, while clad in a mini-skirt and flip-flops. I decided in a split-second to Go For IT! And I did. UP! OVER! (so far so good) D-O-O-O-O-W-N-N-n-n-n into a hole hidden by ground cover wherein a rose once resided and has since been removed. PAIN!!!!! STUCK in ROSES!!!! Feeling DUUUUMMMMB! ALL ALONE as the crowds of people that live here are off on weekend retreat, gone to southern parts to attend graduation of friends, off to pick up chinese, playing in nether reaches of the property.

SO . . . I crawled and clawed up and over the retaining wall, hobbled into the house, plopped into the chair, and waited for the return of my knight in shining armor who would set the table, supply water for tea, and ascertain that nothing has broken.

Thus, today I sit and ramble upon my laptop with a stack of books at my side and a pot of tea at my elbow. We have received the first "heat wave" of the season and I'm missing it! The worst part . . . that creepy rose weevil is out their munching and destroying my rosebuds, telling all her friends about the crazy lady in the jeweled flip-flops. (*grit*)

Have a GREAT weekend!

: D

Friday, May 15, 2009

Pathway to Joy

This is the day which the LORD hath made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:24

Oh to be able to take flight and truly soar above the beauty all around in this fine little dell of land. I thank the Lord each day for the tiny dusty specks of Eden that slipped through His fingers as He sprinkled reminders of once upon-a-time and hints of what-will-be alongside this pathway of life. If this be the stuff of a fallen world (which I know to be true . . . I read the headlines), I dance in eager anticipation of the new Heaven and Earth promised to me, to you, to all who believe.

Of late, I have dabbed far too many tears and sorted away long-ago hurts newly resurfaced as I prepared for sharing my Pathway to Joy. But, I cannot fail to mention that the memories and blessings and most-wonderful happenings of my life along that bumpy path have tumbled down like a springtime waterfall of ferocious beauty. I have laughed, gurgled, swirled, and pitched head-over-heels in the tumult of remembering. It has been a fine journey thus far . . .

Through each dark tunnel I found a surprising joy. My earliest milestone of joy rose bright and shining to cast light all around in the depths of childhood sorrows – I found a God who loved me. I grasped the ticket to Heaven while a mere 10-years-old having recently been placed in a Christian school that provided daycare ( . . . and so much more). Given a Bible and turned loose with the rules of obedience I found a pathway devoid of the evils that had plagued the adults in attendance around me. I worked myself to a frenzy (suffering an ulcer at age 15) in an attempt to please God and earn the approval of those around me. Clearly there must be more to life than this series of “exams” at every turn.

What a joy to meet a special young man who invited me to church wherein I would learn of grace and forgiveness and the abiding love of a Savior. I need not wait for death to cash in my ticket with God for a place in His Kingdom. I began to learn new dance steps and new ways to pray; unfortunately I fell into the trap of former days and set out to be SUPER in my accomplishments as a follower of Christ. New friends, new ideas, same worries, same fears.

Graduation, marriage (to that special young man), job, home, JOYS of a whole new flavor. LOTS OF PLANS! I spun dreams, ideas, hopes, and mapped them all out in due diligence without ever giving thought to anything other than success on my terms in my definition. Thus far I had reaped so much wonderful bounty from this life with a Lord. I asked, He granted . . . just as the prosperous teachers of the faith shared. Until . . .

. . . the birth of my boys. A model pregnant mom with an astounding diet of health foods and books and advice and ideas, I expected nothing untoward or surprising. My biggest dilemma involved the logistics of returning to school after the birth (working on my PhD at the time in English Lit). All my lists and goals, and pro-con lists fell to the floor in a frenzied mess when the boys arrived on the scene nearly two months early in a barely-breathing state. Having suffered a twin-to-twin transfusion in utero, wherein twin A pumped blood through the shared umbilical to twin B causing serious harm to both, their fragile bodies fought to maintain the simplest of life-giving tasks while the anxiety mounted among the medical staff.

“Hopeless . . .” they pronounced sadly. God intervened. “Fatally flawed . . .” they confessed. God proved them wrong again (much to their delight . . . and ours). “Find an institution and forget . . .” they advised. God kept us strong . . . strong enough to bundle them home after treatments and surgery and so much more. Praying . . . caring . . . hoping . . . savoring what little time remained. God sprinkled the miracles liberally. Joy blossomed in abundance . . . overflowing life and peace and joy flooded our little world with flickers of hope in happily growing bodies of babies destined to swallow up my world in wonderful wonder.

More babies . . . new house . . . new trials . . . financial woes . . . health issues . . . another move . . . financial boon . . . LOTS OF WORK . . . collapse of little remaining extended family support system . . . extended family sorrows/illness/death/mental illness . . . BUT STILL MORE JOY despite the woes in our world as our children grow and thrive and arise to call me blessed every day with their smiles and hugs and eagerness to dance the dance of joy with me in a life lovingly sculpted with Heavenly plans.

Death of Andrew.

Watershed of sorrow and pain and emptiness of depth unmatched in our life. Our freefall in sorrow landed us in God’s gracious palm once again. Cocooned in His care we began a new phase. We emerged from this chrysalis of transition to find that GOD DOES NOT CHANGE. Immovable love shone all around despite the charred fragments of “love” crumbled from the relationship with my parents that I fought so hard to salvage and failed. My son died and my parents battled for center stage to be cared for by me now that I had “free” time on my hands. No thought for my pain, only their gain. Hurt. Shock. Numbness. All goes quiet as I retreat to rest.

Cradled in the arms of the Almighty. Carried to safety. Protected from further harm. Abandoned once again by the flesh that bore me yet firmly rooted in the loving grip of my True Father, the one who created me. Freedom. Joy. Peace surpassing all understanding. Newfound strength. The journey continues . . .

Wings spread. Lives grow stronger. Trees by water send forth shoots despite drought in the lands. Faith planted in seeds grows to groves filling brimming baskets with a harvest most sweet. Joy. The darkness held at bay by a single flicker of hope from a Heavenly candle. Hands join. Hearts seek. Strength from the vine builds branches laden with sweet fruit. Celebrations follow harvest time. The circle of life spins on. The cycle of the seasons weaves unexpected joys into familiar routine. It is good.

A simple path. A loving guide. A constant tether. Strength in Joy. The journey continues . . .

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Phil 4:12-13 (NIV)

. . . for the joy of the LORD is your strength.
Nehemiah 8:10

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Room With A View

Each morning I awake to this view

Or this one
Or this one
Depending on which way I turn in my turreted sitting room.

(And so I post these photos in my defense as to why I have not thanked you ever so much for your prayers and updated you on how beautifully the Lord carried me through my chat with the women over tea. There were MANY to listen . . . and so many thanked me for the encouragement they gleaned from the sharing of my Pathway to Joy. I will sit down and post a proper update soon. Until then . . . please gaze on these photos and forgive me for running out to play rather than sitting down to the computer.)

[Pitter, patter . . . away she swishes into the leafy splendor and heady fragrance of a rose garden GONE MAD in the summery temps!]

Monday, May 11, 2009

Please Pray for Me . . .

. . . as I open up my heart this Tuesday morning and share my Journey to Joy at a ladies' luncheon at church.

The butterflies in my stomach have caused such a racket that I have decided to reach out to all of you for prayer. I know the journey has been wonderful and the Lord will guide me as I pour out the truth that has been stored up in my heart, pondered deeply, prayed over, and given to Him as a gift . . . an offering.

And yet . . . [flutter, flutter]

Just as the snowball bush (pictured above) emerges quietly from the cocoon of its bud, astonishing me every year with its abundance of full-bodied flowers (pictured below), so I pray that the message I share will pass from my brimming heart and bloom with praises to The One who has protectively held my hand through every shadowed valley, has gripped me firmly on each treacherous incline, and has embraced me in the dance of pure joy every step of the way. He has not failed me; nor will He ever.

It is good to pause and look back over the landscape from whence one has come. To see how far one has journeyed . . . and how good it feels to be right here, right now, right this way.

The joy of the Lord is [my] strength.
Nehemiah 8:10

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sunday Wonder

Happy Mother's Day

At any given moment,
Our children can sense
Whether we're having
A firsthand relationship with God,
Long before children can read words
They can read hearts.

* * *

A mother once told me
She'll never completely
Fill the "gaps" in her parenting.
But she realized
They provide the opportunity
For Christ to shine through
So the child sees only Christ,
Not her failures.

~~ Monte Swan ~~
from Romancing Your Child's Heart

Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD:
And the fruit of the womb is his reward.
Psalm 127:3

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Tarrying Over Tea, Talking Turtle Beans . . .

. . . and Remarking the Remarkable Rhodies.

These days flow with an ease I could live with forever. The sun has peeked from behind the rainy clouds, now dancing in full blue splendor and bathing us in promises for a sunny weekend.

I applied sunscreen with hopefulness today, though I have savored these late rainy days of spring. We have lingered long over steaming teapots, sharing ideas for more garden beds, plots for new writing projects, and ever and anon new things to do in the kitchen. Just today the canning insert arrived for the pressure cooker – mmmmm . . . the ideas sprout afresh.

While Elizabeth invents new ways to wrap pastry and provide a meal (last night we dined upon veggie pasties with a cheddar cheese crust – YUM!), Rachel has taken it upon herself to research every bean we could possibly hope to cultivate, harvest, and then pop into the pressure cooker; she has even sprouted a good number of them in her windowsill with jars and wet paper towels. She experiments daily and often messily – thankfully this has been a relatively clean test.

“I’d like some turtle beans,” she piped up recently in a conversation revolving around food. “They are more commonly referred to as ‘black beans’ in our region,” she added with an instructive tone. I laugh, my heart flutters with excitement over her growing knowledge and love of whole foods, and I picked up a sackful of bulk turtle beans on my last journey to the market. Tonight we may see some of these black beauties peeping from the folds of a sprouted corn tortilla.

Speaking of sprouted corn . . . I sprouted some. Why? To enjoy that delicious nutty taste we enjoy so much in the sprouted corn tortillas that I buy by the caseload. The result? AWFUL!!!! The mealy, pithy, tasteless mash in the mouth was not at all enhanced by that sprouted tail of a root. It looked plain weird and tasted worse. (and I wonder where Rachel gets her experimental nature from?) Into the compost bucket with the corn sprouts! (I wonder if the compost pile will sprout corn stalks now . . . hmmmmmmmm . . . if they do I sure hope the corn tastes better than the sprouts did.)

And so go the languid days of late spring around Wisteria Cottage. At twilight I wander the gardens to enjoy the burgeoning beauty of blossom,

making sure to carry a glass of soapy water to gather nasty munching pests (rose weevils top the list of devils in my rose beds and those pesky green caterpillars that descend from the oak trees on trapeze tendrils of silk eat far TOO MUCH for my liking). The ladybugs

and darling beetles (known as soldier beetles in the bug world, but I adore their voracious “bug-nivorous” appetite so much that I call them “darling”)

flourish and grow round in my organic beds of beauty.

I know I should be doing “spring cleaning” (or writing down and posting those recipes I promised, but which is proving infinitely more difficult than I imagined as I cook from “feel” and can’t quite get it right on paper or keyboard, as the case may be), but I have chosen to enjoy these fleeting days with my girls, as I know all too soon they will have grown and have spread wings to find their own dreams in cottages and gardens and kitchens filled with savories smells and chubby faced babies – I know . . . it seems just yesterday I tripped over sippy cups and duplo castles while trying to get supper on the table. Nowadays I bump bustles and share aprons with my growing girls. Each stage has delighted me with its precious togetherness. Keeping a home, raising children, serving as helpmeet – it’s a wonderful way to spend a day . . . or a lifetime.

Ahhhhhh . . . the sunshine beckons and the rose madder wafts in each time someone comes in or goes out the cottage doorway. I cannot resist any longer – I’m off!!!! (but I shall return with more pics.)

* * *

Do all you can to live a peaceful life.
Take care of your own business,
And do your own work as we have already told you.
If you do, then people who are not believers will respect you,
And you will not have to depend on others for what you need.

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 (NCV)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Pausing to Catch My Breath and Say "Hi!"

Oh it has been busy around here . . . and of the most delightful sort! So much to tell . . .

But first off, I must thank you all for the lovely birthday greetings, they added leavening to a most wonderful day of tasty meals (a fabulous brunch prepared by my girls and Chinese take-out for dinner -- my favorite) and long chats during the rainy weather. Normally I would spend my entire birthday in the gardens, but that was not to be this year. It poured buckets!

Instead . . . we busied ourselves around the house for DAYS putting in my long-awaited "indoor" pantry. After nine years in this house I finally have my pantry! Hooray! And so I am busy making curtains (for the lower bulk-bucket storage area), filling jars with all sorts of jewel-toned beans, and removing the BIG appliances from my kitchen to the shelving in the pantry. It’s great! I did manage to fit in a trip to the monthly booksale at the library and found some delightful cookbooks that I will have to share with you later this week. For now I have only a few pics and peeks into our home-and-hearth activities.

Here's a happy woman in her "indoor" pantry:

In addition to construction and rearranging of the kitchen, the girls and I have been daily experimenting with freshly ground grains and new recipes including whole wheat pita bread,

Whole wheat pizza bread (stuffed with delicious herbs and cheese – sorry, no pic), and then with a bit of tweaking by Elizabeth we enjoyed whole wheat Cornish pasties on another night.

Of course, I continue the prodigious output of bread -- we may not live by it alone, but it seems that way sometimes. I do know, we sure couldn't live without it . . . and so I bake in quantity.

I also find time to play with my newest gadgets, like this fabulous pressure cooker (oh, the bean recipes I plan to share with you)

And my nifty new sprouting trays (which make my glass jar seem like an old jalopy).

In between the rainy/windy weather the gardens explode with color and beauty . . .

And weeds! My little women have even blessed me with time on their knees filling bucket-upon-bucket with weeds.

Mr. Weatherman predicts temps into the low 80s by week's end. The gardens will become a choir of glorious beauty and fragrance. I will surely keep my camera close at hand. Here's a bit of a preview:

I can hardly wait for the show to begin. I'll be back with pics and a few recipes that I promised and have yet to deliver. [And off she dashes to play some more . . . ]

My "Crusty" baguette came out all crispy and wonderful but then softened. I evaluated and realized (silly me!) I used my regular bread recipe containing honey -- a humectant (hence, attracts moisture). While honey keeps my daily bread delightfully moist and chewy, it caused my baguette to lose crispness. It tasted great, however.

SO . . . I have a new version to try and I'll report back on that soon. Since rain has decided to stay over another day (or two) I will probably tackle the baguette tomorrow. I shall not stop until I find the desired crispness.