Looking up today

Just so it’s no secret, this list is changing my life.  Choosing, even in the midst of the constant flow of life’s hard things, to find something to be thankful for…and to learn that the hard things can be the good things.

#72 – being awake early, alone, on a Monday

#73 – anticipation of seeing old friends again

#74 – first sunburn of the year

#75 – three uninterrupted hours of gardening

#76 – an impromptu adventure

#77 – courage to finally order photos from Christmas

#78 – the smell of coconut oil

#79 – baby spiders

#80 – baby birds

#81 – watching lambs frolic

#82 – learning one painful step at a time that God is my audience…not people

#83 – tender hearts of little boys

#84 – sacred moments unpacking fishing gear that was Grampy’s

#85 – breathtaking beauty in the mountains

#86 – finishing up school work for summer

#87 – watching God do what I myself told Him He could not do

#88 – my children have a father to celebrate this weekend

#89 – somehow Grace will carry my husband through losing his

Impromptu adventures are the best kind…

I woke up this morning, early – before anyone was awake.  I love that.  It doesn’t happen too often.  I took one look outside at the blue shining sky and it seemed that the only thing that would do was to spend the morning outside.  I quietly gathered whatever food I could find that would travel, not having planned ahead at all on a monumental hiking adventure.  Wheat flatbread crackers, a ‘wheel’ of cheese wedges, carrots, apple slices, Larabars, cashews and waters.  We had (as always) some overripe bananas so I made some banana muffins for a to-go breakfast and filled water bottles for all.

When it seemed reasonable I awoke my husband (who gets up at 4:30 on weekdays and loves weekend mornings) and said, “We simply must go hiking today.”

So as children woke up, we told them about our pending adventure and they quickly dressed.  I love the bustle of unexpected fun.  It was wonderful. I decided to leave the camera and just relish the fun.

We set out for a hike we haven’t done all together for a long time, years I think.  Just the drive to the foothills of the Cascade Mountains was breathtaking.  Keep in mind we haven’t seen much sun for…well, a long time.  Seattle didn’t earn it’s reputation as the rainy city for no reason.

The kids bounded up the trail, taking in every little plant, rock, tree, centipede, the sound of the water.  It was magical.  I kept saying over and over and over “Beauty, beauty, BEAUTY!”  I found myself wishing I had Psalm 19:1 memorized,

1The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.

We were captivated by all that He had made and as we walked together, helping one another over big logs and steep inclines, I was again so thankful that learning and teaching are part of the natural fabric of our family.  We took turns answering questions and asking new ones, explaining eco-systems, naming plants, holding a bright centipede and making ‘erosion’ understandable.

Rylee enjoying the view (taken with Chris’ phone)

The kids cooling their feet in the icy river

And I learned the same lesson over again…being a mother requires you to go beyond what you think you can do, all the time.  The thing is we can endure more than we think and we are capable of more than we know.  I wanted to give up at the middle falls today.  I was sure my body would fail me if we continued to the top.  I’ve lost a few pounds but not enough to make a nearly 6 mile round trip hike with 1200 feet elevation gain feel like a walk in the park.  Did I mention I carried two year old Audrey in the Ergo carrier almost the whole way up AND down?  But my husband was determined and the kids were so happy, I wasn’t about to be the party pooper.

We made it.  I must admit I was quite proud of myself.  The fact that I can barely walk or move now is besides the point.  We experienced, we conquered and we enjoyed every single minute.

Watching life unfold

These little spider babies just hatched this morning on our playset outside.  I could watch them all day.  Flying in the wind, spinning thread and leaving their little home – just like the Charlotte’s Web story that always makes me cry.

Even more excited than spider-watching we have had the adventure of a baby robin nest in the front yard with newly hatched babies that have been knocked out of their nest by crows and aren’t old enough to fly yet.  With our neighbors, we’ve been trying to help them survive long enough to fly away on their own…this is particularly special for me as I have the fondest memories from my childhood rescuing birds with my mother.  We had large glass windows that birds often would fly into and get stunned and they would rest in our bird cage until they could fly again.  So bird-helping is in my blood I’m quite sure.  It was only natural that we would do the same with these cute little fellows…

Maybe it sounds cliche but the words of that song by Sarah McLachlan come to mind watching all the spring signs of new life unfolding –

Isn’t it remarkable?
Like every time a raindrop falls
It’s just another ordinary miracle today

Birds in winter have their fling
And always make it home by spring
It’s just another ordinary miracle today

It is these ordinary miracles that propel our life forward as we continue to figure out how life looks without someone we love.   Despite hearts that are still broken we have a daily choice to see the remarkable in our everyday or to miss it.

Just Heard Thursday

Kyler:  “Mom, I just did the best ‘m’ ever, come see, it’s my best ‘m’ you have to come see!”

Mom (raising voice much higher than needed and slurring every word together talking too fast):  “What?  On the newly painted white moulding? Why in the world would you do that?  Do we have paper?  Why would you write on a door frame?”

Kyler:  “But it’s a good ‘m’ Mama, my best one…”

Mom (two deep breaths in, realizing I’m crushing a proud little heart):  “Yes, but we write on paper buddy, not on pristine freshly painted wood.  Next time show me your letter on paper okay?”

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Kyler (sounding royally annoyed in the dark at bedtime):  “Why’d I have to get circumcised?”

I’m starting to think that the Bible on CD we can’t get enough of might inspire some questions and conversations I’m not quite ready for…

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Kyler (again frustrated, talking to himself while walking to the bathroom):  “Can’t believe I have to go the bathroom again, I already went yesterday.”

Roast chicken dinner

It’s a constant thing finding easy, healthy dinners that don’t break the grocery budget.  This was a favorite last week and I wanted to share.  I’d gotten out of the habit of buying whole chickens when they went on sale, often I could snag one for about $3.  But it’s been a while and I found one cleaning out the freezer last week.  The other food thing I’m working on is only buying what’s in season, if at all possible.  So out with apples and oranges and in with strawberries and melons.  Back to my old habit of shopping from the weekly sales flier and planning our menu around the bargains.

For the roast chicken, I just grab a bunch of herbs, some olive oil and kosher salt and smear it inside the skin of the chicken.  Then I toss it in a pan, cover with foil and place it in the oven for a while at 325 degrees.

I also made some brown rice in my new rice cooker (that has a steaming tray) and 30 min before the rice was done, I put a bunch of carrots cut up inside the steam basket.  Both were perfectly done at dinner.  I tossed the carrots with maple syrup for a special treat!  And I made some gravy for the rice with the chicken drippings.  Audrey is in need of calories so she ate mainly two large bowls of brown rice with the gravy!  Corn was on sale 4/$1, first of the season, which was an exciting addition.

I estimate that this dinner cost about $10 for a family of six (not including pantry staple items like spices).  And I used the leftover chicken to make some chicken soup for another meal which is always nice.

The gift a family is

Our family is blessed to have so many May birthdays that it feels like Christmas!  So we celebrate kid birthdays individually but all the grown ups together.  Last night was May birthday night, my mother put out a lovely spread and we celebrated my dad’s, sister’s and my own May birthdays.

In the middle of dinner my dad’s only sibling (my aunt) and her family arrived as a complete surprise to almost all of us.  We haven’t seen them in over two years as they live in another state.

As soon I saw them step onto the deck, I started to cry.  It totally surprised me.  I was even a little embarrassed.  But I think because of our encounters with loss this past while, it just felt extra sweet to see them.  We enjoyed one of those evenings together that can’t be orchestrated but sometimes just happen and are a lovely, perfect gift.

This is my dad.  He’s opening his gift (tickets to the senior golf PGA with his two sons-in-law).  He is one of the most amazing people on the planet.  And I’m glad he’s my dad.

The new porch swing on the new deck…room for lots more grandkids (wink)

Princess Audrey (one of our May birthdays) with her baby doll

Rylee and my cousin’s daughter played the night away

A sweet smile from Grammy, the woman who gave life to the husband I love.  Our night wasn’t the same without Grampy.

My mama with her two youngest grandkids.  I can only hope to have such a sparkle and a smile when I grow up.

My parents….who honestly like and love each other more every year.  That is perhaps one of the greatest gifts they have given me and my sisters.  One we are just starting to comprehend and appreciate as we get older.

My dad and his little sis

A good portion of the family – the most we could snag for a photo by the end of the night!

This weeks continuing list of thankfulness…

#59 – surprise visits

#60 – juicy, giant steaks on the BBQ

#61 – perspective

#62 – good wine

#63 – captivated children by my new Bible on CD

#64 – a long drive alone in the rain

#65 – sweet visits with kindred friends who live afar

#66 – living near extended family

#67 – open windows at night

#68 – a daughter who’s anxiously requesting another sibling

#69 – provision and the delight of sharing abundance

#70 – laundry pile conquered

#71 – parents who are still married and still in love with Jesus and each other

Crazy Love – a book review

I picked up Crazy Love, by Francis Chan, almost two years ago.  It was a time of great transition and great trial.  I tried to read it but couldn’t really read anything at the time.  It was a survival-mode season.

Around Christmas last year I picked it up again finally.  I dug right in and read a couple of chapters.  It felt like a friend had written it to me, it was so readable – and it made me ask some great questions.

Then I got to the chapter called “Profile of the Lukewarm”.  Just the name of the chapter made my heart sink.  I knew what was coming.  Or I thought I did.  But I didn’t.  I read it.  Read it again.  Then I put the book away.

Reading Chan’s long and spot on list of all the characteristics of ‘lukewarm’ left me feeling sick.  Honest.  It described most of the ‘church going folk’ I’d ever known.  What was far worse?  It described me.  Of course not in every instance and I could rationalize all I wanted to make myself feel better.  But I didn’t want to feel better.  That’s why I’d picked up the book in the first place. I wanted my thinking to be challenged…to be changed really.

In the last year and a half, stepping out of full time ministry and also out of regular church attendance (gasp!) I have spent so much time in some serious, sometimes very uncomfortable reflection on God and church and what it really means to follow Jesus.  Growing up in church then serving in a church setting for ten years, I had plenty of exposure to all sorts of ‘religion’.  Much of it was life-shaping and very good.  And of course there was your run-of-the-mill hypocrisy and church politics.

After I stalled out on my Crazy Love reading (I quit reading the book for two months!), I tried again.  But I was not the same.  I had wrestled and argued and thought through some really hard things.  If you read my blog and know our story, this of course coincided with the very tragic loss of my husband’s father this January.

I was ripe for a crisis of faith.

And maybe that sounds bad, which is okay with me.  But really, if we never have a crisis, never question what we believe, never look inward and take some serious inventory…then maybe we don’t even know what we believe or why.  When we are shaken to the core, we are forced to find out what we really hold on to – who we hold on to.  And if it will keep us afloat or not.

God’s overwhelming, relentless love that this book speaks of, that love is the only thing that has carried me through this past season and every other desert I’ve walked through.  It has shown itself in hundreds of ways.  God’s unmistakable, unwavering love.