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An empty tank.

An empty glass.

An empty bank account.

Anytime you hear of empty… you think… people think ….. well…. nothing good.

Empty can cause fear. Empty can cause pain…..

But empty…. happens. All the time. To alot of people. To everyone, I think.

It easy to focus on the difficult parts of experiencing empty.

But as we encounter these times in life, we need to force ourselves to find the good in these moments.

Pain and circumstance can be a tutor in life. If you allow it.

Wherever there is emptiness there is a capacity to recieve.

This is God’s great chance to work.

God doesnt do his best work in the luxury jet of the televangelist. Or in the padded pews of a stuffy church. But… in our brokenness. In our right now neediness.

God delights in our weakness. His strength is made perfect inside of our weakness. Its in these moments of emptiness that he shines brightest.

So, if you have an empty glass right now… an empty tank… an empty bank account….

an empty heart.

Think of this? as your moment…right now?… is your moment.

God’s grace is NOW… right at this moment.

God’s grace isnt for your yesterday. His grace isnt for your last year. It isnt for your past at all. There is no grace for your past.

But, for where you are at this moment?

There’s grace.

Emptiness

What if?

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What is it about the click of the keypad I find so…. satisfying? As if somehow my thoughts have more significance when there are in front of my eyes versus whirling in a soup in my busy brain?

I suppose the speed that I can type is a much more manageable speed to process my thoughts,  than the speed my thoughts normally come: fast and furious, a whirling dervish of cerebral activity.

So, here I sit, and with every click and tap of the letters on my laptop and with every hit of the space bar, my thoughts are measured out… bit by bit.  Portioned serving sizes of my meandering brain… that I can manage to consume without too much waste.

I have been saying (to myself) for quite some time now I am goin to pick up this blog again.

To write again.

To write more.

To write.

I love the outlet of laying my thoughts out. Seeing them in front of me. The sharing of myself… with the giant void of the internet. Hitting the “Publish” button, and WHOOSH… the sense of letting them go. (Ah… now that? Feels good.)

But I worry…. that when faced with the reality of recoding the gooey innards of my grey matter?… the words may possiblly end up being more cynical and negative than I would like.

I have a charming duality to my persona:

I love to see the best in others. Yet often see the worst in myself.

I hold on to hope of great and wonderful things. Yet fear the future will cruely deal harsh realities.

I love to laugh. But sometimes, with laughter still hanging in the air, doubt creeps in.

There is nothing that holds my heart more than the love I have for God, and his goodness. Yet there are days when the silence comes easier than prayers.

And what if… when given the opportunity to leave an imprint in words… they are not the hopeful, inspiring kind? What if they are the doubt-filled version? The cynical point of view? Of a sarcastic tone?

Would those words be as significant?

I know each point of our lives holds meaning. The doubt filled moments can bring as much clarity (eventually) as the ones that are happy.

So, if you promise to keep in mind my heart… I will promise to always deal honestly with my fantastically, wonderful struggle that is my joyous and peaceful, frustrating and overwhelming life.

Deal?

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Resist the temptation to run from struggles.

This evening, it is raining. There’s something about the rain. It makes you reflect. At least… it makes ME reflect. The sound of the slap of rain against my roof draws me out of whatever I am doing.  I HAVE to go to it… stand in the door and watch it. Open a window and feel the air that carries the coolness of the water on it. It washes me over. Refreshes me.

As cheesy as it sounds, its true… I shut my eyes against the night…. and FEEL it. I BREATHE it.

Water is life.

And all at once I am aware of the weight of the things pressing against me. For a moment, I feel the heaviness of the tasks of life. While simultaneously feeling the hope that surely lies in my future. (I am, as always, a complicated woman. I am… an enigma, wrapped in a puzzle, dipped in confusing sauce. I am, an acquired taste.)

I have had an eventful year since I have visited my blog.

I will not list all the changes me and my family have underwent. But it probably is not all that different from your own last year and the changes and challenges YOU have experienced: Tears surely have been shed. Limits were most definitely pushed. Joy was discovered. Peace was pursued.

And struggles were encountered.

And  the struggles beat against your body like a relentless ocean. This ocean is your life, your personality, your career, your weaknesses, you finances, your flaws, your uncertain future. And this ocean? Never gives up. Never lets up. Taking your breathe. Slapping your skin. Stinging at your eyes. Making you weary.

You brace yourself against the waves. Knee deep in the swirling foamy water…  you tighten your body’s muscles to hold your ground. You have the desire to fight. To stand. You must.

Then you realize… you are standing against an ocean. A massive body of water. The ocean will never run out of salty ammunition. It replenishes itself with unrelenting stamina. You realize… the ocean will never stop.

You know you lack the strength to stand there much longer. The sandy foundation moving under your feet. It is a battle that will only prove your human ability is finite.

Then all of a sudden, the salt water starts to taste a little bitter.

A familiar haze of weariness comes over you… as you get the fantastic idea…

to run.

Run away from the work. Run away from this body of water that taunts you with its perpetual existence. To run from the struggle it takes to stand in those waves.

Will peace come from retreat?

No.

It will not. As hard as the struggle is to stand, there is no peace in running. Retreating and giving up is a wasted decision. It is wasted, because no matter how weak you think you are. No matter how tired you feel yourself to be at the moment. No matter how much you doubt your abilities…. you will return to this ocean. You will return to these waves.

Because water… is life.

The ocean is ours.

Not ours to master. But ours just the same.

Here is our choice. To run away from our struggles. Or to turn and face them… walk into them… and float above them.

Did you know what you can float on these waves? You might have to wade out a little deeper. You might have to fight the flow a little harder for a distance. You might even swallow your fair share of salty water perhaps. BUT... but, my friends,  once you’ve walked the proper distance into this body of water…and you lay back into these same powerful waves?… arms out… in surrender? In trust of the laws of nature our marvelous creator has? You will float.

And here’s a little science for you: it is easier to float in an ocean. The salt in the water causes it to be heavier than fresh water. And your floating will come easier.

Those powerful waves that shook your foundation before?  That power is still there under you. The same things that would have smacked you in the face? The same things that would have stung your eyes and taken your breath away…. those things?… now carry you.

A dear friend is always telling me (quite often in fact, she is tireless in her advice) … the TRUE struggle in life? Is learning to rest and not fight so much.

Cuz, what does fighting the ocean of struggles REALLY benefit you? All you will get is stinging nostrils filled with salt water and a tired and weary you.

Rest today, my friends. Let’s both rest. Let the waves come. Wash past us.

And whatever you do…

Resist the temptation to run from those struggles.

Resist the temp…

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I have returned.

Commence to start dancing.

Or crying.

There are no wrong feelings here.

3 Ingredients. 3 Steps. Butterfingers.

Here is your main cast of characters.

Three ingredients.

(And right now, at our local stores candy corn is 75% off. – Bonus!)

And you dont have to use Kisses for the chocolate… in fact, there are much better options out there for dipping chocolates. A friend told me about chocolate with paraffin… you should look into that kind, as the kisses as a chocolate coating didnt work fantastic.

And I used smooth PB… but my next batch I will use a crunchy kind… or a more natural “corse” PB.

First step:

Nuke those candy corns for 30 seconds. Stir. Nuke for 30 more seconds. Stir again. Keep nuking those bad boys until the are smooth and melty.

Second step:

Be quick now! Dump a whole small jar of PB in that candy corn goo… hurry! Quick! You are gunna wanna move fast… so have the jar open and ready to dump… cuz that candy corn? Solids up pretty quick.

Now stir! Stir! Stir! Do it like you mean it!

Third Step:

Dump that mixture onto parchment paper. You can put the paper in a pan to help you form it into a square… or you can do it by hand. Me? I did it by hand. Cuz I am hardcore like that. (Be intimidated.) Then chill that puppy.

Now you are gunna want to score that brick of peanuty goodness. Make it into bars. Make it into coin size pops. I made cubes.

See? Cubes. As you can kinda see… the texture isnt quite EXACTLY like a Butterfinger. But it is close… it’s crumbly and the taste and color is PERFECTLY like a Butterfinger. Wait… you’ll see.

Now, at this point, you can chill these cubes again… or move right on to the next step.

Step Four:

Dip. Dip. Sha na na na… na na na na na… Dip! Dip!

And there you go… bite sized Butterfingers!

I was able to make over 150 little fun size bites from one batch.

So there you go…. Homemade Butterfingers!

Lemme know how you like yours!

Mixed Well.

I like most all things creative, a well written poem, a play doh sculpture, a sidewalk chalk drawing, an engaging book, a thought provoking photograph, an artfully decorated cake, well, the list could continue on and on. The ability to thoughtfully create something is one of the greatest gifts we as a race have been given by our loving creator.

There is so no way I could describe the feeling I have when I find myself applying the my creative giftedness to a canvas or paper. I dont get the opportunity to do it much. But when I can… there is something about those moments. I get giddy with anticpation. I find my thoughts racing. My mood actually is lifted. I get lost in what I am doing. And it’s not because I am so very skilled. There are many, many artists out there whose skill far exceeds my own. (My daughter is one of those people.)

But just beacuse I so enjoy it.

I was thinking recently how we are all made in God’s image.

You. Me. Your spouse. Your parents.Your siblings.  All made in God’s image.

God is a wonderous creator. He delighted in creating us.

It says in Psalms 139:15 that we were skillfully made..  When you look up the word skillfully (in Hebrew: raqam) it literally means to “to variegate; to mix colors”… Isn’t that beautiful?

I saw something interesting in that definition.

I like to paint whenever I can find the extra time. I grab a styrafoam plate off the top of my fridge, and the shoe box of paints. I squirt a quarter size amount of blue, red, yellow, brown, white and black… I use the primary colors to create whatever color I need.

A dusty blue for the sky. A muddied green for grassy leaves. And often times I run out of the mixed color I created.

Then I have to try to recreate that shade… I know for the dusty blue I used blue, a bit of white and a bit of brown. But try as I might, I cannot duplicate that shade. I can get close, but a exact.

God created us that way… a mixed color. Not to be duplicated. Never to be recreated.

Only once in all of creation will he mix a colorful you.

Only once will the world see the work of art that is you.

So, I say, let your colors shout! Let them be loud!

Figure out what the tone of your mix is… and turn up the volume!!

Insert proud grin….

Alina wrote this story last year… when she was 12… maybe some day we will see it published?

All in a day’s work.

The night has snuffed out the last of the light. The snow is falling, we are all in preparation for bed. Jammies on. Teeth brushed. But there is one ingredient missing. Do you know what it is? What’s that? A story? Well, yes, a story. It just so happens I know one.

Here’s one to as you snuggle up on this cold January night.

“Once upon a time there were  three men, all working towards building the same structure. A back breaking job, chipping rock to form the wall that would surround a new building. It was hot. The progress was slow. And so they worked, day by day.

A stranger happens by, noticing the pile of rubble and wondered to the first worker, “What are you doing?” The worker, agitated by the interruption, doesn’t even look up from his labor. He responds gruffly with, “What does it look like I’m doing, I’m breaking rocks!”

The wandering stranger moves on down the sidewalk a bit and asks the second worker, “What are you doing?” The second worker responds, leaning heavily on his hammer,  in a tired worn voice, “I’m chipping stone for this stupid fence.”

The stranger goes a bit further and sees the third worker, busy stacking the rock, and asks him, “What are you doing?” The worker looks up, wipes the sweat from his brow, smiles, and with a sweeping gesture toward the location of the new building says, “I’m building a cathedral, and it will be magnificent!”

Three laborers. All doing the same job. All received the same pay. Each with a different view of his work.

I have to admit that my view isn’t so positive most of the time. A lot of the time I’m just face down in the sticky ceramic tile. Or the stained berber carpeting. Or the piles of smelly laundry.

In the midst of all the cooking, cleaning, teaching, and mothering, I can feel very much like the first laborer. I can be bitter and indifferent. I feel the slow progress of my daily work. Sometimes being a wife and mother can feel like such a thankless job. I never seem to accomplish anything, and the work is seemingly endless. It taunts me daily. I tell myself, “No one really appreciates me.”

Sometimes I find myself in the work boots of the second contractor. Tired and worn. Stretched to what I feel is my limit. Empty of self. I inwardly sigh at the constant requests of my children. The expectations of my husband. I tire at the pull of the requirments and responsibilites. And secretly I wonder, “Will what I do here make any difference?”

But, oh….

Oh God, I want to be like the third worker. I want to see the bigger picture. To see my daily life as you see it. To see the importance of my service. To have abundant joy and take pride in what I’m called to do. I want to see that the work that I’m doing here is much bigger than even I can imagine.

That I have in my power, the ability to change this environment from tedious to tremendous. For you and your purposes. Teach me how to make doing dishes a holy service. Cleaning laundry as a worship. Making my house a place of imperfect magnificence.

Today, they are mess makers. Snack sneakers. Dish dirtiers. Fight pickers. Clingy cryers. Fussin Nellies. Eye rollers. Grumblers. May God help me to see past that. When I inwardly sigh at my days and I stop to I wipe my brow, remind me to choose to smile, look at my girls and say, “I am building a cathedral. One day I will stand and see four magnificent God serving women.”

Sick Day.

So, for those who have the extreme blessing of knowing me, you know I like to verbalize. I am a talker. And sometimes, I whine. I might have an occasional tendency to complain. Shameful, I know. Woe to those who know me.

Today… I am sick. I gots me a little cold. Generously served up by one of my bacteria-carrying little ones. (They are so kind to share. – They get their giving spirit from their Mamma.)

So, now taking into consideration my love of the art of spoken words couple that with me sick? Well, no one wins.

It is a sad day, indeed. Let the complaining commence.

I could tell you of the stuffy nose. The scratchy throat. The pained ears. The chilly toes. (Oh! The chilliness of the toes!)

But I will try to save you from the torment of my complaining.(Because my love for you is so great.)

Instead, I will offer up to you… a pictorial.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. So for your viewing pleasure, I give you.

My morning as a me… only sick.

Me and my BFF. My mac. The warmth of the motor. The glow of the screen. Ahhh….

It’s cold here at the “Du” today. (The “Du” is my husband’s affectionate name for our temporary home, a duplex.) We are trying to save some money on the heating bill. Anybody ever been there? The briskness may be why I am ill today. (Remind me to complain later.)

Here we have exhibit “A” of my illness. An empty roll of TP, which was my tissue of choice until Charlie got me a new box of ACTUAL tissues. Good thing he also bought a fresh supply of TP as well, as this was the last roll available in the “Du”.

When you are as ill as me. (Or as lazy as me. Or a combination of both.) You need to keep the essentials nearby. Here you will see my phone and remote. It is sad how worn out our remote is. (This is in no way an indication of how much TV we watch here at the “Du”. None whatsoever.)

Awe, look who stopped by to check on me… ain’t she sweet? So full of love. So full of kindness. Compassion, even.  She even brought her own blanket so I won’t have to share mine. (I am not what they call a “sharer”.)

Wait folks. Wait just a minute. She did not come as an angel of mercy… but a thief of my Mac. O cruelness of it all. I cannot bear such treachery… in my own house. It pains me so. (Remind me to complain about that later.)

I turn to the Bible in times like this. Of illness. Of betrayal. It is a healing salve, is it not? I do love me some study time. (Even if someone is stealing my covers while I read it.)

Cover stealer.

Even though, at the moment, my toes have reach chilliness that should never be known to man, I will push through this and share with you a bit of lost wisdom. I don’t know if you knew this or not. But one of the most well-kept secrets on recovery is M&Ms. Lot’s of them. Preferably peanut. I accredit them to my speedy recovery. Wait… I am not quite recovered yet. Maybe I should eat more?  Couldn’t hurt.

My oldest daughter has been homeschooling. What? I didn’t tell you? Well, she is. We have abandoned the traditional brick and mortar school for the “School in yer Jammies”. I highly recommend it. (Even if I have to take a break from eating M&Ms to check her American History quiz.)

When you homeschool, your child can attempt to speed your healing with humor. Humor may be healing. But wasting chocolate in such a manner? That is not helpful to my recovery. I wouldn’t advise it. In fact, it is frowned upon here at the “School in yer Jammies”.

And the younger are so easily influenced. For shame. (Remind me to complain about this later.)

I decided to paint my toes. I do enjoy to paint. Canvases. And although, most people might categorize me as creative, I am always disappointed in my toe painting skills. I chose this color because I thought it might look “Christmassy”. It does not. It looks “Shrekky”. I am not delighted. (Again, remind me to complain later.)

Here you go, something for  you lovers of all things random. Here is something that is CUTE & GREEN. Unlike my shrekky toes. Right? Right? It makes me smile.The caterpillar, not my toes.

Well, I must retreat back into my blankie. Have a bowl of stewed chicken and veggies. Watch the Hallmark channel. Maybe being sick isn’t the worst way to spend the morning.

 

 

The View From the Backseat.

So the other day I took a pair of the young’uns to Cleveland to visit the Rainforest at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. (We have season passes. I know, it’s impressive. Be impressed. I know people.) So, anyhoo, me and the pair headed northwards to go visit the Rainforest and I took along my trusty D80 to snap a few pictures of a couple of my kids cavorting with the critters. Well, when I was driving, my children took control of the shutter.

This was the result of that road trip.

There was a snowstorm the night before. My lil Cabrio was enveloped by 15″ of powder.

Perhaps I should have taken the time to clean off my whole windshield, no? Eh, it was fine. Who needs to look to right? Certainly not me.

These little kicker boots belong to my three year old. Who handles a Nikon D80 with alarming ease.

How does a 9 year old survive a one hour trip (thanks to the snow laden roads) to Cleveland? Electronics. That’s how.

Ah, the loverly grayness that is Ohio somehow seems less dreary when captured by the chubby little fingers of brown eyed baby.

Why does my 9 year old beauty look so suspicious? It’s like she doesn’t believe me when I say Ohio is cheerful. Eh, who am I kidding? It’s still gray. Still dreary.

But the company makes it tolerable.

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