Saturday, November 23, 2013

Thanksgiving, Day 23 - Happy Birthday to The Mister

He's not one for lots of attention and fussing. 

He celebrates quietly. I, with a clang. But this is his day, so we'll do what he likes. 

He'll read in the morning, and work on his truck all afternoon. He'll cook meat over a fire with a pint in his hand. He'll settle in for a movie with his people, content with our quiet party of four. He's won't ask for it, but I'll make him his favorite chocolate cake, with a scoop of plain vanilla, to celebrate another given year. 

Half-way through forty, and as handsome as ever. 

Loving and strong. Faithful and true. Easy to please and growing in grace.. I am thankful for The Mister.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Thanksgiving, Days 16-19,

...for sleepy, smiling, bovine on a fall afternoon.

... for little fish, that still swim.

... for a disobedient a dog who like to push the limits (she knows she isn't allowed to be in my office, so she purposefully sits with her paws in the door.

... for teenagers that makes me laugh.

... for watercoloring with young friends.

...for the little red tree that grows as we do.

... for the last colorful leaves holding out 'til its time for winter's sleep.

...for those delicate hands that paint and play. I love hearing her play Christmas songs while I cook in the evening.

...for Psalm 34 on a hard day.

...for limitless cups of warm beverage.

For all these I give thanks.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Thankgiving, Days 8-15: Grace in the Ordinary Day

How to See Grace in the Ordinary Day: 
-a note to myself

1. Wake up before the sun in gratitude to breathe another day. Ask for eyes that see.

2. Rouse the teenagers and get them started about their day. Accept your daughter's winsome fashion advice. Kiss your son's scratchy unshaved cheek. As you instruct them in the business of the day ahead, remind yourself: a gentle word turns away wrath. Tell them you love them. Tell them again.

3. Meet a girlfriend for coffee and cinnamon rolls before the frost outside has time to thaw. Sit in the restaurant, huddled over a small round table for hours. Talk until you realize the lively lunch crowd has pushed the quiet breakfasters from their computers and corner tables. Admit, with hesitation, it's probably time to go. Promise to do it again soon. Walk to your car, in your smart shiny shoes, parting ways with mirthful contentment. 

4. Drive directly to the home of another dear friend, for an impromptu meeting of the Ladies Who Lunch. Upon arrival to this homestead of open doors, warm hugs and British blue eyes, the smell will instantly make this good day better -- she's been baking. Sit down to a delicious bowl of hot soup. On the wings of a prayer, break fresh bread, the warmth and fragrance calling you to repose. Encourage one another in the Lord, eyes filled with mist, and joy. Laugh a lot, sip tea, chat some more, hug necks. 

5. Drive home with a full heart, a filled belly. 

6. At home, find the teenagers have cleaned your kitchen, tidied up, and are ready for transport to evening festivities. Shuttle children, kiss faces, thank them for their help. Tell them you love them. Tell them again. Share their excitement for an evening with friends.

7. Drive home, let that feeling of humble gratitude for undeserved grace settle in... remember, there are deep lessons to be learned in gracious receiving. 

8.  Enter house. Make more tea. Experience unexpected GLADNESS! ...  the eaters of the house have left you the last brownie. Eat it. Quickly.

Sit down and allow today's vision to look back on the week. Today's gifts sit on grace upon grace. Yesterday's gifts were equally sweet, though my attitude, perhaps not as sunny. 

Open my eyes that I may see.... not just today, but again tomorrow.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Thanksgiving, Day 7: Rest

My office is currently a menagerie of old furniture and new. There is the recent purchase of a new chair from Ikea, and the old toddler table that never made it to the attic for storage. Soon I'll make my way back to Charlotte and purchase another white chair (there wasn't room in the van on the last trip) and find something to make the table look more middle-age woman than preschool student. But until then, this little perch in my creative space is where I go to rest. And when the sun is shining through the windows, as it was today, I just don't ever want to leave. Today I didn't have to.

Now that my babes are old enough to keep there illnesses to themselves, I haven't had enough exposure to childhood germs. I recently started working in the toddler room on Wednesday nights at church. Those little guys, with their sweet runny noses are becoming my buddies. My heart is having fun, and apparently, my immune system is getting stronger.

Yesterday I felt a little allergy-ish. More than I usually do... but in the middle of the night the sore throat and achiness hit with vengeance. This, the second head cold in as many months.

Early this morning I let my co-op compadres know that I was calling in sick. Then I warmed the kettle, brewed the tea, and set myself down for a day of rest.

I'm thankful that the other ladies at co-op were quick to help me with my classes and responsibilities so I could stay home to get well. I'm thankful that I am generally in great health, and that I could use this day of rest to think and ponder. I do love this busy time of life, with a robust family and a healthy schedule. But its hard to find those big chunks of time to think, and read, and write... and think some more.

Today, a sore throat created margin for a good rest in my sunny, cozy space. I am thankful.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Thanksgiving Day 6: The Gift of Farm Work

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. - James 1:17

I have the privilege to work a couple days a week at a therapeutic riding stable near my home. One day a week I go clean the barn, and the second day I help with lessons. I love lesson day when I get to be in the arena with the directors/coaches, students and horses, but cleaning day is my favorite. 

Occasionally, on cleaning day the directors will come to the barn and chat a little, filling us in on life at the farm. On other mornings, it's just The Girl and I left to enjoy the fellowship of four-legged friends, and the physical work of pitchfork and shovel. We talk. Life with a 13 year old always involves a good chat of one sort or another.

We've learned a lot too, The Girl and me. We've learned how to properly clean up after suicidal squirrels. We've learned how to bathe a 1200 pound animal. 

We've learned that our capacity to face our fears is greater than our will to quit. We've learned that a little hard work brings benefits beyond the scope of our service. Scooping poop sounds like a drag, but believe it or not, it's a gift.

A good  and perfect gift...

Last year I wrote a small post of our time here at the stable. The truth is when I wrote that post I was still on the up swing from my great battle with anxiety. To the outward appearance all was well, but in side I still felt uncertain and fragile. I haven't written much about it here on the blog, it's still too close to go back and revisit. The synopsis is: the Lord new I needed time at the therapeutic stable. 

Today I am well, with only a few moments here and there of manageable anxiety. But it's so strange... when I'm in the barn, I'm not afraid. Even when I get nervous around these animals who are powerful and strong, I'm never panic-stricken.  

I am drawn to this place. Not because its glamorous and showy, but because the beasts of the field remind me of a God who concedes His awesome power and might to the likes of broken and feeble riders. God will carry his children. 

The physical labor reminds me that we are made to work. And even if that work involves getting dirty, it is still a Holy calling. Doing work you've been called to do brings joy that rises up over the messes.

The mornings spent fishing squirrels out of water troughs, or tacking a horse for the rider, reminds me that the best way to heal a troubled heart, or a broken spirit, is to quit looking inward. Instead, look up for God's direction, look out to serve His people. There, in that space between upward and outward, is a place of peace and rest.  

For these good gifts I am humbly grateful.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Thanksgiving Day 3: Laughter

If I look too far into the future, I get a little sad. There are only so many years left with all my chicks in the nest.

Today I am grateful for laughter. I give thanks for the memories we're making in the day to day life... memories nobody else holds, but them and me. They've grown. Those teenage years I worried about when I rocked babes in my arms, have come in a whirlwind. I wasn't prepared for the breakneck speed. People would say 'it goes so fast', I simply did not believe.

But it does go fast. So listen. And watch. And laugh when you can, because laughing, together, is the best part of all.

Today I am thankful for laughter.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Thanksgiving Day 2: Eighteen Autumns

We've shared eighteen autumns, him and I.

I love watching him chop wood under the golden hue of fall foliage. Quiet and strong in his favorite plaid shirt. By the end of this day that shirt will smells of pine and smoke and his cologne... I'll breathe the fragrance in deeply, twice, before throwing it in the washer.

I'm thankful for his faithfulness. His patience. His understanding. I'm thankful for his quiet understanding and steadiness. I'm thankful that he does the hard things without complaint, and empties the dishwasher too.

I'm thankful for eighteen autumns.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Thankful Day 1: Church Family

I hope I never waste a moment of life in wishing for something else. I know I wouldn't be satisfied by what wasn't meant to be. Still, I often yearn for gifts that only time can gather.

For instance, here in this place we've called home for five years, I've longed for deep community.

I have had a real taste of sweet fellowship in the past, and in a handful of dear friendships fostered in surprising places on the road. Moving across the country several times in the last 17 years has allowed a taste of community in bites and chews. Sweet friendships that have held the test of time, and will never be severed despite the gap. But, when the tent is packed up, and caravan gets moving, loving at a distance is not quite the same. I prefer sitting in a kitchen, over cups of tea, sharing the dailies of living life.

What I've longed for is a community that I can grow with; and they can grow with me. Families and friends, who will share their troubles, share their joys. I want to go to the weddings of children I knew when they toddled. I want to pray prayers that cannot be rapidly known, allowing the opportunity to learn faithfulness, to share in the gratitude of a longing fulfilled.  I want to experience life with those who want to be known in the dusty and dirty, the sunny and sweet.

I have longed to be in a community that holds one another up, for the long haul, in laughter and truth. I've ached for, and waited, and (honestly) worried, that it might not happen the way I had hoped.

Yet, all things work together.

That is what I am thankful for today... that God hears our prayers and knows the desires of our hearts. He does not lie in wait to hand out stones when we have asked for bread.

I am thankful for the gift of church family. The one that came by total surprise on a cold rainy day in December.

I asked for a loaf, and He gave me a basket. Lavish, and in His timing. To Him be the Glory.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Again October

Fall is here. I am happy.

We've done several little hiking trips as a family. It really is the best time to be outside, with the cooler temps and low humidity. The colors haven't been quite as brilliant as they have been in years past, but the change in scenery is just enough to make one ready to bake with pumpkins and settle in for a long winter.

I love October, the colors, the smells. Of course my Octoberlove could also be that a certain birthday comes around. This year is Forty-One. So much easier than that round number last year. The big 4-0 has been fairly pleasant, if you don't pay too much attention to those places of wrinkle, creak and expand. I'm finding the B-U in BeaUtiful, is becoming easier. Life is too short for anything else.

I was (again) lavishly loved this year by friends and family. I am well loved and cared for, not just on my birthday, but every single day. There is no other turn but gratitude. October reminds me to serve others well. Oh, that I'll remember that throughout the year.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Happy Birthday!!!!!  Your a great Mom, a wonderful friend, and my dear wife, I am thankful for you!

I love you!

The Mister

Friday, September 27, 2013

Brave in the Attempt

"Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me brave in the attempt."
~Special Olympics Athlete Oath

I've tried several times this week to sit and write my thoughts on the Special Olympics Equestrian Tournament, but I'm always at a loss for words. It's just too hard to sit down and write concisely about 72 hours of hard work and beauty.

Three words come to mind when I think about the weekend: bravery, joy, gratitude. 

This weekend we helped riders of all ages, climb on the backs of beautiful beasts. Twelve hundred pounds of conceded power and might, often bearing 90 pound children who ride in a ring. Little girls and older men, they perched. Ready for this day, they were brave.

Some came home with bronze, silver, and gold. Some earned ribbons of color. They all wore joy as a prize, and they did not contain it. As officials placed ribbons upon their necks, joy was lavishly spilled for all to share. Joy isn't meant to be stored. I lapped it up in pride for them, snapping pictures through blurry eyes.

Encouraged in their bravery and privileged to share in their joy... I found myself grateful to play a small part. And small it was. I looked around at all the details that had to be met for this weekend to run. Details months in the making. From staple guns to saddle pads (you can't even imagine all the in-betweens) I watched as others in our large delegation played their parts with cheerfulness and care. I wish I could detail it all, but here are just a few: horse care and tack, scheduling, wardrobe, food, encouragement, set up and clean up. Every-little-thing, volunteers worked tirelessly, with a kindness that only comes from love.

I opened this post with the Athlete Oath. I have pondered these words all week long.  Bravery isn't about winning, its about facing difficult things, and reaping joy in the midst... if we choose to see. Being brave is often portrayed as a personal, private endeavor... this weekend I was encouraged by unconcealed, contagious, bravery and joy. I can't wait to do it again.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A Day with The Mister

We strolled together on the first day of school. Thankful for some time together.

I also thought about that day when a walk in the garden with the man I love is the rule, not the exception.

Though we know it unwise to spend much energy in the times yet to come, it stands before us and demands our attention. In weaker moments we can't help but take it in.

We've entered The Evens: 10th and 8th. Traditionally The Evens have felt well rounded and winsome. This year they leave odd numbered thoughts tumbling in our heads... one year left before she joins him in High School... three years left 'til he's flown from our nest.

The problem is,  the math doesn't make sense. On paper, parenting looks long and drawn out. Could it be our counting was wrong?

So we walk. And though this trouble with numbers weighs heavy on our mind, we don't spend much on that conversation. We talk of sermons we've heard, or books we've read. We laugh about funny moments at work and at home. We enjoy coffee and each other, and we talk about them... the greatest gifts we've ever been given. When they become the focus of our conversation, we might commiserate on how they leave their socks on the floor, "borrow" things that never find their way back, drink from six different cups a day. We laugh at how loud the music has become.

In that space the silence will sail. We're pondering things we haven't the courage to speak. We'll miss those socks and sweet faces. We'll miss having them to talk to and play with.

How will we cope? Is the question we think. The answer?

We'll lean on each other, and pray even more.

We'll walk in the garden together.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Ladybug and Me

This summer we have had so much rain. And this week, without rhyme or reason, the temperatures dropped as if fall has chosen to come early. My garden is waterlogged, and there are hardwood trees in the neighborhood whose leaves decided to go ahead with the turning and falling. No shades of red, just green to yellow, then on the ground. Overnight.

My neighbor gifted me with a bouquet and they make my kitchen happy.  The hearty Hydrangea carries on, holding her own to the bitter end.

This morning I woke up and found a visitor had made a little home in my bouquet.

Even the ladybugs are confused. Normally they come in the cool of the fall, and again in the warmth of early spring. Poor little Ladybird, she doesn't know that next week will feel like August again.

We started school this week, with a light schedule.  I guess you could say this week we've been in for a penny. Next week, in for a pound. Full tilt. No more summer lounging and late nights. I'm grateful. The summer went by so quickly, but we had a lot of fun. I'm ready for quiet times in the house when I can keep order and the kids can study. I guess I'm like the ladybug: ready for cooler weather and being at home.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

More Birds

Life here in the Little Yellow House on the Hill is going swimmingly. We are trying to sop up every last bit of summer. It's gone so fast we're apprehensive to blink.

This week I am trying to get a few projects wrapped up in my office, including organizing a years worth of pictures into a file so I can get them into a book when digital photo books go on sale (an excellent tip I learned at the Becoming Conference). I hadn't realized how much 'stuff' I have photographed. I've got a mess of flowers and trees and things that won't move. They are all in various stages of blurry-ness, but each month I'm learning more.

Today I did get side tracked while playing with Picmonkey. Last month in Arizona I sat in my parents backyard and took pictures of a dove at sunset. While I loved the silhouette the lighting cast, I decided it might be the perfect picture to play and learn to use the editing tools.

This is what I started with:

This is with generous use of filters and tweaking, and one of my favorite scripture verses.

I've got to pull myself away from the computer now. I do have a couple embroidery orders that need sewing, and I've got a large crocheted lace shawl spread out (on a sheet) on the floor, ready for blocking.

But maybe a quick cup of tea first... after all, I only have four more days of summer left!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Grateful Things

This summer has moved swiftly. It's been so fun. Soon (as in this week) we will wrap up our summer-time agenda and head in to the responsibilities for the new school year. Thankfully, I got to sneak in one last get-away with girlfriends this weekend to attend the Becoming Conference in the Blue Ridge Mountains. We stayed about a mile away from the conference center in a comfortable old cottage tucked into the side of a mountain. 

The weekend was filled with everything I needed: friends and sugar... with a few workshops in between.  I am grateful for the things I learned and experienced, both practical and personal, but I'll highlight the top five:

1. New and old friends are good for the soul. Especially when those friends are laid back and easy... grace-filled women make the best of friends. My prayer is that I will always strive to be one.

2. Feedly is a great reader for those of us who are still bitter reeling from Google Reader being yanked from the net. I know I'm probably slow on the draw. You may have already moved on to bigger and better things, but I was still trying to figure out how to keep up with the few blogs I still read. Now I've no need to fear.

3. When registering and paying for a conference Photo Walk workshop, be prepared to ask MANY questions. The rain found us sitting underneath a bridge for the first hour, and the photographer in charge had planned the whole walk around our need/questions while taking pictures. The second hour found sunshine, and hair curling humidity, and maybe a less than stellar attitude about wanting information I didn't know to ask for...  Next time I'll be prepared with a list of questions just in case we end up trapped under a bridge during a rain storm with students of varying experience.

4. I know I've been living under an internet rock for a year (so this might be old news to you) but check out PicMonkey. This is a photo editing website that you can use to edit photos. Although it is completely free (with limited access), it is well worth the yearly fee to access all the other tools. I'm already thinking I'll be making our Christmas card with it this year.*

5.  I don't know why an old farmhouse with the original sink and windows makes me swoon, but it does.  There is something lovely about simple things and it makes me want to throw out all this modern stuff and raise chickens in the country. Of course, I'd have to take my camera, and computer, and sewing machine, and .... well, never-mind. But old houses with modern conveniences and lots of room for people and memories are the best kind of houses for me.
* Picmonkey collage. Go and try it! 

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Blogiversary and Blueberries

Eight years ago on a hot day in July, I picked blueberries for the first time in my life.

Then I came home and started a blog.

For nearly seven years I wrote (almost) daily about the day to day life in the Little Yellow House on the Hill, and the people that live inside. You can go see that very first post by clicking--> Big Blogging Blueberry Day. I can't even believe how small The Girl is in the picture on that page. That was taken half her lifetime ago! The posts in the last year have been few and far between, but I can't quite give it up yet.

In some ways this post is the same.... Last week a new and dear friend gifted me with a bag of fresh picked blueberries. She lives on a beautiful farm at the edge of a lake, and grows fig and apple trees, a garden full of veg, and the largest blueberry bush I have ever seen.

I love being out on the farm where the kids and chickens run wild; the butterflies flit about from one flower to the other. It's quiet and peaceful. But what I love most of all is that this sweet friend is generous, more than happy to share.

My favorite recipe for blueberries is Blueberry Crumb Cake. The only thing I changed was I used Greek yogurt in place of the Sour Cream. And I put mine in a small cake pan, my round pan always causes overflow.

I'm celebrating eight years of southern living, blogging, and blueberry season. Let's eat cake.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Arizona 2013

This month we made our annual trek west. There was family time eating at the red table. The cousins enjoyed making cakes, and dancing, and being together. We travelled to the Town too Tough to Die, mostly because I wanted my kids to experience what I did growing up. We spent time with old friends and caught up as if no time had passed.

Going to Southern Arizona in July means you spend a lot of time in the pool by day, and hike as the sun goes down. And that is just what we did... you can't beat desert hiking while the sunset does her thing. Beautiful.

It's been a whirlwind since we got back home. Back to reality after a slow couple of weeks. I'm still sort of lounging poolside in my mind...