Category Archives: love

Our wordless walk.

 

Today I saw a beautiful photo on my Instagram feed.

An open journal set on a table, and upon the crisp white page was written the word,

“Grace”

In enviously beautiful penmanship, the kind with long tails and swirls at the ends of the letter.

The journal was placed upon a table set up outdoors. On the table you can see a strategically placed cup of coffee and a pen next to the mug, mindlessly left there by the artist. You could see the back ground. The blurred image of palm trees and blue skies.

No argument from me that it is a lovely image.

My reaction though, was not what the artist had hoped. Something inside me was, disappointed.

It is no difficult task to sit in a tropical setting, drinking a latte while you have the leisure to create a beautiful scripted image about God’s grace.The ease and peace of the moment doesn’t reduce the truth of God’s grace. His grace is life changing. And amazing. And real. Which is why the picture is so powerful.

I love pictures that are like the one I described. Where the girl is strolling in the knee high grass, golden locks tossed messily by the wind. The words of Grace written happily across the sun streaked sky. Where she leans in the shade against a strong tree. Her bare toes curled in the cool green grass. A verse about the peace of our Father Creator written in the canopy of dark green leaves. Photos like this represent the hope of our creator. His blessings. His peace. His amazing grace.

These images appeal to our wants. We want that. Of course we do!  The sun. The blue sky. The crispy empty white page with error free art effortlessly drawn upon it. The refreshing atmosphere. Feet kicked up. We look at that photo and we think, yea, THATS grace.

But there are times when I see these images and… my heart sinks.

Because this is not the grace I know right now. This is not the grace we always see.

Where is the photo of  his princess crying in her car at the red light on her way to work? Her unspoken prayers caught in her throat that is in synchronized twist with her heart. Is his grace not in that moment, as she waits for the light to change?

Where is the photo of the daughter of God staring at a stranger in a bathroom mirror spotted with tooth paste splatters? She looks at the unfamiliar face of someone she no longer recognizes anymore, someone she fears will be forever a failure. Is her heavenly dad’s hope not in there with her as she rests her hands on the sink?

Does grace and hope and peace and love always look like the first photos?

Or is it possible, that he exists in these other moments as well?

Is our faith as valid when our hearts feel hopeless?

Is our love for our maker just as known by our Heavenly Dad when we are feeling unloved?

Are our prayers still important when they are filled with questions?

Does he still hear our heart when it’s cries fall silent?

There is a deep assurance that rests within me that tells me that my faith is just as real now as it is when the days are sunny. My heavenly Dad still sees my heart, hears my cries and is moved with compassion for me.

He knows us comprehensively.Every shadow we walk though, he is there.. Every inch of this part of the path that is clouded by the gray skies that we might find ourselves walking tonight? He is here. And not only is he present in this place with us. He sees all our fears and doubts and darkness and he is overcome with love for us.

When our walk with our God becomes wordless, feel him take your hand and knowingly give you a squeeze. He isn’t going anywhere.

This is my photo of grace.

 

 

 

 

 

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.”

Mystical Love.

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Friday afternoon, with vans filled to bursting with sleeping bags, work gloves, preteen gals, moms, snacks a plenty and one grandpa we hit the road.

It was a four hour trip to our destination, The Hannah House in Athens, Ohio. The Hannah House was our home for 2 nights.

We hung out and talked with people who were under the heavy weight of poverty. Who struggled with addictions. Who were disabled. We shoveled gardens. Built compost bins. Prepared meals. Played bingo. Raked leaves. Gathered limbs. Sorted canned goods.

Of of the volunteers there said something I thought was very insightful.

“Loving God and loving others are somehow mystically intertwined. Where one cannot tell where loving God stops and loving others begins.”

Last weekend we served. We worshiped. We loved.

Reese Joslyn.

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My youngest turned three last week.

When I was little I remember how time used to drag by. Each Christmas and birthday took eons to get here. A trip to the Champion Hills Department store was the longest drive when i was young. When my parents gave me an extra 15 minutes of playtime, it felt like freedom.

Now that I am.. ahem… older, time whizzes past. My wedding, then a baby, then another, then another, then another. Christmas, then birthday after birthday. Crawling then walking. Cooing then talking. Diapers then big girl pants. Gray hairs then wrinkles.

Where does the time go? Why does it feel so much faster?

I think Reese has all the answers. At the ripe age of three she contains the wisdom of all the ages:

1. Live right now. Taste. Feel. Breathe. Be. When you are young all that matters is right now. As you age you become acutely aware of time and of it’s passing.

2. Don’t be self concious. Get messy. Get sticky. Get dirty. Be naked. (I am not just talking literally here.) It’s hard to enjoy a 2 pound sucker when you are worried about getting your face sticky. You can always wash it off later.

3. Be grateful. For what you have right now. For what you feel right now. Appreciate it fully. Revel in what you have. Cuz life tastes so much sweeter when you do.

Thank you, Reese Josyln. My enthusiastic cascade of laughter. May you always help me to see things through your eyes. Pure and perfect.

We need 100cc’s of Ginger Ale! Stat!

And Ramen Noodles. And popsicles. And to make our couches into beds. And drag out all our pillows into our living room. And force all adults to watch cartoons. To keep the thermometer within reach AT ALL TIMES. And for my arms to get sore from rubbing backs.

Because this, my friends is what sickness means in the Neff House. It is a ritual we go through when each child shows signs of any illness. And yesterday we didn’t just experience one sick child, but three. Three children, all with the same complaints,: “Mom, my neck hurts.” and “Mom, my head hurts.” and Mom, my belly hurts.”. If you have children, then you should recognize these maladies as symptoms of strep.

So now we wait for the doctor to open his doors. A mere 10 minutes from now I will begin the calling to try to get through to a doctor’s office whose phone lines will be, no doubt, busy from all the other parents trying to get their children in to see him today. We will pray for favor. Amen.

Below you will enjoy picture of each ailing one.

First Reggie. Notice she is pretty excited about the prospect of getting to stay home. “Mom, do I get to stay home from school tomorrow?” She likes to see the glass half full. She enjoys what she can outta this experience.  She is also an original child and has decided to mix it up with an additional complaint, “Mom, my one ear hurts.” She always has to be the best. (Over achiever. Humph.)

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Reese, ah my baby. She was pretty upset about this whole illness thing. She acted as if someone gave it to her on purpose. Like we did it TO her. And she let us all know. Oh, the grouchiness that has ensued after the onset of the, “Mom, my neck hurts!” Oh, the grouchiness. But, oh, the change in her that was wrought with one dose of Motrin. Ah, Motrin. In my prayer time last night  lifted up thanksgiving for the person who invented Motrin. It is in my humble opinion, a miracle drug. Thank you, God. Amen.

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Keni, though reacts differently. She has a super immune system and never ever gets sick. (She’s like her Dad.) And when the day does come that her body submits to a germ, she is very disappointed. In herself. “Mom, what about my homework?” and “Mom, what about my test?” and “I CAN”T miss my test!” and “I will get in trouble!” and  “What about my library book?” She runs through all the possible horrible implications of missing her schooling. The little brain just won’t let her rest.  It is bad enough she is being tortured in body, but I think the mental torture she puts herself through is much worse.

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She should embrace the situation. Like this:

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The Tattooed Lady

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I don’t know if you all realize this or not, but… I love Kraynaks. I go every year, twice a year. A holy pilgrimage, if you will, once at Easter to see the Bunny Land and once at Christmas to see Electric Christmas.

But horror of all horrors, we missed Electric Christmas. One delay led to another and the next thing you knew it was over.

Procrastination is never a good idea.

In an effort to avoid missing the upcoming Electric Holiday display, I loaded the kids in the van and we headed out, on Valentines day. For future reference, Valentine’s Day is a good day to celebrate Easter. No lines. At all. It was slow paced and dare I say? Relaxing.

The kids and I had a great time. And their joy was further compounded when my Dad gave them each 5 dollars to spend on whatever the wished.

At this point you may wonder what that story has to do with that picture up there. (Some of you may not be wondering, because you know me. And my pathalogical need to over explain things. Bear with me. Thank you.)

Well, Reese at the tender age of two is quite the bargin shopper. She bought a little wind up fuzzy white bunny that hops across the floor, a little blue basket to carry it in, and white chocolate bunny sucker, and a page of 100 Go! Diego! Go! tattoos. (I know! That’s a lot for five bucks, huh? My kinda woman.)

Anyhoo…these tattoos are the sole reason for this post. Late last night Reese applied a copious amount of tattoos to her little naked body.

One on each cheek. One on the back of each hand. One on the top of each foot, eighteen on her right leg, five on her left leg.

Then she moved on to others in her family, sharing a mix of her old love: Diego and her new love: tattoos. She tattoed each of my hands as well, and my forehead. She got Alina while she was in bed, one on each of her hands, then one on her leg after she fell asleep. Keni and Reegie also have thier fair share of skin art, and I think it’s would be a true thing to say that Chuck is the only construction worker who has a Diego Tat this morning on his arm.

So as the Neff’s go out into the world today we push the envelope fashion wise. Making a statement. Of our love for Reese and her love for Diego (and tattoos.)

We are nothing if not a trendsetting family.

My Newest Addition.

photo-5MacBook Pro. Plastic. Silver. 15″ Screen. Glorious. 

Welcome. Welcome to my home. Welcome to my family. Welcome to my heart.