November into December Endless Gifts #17- 57

I am keeping grace gifts with intention – the gifts that startle me alive and I cup my hands to Him as receiving a gift and as an offering…a regular practice of Thanksgiving…

17. side by side with Nathanael, calculating semester grades over Thanksgiving break- and now just days before he is home with his first college semester under his belt!

18. earnest talks with Micah, hoping to impart all that is grace and good, and I write words. I write words and I share them. For him. For always.

19. darling Lanie on the doorstep, and texts with Courtney all the while

20. a bit of lovely sleep

21. Asher, 17- and some good time together (in my favorite- the big white van with a soda for him and a coffee for me)

22. more twinkle lights than ever before and how I love them: on the mantle, on the cube; around the nativit(ies); on “baby ficus(es); on the banister

23. Todd and his patient work with the artificial tree lights; the decoration boxes; the banister; the front door; and more!

24. the gorgeous anticipation of the 2020 powersheet planner; all the cultivate products are so bright they bedazzle my eyes- but then I find myself infused with motivation! I have hopes for transformation. Step by step and day by day.

25. haircuts for boys; haircuts for girls

26. Christmas candles flickering in the windows

27. driving home from a Saturday tutoring session and feeling all the searing pull of conflict in  myself- and letting gratitude rise as I reorient to let each session fuel me to always give the best of my mind, my heart, my attention, my intellect to my own children (the students under my very roof);I need this reminder; I need this fuel. (and as days go by, I actually need to figure this out- and how to do this. It could be that I can’t.)

28. recognizing that it is perfectly okay to honor limits within myself and boldly stating that is true even when my limits make no sense to people around me (now I just need to figure out how to practice this in the day-to-day)

29. the cold slant of sleet and the glow of lights and warmth and hot mugs cupped

30. my littlest daughter: such a bright spark; and us, in the most extroverted circumstances causing such deep cringe for me and the strong desire to escape- and then-

a look down to the small girl at my side- blue eyes aglow, pony-tail a quiver, taking in all the excitement and ready to take it all by storm, too. And the way she stands- confident- violin tucked under her chin, bowing with finesse and plays in a varied ensemble before her very first crowd.

31. a set of quiet time (Bible time) resources that feed my soul with truth and beauty

32. realizing that if I don’t plan for it- it won’t happen – and renewed plans for homecoming and exiting foods for weary students. Have to up the breakfast game around here…

33. taking a moment to appreciate the tiny, beautiful boxwood Christmas tree bedecked in lights and red trinkets at the Festival of the Trees… and then the added 12 months of bouquets from The Cutting Garden that was included in the auction. Swoon. I can only imagine the beauty. The little tree was an ornament of living beauty in the midst of much (very creative) artificial tree offerings- and its life was a breath of joy to me and a promise of hope and a welcome feast to my eyes.

34. the struggle with weight and body; is gratitude the first step to turning around?

35. reflections on the Eagle Scout journey and the way it helps me breathe more deeply and look up and out

36. my oldest two (at home) out to a Christmas concert with dear friends; their happy faces and hearts and the warm memory of it all knit deep for them (Courtney, Lanie, Erin)

37. preparing for a winter recital- and my twinnies each playing two songs on an instrument- and it is such a twin moment for me, I take joy.

38. Aymee’s love notes and all that they are speaking to my heart; help me listen, Lord

39. Todd- and an outpouring that I had kept in and he says, “If you need to externalize to let it go, by all means, do so!” and I could cry with the relief of those words, because clearly, keeping it all inside didn’t achieve that end. And also, just knowing he is open to listening and helping me unpack all that I can struggle with…it is relief.

40. the golden, glory moon on 12.12; I wrote a bit at 66 books about it, but it doesn’t do justice. Also, my two college boys were unable to see it due to cloud cover and the way it was rising. And, I think on my ability to behold and be stunned in the luminous pink and gold rising: O Maryland, you nestled a bit into my heart. I still feel the yawning ache in my belly when I close my eyes and see that holy, huge orb rising with every flaming color and gold.

41. the first work Christmas party with Todd and a pondering; enjoying him and then the next week preparing a platter for the office of all our Christmas goodies. Happily, well-received.

42. tucked in with Little Women on Amazon Prime

43. his fruit salad and her way of helping me get it “all” done

44. the realization that just because it is hard doesn’t mean it isn’t right- and that focus and determination and hard work are worthy companions toward vocation goals and desires; I watch my young adult children face challenges- and I realize it is not in the giving up; it is in the hunker down and forward press- and I am speaking to myself, too. I am changing my mindset about a lot of different things.

45. a winter performance with Opus for small girlies and with bigs and my mom and Nathanael home for winter break, I mark the day in my heart

46. Winter Solstice and Summer Mummers Winter Version (a casual, friendly performance where anything goes: tin whistle, recorder, violin, viola, piano, whistling, ukulele, flute, vocals, drama, and more) and it is the most blissful, perfect night of fun and joy because it is free and relaxed, and I shake my candy cane colored jingle bell so hard a bell flies free across the sanctuary: we’re the mummers- and we cheer!! Abigaile and I can hardly breathe from laughing so hard and keeping quiet.

47. and the way Mummers creates space for me to play music with children; a cello duet; a flute duet… and I breathe deep and feel it all through my body. I want to play more with these children. It’s time.  It doesn’t have to be perfect to be good. It doesn’t have to be pretty to be worth it. I’ve wondered long why these children struggle to play together… and I wonder if part of that secret ingredient might just be me. Help me, Lord.

48. My boys home from college- O! the gladness of this heart and the unending grace of hugs. Final grades post and they breathe relief.

49. Christmas Eve and Christmas morning joy and cozy days tucked in and Disney Plus (a gift that keeps on giving from grandparents and all the movies of childhood)

50. a word for 2020: AWAKE and Powersheets prepped and ready and (so dear to my heart) friendship support;

51. “Mock” New Year’s Eve and my annual Lego Hobbit Game Playing with Asher; and Elenorah and Asher playing soccer with controllers- and she gives him SUCH a run for his money! She just barely loses. At one point- she’s winning. How we laugh and cheer! Group Minecraft where they all play together on a world- and Mellie- she’s here; she’s there; she’s everywhere.  And Catan. Catan forever…and toasts all round and the youngest man (11) says, “to the next decade! 2020!” Indeed! Some love the sparkling grape juice; some hate the sparkling grape juice. O, the memories!

52. the clean kitchen and the way it greets Todd and I in the morning: a gift- and the son who offered it: the best gift.

53. a first driving lessons for two boys at one time; and Todd takes them; and they all come home- and I watch the three as they regale me with the (hilariously) funny stories of this first attempt- and really a milestone; and I think back to all the years ago- with those darling babies- that first Christmas with Asher just under six weeks old. And here we are now- and O, the personalities flame so bright. And the joy of the full-bellied laughter. Nathanael on one side; Todd in the middle; Asher on the other. One (apparently) careful and cautious; one- the methodical, organized teacher; and one, foot on the gas/hand on the wheel- away we go! SO funny. Starting off in a school parking lot on a Sunday afternoon. The best. My boys. Mom of boys forever.

54. two dance/ballet performances at a nursing home and I think of all the stories embodied in each wheeled resident: all the loves, the hopes, the dreams, the real-life dramas, the sorrows, and the pain. Their faces are all so different, and I can’t help but wonder about the lives that led to this place. It speaks to my heart; and it speaks to my life. I watch how much joy the dancers bring, and I especially watch the joy the little children bring. I know the gentle elderly remember their days of ease and energy; I wonder what memories are held in their hearts and minds. I ponder what kind of person I want to be when that time comes for me. How they enjoy the dancers: the holiday spirit is infectious.

55. Time with Todd for Christmas: a dinner out to make plans and talk- I bring issues/ I bring thoughts; and another day- a Christmas movie, us two- and it’s Little Women (at my earnest request/appeal)- as I dig in deep to enjoy one weekend off from working (sort of). The best gift for us. Time together. {I think} And for us, there are still always so many surprises with each other…these moments where I realize: he never knew. He really never knew. Or where suddenly, this full-fledged understanding dawns for him and after missing the mark of each other- suddenly the arrow zings home- and there is clarity and connection where there was a foggy, great divide.  That happened this Christmas, and in my heart- I laugh with joy. There is no bitter sting, only joy and some incredulity. In the best way.

56. surrender and receiving; the way I am going to walk it out this year

57. Barnes and Noble with my boys; and hot tea and talks; and Spotify

58. The night I woke up and found him (at 4:30 a.m.) navigating physical difficulty all on his own; I must have heard him; and with a mother’s unerring instinct- I went. And then awake, I can’t sleep. I sometimes still watch him breathe.

58. This song:

Anchor of My Soul by Josh Garrels- Deeper Well

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas musings and Eggs Benedict Casserole

We are still celebrating Christmas, and I think there is a part of me that hearkens to the traditional 12 days of Christmas celebration. Yes! Let the days stretch and last and make merry all the way through epiphany. Let the days slow and linger. Contemplate and tuck in. These are my days for pondering and for savoring. The natural rhythm turns to reset for the January start of next semester; for the beginning of the New Year; for the crafting of goals and careful intentions; the fresh, blank page fills me with crisp, clean hope and purpose.

We enjoyed a new recipe on Christmas morning that has become a family favorite and enthusiastically voted to be put on the menu going forward. Here is the link to the original recipe, and I will write below “my recipe” which is how I made it dairy free and with what work(s) for us.

On Christmas morning we have always have Clementines, Cinnamon Rolls, Egg Bake Casserole, Hot Coffee (for Todd and me), Tea (for whoever else would like), Spangler Candy Canes, special chocolates from No Whey!and now….going forward!…..

Eggs Benedict Casserole for Christmas

The night before Christmas:

Grease a large pan. Crumble one cooked package of nitrate free bacon. Slice 6 English muffins in quarters. Distribute English muffin pieces and bacon in pan.

Beat 8 large eggs, 2 cups original (plain) Rice Milk OR 1 Can Coconut milk plus water to make 16 ounces, and 1 teaspoon onion powder together. Spread evenly over the muffin and bacon mixture. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.

Bake covered at 375 degrees for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 15- 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes.

While the casserole is baking, prepare the Hollandaise sauce. Melt 1 stick of Earth Balance OR 1/2 Cup Earth Balance in microwave. Allow to cool slightly. Beat four egg yolks separately and then add to Earth Balance. Beat again. Next add 1/2 cream from a can of coconut milk and 2 T lemon juice. Beat until smooth. Heat the mixture in the microwave into 20 second increments, beating rapidly until mixture thickens (1-3 minutes or so). Stir in 1 t. brown mustard.

Drizzle over plated casserole slices.

The sauce is absolutely amazing and good on anything you can imagine!

Delicious!!!

Happy Christmas all!

-Rebecca

Christmas Eve: The Things They Say

{I am barely able to capture this with all the flurry and need in my house right now- so bear with me and imagine and joy with me in the grace gifts of simple delights}

Earlier, I found myself sitting in my bedroom- working on Christmas Eve tasks- sorting, wrapping, supervising gift exchanges– and my darlings were playing about happily with the excitement and energy only Christmas brings. In and out of their bedroom, I hear them caper and cavort.

Then- one little girl in particular- pokes her head out of her bedroom door and calls out to the house at large- to all who hear- to everyone:

“Oh! You must smell this! It smells delightful! It smells SO delightful!”

The savory scent of potato soup was wafting up and in and through every corner of the house warming hearts and creating mouth watering anticipation.

And, I joyed to hear her happy cry: it smells delightful!

We have a long standing tradition of enjoying a “Shepherd’s Meal” on Christmas Eve. It has become one of the most looked forward to meals of the year.

A hearty, delicious potato soup and fresh rolls passed round the table bring happy smiles and joy.

Not to mention- the amazing smells that fill the house as bacon and onion and potatoes blend and mix, soften and simmer.

My heart brims. The steam is rising, curling with white and wispy grace from eleven bowls gathered round. The candles are lit. The faces are shining at table. It’s Christmas time. The chatter is happy and joyful.

And, the soup smells so, so good.

Blessed Christmas!

More soon,

Rebecca

 

The Things They Say (and do)

Note: the rapid pace and change of technology takes my breath away. My little children do not know a world without AI (in the form of Google, Echo, Alexa, and more);  they can ask for music, jokes, weather, and more… it is such an interesting world.

You have to tell Google “Good morning!” when you go downstairs tomorrow- a dear, tech-savvy son informed me. He had an impish grin on his face. “You’ll get a surprise!”- he said. This son has been tech-savvy for years, and this morning, I pondered all that he brings to us with this ability and gift. He has always been my “go-to” person for anything computer related and even machine related.

So- sure enough, when I came down, I got ready to greet Google. The first thing I actually did was tell Google, “Merry Christmas!” because I knew he had set it to greet us back with “Merry Christmas” and play “The Boors head Christmas Carol” which is a comedic delight for my children- which it surely did when I asked. And Jonah and I, who were the two in the kitchen at that moment: laughed and grinned. Nothing like a face-splitting smile on a foggy, cold Monday morning threatening to overwhelm with December.

But then… I called to Google (who has often complimented me on my nice way of asking! too funny) “Hey Google, Good Morning!”

Google then proceeded (programmed) to greet my son (who was not home- away at co-op) by name, call him a handsome devil, and inform (in detail) of the weather, the temperature, and more. Might I add that Google speaks in a lovely British accent! Oh my, how we laughed and laughed. And then…

(which I knew was coming, but still nothing can prepare for the impact)

Morning Has Broken (one of my favorite hymns and a song that has followed me from my childhood) began to stream out of the speaker. It truly is my favorite morning song.

I sat on the chair and cried. I cried because I suddenly felt the impact of all those years and days of Morning Time when I shared my heart; I shared poetry; I shared stories; I shared songs- and now– they are (sometimes) sharing them back to me.

I cried because the song is so precious to me and ministers to my heart, mind, and soul in every way.

I cried because I have been struggling, struggling so greatly in this season to remain faithful to something so simple as Morning Time where I share my heart; where I share goodness, and beauty, and truth; where I share the life-giving words and music that the children will take with them out in the world they will enter. It is so important, and I feel such an intense battle for its place in my day and our life.

I cried because of how much I love this son and the way he brings humor to leaven the day along with (one of) my favorite song(s). I love him so! I cried for the laughter and the beauty and the fierce battle and the loss and the gain. For it all.

And he is handsome- but I wouldn’t call him a devil! (ha ha ha ha!)

Morning Has Broken forever, and this dear son in my heart. And just a note- that this joy combined with Jonah in the kitchen making pumpkin bar for our family- which was also incredible to come down to and find in the kitchen!

HOW BLESSED I AM!

-The Things They Say And Do!

Thanksgiving 2019 (and Endless Gifts)

Thanksgiving 2019

The college boys came home Tuesday night (Tuesday was for driving); Wednesday was for cooking and catching up; Thursday for feasting; Friday (tomorrow) Asher turns 17 and tree decorating; Saturday for Eagle Project work day and community service; Sunday- the boys return to loads of work and finals and the end of the semester- and the rest of us enter on into all that December holds.

I can’t squeeze my boys strong enough. They are both shouldering so much.

I have tapped out this post in the midst of this and that… trying to form a coherent thought- what feels to me- a bit unsuccessfully. I want to wake up to the grace in all the moments. I want to cup the love and life that is mine to treasure and hold. So, here you have my puttered starting and my jolting celebration- as I step forward- as I try:

Thanksgiving comes, and with it- for me, a renewed commitment to count endless gifts.

A collage of Thanksgiving photos and a few Thanksgiving prep photos:

Notes from home: we have a new oven. This caused a bit of a bobble with some of our cooking- ( a couple burnt desserts, for example) but! the sweet potato bake was absolutely the best, most mouthwatering version of itself we have ever encountered. The marshmallows were perfectly toasted, hot, and crispy! It was truly so delicious and such a surprise. We enjoyed our Thanksliving box, Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, and (for the kids) some football outside.

I want walks to always be a part of our Thanksgiving festivities- and today, the wind almost kept me in- as we are under a wind warning- and it was fierce. But, I did manage to step out for just a bit with Nathanael, and O! I am so very glad that we did. We were treated to soul-filling sky glory via the pink and gold sunset complete with a glowing crescent moon and her shining starry sidekick.

I felt a little non-committed with a couple of recipes this year- and it made me laugh to see the children rally. I wasn’t sure about the deviled eggs or the apple pie. Certain family members were highly appalled- and made sure to make those items first Wednesday morning to my surprised delight. Everybody works together, and it did get a little loud and hectic in the kitchen- but it all sorted itself out alright.

We started out preparation day with George Winston’s December playing on the speaker and the tunes changed throughout the day depending on who was at the helm (per se!)

We almost always enjoy Thanksgiving hymns on Thanksgiving from a FamilyLife CD we have and the Eden String quartet (which I love SO much).

Thanksgiving Menu 2019

Appetizers:

Deviled Eggs (Abi and Jonah)

Ham and Pickles rollups (Abi)

Triscuits and Baby Carrots with Special Sauce to Dip (Rebecca; sauce by Todd)

Main Course:

Tossed Salad with Iceberg, Baby Spinach, and Red Onion (Rebecca)

Roasted Turkey (Todd)

Home-made Mashed Potatoes with a delightful onion twist to them(by Todd)

Green Beans (delicious with nutritional yeast and earth balance) (Rebecca)

Home-made Rolls (Micah- dough; A, M, N- roll making)

Broccoli Salad (Micah)

Cranberry Relish (Nathanael)

Sweet Potato Bake with toasted marshmallows (Rebecca)

Warmed Apple Cider (Todd)

Desserts:

Apple Pie  (Joshua and Melodee)

Banana Bread with white icing (Rebecca, Melodee, Norah)

Pumpkin Roll (Abi)

Pumpkin Bar with Vanilla icing (Asher and Abi)

Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie (Jonah and Aymee)

Pumpkin Pies (Asher and Joshua)

Jewish Apple Cake (Nathanael)

*I preside over all cooking and assist in all recipes if and when needed

Endless Gifts

1.safe travels and boys home from college; and I think maybe most of all, their happiness

2.to be welcomed home to steaming chili, and chips, and fresh beds, and time together

3.the big cello nestled once more next to baby cello

4.braided and bun hair fun with girlies

5.time with coffee and thoughts and ponderings in a corner I crafted (just) for me

6.turmeric! this supplement is a wonder!

7.going round the table everyone sharing a favorite (or so) song

8. the way she laughed in such a little girl giggle way at the table singing her song

9. the big boys’ surprise at the little girls singing all the words to the songs they love

10. a sunset walk with Nathanael us both bundled and that glory moon and pink streaked sky

11. photos from my family in Pennsylvania on this Thanksgiving day

12. Asher willingly playing the piano for us Thanksgiving night

13. Micah playing a bit, too the first day(s) home- a bit of summer mummer prep; a bit just for joy, too.

14. The Swan on Cello by Nathanael (Wednesday)

15. Merry (the bunny) romping on and exploring with joy

16. Everything good and delicious loaded on our plates

 

 

 

 

Endless Gifts September into October

joy: hearing him play piano,all the pieces so familiar to my soul- and all the unexpected grace; sitting in first string lessons and being privy to all the artistry, care, and soul. Truly, it is such a privilege.

her sweet face – unhappy – seeing her so run-down with an illness, and the grace that I noticed and pulled her close for the whole day, held her and remembered how she has always needed to be tucked in for a bit for peace, spurred her creative mind and took dictation for her creative writing, listened to her stories, and delighted in her sweet, blond head tucked next to me, and then I suffer with that same illness. And all is well. All is perfectly well.

messages from college of all sorts; texts, phone calls; polos. I love it all.

a gift of pens from a sweet and thoughtful one

messages (online) that speak to my heart and speak to my mind- too hard to link here- but

Joel Clarkson on Instagram; Sarah Clarkson on Instagram; The Cultivating Project; Christy Purifoy on Instagram

all for some good words to nourish mind and soul.

her 1000th day #amazing

IMG_20190919_152103482

Crash Hot Potatoes on a Wednesday and Bacon-Wrapped Chicken Breast

Salad with hard-boiled eggs and home-made thousand island dressing that harkens me to my childhood and my mom

Matt Maher flooding the house

all the ways music connects me to the hearts of my people and how much, how much I have enjoyed every season; The High Kings; The Gray Havens; Andrew Peterson; Josh Garrels; Fleury; John Mark MCMillan; Grits, NF (note: some! NF); Titan; GAWVI; (and so many more-  songs I adore whose names I don’t even know);  playlists curated just for me. Blessed.

Standing on Lehigh’s campus with my sister; my nephew and my son (same age) and jolted by that life two decades ago that brought me here. Who would  have ever known? Certainly not 21 year old me.

IMG_20190921_090704627

Following behind a little bevy of daughters heading to the van to load up for lessons… and my heart thought: the next generation (on cello, viola, and violin)… they had their music bags slung over shoulders and instruments in hand, and they are so small- they were manfully dwarfed by the bags- and my wee cellist was holding her own clad with stool, cello, and bag!

the peace of slowing down for family dinner and family bible and feeling my soul and body restore

giving space for the writing life in my life and squeezing in a bit of reading, too.

IMG_20190929_125509564

IMG_20190927_115211392

the way a bundle of mini carnations- less than five dollars in cost- light up my soul and my life

Homeschool days:

IMG_20190928_113422743

IMG_20190929_124725998

IMG_20191017_172728175_HDR

IMG_20191016_124103562

Powersheets and a dear friend in the journey

a wild, windy day

college boys home on Fall Break and back again and all the driving, driving, driving

IMG_20191013_191746253

it is a bit of a blur in a not so good way; I wobble to anchor my soul

I learn I can drive to Lehigh and back in one day- but then continuing on with a night full of driving- is monumentally not a good idea; my little girls are road warriors; I am grim determination.

output-1.jpg

we look tired- cause we are… so tired.

output (2)

words that made my heart sing from a son at school

batch after batch of chocolate chip cookie bar

standing at Morgan Run with water and rock and leaf and sky and love and joy

October’s gold, and its gilded and… someone else said that, too, and my heart leapt

cozy in gray, so cozy

IMG_20191004_170349639

night soccer games on a blanket under the lights

IMG_20191011_192623112_TOP

opposite missing teeth (twins)IMG_20191009_092704211

Everyone’s missing teeth!

IMG_20191009_092731185

Taking time to breathe and think and ponder and pray.

Endless Gifts. It’s Fall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 1st: End of Summer

IMG_20190901_211125273

Bonfire Night 

Summer night

that brands our minds

with a rivulet of gold

 

like the ruddy flames

that flicker upward

from the last bonfire

glowing at our feet.

 

The sparks singe

and disappear

pinpoints of light

radiating north

 

unlike the memories

of celebrated days

marked by summer’s

sweetness-

 

which instead, nestle

deeper

aflame forever,

heart, soul, mind, memory:

Bonfire Night 2019.