Twelve years old – an unforgettable birthday

Rylee's 12th birthday - chocolate chip pancakes
Rylee’s 12th birthday – chocolate chip pancakes
birthday girl manicures upstairs!
birthday girl manicures upstairs!
Twelve candles and the most amazing cake ever...layers of cake, nutella, raspberry.
Twelve candles and the most amazing cake ever…layers of cake, nutella, raspberry.
hours of Dtuch Blitz for this crew
hours of Dutch Blitz for this crew
Girls coming in at sunset  from their long journey out to their home in the woods - love that she is 12 but still loves to play Little House on the Prairie
Girls coming in at sunset from their long journey out to their home in the woods – love that she is 12 but still loves to play Little House on the Prairie

This will be a memorable birthday for certain.  Rylee turned 12 on Monday.  On the cusp of teenage life but still a girl in many ways.  Such a gift she is.  And what a treasure to spend her birthday month in a place where it is summer.

Valdivia

We decided to head to the coast on Thursday.  It was said to be a roughly 2 hour journey…but four hours later and some kid squabbles in the car en route, we were just finally catching a glimpse of the water.  Worth the wait and worth sitting in road constructions lines, one after another it felt like!

Valdivia was unusally busy so we kept driving and skipped the darling, bustling, riverside downtown and went straight to the open ocean.

The Pacific Ocean from a very different vantage point than we've ever seen!
The Pacific Ocean from a very different vantage point than we’ve ever seen!
The sun here is so hot, much stronger than the sun at home, thanks to the hole in ozone in the southern hemisphere...so the cold water felt great to the kids!
The sun here is so hot, much stronger than the sun at home, thanks to the hole in ozone in the southern hemisphere…so the cold water felt great to the kids!
Twenty years of friendship here - incredibly thankful for the gift that is.
Twenty years of friendship here – incredibly thankful for the gift that is.
Mamas and the girls
Mamas and the girls
Little beach lady Liberty...
Little beach lady Liberty…
Enjoying empenadas on the beach while the kids play
Enjoying empenadas on the beach while the kids play
A pod of dolphins put on a fantastic show - which apparently is quite unusual here...they literally swam back and forth for hours just off the shore!
A pod of dolphins put on a fantastic show – which apparently is quite unusual here…they literally swam back and forth for hours just off the shore!
Rylee and Emma doing Zumba on the beach with Liberty (wearing their new sun dresses we bought from a Peruvian man selling them in the sand)
Rylee and Emma doing Zumba on the beach with Liberty (wearing their new sun dresses we bought from a Peruvian man selling them in the sand)
Beach buddies
Beach buddies
Had to tack this photo in even though it isn't from Valdivia - stunning view from a friends home over the hill from where we are staying - such hospitality, it amazes me.
Had to tack this photo in even though it isn’t from Valdivia – stunning view from a friends home over the hill from where we are staying – such hospitality, it amazes me.
An attempt at a panoramic shot of this gorgeous valley
An attempt at a panoramic shot of this gorgeous valley

Chile – day 10

A few days ago we went to a park in Temuco.  It was beautiful and large and the kids enjoyed running on all the trails.  We could see the whole city from the lookout tower.  Eucalyptus trees are everywhere and also a sort of bamboo looking plant that is called something I don’t remember.  The food is exceptional.  Simple and delicious.  A large piece of our day is spent preparing and eating food and then hand washing dishes for twelve people.  Yes, that’s right.  Life without a dishwasher for a month.  A favorite so far is choripan.  A grilled chorizo sausage stuffed inside the made-fresh-today bread that is absolutely everywhere.  Topped with ketchup or mustard or mayo…so good.  And for us gluten-free ones it is just as good as simply sausage on a plate.  Very fresh and spiced to perfection.  There are nectarinas de platano.  Super sweet local nectarines that we eat a dozen or more of most every day.   And there is palta, even for breakfast, I’ve never eaten so many avocados in my life.  Pebre is on the favorite list too.  I can’t leave here without learning to make it.  A finely diced salad with onions, cilantro and a smattering of other delicious things combined to make an exquisite pile of yumminess that can be eaten alone or on meat or rice or anything.

On our way home from the butcher this week my conversation with Tina went something like this:

Me:  So you said we are grilling steak for dinner yes?

Tina:  Yes that’s right.

Me:   But I heard Rodrigo say something about sausage…

Tina:  Oh, yes, well we’re going to grill sausages for choripan first then have the steak after its done cooking on the grill.

Kyler (chiming in):  Two kinds of meat in one dinner?!  I love meat!

With the bounty of summer produce in full swing and a fantastic butcher in their pocket, we are more than well set for food.  Though I don’t think my friend (and mother of two children) could possibly have imagined the staggering amount of food we would go through our families combined.  It is quite a lot of food!  She has ever so graciously opened up her kitchen to me and welcomed us so fully into their home.

There are all sorts of nuances that are unique to life here.  And very different than our life in the American suberbs.  An Italian man  just pulled onto the property wanting to sell things so he could make money to fly home to Italy.  There is no government welfare system.  No 50% of the population dependent on federal money for subsistence.  So if they have not, they have not.  If they are lucky they have help from a friend or relative.  If not, their options are nothing like the thriving, largely over-used welfare system in the US that has created such incredible dependence on the government.  They turn tricks at main intersections in the city, hoping for a few pesos to be handed out of car windows.   They drive carts with oxen selling seaweed across old cobblestone roads.  No doubt there is much more than we get glimpses of.

Tuesday we all went to the market in town.  Every Tuesday the vendors get fresh produce so the selection and freshness was enough to leave any herbivore drooling.  There were spices in buckets and bags for sale in bulk.  Beans too, gorgeous beans of every kind.  Pickled onions and fresh cheeses and butter laid across counters.  Fresh fish laid out over ice.  There were stray dogs all over.  Rylee’s favorite part was the variety, she said.  There was a man threshing wheat through a wooden strainer and ladies selling fresh cooked wheat used for making some sort of dessert.   Five miles down a dirt road every time we want to go somewhere means one dirty car.  And our water usage at the house for a dozen people has been high so we weren’t about to wash a car with it!  For a few dollars, Tina got her car washed while we shopped.  A man chopped corn with a machete.  A Mapuche (the natives of this area) woman sold cilantro.  There are all sorts of people trying to support their families by selling whatever they are able to.

Our children won’t ever forget this.  Their eyes are opened wide every day.  Smells, sounds, sights and tastes that are all new.  We are so glad to be here and so thankful to be together.

Eating ice cream for Lucas' birthday on Sunday!
Eating ice cream for Lucas’ birthday on Sunday!
There is a drought here.  Tina says she's not see it this dry before....this means very dirty feet and a busy bathtub!
There is a drought here. Tina says she’s not see it this dry before….this means very dirty feet and a busy bathtub!
The view of Temuco from a park on a hill
The view of Temuco from a park on a hill
The kids trying to utilize the merry-go-round at a park
The kids trying to utilize the merry-go-round at a park
To say everyone loves Finn here is an understatement - they call him "el Finn" - and they love watching him eat!
To say everyone loves Finn here is an understatement – they call him “el Finn” – and they love watching him eat!
Oxen pulling a cart of seaweed near the market
Oxen pulling a cart of seaweed near the market
Heading in to the butcher for our meat for the week
Heading in to the butcher for our meat for the week
Not a typical American butcher - nearly every part of the animal is for sale here, ears, head, feet...everything!
Not a typical American butcher – nearly every part of the animal is for sale here, ears, head, feet…everything!
Spices at the market
Spices at the market
Beans and lentils at market
Beans and lentils at market
Cheeses and butter
Cheeses and butter
Kids waiting while Rodrigo and I picked out nectarines
Kids waiting while Rodrigo and I picked out nectarines
The view from the hill on the back of our friends' property
The view from the hill on the back of our friends’ property
Feeding the crew
Feeding the crew
Wood is the heat source here - no fancy heat pumps or central air.  This tractor showed up several times this week with wood for the coming fall and winter.
Wood is the heat source here – no fancy heat pumps or central air. This tractor showed up several times this week with wood for the coming fall and winter.

 

Far from home

Sometimes dreams do come true.  For the past couple of years we quietly dreamed of taking a respite from work and life and spending a significant amount of time together as a family.  Time to slow and time to love.  We spoke of it to no one and simply waited until a door opened.  And when it did, we walked through each door, holding our dream with open hands, trusting that if it were meant to be it would unfold.  Then one day we found ourselves buying plane tickets to Chile.

So here we are.  Thousands of miles from home.  Far enough south that it is summer here.  No internet connection.  No grocery down the street.  No paved roads for miles.  Nothing familiar except the love of friends.  The kind of friends you can show up with your six children in tow and move in for a month.  The kind of friends with decades of shared history, the kind you can’t replace or replicate for anything.

Taking each day as it comes.  No grand plans but to experience life in a very different place.  To spend our days together.  Our friends have 30 acres of land and a beautiful house that is partway done being built.  I’m hoping to be able to write a little of our journey on here and post some pictures and stories along the way.

Turns out Finn is as enjoyable and entertaining here as he is in the States.  Last night our friends hosted a birthday BBQ for their son and Finn kept everyone smiling even across the language barrier.  As did his little sister.  Cute is a universal language.

A birthday dinner is really more of a nine or ten hour party.  And if people get tired they simply take a nap on your couch or in your bed – how wonderful is that?!  The pace of life is so different.  Adjusting to a new place and recooperating from over 25 hours of travel to get here is sure made easier by the exceedingly more relaxed pace.  We watched Audrey and another little girl walk around the house yesterday, teaching each other the names of items in Spanish and English.  We watched our kids learn Chilean hide and seek and adapt to different rules and try to understand a language that isn’t their own.

roasting a whole lamb which we purchased down the road the day before - no hamburgers at this BBQ!
roasting a whole lamb which we purchased down the road the day before – no hamburgers at this BBQ!
Karissa's iphone pics 2014 796
sunrise over our friends’ beautiful piece of land
Karissa's iphone pics 2014 798
Finn rocking the LA airport in style...
Finn rocking the LA airport in style…
Rylee with a stray dog that wandered onto the property - the kids named him Emmett
Rylee with a stray dog that wandered onto the property – the kids named him Emmett
Kids sleeping on the floor, about 20 hours into our journey, at the Santiago airport
Kids sleeping on the floor, about 20 hours into our journey, at the Santiago airport
The boys have to go out and fill the water tank every morning and and afternoon so that we have enough water at the house - we are going to draw straws for kid baths soon - none have bathed since we arrived :)
The boys have to go out and fill the water tank every morning and and afternoon so that we have enough water at the house – we are going to draw straws for kid baths soon – none have bathed since we arrived :)

 

the view from the  back door
the view from the back door

More next week…no doubt new adventures await in the days to come!

 

 

A far away love

I handed her the paper in the living room after dinner, “You need to read this” I simply said.  I’d been waiting for hours to give it to her, knowing full well what it would mean to her, how the words would make their mark, knowing I had no choice but to show it to her.  She glanced at it and knew right away.  She didn’t even finish reading it.

Rylee has been writing Fatuma, her sponsored Compassion child,  for seven years.  They almost share a birthday but they’ve shared many words, colored pictures and family photos over the last several years.  In the beginning I wrote the letters.  She dictated to me what to say and I wrote.  She would color or sign her name.  But these past few years, she writes herself and shares life and love with her precious “sister” in Kenya.

A year and a half ago she came to me and asked if she could forego birthday and Christmas gifts and save money towards her years long dream of going to visit Fatuma and meet her face to face.  And that’s exactly what she’s done.  She opened a bank account and together with her brother also started an egg selling business to save enough money for a ticket to Kenya.  She is close to the amount required for a ticket.  Next year was the year we planned to go.

So when the letter came, the one that said Fatuma’s parents had taken her out of the program and she could no longer be our sponsor child, it absolutely broke her sweet heart.  She started to cry and she did not stop for the rest of the evening.  I even made her favorite cookies.  She tried to smile and said a quiet “thank you”.  But then returned to her spot on the couch where she rested her head for the evening.  On her own initiative her little sister brought her out a birthday gift, one she’d bought with her own money, three weeks early, to give in hopes it would ease the sadness.

Who will make sure she is ok?  Can we still go see her next year?  The questions came through the tears.  Will she have enough to eat?   Why did they take her out of the program?  Is there any way we can find her?

Hard questions.  Ones I couldn’t answer.  It took me two days to think I was ready to call Compassion and ask them for any more info they might have.  Turns out I wasn’t ready at all.  Our hearts are so intertwined with this sweet girl far away.  I choked out questions and the young thing on the phone had no idea what to do with my tender heart.  She read from the file on the computer.  She answered the same questions twice.  She listened.

There was nothing that could be done.  The workers had gone to her house, she was well but her parents simply had made a decision.  We could write one final letter.  And that would be all.  Rylee’s trip in September of next year that she had painstakingly saved for, would not look like the in-person reunion she had dreamed of.   And she would have to wonder if her friend across the world was finding her way all right.

As we brushed shoulders in the kitchen and she crumbled in my arms again,  I got this beautiful, heart-twisting glimpse of what real love looks like.  And just like I wrote in my last post, it hurts.  It hurts to love hard.  There is cost beyond what you can possibly calculate to loving with abandon.

“God’s still good right?”  I whispered.  Yes.  All the time.  Always good.  Not the good I’d choose of course.  But always good.  “If we didn’t care about her so much, this wouldn’t be such a loss.  Don’t doubt for a minute that God has a plan for you, for your journey, for everything.  We just have to ask and wait.  He’ll show us.”

Love and loss go together.  Today at lunch as kids admired my pendant necklace, the one with one of Grampy’s ties encased in it, they asked about him.  It’s been five years this month.  Five years since my husband returned from the search and rescue mission to find his father in the mountains.  Audrey was a baby then.  She asked lots of questions and pondered how very hard it must have been for her daddy to find his father frozen by the lake.  I’ve held the necklace between my fingers dozens of times today.  Wishing he were here to do silly things with our kids, to be proud of who his son is, to love my cooking and pour me another glass of sparkling cider.

The cost of love

I couldn’t see well enough through the tears to even make sure I was picking up every single piece of china shards off the floor.  At first I could only stand there and hold the kitchen towel over my tightly shut eyes.  Knowing that when I opened them, I would see the shattered tea cup saucers in pieces strewn across the hardwoods.  The box had been too close to the edge of the counter and had tipped onto the hard floor before I knew what was happening.  Fragments of delicately painted flowers broken into razor sharp angles all over the place.

Every month we host a girls’ tea group at our home.  We delight in setting beautiful tables and making delicious food and providing a place for friendship to grow and hearts to knit together.  For my friends who come and bring their daughters, they’ve come to know that they will be lavished with love here.  I’d like to think they anticipate being served and loved because I’ve done just that for them month after month for many months.  We use my grandmothers wedding crystal and my mother’s tea cup and saucer sets.   Each one of the thirteen, a unique and beautiful piece of bone china.  I pour their tea or cider after we’ve talked some about life and Jesus and the other important things.  The girls talk and laugh at their table while the mamas share tea and encouragement at ours.

To say its been a highlight of our month, is understated.  There can be a dismal week (a little like this one) with a child on crutches after a trampoline injury and four other kids with fevers and coughs and grumpy hearts and a worn down mama who’s doing all her normal work plus the chores of all the sick ones too.  There can be all sorts of un-wonderful-ness.  But then there is tea.  And despite what the week (or month) held, we get this precious respite from normal.  Instead of salsa and jelly stains on the tablecloth, there is a clean white lace one.  Instead of piles of school work at each seat, there is china and crystal and candles and beauty.  Instead of carrots and cucumbers and too-healthy-somethings, there are raspberry vanilla topped chocolate cupcakes.

Mind you, there are still hand prints all over the slider to the yard.  When the sun beams in, I’m blinded but still manage to notice the smears from wet dogs anxious to come inside all over the glass.  The bathroom is orderly but it bears the constant smell of “boys use this bathroom”.  The spoons are mismatched.  The wallpaper is peeling.  A piece of molding fell off the wall.  It is not perfection.  But it is a welcome haven that beats with love.

Much of my life is not easy, does not come easy or easily.  Life with a half a dozen children is many (wonderful) things, but certainly not that.  But this – this tea, the hours long hand washing of dishes that follows each gathering and the flurry of every tea morning to get everything in order and the lull of feminine chatter ringing around every corner?  It’s the deepest kind of delight for me.  It flows in the most natural, instinctive way.  To get to give love in this way, is rich and priceless.

So, when the box tilted and the dishes went flying, the loss wasn’t really about the tea sets.  I know good and well they are just dishes.  It was about what they were a part of, what they helped to provide.  And as I stood there speechless staring at the box of brokenness, something made sense in a new way.

This is way I live and love.  I spent many years with the fine china and my heart tucked away safe.  And no one knew the beauty of what I had to offer, at my table or from my heart.  The decision, whether its’ reached in a day or a year, to wear your heart on the outside, to love people like crazy, to bring out the beloved dishes and use them, its a risky one.  Loving people, really loving them with all you’ve got, is immeasurably perilous.   The likelihood that your heart will break into pieces that feel sharper than any knife, is a million to one.  My heart and my dishes would be safer locked away, if you don’t use them, they’re highly likely not to break.  No one could argue with that.  And were they to stay there, cherished young girls wouldn’t get to sit by candlelight and feel treasured as they eat on plates my most beloved grandmother received at her wedding in the 1940’s.  Were I to stay safe, love safe, love guarded….well, my life and relationships would look wildly different than they do today.  In a thousand different ways.  There would be emptiness where there is fullness.  There would be scathing poverty where there is abundant richness.

Choosing to be daring, to live out love, pays the deepest kind of dividends.  And in the very same instant, it means knowing the searing pain of absolute heartbreak.  The two go hand in hand.  I suppose what’s struck me today is simply that its worth it.  Taking your heart, and your gold-rimmed china, out of the box and giving pure love lavishly to others – it is worth it.  Worth the mess, the cost and the pain.  Even though you know they might break.  It’s still worth it.

What every tween girl needs to know

She’s almost twelve.  This lovely, sweet oldest child of mine.  She is leaps and bounds more delightful than my 12 year old counterpart.  I think of my twelve year old self and shudder.  My poor parents.  But that’s another story.  I have to write down this story from today before I forget because it matters too much not to remember…

Dear precious daughter,

I don’t want you to forget, so I’m writing you this letter.  It might not have seemed like the sort of day you need to remember.  But you’ve got to trust me and know that my thirty-five years have left me knowing more each year how only a few things in life actually matter.  It started a Monday like any other.  But with some changes in the girl dynamics of the co-op we attend every week.  You need to know, I saw you.  I saw you hold back and make room for someone new.  I saw you watch things all shift and everyone struggle to find their place.  You probably think I didn’t notice.  You probably felt like it seemed silly how deeply you felt the change and how hard it was, how hard it is when things go from something comfortable and familiar to something different and new and all in one day.  Daughter, it isn’t silly and your ability to feel deep things, is a God-given wonder.  You may question that in years to come.  I surely have.  You’ll have to learn to trust that it is part of your intentional, purposeful design.  You will get to figure out for yourself that no slew of emotions, no amount of irrational, hormonal talk is too much for God to handle.  I will drive you nuts sometimes and I won’t say the right thing.  I may make you wonder if I really ever was young once in my trying-to-be-wise mother speak.

My mama heart hurt as I stood back, knowing you girls would all need to find your way today.  You were gracious and good.  But I saw your heart and it was sad, I knew.  At lunch time I got a text from a friend asking you for a sleepover, tonight, a school night.  The rule-following mother in me wanted to say “no way, it’s a school night!”.  But the tender hearted, receiver-of-God’s-extravagent-love mother knew the only answer was yes.  So I shot a one-word text back, “yes”, until I had a break and could write more.  We drove home in quiet.  You walked into the kitchen and I wrapped my arms around you.  I held your head close and whispered these words I want you never to forget…

God loves you so much girl.  He cares about every. tiny. detail.  He saw your day and he knows it wasn’t easy.  Your heart matters to him.

So much so that he has gifted you a sleepover this very night with your beloved friend, I told you.  I felt your tears on my cheek as the words soaked in.  Mine joined yours and I held you tight.  It’s true.  You’ll wonder and doubt if it is and that’s okay.  The emotions, the complicated, beautiful mystery of being a woman can feel like a burden not a blessing some days, months, years.  You will feel what seems at times too much, too deeply and relationships will dizzy your heart and mind.  Things that were once one way will be another.  Friends will disappoint and disagree.  Imperfect people will say or do things that break your heart.  It is the way of a broken humankind in radical need of a perfect, saving One.

As you got in the car tonight with your sweet friend, I looked up to the fickle sky.  I grinned.  The dark, rainy sky had met the sun.  And over the trees full of flaming autumn leaves sat a perfect, brilliant rainbow.  It took my breathe away.  The promises of God wrapped up in one physicial reminder that He knew we would always need.  We would need to know

He

is

always

here.

It felt like it was just for you as you drove down the road literally right under the rainbow as I watched from the front porch.  It is in the grey places of pain and loss and change that we get to see the rainbow beauty.   So precious one, remember today, this plain ordinary Monday where the God of the universe reached down into your life and showed you a glimpse of His heart for you.  Oh how He loves you, I said quietly as you walked away.  And He does.  Sometimes it will be quiet and hidden and small.  Then sometimes it will be magnificent and unmistakable.  He will show you a million different ways as you journey through life.  And I’ll be right here, praying you can see and feel His incredible, beyond words love for your one-of-a-kind self.

Life with you in it is such a gift.

All my love,

your Mama

An epiphany on food

I am all over the place when it comes to food and menu planning and grocery lists and all that important stuff.  There are eight eating people in this house.  And since we school at home, they eat here.  Nearly all their meals.  Which adds up to a dizzying 21 meals per week in this kitchen of mine and at least two snacks a day too!  If the belly is growling and wanting, it is terribly hard to learn and focus and engage in learning.  But preparing food is only one of a great many hats mamas wear.  This is my recent new insight on the matter, after sitting down and making a list of our favorite 31 meals, thinking we could just rotate through each day of the month.  (insert smirk or giggle here) Yes, I really did think it a good idea.  But I am learning to simplify and more importantly realizing that having 31 meals to choose from is a “first world problem” – meaning, the majority of the world would be grateful simply to have one solid meal a day.  Let alone three.  Let alone a wonderfully organized list of 31 great dinners.  My life needs to work for me and I need time to be spent where it matters most.  Researching the latest food trends and reading food blogs and color coding my dilapidated recipe binder are not how I choose to spend my minutes right now.  Having a vast array of meal choices is in fact not helpful for me at this current life stage.

Enter theme nights.

It all started with Mission Mondays, where we eat a very simple meal of brown rice and lentils and practice gratitude for our bounty and provisions while remembering how most of the world eats, meagerly.  Then came Taco Thursdays and Make your Own Pizza Fridays.  We don’t have it down pat yet.  But the general idea is, each day of the week is narrowed down a bit.  Crock-pot meals on Tuesdays when we have a quick dinnertime turn around.  Soups on Saturdays.  Salad bar or our beloved Garden Hash on Wednesdays when I have time in the late afternoon to chop a bunch of veggies.

This is our general outline:

Mondaylentils and rice
Tuesday – Crock-pot something (like this roast-terrible photo but a delicious meal served over mashed potatoes)
Wednesday – Garden Hash (recipe below)
Thursday – Tacos of any kind – lots of ways to mix it up each week like this insanely delicious pork taco recipe
Friday – Make your Own (pita) Pizza – kids love it and its a wonderfully fun way to end the week
Saturday – Soup or Stew
Sunday – whatever is left or needs eating up (if nothing else, apples and popcorn, I ate that every Sunday night growing up!)

The underlying premise for me behind this simplifying for this season is this truth:

Food is intended to sustain and nourish us so we can get to the all important tasks of living and loving.

It isn’t meant to be a daily showcase of our mad kitchen skills or be catered to one persons picky tendencies.  It doesn’t need to impress my kids or have five different items to serve up every night.  What matters far more is the cultivating of “family” that happens when we gather together to share a meal.

Though summer is quick becoming a memory and it is pouring rain at the moment, I’ll still share what is probably one of our family favorite meals.  It’s my own creation and is ever so flexible and might not be an exact science since we already established my extra time and energy are not spent imitating Ina Garten or Rachel Ray.

Garden Hash (serves 4, we double or triple this):

Saute in a skillet 1 lb ground beef and one onion chopped.  Add a clove or two of crushed garlic. Once the meat is cooked and broken up, add whatever garden bounty you like.  We love a head of kale or rainbow chard chopped up real small, several carrots grated, a zucchini or even a peeled, chopped sweet potato are delicious too. Really, the sky is the limit.  Salt and pepper the hash.  Let the kale or chard wilt, the potatoes simmer till soft, all in the one pot.  Add water if needed for the simmer, but also add the all important ingredient, tamari or soy sauce.  How much?  Well, I’d just say several swigs and then taste after five minutes, if I had to guess, maybe start with 1/4 cup?  We usually eat it in a pile on a plate and its ugly so I don’t have a photo for you.  It can also be served over rice, quinoa, steamed greens or roasted diced potatoes.

On crazy busy life and “The Best Yes” by Lysa Terkeurst

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a review.  While I have certainly read some good books, I haven’t managed to sit down and write about them.  But this one requires passing on, The Best Yes, by Lysa Terkeurst.  Our flurried, broken, overextended-in-every-way American culture is a living, breathing example of many examples of “you reap what you sow”.  Instead of breaking down that reality, may I just say that despite very intentional efforts not to live inside the crazy…sometimes it seems impossibly hard to step back, step aside, step OUT of the continual myriad of activities.  Nearly all of them GOOD things.  The amount of extracurricular options is staggering.  Whether you are married with kids or without, single, young or old….there is nary a shortage of ways you could spend your time and energy.

One particular aspect of this that I find it difficult to navigate is the mentality that if you don’t offer your children a plethora of options, be they flute lessons, karate, a spot on the baseball team, chess club, horse back riding lessons, 4-H, drama class, choir, soccer, art lessons and tickets to a play or five at the local kids theater, that somehow they will be cheated of a “well rounded” and “rich” upbringing.  The array of “good things” here is at best mind-blowing.  And at worst, well, I don’t know.  I suppose I would just venture to say that this way of thinking is a plague in our culture and in fact, learning to have some white space or margin in your life is perhaps one of the very best tools parents should empower their kids with.

It sounds easy right?  But its not.  Even having moving out of the city into a more rural area, there are so many things one can do!  I have done much quiet thinking about it this past year, a year that left me gasping for breath and feeling like I could not, would not possibly be able to continue on the same path.  A wise mother said to me just last Tuesday while listening to me wrestle out loud with the too-many-options dilemma, “I have come to a place where I honestly believe, if my child has a very exceptional, genuine kind of gift at playing piano or baseball or something….that talent will well up and emerge regardless of my ability to provide copious amounts of lessons and instruction in its realm.”  I breathed a sigh of great relief.  And my heart agreed.

If I believe that God’s plans for the lives of my children will not be thwarted by my inadequacies and imperfectness as a parent, then I can instead invest in loving them well, building strong, healthy relationships, providing a solid, vibrant foundation for their lives. Which I’ve come to believe MUST include having a weekly schedule that has room in it to breathe.  I absolutely must, as a mother who seeks to walk in wisdom, learn how to make thoughtful decisions for our family and for my own life that reflect a measure of having ‘counted the cost’ of each and every spoken and unspoken YES in my life.

This is where the book by Lysa comes in.  I ended the summer feeling terribly unready for the year ahead.  Still struggling to bounce back from last year.  When I read the tagline under the title, Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands, my head just nodded and I clicked ‘place my order’ before the book had even been released.  It is practical and so well breaks down the reality of every “yes”.  Yes to one thing means a no elsewhere, this is the part I hadn’t learned to think through very well.  I just kept on with yes’.  I would liken it to writing a check on an empty bank account, eventually the debt is in your face and you have to deal with it.  Lysa  breaks down, wonderfully well, various ways to learn to cultivate this sort of wisdom and also delves into why it matters so much.

I am learning to weigh my yes and to really sift through all the implications it will have.  Slowly, albeit, but learning nonetheless.  Just yesterday we were at the pumpkin patch, having great fun with my sister as we have done every year for at least 8 years in a row.  I started to get anxious being there, knowing that in two weeks our homeschool group is going on a group trip to another pumpkin patch.  I feel obligated to go, my mind had already relinquished to having to go.  But as I thought more, talked it out loud a bit, it was so clear.  Yesterday was my “best yes”.  Two weeks from now will be my wise “no”.  And in that, I get to practice something I am not good at, giving grace to myself.  Grace to say “one pumpkin patch trip with my six children is all that I can manage this year and that is okay, more than that, it is wise and good”.

If life feels a bit over the top and you aren’t sure how to proceed or how to grow in this aspect, this book is an excellent, very worthwhile read.  Really, just about everyone I know fits into that description in some way!  My copy is heavily highlighted and written on, which is one of my best measures of good books.  Beyond that, my life is incorporating the practical wisdom from the pages and that is surely the best part.

Here are a few snapshots of our one and only wonderful pumpkin patch trip this weekend:

big boys Oct 2014
Finn's pumpkin
Lib and mama
Lib Oct 2014
nana and girls
three girls
photo 4
photo 5

Update – Missions Mondays recipe

I found my recipe to share with you!  If you want the full story, scroll down two posts to read the original Missions Monday post.  Here is the way I make the meal packets:

1 cup brown short grain rice

1/2 cup brown lentils

3T chicken broth powder

1/4 tsp garlic powder

a pinch of salt

Store in glass jar or ziploc bag.

With each packet, these are the cooking instructions – for our family of 8 we make two at a time:

Put 1 Tablespoon olive oil in medium saucepan.

Dump in “meal mix” (whole bag), saute for a minute on low/medium heat

to warm and awaken the spices.

Add 3 1/2 cups water, bring to a boil,

cover, turn to low, simmer 45-50 minutes until most all water is absorbed.

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