Graduation

I stumbled into a longboard leaning against the garbage can this morning. I had come in through the side door — from my walk in the sun-drenched morning, into the dark, cluttered garage — and my squinting eyes didn’t adjust to the change quickly enough. I winced as the board nicked my shin, then rolled and tumbled to the floor. Memorable.

May 31, 2014 was also a day to remember.

B-speaking gradIt was a “eyes squinting in the brightness of all that God has done” kind of day. Our first born, completing homeschool high school, coming to the other side of his recent health challenges, standing proudly with his peers in his graduation. Tears flowed and laughter spilled out of big smiles etched by years of growth and trial and error.

Here are my words to him that day… my looking back and remembering.

 

So, Benjamin – as “son of the right hand” – steady, loyal, adept at learning – you and I have invested hours and hours of our brief lives into your education. We’ve sat on the couch and wrestled with phonics – and now you can read whatever you set your mind to – from CS Lewis, to The Economist. We’ve walked through the woods – and now you can tell a cardinal’s cheep cheep from a mourning dove’s coo coo. We’ve worked through long division – and now you can recognize patterns and figure complicated equations. And we’ve waited in hospital rooms for doctor’s answers, answers we haven’t liked and didn’t ask for – and now you know something about suffering and unanswered prayer.

And who could have guessed that one week in the Rocky Mountains learning about Austrian Economics would set you heart on fire and give you a passion through which you will change the world? …well God.

God saw all that you were becoming as I fumbled around with how to teach you history and math. The Father saw the man He is calling you to be and never let go. Even when I begged Him to “let me be done homeschooling,” He loved you and had this work to carry to completion. I know you know you’re not done learning and growing and becoming, that this is just a respite in your journey of embracing all that the Father knows. But this is a moment I will cherish, and be forever grateful that I got to stand here with you.

B and us - Grad

So, maybe my sharing this moment of reflection will encourage you to pause, reflect, and acknowledge all the Lord has done on your behalf. The insignificant moments of everyday stack up, and eventually become weeks, and then years. God is working, and building, and shaping, even when it feels like all we are doing is stumbling around in the darkness.

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.     Philippians 2:12-13

Chicken Cacciatore

I’ve been thinking some about the rhythm of life… how to meet God in the everyday moments that we often don’t expect Him in.

I make dinner every night for my crew. Cooking gives me pleasure — in the tasting of food and in the breaking of bread — the fellowship that comes “at table.” I think my role in feeding them is about more than simply filling their bellies. It’s about nourishing them.

And it’s about me staying true to my God-given calling to help them grow; a daunting, and humbling task.

 

Chicken Cacciatore by Julie Sanders

Skillet clanks on grate heating

Water runs to wash veggies

Knife slices onion, eyes burning –

still she presses on.

 

Chicken sizzles in skillet browning

Peppers, onions, garlic mingle

Tomato sauce with warm, red wine, simmering –

add to chicken, turn.

 

Call men, plates loading

Chairs scrape on floor

Diners sit, expectant, hunger gnawing

Thank you Lord, Amen.

chicken-cacciatore-a2

 

What about you?  Where do you find God in the rhythm of everyday moments?

For my yummy recipe visit Elise Bauer at Simply Recipes.

Photo credit: Simply Recipes

Mama’s Dreams

It’s happeningboys' backs
my boys becoming men
brandishing desire and direction different than mine.
Their otherness stares at me
unblinking.

But still, my heart holds dreams
first given by God when each still dwelt in womb safety.
Dreams rooted in the naming –

The son-of-the-right hand
steady, faithful, loyal,
holding fast to the Word of life
and nothing else.

The bearer-of-light
creative, transforming, authentic,
bending to the Light that brings life
to this world.

The strong-and-courageous-one
inviting, open, humble,
taking boldly ground he knows God
has secured.

So even though doubts assail me,
my tongue betrays me,
my fears malign me,
I stand assured –
what God started
He will complete.

Yes, this happening,
this inevitable affair
forces us to face places
new
unfamiliar
but known to the One
Who knows us each by name.

Here I rest.empty road

What’s in a picture?

One of the things I’ve always loved about God is His nearness, that He’s close by, not distant… as if I have an invisible hand pressed against the small of my back prompting me on.

main-street-usaMy memories confirm this… like the time as a 5 year-old little girl, I went with my family to Disneyland.  I was riding on my Daddy’s shoulders, walking down Main Street, heading for Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.  The sky was sunny and blue, and I can even remember wearing my Mickey Mouse ears hat with my name written in cursive on the back.  So, there I was, riding on my Dad’s shoulders, and I didn’t have a care in the world.  I felt safe.  Even with the crazy crowds at Disneyland, I felt his strong arms around me and I knew he loved me; I knew he would protect me.

I think this is why I’ve always known God was close.  Because my parents loved me and took care of me, I had no problem believing that Jesus would love me and take care of me.  But of course, little girls grow up.  And I couldn’t live at Disneyland, riding on Daddy’s shoulders.

…   …   …

Fifteen years later I found myself with another man on a metal bridge in London. Typical for London, the weather was cold and raining, but I was crying.  I was with my boyfriend – the man I thought I would spend the rest of my life with.  We had met two years earlier, and our relationship consumed me.  I wanted to share his love, his opinions, his plans for the future – we had talked about changing the world.

metal bridge

But on that gray bridge in London, I couldn’t have felt more alone. I don’t even remember what we were fighting about.  But I do remember that he used his words to hurt me.  They would cut at my heart like a knife.  Throughout our relationship he would drop little comments about my hair or my weight – just enough to let me know that he was dissatisfied with me.

On that bridge I realized that he wasn’t who I thought he was, and I was afraid.  I know now that God was there on that bridge – close by, but I couldn’t see Him, and I didn’t reach out for Him.

…   …   …

Fast-forward 20 years… It seems like just the other day, I was walking through the Walmart parking lot with my youngest son, Andrew. Cars moved in and out of parking spaces, so he slid up close to me and took my hand.  He just grabbed my hand, but it was like he was saying, “I want to be near you, Mommy.  I trust you.”  It felt good to be trusted.  A busy parking lot can be a scary place to a nine-year-old, but Andrew knew that if he was near me, he would be safe.

I think it’s the same lesson I learned all those years ago at Disneyland with my Dad… and on the bridge in London.  I think God is still trying to teach me: “Stay close to me, Julie. I’ll keep you safe. Take my hand, I’ll lead you on”

But as for me, it is good to be near God.  I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.   Ps. 73:25

What snapshots from your life tell you something about God?  Do you see?  Are you listening?

 

photo credits:  Mainstreet, USAMetal Bridge

A Touch

I woke up this morning thinking of the Widow of Nain.

Cemetery Statue

As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her.  When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”

Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.  Luke 7:12-15

Jesus doesn’t shy away from the wailing and the grieving.  He perceives the hopelessness and breaks in.  Not concerned with propriety, he stops the funeral procession mid-step. He sees what’s  broken and sets it right.

He knows… a mother shouldn’t have to bury her son.

… … …

A little over a week ago, my friend’s son took his own life. Today is his 15th birthday.

And every time I think of my friend, my heart breaks. Somehow the darkness became so dark, her son didn’t see any other options.  For the rest of their lives, my friend, her husband, and their other children will have an indelible blot on their stories… a pain to share that words fail.

So when I think of the widow of Nain and how Jesus touched her, I think, “Sure.  Jesus brought her son back to life.  It’s easy to believe he’s good.  Easy to believe he’s the Son of God.  Easy to follow him after something like that. ”

But my friend’s son… he’s not coming back.  Somehow, the Destroyer got ahold of his mind and convinced him that there are some things that Jesus can’t touch, can’t redeem.  He took the pen and wrote the ending to his story, “There’s no hope. Period.”

Does Jesus still have a touch in the midst this kind of pain?  When questions swarm unanswered, does Jesus still step in and set things right?  Will they ever “be right” again?

I don’t know.  Some things simply lay beyond my understanding — sad things and glorious things.

But, I do know that when questions scream beyond reason, or when I feel like I’m breaking at the seams, the cross stands firm.  The unshakeable act of Jesus Christ dying on a wooden cross to pay for my sin shines true in the darkest night.  He saw this grief.  He saw these tears.  He saw these questions and went to the cross with them in mind.

There are answers at the cross, because there’s love at the cross. Love that reaches beyond the this-is-not-what-we-were-created-for pain of death.  Love for the grieving, and the hopeless, and the lost.

heavens

Have you felt the touch of Jesus at the cross?

 

cemetery statue photo: © Ladykassie | Dreamstime Stock Photos &Stock Free Images

Gettin’ Creative

I live with a creative bunch — they all excel in music, in writing, in solving puzzles, in making cool stuff out of Legos.

You may wonder, how does a mama compete with all that?

In the kitchen.

I’m so pleased with how my lunch of leftovers (read: “There’s nothing good in the frig to eat Mom!”) turned out, I just had to share it with you!  All the measurements are approximate because it was, after all, whatever I had on hand.

Pork and Veggie Fried Rice ScrambleFried Rice – serves 2 hungry people

  • one small onion, chopped
  • one section of red bell pepper, chopped
  • two smallish carrots, thinly sliced on a diagonal
  • one stick of celery, diced
  • any other veggies you need to use up: broccoli, mushrooms, zucchini

Heat a large skillet with 1 Tablespoon of sesame, peanut or coconut oil.  Drizzle in toasted sesame oil of you have it.  Saute veggies in oil still soft.

  • one leftover cooked porkchop, diced (or chicken if that’s what you have)
  • 1 T. fresh ginger, finely diced (if you have it)
  • 2 fresh garlic cloves, pressed (if you have them)
  • 1 cup leftover cooked rice (been in the frig for a day or two)
  • 2-3 eggs, lightly beaten with a fork

Add meat and spices.  Saute till heated through.  Mix in the rice and a bit more sesame oil if needed to keep everything from sticking.  Push the veggie, pork, rice concoction to one side of your skillet and pour in the eggs to the empty side.  Push the eggs around with your spatula or wooden spoon till barely set, then gently incorporate the cooked eggs into the rice mixture.

  • 2-3 T. hoisin sauce, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce or any SoyVay sauce (my favorite!)
  • handful roasted peanuts or almonds (everything tastes better with nuts!)
  • handful chopped cilantro (I didn’t take the time to chop this, but it would have been yummy.)

Gently fold in whatever asian sauce you have on hand.  Mound into flat bowls and sprinkle with nuts.  Watch your teen age son spoon it into his mouth, barely taking time to breathe.

So this is me being creative.  A rewarding venture.  It’s the simple things that make me smile.

What simple things to you do for others that make you smile?  

 

I joined up Ann Kroeker for her Food on Fridays Carnival.  Pop over there and read about her meditation on an onion.  I loved it!

 

 

 

Sunday Mornings

blueberries Blueberries. Pancakes. Maple Syrup.

What a perfect way to welcome Sunday morning…

I love cooking for my family.  With three teenage boys to feed, I have plenty of opportunities.  When they were young, the thought gripped me that they would only eat what I offered them.  Well, minus the carefully selected beetle or mud pie.  For the most part, I manned the food-gates in our home.

So, I began a quest to find a satisfying, nourishing, taste-appealing way to feed them – without going broke in the process!  Along the way, I discovered the treasure of Sue Gregg’s Blender Batter recipes.  These Sunday morning gems originated with her.

 

Blueberry Blender Pancakes
adapted from Sue Gregg’s  An Introduction to Whole Grain Baking

1½  cups cultured milk (ie. buttermilk, thinned plain yogurt, plain kefir)
2 T. melted butter or olive oil
1 t. vanilla extract
1 cup uncooked brown rice
½ cup uncooked rolled oats

Place all the above ingredients in a blender; blend at highest speed for 3-5 minutes.  Cover the blender and let stand at room temperature for several hours or overnight.

2 t. baking powder
½ t. baking soda
1 t. salt, to tast

Sift the above ingredients through a small strainer into a small bowl.  Set aside.

In the morning, just before baking, add to the blender

1 egg
1-2 T. coconut flour (buy on-line here) OR  3-4 T. all-purpose wheat flour

Blend on highest speed for 1-3 minutes.  Add additional liquid if blender doesn’t blend easily. Then, briefly blend in leavenings and salt.  Assist with rubber spatula if needed.  Do not over mix.

Rinse off a couple handfuls of fresh blueberries.  Set close by to where you will be cooking the pancakes.

Grease griddle or skillet if needed and heat till water sizzles when sprinkled.  Pour about ¼ cup batter on griddle and quickly drop 3-4 blueberries in each pancake.  With a spoon, lightly cover each berry with additional batter.  This keeps them from cooking too quickly and burning when you flip your pancakes.

When pancakes start to firm up and bubble in the middle (about 1-2 minutes), carefully flip to other side.  Cook on second side about 1 minute.  Transfer to a cookie sheet while you cook the rest of the batter.  I like to cover my cooked cakes with a hand towel to keep them warm.

Serve with butter and warm maple syrup.

…   …   …

Blueberry Pancakes

Last Sunday, sleepy-eyed and tousle-haired Andrew followed his nose into the kitchen and asked, “How many are you making, Mom?”

“The whole batch.”

“Just for us?”

“Yep.”

His smiles and hugs expressed his delight.

Andrew’s my youngest and is always ready to eat.  His older brothers were gone for the weekend, and Dad had already left for church.  This morning, it was just the two of us at table.

We both ate our fill, taste buds tingling with a burst of blueberry tartness, mellowed by maple syrup warmth.

I delighted in Andrew’s appetite.  A simple offering, eagerly enjoyed.  This mama’s heart brimmed.

 

What simple pleasures speak to your heart these days?

My Florida Nature

cypress growthSunday afternoon — I feel the pull to spend time outside “walking in the garden” with my Creator God.

A pale blue sky. Warm sun on our backs.  Florida scrub stretching on for miles.  Sharp saw grass carpets the sparse forest of scraggy pines.

men walking

Through the wilderness, hard pressed gravel gently curves and draws us on.  My men lead the way.  I am the minority gender in my clan.  I like it that way.  They huddle in a pack, swapping lines from Star Wars and The Princess Bride.  I hang to the rear, drinking in the sight of four sets of shoulders, four sets of feet and hands.  Strong.  They plow into the future… at least today.

Around a bend, the forest thickens and envelopes us under a canopy of Florida cypress. My men head into thicket, leaving the path in search of treasure.  I am struck by a treasure of another kind.

Growing in a stagnant stream, bell-shaped tree trunks stand silent, majestic.  Other worldly. They look to be storing up the water like a swollen elephant’s trunk.  Brown oval shaped leaves litter the forest floor, making the space appear untouched, forgotten. This wonderland was waiting for us to discover it… an off beat beauty reserved only for those willing to risk leaving the trail.

cypress grove

Central Florida wilderness astounds me, delights me.  I like the surprises.  What I see here is like nothing I’ve known in the deserts of Arizona, or the beaches of California, or the rolling hills of Indiana.

Creator God, thank you for showing me beauty in my Florida surroundings.  Thank you for strangeness.  You’re teaching me to trust you and receive the unfamiliar from your hand.  Soften my heart so I can receive even more.

A picture of delight

As a homeschool mom, I love speaking in the boys’ creative processes.  For me, this mostly comes when I get to coach them in their writing and speaking.  My youngest, Andrew, has been working on descriptive writing the past few weeks.  I love his description of a barn.  Just to clarify, this barn only exists in his imagination.  We haven’t seen anything like this in Orlando!

I think it’s a nice picture of what “delight” looks like.  Enjoy.

***  ***  ***

by Andrew Sanders

Our barn stands at the base of the large hill, strong and steady, like a sentinel watching over his charge. White paint, slightly curling off the walls exposing the dark wood underneath, has taken on a shade of flecked eggshells. The hefty, humped roof, streaked with bird droppings, protects the interior with steadfast firmness, resisting the wind, rain, and snow. High windows offer the setting sun an opportunity spotlight the barn floor below.

Under the roof stands the darkest corner of the loft, which houses all of the precious gifts and heirlooms Ma and Papa want to keep: a chest full of great-grandpa’s letters from the war, Ma’s first sewing machine, and Papa’s first rifle. Heavy dust lights upon every surface coloring it silver gray, so different from the atmosphere on the floor below. The darkness coats everything within its boundaries with a soft, black, blanket, hiding both worthless boxes and priceless family heirlooms.

Moving toward the main space of the loft, bright lights hang from the rafters giving the space a playful air. Dry hay carpets the wooden panels that act as the floor, offering a soft cushion. Bales of hay lay strewn across the boards, creating benches and chairs for twirling ladies and gentlemen after dancing.

Connecting the levels with straight precision, firm ladders provide a means of moving from story to story. On the ground floor, freshly swept wooden planks look smooth, ready to support dancing feet. The smaller tools of farming, pitchforks, saws and hammers stand propped up or hung on the walls in neat order, cleared away from the main area to give more room for the jubilee. The animals are stowed away in their stalls far into the barn, away from the area for the dance. The cows, chickens, goats, sheep, and pigs, happily sound their own calls, oblivious to what was about to come but somehow affected by the joyful air.

 

 

 

photo credit:

Is God Near?

We’re entering into an anniversary of sorts.  One year ago this month we began to live life with the realization that our oldest son has an inflammatory bowel disease… ending up with the diagnosis of indeterminate colitis.  It’s chronic.  It’s disruptive.  It’s incredibly inconvenient. But, it’s the place God has us.  We are seeing God “show up” in amazing ways as we walk this journey.


This blog entry is the first in a series where I will try to recount the valley we began to walk last year.  We aren’t to the other side yet.  But, I believe that it’s important that we share this journey in community.   The way a few grains of sand in my shoe drive me batty, sorting stories alone leads to isolation.

But those same grains, when joined with thousands of others, provide a tender and inviting place to walk.  So stories, when shared in community, provide a gentle place to process what God’s doing.  The difference in is in the gathering.

When we share the journey with others, openly, God reveals himself in the process. Not just when everything works out like we hoped.

I’d love to hear your own stories about how God has met you in the midst of unknowing.

_____________________

September 28, 2011

Gathering information is a strength of mine.  It’s my “go to” move when I’m trying to cope.  So, when we learned that Benjamin has “indeterminate colitis”, I consulted my nutrition books and websites looking for answers, looking to fix it.  Unfortunately, there isn’t an “easy fix.”  But what in life worth doing or learning is ever easy?  Even so, information by itself is cold and steril.  In my searching, I craved more than information.  I craved a presence I knew was beyond me.  I needed God near.

You may have heard me speak about the nearness of God.  It’s my favorite thing about Him — that he doesn’t run away in times of trouble, that he celebrates with us in victory, and draws close when we cry.  But I have to say, after many days of Benjamin bleeding, even in the hospital, I started to feel desparate.

One morning, about 10 days into our hospital stay, I needed to be loud with God.  I went on a walk and yelled at him.  OK, God, this has gone on long enough.  Why don’t you do something?  Where are you?  I need you to press in nearer.  You’re not near enough.  I felt desparate.  Many times I sobbed and nearly collapsed.

As I plodded along the nature paths in our neighborhood, the morning silent and misty, a strange thing happened.  Instead of my thoughts swirling in despair, I realized that they had begun to settle on what brings God glory.  I noticed glistening dewed blades of grass, the beautifully haphazard array of wildflowers and weeds, a seasoned stump ringed with age.  Unintentionally, I was thinking about how God was bigger than “indeterminate colitis.”  He gently led me to a place of surrender and I no longer cared about being “delivered.”

Instead of rescue me… rescue Benjamin, my heart whispered do what brings you glory.

I asked him to glorify himself in the midst of our struggle.  I told him that if we could just stand in the radiance of that glory, it would be enough.  I rested there, sweetly.  God drew near.

I can’t say that Benjamin has been healed.  He will most likely have this condition for the rest of his life.  I can’t say that anything I’ve planned has worked out my way.  But, I can say that God isn’t wasting a minute of this.  He is bringing himself glory as he shepherds us in the valley.  He is good and the writer of good stories… and I’m so glad I’m his.