Letting Go.

I had this vision when we bought this house and I learned it already had a garden going in the back…that it was already landscaped out front and around the sides. A vision of beautiful flowers crowning the privilege of owning our own home. I daydreamed of picking these most gorgeous flowers and adorning my tables and Victorian rooms with their beauty. Spring came and plants came to life. The excitement grew as I learned what was planted where. I pictured in my head these Monet-ish bursts of pastel color clouds beckoning me from a long drive home of grocery shopping.

Then reality set in.

I have three boys who like to bash things, two dogs who like to trample things, and three girls who like to pick things. I mean they really like to pick things. And soon my poor, defenseless flowers started looking bare and sparse. There were vases adorning the table but only in a poor attempt to save some of the almost petal-less flowers from their oh-so-shortened lifespan. And we had to get creative on arrangement style as stems were a rare oddity!

At first I seethed inside. I tried reasonable explanations.

You know, if we pick the buds before they bloom then we will never see the pretty flowers they were to create.”

I tried cajoling.

Baby girl, how ’bout we wait till everything blooms and then we can pick some together…just you and me. 

Finally I resorted to sharp, not-very-loving, mamma-commands.

DON’T PICK THE FLOWERS if you want to live!”

Nothing worked. I fretted and worried and my garden just became more naked. I fumed and tried to ignore the smashed down Lily patches with buds that never came to fruition. And then the Lord started speaking to my heart.

Let go.”

NO! I can’t. It’s not fair. These are MY flowers. I’ve waited 37 years to finally have this house and this garden and MY flowers. It’s not fair. Did I mention their mine? I selfishly pouted.

Let go.”

He nudged gently as He reminded me:

Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.” ~ Matthew 6:19-20

AND

The hot sun rises and the grass withers; the little flower droops and falls, and its beauty fades away. In the same way, the rich will fade away with all of their achievements. ~ James 1:11

AND

As the Scriptures say, “People are like grass; their beauty is like a flower in the field. The grass withers and the flower fades.” ~ 1 Peter 1:24

Is this what I was doing? Was I holding on to this temporary treasure here on earth, desperately trying to make something so fleeting last longer than it was ever intended?  Was I robbing joy from my girls who already knew the secret of living in the moment? This feeling I had in my heart…it felt very familiar, like my old friend jealousy. When you try and control your hand squeezes until the love is squeezed out with it. It was not until I learned to open up that hand, let go of that control that the jealousy left and allowed love to grow in it’s place. I needed to let this go too. Stop squeezing my possessions. It is all temporal. He made this for us to enjoy in the moment. It was never intended to last beyond that.

I heard Him whispering to me how it was Him who made little girls to love flowers so dearly. He put that desire in them to collect these momentary bursts of beauty. “If that is so, Lord,” I prayed, How do I let go?” 

And the answer was so simple. I have a gift of the lens. A photograph that can capture that first perfect bloom before the physical realm fades. So here are my beauties. A perfect shot of loveliness captured in a singular moment of beauty.

I’ve let my garden go.

Now I snap a picture when I first notice blooming (if they get to that stage) and inhale deeply of any fleeting perfume aroma. And when I drive home from grocery shopping to my balding backyard, I am no longer tense with anxiety. I even left a few weeds to grow around the poor, barren flowers adding some beautiful, unexpected wild flowers into the white space of our lives! Slowly this momma is learning.

 

Summer Cooking {Pesto Crab Pasta}

I made my first batch of pesto tonight. I scheduled Alfredo Pasta with Crab for dinner thinking that Adam would be home to cook it. And he wasn’t. So I was staring at the clock…4 p.m….knowing something needed to be done to feed the kids and I was starving myself. Alfredo seemed…well, complicated. So I googled pesto + lump crab + pasta and came up with a simple recipe.

I love pesto. The spicy garlicky bite mixed with the fresh herb undertones of the basil. My summer staple. If there is one plant I will always have in my garden it is basil. Plus, now I know you can freeze it. Just pop your leftover pesto in an ice cube tray and you have fresh summer in the middle of winter.

Tonight pesto went into everything. A little reserved pasta cooking water mixed with pesto equals easy-to-toss sauce for noodles. A spoonful or two of pesto in the zuchinni being sauteed equals garlicky goodness. Touch of pesto warmed with crab equals salty perfection. Pesto painted over breadsticks equals soft, carb-o-licious heaven.

Make simple pizza dough. Check.

Turn into breadsticks. Check.

Make pesto. Check.

Boil pasta. Check.

Cut and sautee zuchinni. Check.

Lightly warm crab meat. Check.

Drain and toss pasta with pesto. Check.

Plate and take beautiful pictures in the evening sun. Check.

Eat heavenly deliciousness. Check.

Lick pesto off of plate. Check.

There are a million good pesto recipes out there. My basic recipe is below but I rely much more on tasting and adding what I think I need more of, usually more garlic or parmesan or olive oil. If using pesto as a basic pasta-toss sauce, be sure to check final flavor for a bit of salt and pepper!

  • 1-3 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup walnuts (who ever has pine nuts on hand, I ask you?)
  • 3/4 – 1 cup parmesan cheese
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup olive oil

 

~ Cookie Comfort ~

How do you bake cookies while simoultaneously holding a whining infant who may have RSV and has been clinging to you desperately all week day?

One hip…baby. Other hand…cookie scoop. Wasn’t this such a clever invention? I used to see it as a needless tool (my hubby wanted it) that I avoided just on principle. But, I’ll admit, today it has greatly come in handy.

We should be dosing up on meds and trying to clear out this sickness pervading our house. I should be packing the last little bits of our house. But there is something ultra comforting about home baked chocolate chip cookies in the middle of the afternoon! I mean, seriously, look at all that sweet, warm, fresh gooey goodness!

I’ve adapted our recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. The only change being that I use all butter. No shortening or margarine in this house! And Adam has taught me to add the flour slowly at the end testing for that just-right-consistency. That has made all the difference in cooking the perfect cookie!

I cook mine at 350 degrees for exactly 9 minutes. No more, no less. Always pull even if you don’t think they look done! Everyone’s oven is different so that part may take some experimenting.

Scratch Real-Butter Ultra-Comfort Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 3/4 Cup White Sugar
  • 3/4 Cup packed Brown Sugar
  • 1 Cup Butter (slightly softened)

~ Mix with beater.

  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp real Vanilla
  • 2 Eggs

~ Mix again with beater.

  • 1 3/4 Cups – 2 1/2 Cups Flour 

~ Mix in 1 3/4 Cups flour with beater. Slowly add 1/4 – 1/2 cup more at a time till dough is still sticky but can be squished together in hand and keep shape.

  • 1/2 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

~ Stir in chocolate chips.

Cook, eat and enjoy!

And, by the way, the other cool secret about this recipe? You can use it for any type of cookie! Making peanut butter cookies? Add peanut butter and adjust flour accordingly. Making oatmeal cookies? Add a handful of oats and adjust the flour accordingly. As long as the dough has that same consistency then you’re good to go! This helped me in memorizing just on recipe and ditching the rest. Ultra simple for this overly busy mom!

Perfection Through Imperfection {Thankful Christmas Moments}

After reading this amazing post When It Isn’t Perfect, I need to reprioritize. The Bible talks of renewing my mind. When I start thinking one thing then I need to replace it with a truth. Now I’m sure scriptures are thinking much more along the lines of writing the truth of His Word on my heart, but for me I just need to remind myself of truth on a much baser level. This season of life has me really struggling to keep Christmas as the beautiful forefront of my family.

So, instead of seeing all the needles under the tree that I will vacuum up at least twice today (Did I mention our 1 year old pulled the whole tree down the other day and that the garland has been confiscated due to structural issues?), I will choose to see…

A mother-in-love who graciously gifted handmade ornaments that littles could touch for a season.

Instead of the lack of garland (see above), I choose to see…

Vivid imagination that sparks play in a season that will pass by way too quickly.

Instead of my floor that sticks to my feet as I walk through the kitchen and dishes piled high, I choose to see…

Littles playing in flour and helping daddy make imperfect gingerbread cookies.

Instead of worrying about the millions of scraps and toys and clutter on the floor (did I mention I had already vacuumed twice?), I will choose to see…

Children actively creating, making a paper town come to life.

Instead of seeing the marker on the walls that will need to be scrubbed before we move and the stains that need to be purged from the carpet and all the rest of this home’s imperfections, I choose to see…

The beauty of my morning walk by the window that I will greatly miss. Stunning really. Didn’t even have to go outside to take these pictures. Right through my dirty window pane, all finger-printed up, these images glowed through. How breathtaking. There is a lot about this house I won’t miss. This living room window will not be one of them!

Instead of seeing all the muddy boots in the entryway mixed in with shoes in heaps of chaos with a sprinkling of toys thrown in just for fun, I will choose to see…

Fleeting play days that melt quicker than a memory!

I know that one day I will look back on these photos and cry with a longing deep wanting them back and not even blink at the list of worldly mess that threatens to collapse on me today as a young mother. Renewing my mind and repairing my heart today. Belting out some Christmas songs of old and not caring who hears my out of tune voice!

 

Orange Clove Winter Stove Top Potpourri

 

winter potpourri

One of my favorite smells in the world is that classic cinnamon spice aroma that permeates the winter season. Most of us modern day Americans run to the store and purchase our Fabreeze or Glade cinnamon plug-ins. Some of us might even splurge on more pricey Scentsy warmers. But my favorite classic is the simple orange clove stove top winter potpourri.

This works especially well in a synergistic no-waste seasonal way as part of your kitchen clean-up. Winter is the traditional time for citrus to be in season and on sale. With a 4 pound bag of oranges at $1.49 a bag, who isn’t going to eat as many as will drip down their chin? So you are in your kitchen cutting up oranges for the kids lunch. What to do with the orange peels?

There is always the classic churn them in your disposal method. A wonderful natural cleaner for your disposal and sink pipes. But a better, more wintery way, is to simmer them on the stove top with some water, whole cloves and cinnamon sticks. (Stock up on them when they are half price in after Christmas sales…trust me, they will still be good when the next Christmas comes around!)

Ohhhh…the aroma! Just do as I say, not as I do. Use a bigger pot. There is nothing worse then your husband coming to you wanting to know what that burning smell is only to find your water simmered out and your cinnamon sticks are burning! Big pot + lots of water = lots of yummy smelling, house warming goodness! Enjoy.

Living Liturgically Through Nature

 

Some days you wake up overwhelmed and all you see is the mountain in front of you that seems impossible to climb. Sometimes you just can’t get past the next thing that needs to be done because the list seems endless. Nothing stays clean or orderly and life is messy. But sometimes you wake up on a morning like this and are thankful that the ice in your driveway won’t allow you to make it into church.

The kids will be missing the Walk Through Bethlehem, of which I was really hoping we could attend. I think the experience of them being able to time travel back to the city where Jesus was born and experience what that would be like in a very tactile and real way would be such a valuable experience and memory. Instead we were blessed with snow. And in this season of life we are blessed to live in the country. I knew when the sun peeked out that I just had to take advantage of the light and grab my camera for a morning walk. Full of warm carrot muffins and hot coffee, I headed out breathing deep the chill in the air.

There was no need for a temple house of worship this morning. Sabbath was made for man, not man for sabbath. This morning my worship came in being still.

BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD.” ~ Psalm 46:10

I didn’t have to sing. I didn’t have to read. His creation was my liturgy and I sank deep in it’s beauty. There is the deep sustenance – bread of life – that we are to drink from daily but that never negates the beauty in the fleeting. Sometimes we just need to stop, even when chores beckon, and be a Mary and sit at the feet of His creation. After all, this was for His and our pleasure. How can we enjoy if we don’t stop to even pay attention? Soon cars will spray fumes of gray across the white and sun will melt the soft powder. Crystals that shine brighter than any diamond will fade into the dreary background of life. But here, for this moment only, it is perfect.

As I walked all was silent and I heard the birds trilling praise up towards blue sky. I heard the sound of water softly running in the neighboring river. The only other sound was the crunch of snow beneath my feet. The only sounds of life around me where the fading memories of deer in footprints. Even the grass was silent, heavy with the weight of snow.

Be still and know that I am God. 

This verse whispered over and over in my head and through my heart. Oh thank you for this day. Oh thank you that you gave me eyes to see beyond the ordinary. Thank you that my soul longs to translate this perfection into art to share with others. There is no greater muse than You!!!

 

Fall Break ~ Caterpillars and Remembering 9/11

We’ve been on fall break around here. For me that entails LOTS of extra cleaning and organizing around the house. (Have you noticed it’s been kind of quiet around here?) For the kids it has entailed caterpillars. You may remember our post about our monarch caterpillars? Well, after several died due to Tachinid fly parasites, only one survived and turned into that beautiful Monarch butterfly.

It was a poignant moment. The morning of 9/11 we had read several stories dealing with the tragedy. The kids decided to make their own drawings based on the illustrations of Andrea Patel in On That Day While processing tragedy through art, our caterpillar died and broke free as a creature new, transformed, and utterly beautiful and full of hope. It was a glorious analogy for the hope that came out of that day for the still living. I’d show you a picture (I took beautiful ones of the butterfly with the kids while they were drawing) but, somehow, those pictures got accidentally deleted before I had a chance to post.

Since then, fall has dried the meadow grasses and we have had a caterpillar bonanza as woolly bears are flocking to the warmth of the concrete street. Everyday my kids are caterpillar hunting and coming home with hundreds of soft little fuzzies. And if you think I am exaggerating, proof is in the pictures. EVER DAY they hunt, EVERY DAY buckets and cups and bowls (even shoes) fill our porch with soft little pets to play with. I never knew there could be so many in one area! I think it is beginning to drive my husband crazy. Every night he dumps them out to escape to the wild or be eaten by birds and every night he finds more bucketfuls to empty. I love it. My kids are outside enjoying fresh air, playing, using imagination, and NOT playing video games. (I literally had to ban them the first week of fall break to even get them out the door.)

For more 9/11 inspiration (never too early to plan for next year…or pin it to visually remember), visit Elizabeth Foss at In The Heart of the Home.

~ 9/11 Stories for Kids ~

On That Day: A Book of Hope For Children

Fireboat

The Day America Cried

America Is Under Attack: The Day the Towers Fell

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

New York’s Bravest

I Was Born on 9/11

September 11 2001: A Simple Account for Children

The Little Chapel That Stood

The Homeschool Mother's Journal