Thursday, March 28, 2013

carrying on our baggage

we're a mess tonight.

the kids and i will be catching a plane tomorrow, beach bound.  suitcases are open in every room. goggles and swimsuits and sandals covering every square inch. earlier this evening, bella tried to sneak in her entire collection of my pretty ponies, while my teenage daughter attempted to stash some more of her clothes into my bag -- hers being full.  we're all vying for space. "one suitcase kids.  just one."

our plan is to carry everything on the plane and check only one bag -- five kids, one mom and a lot of bags. we've been making trips to the beach for years, but this is our first time ever having to fly to florida.  that's a really long car ride from minnesota and there just aren't any beaches that i'd care to frequent up here right now.  normally, we just load up the suv.  and when we've loaded everything in, we just go ahead and load some more.  because we can.  it's a big vehicle and somehow you can always fit in another pair of flip flops or sand bucket or something. a yukon xl can carry a lot of stuff. believe me, i know.

but tomorrow, we'll carry on our luggage.  even the tiny girl.  she'll have a bag.  she looked at us tonight while making dinner and said with a bit of a quivering lip, "but mama, i can't carry my suitcase." 
"oh, honey, i know.  you won't have to carry your big bag!" i answered as quick as i could.  i am certain bella's bag weighs more than she does.
and that's when i heard her big brother, tyler, say,  "bella, i'll carry your bag for you." 

and he will.  because he's that kind of kid.  he's that kind of brother.  he's that kind of son.  he carries things.

and all night that thought has rolled around in my head.  all night as i have continued to stuff things into small suitcases and push the children along in their own packing, i have thought about tyler offering to carry bella's bag.  there was some kind of connection, but i couldn't put my finger on it, until just a few minutes ago when the house finally went quiet. finally went still. when the bags were zipped up and the children were tucked in, it came to me:

tomorrow is Good Friday.  tomorrow as we trek through the airport with all of our bags dragging behind us, it will be Good Friday.  and i am all stirred up tonight sitting with my computer as i remember Good Friday two years ago.  it was the day tyler came home from a class trip. i had gotten my cancer diagnosis earlier that week while he was gone and would have to give him the news when his bus pulled in that afternoon.

it was Good Friday, but absolutely nothing felt good.

he would be the last of the children to know and for some reason it was the hardest moment in all of the telling.  i wrote a piece on that thursday night -- his last night of not knowing.  the post was called "carry us Lord" and if you click on that title it will link back to that story (april 2011).  today when he offered to carry bella's bag, that triggered the memory of my writing.

so today i look at my list of things to accomplish and i must add the telling of tyler.  i wanted to be thinking about easter eggs and pastel colored baskets.  but this Good Friday afternoon i will sit my son down with news which will cloak him in heaviness.  this boy.  this soon-to-be-man will want to carry it for me.  i know him.  he is a carrier.  he is my son who seeing me with arms full of laundry insists on taking the load from me.  he is a boy quick to say, "here mom, let me do that for you."  that trash emptying. that hole digging.  that firewood getting.  that chair moving.  that little sister toting.  that carrying.  he carries.  he is tender like no other teen boy i've met.  he has a strong spirit, but a soft heart.  i have nothing to do with that.  it is how he came.  God dropped him into our laps 13 years ago and though he has my same eyes, he came with his very own tender heart.  he is a comforter.  a peacemaker. a laugh-bringer.  a joy-digger.  a gentler.  a steadier.  a smoother of wrinkles.  ~ "carry us Lord." 

and i can't help but think about that Good Friday two years ago and my telling of tyler. this boy who continues to carry so much for our family.  in these past two years he has not only passed me up in height, but he has taken on new chores and responsibilities in our home.  i often think, what would i do without this kid?  he has also watched -- as we all have -- how God has carried us through the hard stuff.  this boy who has always been willing to pick up the load and put it on his own back has learned how to give it to God and let go a little.  it's an amazing thing to see this lesson take root in one so young.

on that awful friday afternoon in 2011, when i did tell tyler about my diagnosis, he laid his head on my lap and my strong son wept.  the weight was too much for this boy who knew he could not carry this.  he was and he is a good son, but that wouldn't be enough.   good isn't ever enough, but Christ was. Christ is. Christ always is.

and really what i most want to think about on this eve of Good Friday, is Jesus. probably right about now in the garden of gethsemane,  my Lord was flat on his face before his Father --  knowing full well what he'd have to carry tomorrow:  the pain of persecution.  the sins of the world.  even his own cross to calvary.  and it makes me want to lay my head on the lap of the Father and weep.

"carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the skull...golgotha." ~ john 19:17

and yet he chose to carry it all. he spoke up and he showed up.  he carried so that we wouldn't have to.  that's the message of tomorrow. that's the good in in the Good Friday. Christ carried it all to the cross.  Christ even carried the cross.  Christ carried us through cancer and Christ continues to carry us.

sometimes you have to go through something really heavy to really get how strong God is.

oh friend, i write this tonight, knowing that so many of you are burdened with incredible baggage.  maybe not beach bound, but bound.   bound and buried under the weight of your load...whatever it is:  wayward child, unfaithful spouse, unexpected illness, financial ruin, even that sink full of dirty dishes.
let it go and let God carry. it's good.  it's Good Friday.

whatever it is you are carrying, it isn't too much for Jesus.

"Beloved, the cross is not made of feathers, or lined with velvet, it is heavy and galling to disobedient shoulders; but it is not an iron cross, though your fears have painted it with iron colours, it is a wooden cross, and a man can carry it, for the Man of sorrows tried the load. Take up your cross, and by the power of the Spirit of God you will soon be so in love with it, that like Moses, you would not exchange the reproach of Christ for all the treasures of Egypt. Remember that Jesus carried it, and it will smell sweetly; remember that it will soon be followed by the crown, and the thought of the coming weight of glory will greatly lighten the present heaviness of trouble."  ~ spurgeon

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

a humble hosana, so holy

palm sunday.  

was it a matter of confusion? another disappointment? this king riding into town on nothing more than a donkey.

was this another babe born in a lowly manger scene?  unexpected arrival, unseemly entrance - part two.  

was there a doubt-filled woman standing in the shade of a Jerusalem tree shaking her head and saying, "this can't be the king."   

where was his crown? the royal purple? the army escort? the pomp and circumstance? where in the world was the big to-do?

King Jesus riding into town, like his own mother had some 30 years earlier, on nothing more than a lowly beast.  a beast of burden.  a last minute market place purchase. humble.

King Jesus riding into town and making people wonder.  " when Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “who is this?” (matthew 21:10).

who is this?  who is this?

and yet they laid down their coats for his coming.  they picked up the palms for his cheering.  these people who questioned and even some who, i'm sure, doubted, they celebrated the entry of Jesus. like the shepherds and wise men back in bethlehem, they weren't altogether certain.  they weren't completely convinced.  they didn't have the whole story, and, most likely, it didn't make sense:  a babe in a food trough, a king on a donkey. a God on a cross. 

it doesn't make sense.  and it is sometimes, even now, a matter hard for us to understand.  but, it's anything but a disappointment. this humble hosana was the beginning of holy.  the beginning of redemption.  the beginning of life-everlasting.  it just didn't look like they thought it should then. and it just doesn't always look like we think it should now.  

“He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world knew Him not. He came to His own home, and His own people received Him not” (John 1:10-11). 

sometimes we don't know what God is up to.  He does things in ways we can't always understand. but, really, it is not about our understanding.  it's about laying down our coats at his feet, anyway. it's about picking up the palms, anyway.  it's about clinging to the cross, anyway.   it's even about trusting His heart in hardest of times, anyway.  

i'm not saying it is always easy.  i fear i'd be that very woman standing under the shade tree shaking her doubt-filled head.  i like things to make sense.  i like it all to add up. but that's not always what happens when we follow Jesus.  or at least it doesn't seem that way from where we stand.  it doesn't seem that way in our pain or in our problems or in our punctured kind of living.

but it does add up. 

this holy week must not have made one bit of sense to those who followed Jesus.  this palm sunday entry into jerusalem was only the beginning of a week which would turn more confusing: black. bleak. dark and death-filled.  

the disciples didn't have the whole story, and what they did have seemed muddled and mysterious.  some doubted, some denied, some even, betrayed.  but then there were those who trusted. scared and uncertain, they didn't know what God was up to, but they threw their coats down under the beast of great burden and they laid themselves down at the feet of their Jesus...and they did what they could: they clung.

and sometimes that's all we can do, isn't it?  just lay ourselves down at the feet of Jesus and trust Him.  we all have things in our lives we can't understand, things we don't think make sense,  things which aren't as they should be.  but we lay ourselves down at the foot of the cross, wildly clinging,  when our world goes wildly black.

because that's not the end of the story.  it wasn't 2000 years ago, and it isn't today. friend, it might, for you, feel like there's nothing holy about this week, about this day, about this morning as you trudge through something hard.  and i'm sure "holy" wouldn't have been the disciples first thought as they watched their Lord receive the ugliness of man's spit and whip and hatred. 

it may have begun with some wondering, but, the resurrection is coming and it will end in something beyond wonderful.

who is this?

"Who is this King of glory? 
The LORD strong and mighty,
The LORD mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O gates,And lift them up, O ancient doors,
That the King of glory may come in!

Who is this King of glory?The LORD of hosts,
He is the King of glory."  ~ psalm 24:8-10


"rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
and being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!"  ~ philippians 2:7-8


Sunday, March 24, 2013

a weekend away

birthday girl waits at home.
i must remember to grab her cake on my way from the airport.
she likes chocolate.  my middle girl has turned into a teenager while i was away for the weekend.

kids do that, you know.  look away for even a tiny minute and tiny child turns teen.

it is early, so early, on this palm sunday morning as i sit pressed up against rain-dripping glass in a sleepy south carolina airport.  time to leave. time to head home to birthday girl and her sisters, their wild brothers and, of course, a rather worn out husband.  i’ve been gone maybe a little longer than a mother should be. leaving for a day takes planning; four days, takes much planning and even more praying.  my family has been generous with me:  gifting me with this time away, this time to go back south; to be warm in the weather and warmer still in the dear friendships i’ve missed in these 8 months past.

rain slips fast down the massive window, overwhelming the wisp of gutter below and, oh, i know that great-overwhelming. i know it well.  i, too, am all dripping and wet this morning as i leave behind these friends and this place and this chance to feel deeply the deep, deep love of Jesus.  my eyes watch water fall wild, while lips taste the salt of my own tears on this side of glass.

soul-overwhelmed.  flooded full-up with what His filling brings. what it always brings when we open our thirsty selves to it. what He always desires to bring when we open our fist-tight hands to Him.  soul-overwhelmed in the watering of His overwhelming love. unrelenting rain.  the shower of His dripping goodness.

and, oh my!  how He has showered goodness all over these women this weekend.

why must we travel away to sometimes find what is always available anywhere we are?

it works that way, i suppose.  perhaps it is in the taking us out of that which tangles us up: our own invented distractions.  taking us away from that which tackles us back into our own made-up busy-ness.  on occasion, we must go away.  Jesus, Himself, showed us the need to go. “in the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away ...” mark 1:35.

even Jesus traveled far to be close.

a long weekend away is good for the soul.  i probably can’t say the same for the state of my home.  i will return to large piles of laundry.  i will return to the barrage of children who will wrangle and wiggle for my attention; filling me in on the many years i’ve missed in these eternal four days away.  filling me in on their world.  filling me up with their words.  the refrigerator might be empty and floors, undoubtedly, unswept,  but it will be home and it will be good and i am thankful they let me step away for a moment to breath something different. brooms and groceries can come later. birthday girl, her siblings and sweet husband, will come soon.

and i sit pressed up against airport glass, leaning hard into the emotion of my last few days. it’s hard to put into words as i prepare to travel back across these almost spring skies.  i mentioned in my last post i’d be in the south this week for my former church’s women’s retreat.  it was a chance to be with so many of my most precious friends. a chance to be with so many cool women - 650 ladies in attendance!  a chance to sit in pajamas sipping our coffee or cups of wine.  drinking in the beauty of our togetherness. a chance to talk fast and laugh hard and, yes, even a chance to cry soft.  have you ever attended a women’s retreat?  there’s nothing quite like them.  and because my dear gals were pretty much in charge of the event, i was able to hurry along with them and help out. give this girl a job!

this weekend i had the chance to stand at the top of a 20 foot ladder and help friends hang painted canvases across the back drape of the main stage. canvases beautifully announcing the weekend’s theme:  be still.  be loved.  be his.  i had a chance to arrange greenery and gift baskets, decorate old doors, move boxes and run errands.  it is a treat to be involved,  a treasure to be included. i have been gone awhile, but when i came back, they welcomed me with tasks and something to do.  they know me.   i love these girls and i love serving with them, shoulder to shoulder. heart to heart.

holly, ann, sue and me!
i had the chance to hang out with ann voskamp this weekend. i loved getting to know her and her wonderful assistant, holly.  i loved meeting this woman, whose words have inspired and encouraged me in ways too many to count.  eating dinner at her table and adjusting her mic and chatting casually with her as we traveled to and fro throughout the weekend, a pleasure.  i had a chance to hear her heart and witness up close the loveliness of her spirit, not just through black words on the page of a best selling book, but through the blue windows of her eyes. i had the chance to see her tender tears when she heard the story of a child’s cancer and a mother’s pain.  i had a chance to stand singing songs alongside her, hands lifted high to the God we both praise.  pinch me, did this really just happen?  Jesus, thank you for the time to know a kindred spirit, a fellow lover of words, a sister in Christ.

and then to sit under her speaking this weekend. oh my! to hear her words slice clean through the callous of my too-busy body.  to fall silent and still under the pouring out of Jesus as He poured into ann. to watch a woman transformed into God's vessel spur on her sisters in their life transformation of gratitude.  the weeping of the many women in the room.  the rejoicing of the saints in heaven.  the glorifying of God in His goodness.   it was so much, not too much, just so much. all good.

and the wild beat of rain on a sleepy, south carolina, sunday morning overwhelms me.

it is time to leave.  my family needs me and wants me home and i, even more, need them and want to be home. as we begin to board,  a part of me wonders how this mere aircraft will ever fit all the fullness of love stirred up in me on this weekend away. i am so heavy with it. not the burden, but the great blessing.

and even in my doubt,  i know how my God works:  i need leave nothing behind, for He will stretch it all across the skies, a beautiful bridge in the unrelenting rain of His unrelenting love.

and i don't have to leave behind or forget the fullness of this weekend away, nor the warmth of these friends, nor the depth of His love.

... and especially not the chocolate birthday cake for daughter turned teen.

all of it, transformation.

how blessed we all were to have laura story and her band lead us in worship.   
one of the funnier moments of the retreat was when ann asked us to do a "trust fall" with laura!

Monday, March 18, 2013

march madness

A little madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King.~ Emily Dickinson

i was serenely reading to bella on the couch when i heard the bloodcurdling scream.  yes, i can only describe it as a scream to curdle the blood and it was coming from emily in her room.  bella and i leaped off the couch, just as emily ran into the room clutching her phone. and before i could ask her what was wrong, she dramatically wailed, "mom, it's 74 degrees in atlanta today! that's more than a 50 degrees difference from minnesota!"  we both turned and stared out the large picture window at the back of our house.  bloodcurdling screams and the wailing words of teenage daughter -- our march madness was in full swing.

tyler brushing off his sister's car this morning.  
and this morning i woke up to several inches of snow.  it is monday and it is supposed to snow all day long. karen carpenter had no idea what she was singing about, "rainy days and mondays always get me down." give me a break! karen carpenter, clearly, never wintered in minnesota. this wednesday, the first day of spring, it is forecasted to be 7 degrees here in my new homeland.  bloodcurdling, you betcha!

but guess what?  i'm leaving.  yep, speaking of songs..."i'm leaving on a jet plane..."  wednesday, to celebrate that first day of spring, i'm heading to atlanta.  okay, here's what that really feels like:  I'M HEADING TO ATLANTA!!!  it is my first trip home since we moved to minnesota last summer...and i really don't even know how to process it all.  if you happen to be on delta flight 2013 wednesday afternoon, i'll be the slightly translucent woman potentially weeping in seat 7A.  i mean, i'll try not to be quite so demonstrative in my madness, but i am pretty sure it will be a little uncontrollable at that point.

i am heading back south, not really as a spring celebration, but to attend the perimeter women's retreat.   there are so many things about that which just seem to add fuel to the fire of my emotions.  i'll be there with a large group of some of my very dearest friends.  keep in mind i haven't seen them since our good-bye party last july.  that alone is ridiculously emotional for me. plus, we'll all be away together -- no children or husbands or household chores to distract us. no carpools to pick up or laundry to sort or meals to prepare.  i'm telling you, this just may be too much for one woman--this woman-- to handle all at once.

in addition, the retreat will have over 650 women in attendance.  many, many of these gals are friends.  i was emcee of the last retreat, so, because i was up front so much,  i have a connection with a lot of these women.  serving in that position allowed me to meet so many new, great ladies.  and because i am a relational person who likes to connect and communicate, you can just imagine what i'll be walking into -- a nonstop girl talk fest.

and then to add to all the madness, there's my job. i am going back to attend the retreat, but i've also been assigned a little role while i am there.  that's what happens when your best friends chair the event.  i get to "take care of" our main speaker.  and would you like to know who that just happens to be:  ann voskamp.  yep, best selling author, amazing writer, homeschooling-mother to six, wife to a farmer... THAT ann voskamp.  many of you have heard of her or have read her book, one thousand gifts.   i have mentioned it a time or two in my own blog because it truly had an incredible impact on my life at a critical time.  you see, it was her book i was reading the month before my cancer diagnosis in 2011.  i was reading her words and making my daily list of blessings when the doctor called and whispered the word cancer across the phone line.  what does a cancer diagnosis do to the counting of blessings?  when you feel like you can't count clearly or see easily or even can you go on carefully listing the blessings in life?  well, that was a big part of my story two springs ago.  i wrote a blog post called  breathing. seeing. counting.  it tells a little bit about how i was able to begin listing again.  you can click on the link or read this small excerpt from that post:

i started my list on march 22.  i have to say, it was going quite well for me.  i was kind of proud of my ambitious hunting.  even kind of proud of myself.  i took great delight in the way it was coming along, all the while enjoying the challenge and encouraging others.  i was writing easily.  deliberately.  vehemently.   and then on april 19th i heard the word cancer.  cancer brought quite a bit in my household to a halt.  i mean we all kind of Just Stopped.  we couldn't progress any further in anything, it seemed.  not in our laundry or lunch dates or laughter or even in our lists.   we were stuck.  i was stuck.  stuck right there under the frightening and forceful thumb of cancer and no wiggling or will was allowing us breath or escape.  at least not for while.  that is how it felt.  i had stacks of things on my desk...piles of things in my life to address.  a long list of items carefully written under the title To Do.  but there was nothing To Do and nothing got done.  and when i looked at my pretty blue journal sitting neglected on my counter, it made me want to weep.  i finally placed it in a drawer.  i could stand it not one minute more.  i had fallen under the crush of cancer and there seemed to be no possibility for the recording of blessing.

but then something happened.  it wasn't all of a sudden.   just small things....  glimpse of baby girl's brown eyes.  unexpected hug from teenage son.  bird song.  lavender. friend at back door with a meal.  perfect blue of hydrangea.  pink morning light framed in window above dish-dirty sink.  medication.   praying doctor.  gentle husband.  teen girl clearing dinner plates.  fingers deep in spring soil.  rain.  bandaid's calm on angry stubbed toe.  notes and cards arriving daily. my sister's long distance voice. thunder at three am....and there was the old breathing again.  i began to breath and then i began to look.   and when i began to look, i began to see.  and the listing came next.  i felt the cloud lifting.  slowly.  like morning fog which hangs around until well past noon.  little by little the gray was traded for blue.               ~ "breathing. seeing. counting."  june 2011

and two years later, cancer under control and now living in minnesota, i can say that the daily listing of blessings is still a powerful practice.  i don't want to compare minnesota to cancer (lol), but i am still in constant need of finding the treasures God gives each day --the simple things to say thanks over.  this is graceful living.  this is living in gratitude. and is there any other kind of living?

even today, even in the midst of this snowy monday, there is so much for which to give thanks.  yes, it is true i did have to walk out of the nail salon and through deep snow this morning in flip flops, but even in that there is rejoicing: my winterized feet have a spring pedicure...and I AM HEADING TO ATLANTA in two days.  come on! you know what i'm talking about. i could go on and on (and sometimes i do) about the fact that in this first week of spring we are buried in snow, but if i look, if i really look,  if i really train my heart and my eyes to truly see, i can find the blessings.  the snow may be unwelcome on march 18th, but it is still beautiful to see.  and i know underneath it all there will be a gorgeous summer up here in minnesota.  i can look at the picture of emily's car in the snow this morning, and i can choose to see a march snowstorm, or i can choose to see her brother kindly brushing off his sister's buried vehicle. it's a choice, after all.  it's always a choice. yes, i had a brutal, snowy flip flop walk earlier today, but, i had a warm car to climb into, i had a home to go back to, i have children who need me and a husband who loves me.  i have a starbucks drive-thru not too far away.  i have journeyed through some cancer, yet can still claim good health.  i have a loving God who forgives me my grumbling and loves me through the ungraceful moments of my living.

if you don't have a blue or brown or yellow journal,  go get one.  whether you live in the madness of snowy minnesota or the sometimes sunny-ness of the south, start listing.  start counting.  begin breathing the blessings.

“The practice of giving thanks...eucharisteo...this is the way we practice the presence of God, stay present to His presence, and it is always a practice of the eyes. We don't have to change what we see. Only the way we see.” 
― Ann Voskamp

Thursday, March 14, 2013

so what kind of blog is it, anyway?

my daughter has made it perfectly clear:  i am no longer allowed to write posts about the weather.  apparently i have overwritten on that particular subject.  "for heaven's sake, mom, it's not a weather blog!"  and she's right, of course.  it isn't.  but it is a blog about life's lessons.  and sometimes weather is the thing which just happens to teach or illustrate or explain the lessons.  like it or not, emily.  it just is.

so whether or not (pun intended) she wants me to write on the weather, i am going to go right ahead and do so.  because i feel the need to tell you, today it hit 40 degrees in minnesota. i am pretty sure we haven't come anywhere close to that temperature since halloween.  and the thing i wanted to comment on is how different 40 degrees feels in minneapolis, minnesota than it does in atlanta, georgia.   i mean if it is 40 degrees outside in atlanta you would be frantically searching for a coat, extra gallons of milk and firewood.  not quite so in minnesota.  today i noticed people out and about in t-shirts and no coats.  there was minimal fur being worn and i even noticed a guy with his car window rolled all the way down.  i'm sure if i had really looked, i probably would have found some crazy soul in flip-flops.  my own son was just, moments ago, in the front yard kicking around his soccer ball in shorts.  his legs were bare. seriously, i haven't seen my son's bare legs in months.  and there he was, right outside my kitchen window kicking -- practically naked, that boy.

this is my pink shirt.
i have seen fashion bloggers take pictures like this.
i copied their technique.  (notice the snow).
i hope i don't offend anyone.  i promise i won't
photograph my outfits on a regular basis.
and with this unexpected heat wave, i boldly went right ahead and wore a pink shirt today.  a bright pink shirt.  everyone, including the young man ringing up my groceries, commented on it.  "aren't you just looking all springy now!"  that's what i heard.  nothing more than a bright, pink shirt and i was rocking the minnesotans world.  when another mom at the kids' school commented on the color, i replied, "it's my spring fact, i almost wore ballet flats today."  i didn't wear the ballet flats and, after trudging through the massive piles of snow on our way to the car, i'm sure glad.  but i was tempted.  okay, so maybe this isn't a weather blog, maybe it's a fashion blog! my 17 year old might not want me to blog about spring, but i'm pretty sure she'd be cool with me blogging about spring clothes.

and then there's dinner tonight.  that's really why i sat down at my computer to write this post.  dinner.  i had no idea we'd have such a warming trend, but i had already planned to make one of our very favorite summertime meals:  ruth's pesto pasta and chicken.  seriously, it is a huge favorite in my house.  i know you are all wondering who in the world ruth is. i haven't mentioned her before in my weather blog or  in my fashion blog.  but, honestly, that's what i really wanted to write about this evening.  though ruth is a friend who lives back in (warm) atlanta, i first met her when we were in college.  we were both camp counselors one summer at christian, athletic camp in pennsylvania (summer's best two weeks).  i'm sure i can come up with a picture...i'll go look right now.

found one! that's ruth and me (oh, and becky, another friend - i don't have any of her recipes though). we were something like 19 years old. college students. camp counselors.  it was an amazing summer. more fun than i can even describe. fast forward many years later when rick and i moved from ohio to georgia (travel blog?)...ruth and her husband, walt, lived there also.  they were pretty much the only people we knew in georgia and they invited us over for dinner.  we had a bunch of little-bitty kids between us.  their son, ben, and our daughter, emily, are the same age.  we sat them up on the couch...a couple of cute two year olds and ruth made this pesto for dinner, and we felt like we knew someone in our brand new state.  we loved the pesto that evening.  we loved, even more, the connection with friends.
ben and emily (and emily's "bun-bun.") i'm
including that because she told me i couldn't
write about the weather anymore.  paybacks sister.

so, that's the recipe.  and i have been making it for my family for the past 15 years.  i love when recipes come with a story.  i mean, i know it's not a grand tale of great adventure. it was just a simple dinner with a couple of friends and a couple of their cute kids.  but still, it was a connection.  ruth and i are still friends.  she still lives in (warm) georgia, but we comment on each other's facebook posts and tonight, though i've made this dish a 100 times since our dinner together 15 years ago, i let her know i was still cooking her dish...and still calling it by her name.

and though tonight's post might have ended up sounding a lot like a cooking blog by the time i was finished (always wanted to write one of those, by the way)...i think, really, it isn't a blog about the weather or my fashion or ruth's cooking.  maybe it's just a blog about the little pieces of life which come along...

pieces of life which amuse us, teach us, inspire us, grow us.

pieces of life which, regardless of climate, clothes or cooking, make us who we are today...

ruth's pesto
1/2 cup olive oil
1 bunch of fresh basil - chopped
salt and pepper
1/2 cup of pine nuts --- you can use walnuts
1/3 cup of grated parmesan cheese
3 cloves of garlic - minced
1 cup of liquid chicken broth -- bullion works great.
add a little bit of lemon juice and mix everything together in a blender.

in a pan, melt 8 oz. of cream cheese with a little bit of water.  when it gets creamy, add the basil mixture and wisk well together.  sometimes i put it back in the blender to get is really smooth.

in the meantime, cook a box or two of bow tie pasta and grill a few chicken breasts.

i drain the pasta and then cover it in the creamy pesto sauce.  finally, i chop up those chicken breasts and top the pasta with chicken and (a lot) of grated parmesan cheese. 

throw the whole thing in a beautiful bowl (don't skip that step...the beautiful bowl is really important)! 

that's it.  voila! you've got an amazing dinner.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

double digits and driving

he gave me a hug, a kiss on the cheek, and a good night, mom all in about 3 seconds flat.  "i'll be up in minute to tuck you in, connor,"  i said with hands buried in the hot water of dinner dishes.  "no, it's okay, mom.  you don't have to come up.  i can put myself down."

tomorrow my boy turns 10.

it is his last night being 9 and i will tuck him into his bed whether he needs me to, or not.

i know he's no longer the baby.  he gave up that long standing status when bella came home a couple years ago,  but tell that to my mama's heart.  he's always been my little guy, but now he's growing inches each week and tomorrow will hit double digits.  that feels big for him.  that, perhaps, feels bigger for me as i watch this little guy grow right before my eyes.

and even though he was the youngest for so long, he isn't a typical youngest.  there's nothing about him that seems babied or coddled or helpless.  from the time he was tiny, he liked to pretend he was big; in charge, strong and independent; in the driver's seat -- literally, in the driver's seat. before he was barely walking, he loved nothing more than to climb into my car and sit behind the steering wheel.  he still does that. i think it is the place where he dreams best: behind the wheel.

he is a boy who drives things. and as he hits double digits this week, i have to wonder what does that mean for this little guy's future?  where will he go?  what will he do? driving typically takes you places -- that is, unless you're a little dude pretending.  on second thought, maybe it is exactly in our pretending that we travel the furthest.  there is this long road before him. waiting. wild and wonderful. terrible and terrific.  but as his mom, i am in no hurry for him to travel out on it.  i am in no hurry for this child to grow up any faster than he already is.  i wonder to myself, what will i do when he is no longer riding his bike in the driveway, through the yard, around the house, down the street?  someday he'll trade in that worn out bicycle for a car and that car will have wheels and an engine and will go places unseen from my kitchen window.  places which cannot hear my dinnertime call from the back door.  places which are beyond me.  places beyond.

my boy who drives things turns 10 tomorrow.

one of our family traditions is to take a special 10th birthday trip.  the older three had their adventures and this weekend connor will get his.  he and rick are heading up to northern minnesota for some father-son time.  when rick and connor began talking about what they would do for this trip, the only thing connor cared about was that it included (you guessed it) "driving something."  so off they will go this saturday to drive snow mobiles up north...i think there's talk of some dog-sledding as well.  not that we couldn't do that in our own backyard, mind you, but there's something special in going away. just a boy and his dad.  a few days ago he said to me, "i can't believe it's finally my turn, mom."  my answer:  "i can't believe it either."

yep, my boy turns 10 tomorrow.

 connor rides his bike everyday -- even in the snow.  

 he doesn't mind driving people places either!

 guess what he was going to do with this?  yep, drive it. 
the boy has owned more remote control things than i can count.
this particular purchase was the bribe needed to get him to stop sucking his thumb. 
it worked!

 connor can even pick his nose while driving -- the kid's got talent!

sometimes, a little help is a good thing, too. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

a march snow day

it's march 5th and we finally have our first snow day.  you know it's bad out when they cancel school in minnesota.  this is the very first of the season,  but it's not like we haven't had our share of snow.  oh my goodness, no.   we have had snow on the ground since november.  we've had lots and lots of snow on the ground since november. in fact, we haven't even been able to see the ground since november.  but today, march 5th,  is our first official snow day.  it started falling yesterday morning and pretty much hasn't stopped.

everything is buried in heavy white -- gigantic globs of gooey sugar,  frosting every square inch of the outdoors.  i'm at my usual morning post near the fireplace checking as one school after another closes.  preschool closed.  grade school closed.  high school closed.  and those children who should be sleeping in are instead whooping and hollering around the house like it's christmas morning.  i shush them, attempting to send them all back to bed.  they can sleep in. curl up with a good book. snuggle down under the weight of warm blankets and stay there for as long as they like.  suddenly, we have nowhere to be.  magically, we are homebound. pancakes, the only thing on our agenda. and it's bliss.

but they don't go back.  because it's a snow day.

and who doesn't like a snow day?

who doesn't like to take a break in the middle of a busy week and be told, you must stay home and do nothing!  we all need that kind of pause.  it's more than just a day off of school, it's a gift to be grounded, at least on occasion.

in a few minutes i'll go into the kitchen and make chocolate chip or blackberry pancakes, pour another cup of coffee. i'll begin our day slow and quiet and soft  (if i can get these kids back to their beds)! as i'm typing this post, i watch connor with face pressed up against the glass of backdoor.  the snow is impressive.  even after weathering a full winter here, it is still something to see.  connor turns 10 this week, and we declare this snow day in honor of his birthday. double digits.  i bet we are knee deep into the double digit inches of snow today, as well.  it's a gift.

my thoughts could easily turn to the warm weather of the south.  i know full well what march 5th feels like in atlanta.  i remember many a first week in march playing or picnicking at the park...sweaty with spring heat.  i can picture the yellow of daffodils and forsythia and the glorious sun.  i could go there in my memory and emotion and feel the grumble begin hard in my gut -- if i let it.  i won't let it though.  my friend, carla, surprised me last week by leaving a pot of daffodils and some wheat seed and soil on my doorstep.  it was such a sweet gesture. she knows winter is wearing long all of a sudden for this woman.  those beautiful daffodils are on my kitchen counter this morning, sunnier than ever with the backdrop of pure white out the window.  are they mocking me? it would be easy to imagine their sunny faces laughing at my winter wrinkled brow.  but no.  only if i let them.  will they mock or will they encourage? the choice is mine.  i've been taking a photography class this past month and recently we had an assignment on focus.  focus changes everything, doesn't it?

so today we will probably sled or build snow forts or walk out on the frozen lake.  again.  we will slide our feet into boots which are looking like they've seen better days.  we will pile on coats which thrilled us in their november newness, but which have now lost the novelty.  we will locate our mismatched mittens and gloves...whatever we can find.  we will make our 10 zillionth cup of hot chocolate and add our 10 zillionth log to the fire.  and though winter in march can feel old and frayed and frustrating, we will do our best to keep our eyes on the yellow of kitchen-counter daffodils.

we will celebrate our snow day.

yes, this major snowfall, this march madness tells us that winter is long in minnesota. extremely long.  we had heard about this very thing.  we knew it.  we now know it, firsthand.  but we also know it is only a season.  God has given us seasons in life and some certainly do feel longer than others.  no matter where we live, no matter what our climate,  we all live in the occasional long season of life. much of the length depends on what we are willing to see.  daffodils or snowflakes.   snow day gift or snow day grumble.

the boys are already outside.

it's time to go make those pancakes.

"for everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven."  ~ ecclesiastes 3:1

no picnic happening here today.

by 10 am the boys had their tunnel built.  

and not that we make these choices perfectly.  i assure you we have also had our share of grumbling.  just yesterday i put up this picture of protest on facebook.  grumble. grumble.  and today, my friend, peggy (who happens to live in minnesota, but winter in florida)! posted this youtube video "the minnesota song." on my facebook wall.  sometimes we just have to choose to find some humor in it all.