Friday, November 21, 2014

What To Do With Day Old Bread or How We Make a Great Team

My husband & I make a good team. Just a day or two ago, I prepped our breakfast of French Toast the night before using our day old French bread. He cooked it in the morning.

This works for us because I am the night owl and he is the morning guy. He sets the alarm and makes sure that I get up to eat breakfast with him about once/week. Usually he wakes and leaves for work while the rest of us are still snoozing. But one day a week, we make an effort to eat breakfast together. This started a little over a year ago.

He preps a nice breakfast, such as the French Toast I mentioned or perhaps an omelet with fresh fruit as pictured here. We have coffee and breakfast under our twinkle lights that light up our dining room year round. Much of the time I just sit there without much to say. I am amazed at how much staring at him with my morning hair makes him happy.

Can you see the lights behind him and his big smile?
We do make a great team. However, like all great teams we have to keep working at the fundamentals to keep being a winning team. This idea of once/week morning breakfast came after a long season of unusual circumstances in our lives. Hubby & I were struggling to stay connected beyond the communication it took to handle the logistics of caring for others (which included emergency foster care and his dad in the hospital for five months in addition to caring for and homeschooling our four children).

This effort to connect in a new way for this new season has reaped much more than the effort it takes to get myself out of bed. We only get about 10-20 minutes before he dashes off to work at 6:30 a.m. but we both look forward to this time.

Something fresh. Something that has a cost. An effort at connecting. These elements contribute to our winning marital team strategy. We both win.

Another bonus has been using up day old French bread; it makes fantastic French Toast. I don't think that I can ever go back.

How about you? 
How could you connect in fresh, meaningful way with someone in your life this week? 
Or perhaps you have a great way to use old bread?

And for those so inclined, the recipe, straight from Betty Crocker, follows:

Custardy Overnight French Toast,
per Betty Crocker's 40th Anniversary Edition

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 eggs
18 slices French bread, each about 1" thick

Beat flour, milk, sugar, vanilla, salt and eggs with hand beater until smooth. Arrange bread slices just to fit in single layer in glass baking dishes. Pour egg mixture over bread slices. Turn to coat both sides. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Heat griddle or skillet over medium heat or to 375 degrees. Cook about 6-8 minutes on each side or until golden brown.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

10 Lessons of October 2014

10 Things I Learned in October 2014

1) I miss my family more than I realize. While hanging out with my mom, my sister, & my niece during their October visit, I realized afresh how much I miss all of my family. Just because I've adapted to the gap, does not mean the gap isn't there.

2) Huge beach balls, bubbles, and confetti all contribute to the art of celebration. Thanks to the Rend Collective concert and the reminder that we need to be intentional about celebration in our lives.

3) Trick or treating for teenagers is much more fun with friends.

4) I am inspired by high school debaters. They give me great hope for the next generation.

5) Sometimes when I am compelled to lead a Bible study, it isn't about some great work that God will do through me. Instead it is about a message that God has for me,  the Bible study leader. Right here.  Right now. The study is Stronger: Finding Hope in Fragile Places by Angela Thomas.

6) I have thoroughly underlined the book Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brene Brown. One among many insights gleaned and embraced is the fact that it is okay if I need to grieve differently than other people. I don't need to wait until everyone feels the same as me. I can do what I need to grieve even if it means this extrovert needs to do some of it alone.

7) As my sister shared some of her struggles as a single mom due to the death of her husband four years ago, I realized afresh we never know someone else's story and how they got where they are. I know her story; I have great admiration for how she lives out her path. However, when she shared some of her story, I realized that I needed to have more compassion on people when I don't know their story. It is a reminder that it is easy to judge by appearances.

8) I am learning afresh how much that I like to write. My Wednesday evenings have changed and I am taking the opportunity to write. I love it.

9) After one year on Facebook, I realize that more of my on-line time has gone to Facebook instead of reading and writing blog posts. Is this good or bad? Or the way that I want it to be? Not sure. But it is the reason why I have posted even less over the past year.

10) I am learning right now that I would really like lists to have 10 items even when I can't think of things that I have learned.

Linking with friends at Chatting at the Sky.
The End.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Celebrating a man deeply admired

Happy Birthday to my Father-in-law, Clarence. October 22, 2014, would have been his 81st birthday. He was a man who worked hard, played hard, and loved deep. He had a twinkle in his eye, an easy laugh, and a hankering for sweets.

For a little over twenty-one years, I have lived near my father-in-law. Yet, I learned more about the depth of his character during the last 13 months of his life than all the years before. Oh, his character was there all along but the depth of it was revealed through a long trial of watching him struggle to breathe in the hospital for months. It is hard to remember those days of suffering – it was equally hard to see his wife so distraught at his distress. And yet, it was in the suffering, that I saw a man worthy of my deep admiration.

He left a strong legacy in his daughter and five sons. This year he celebrates his birthday with Jesus.

In a few days from now, we will remember the last day we saw him alive. Then, a few more days and we will remember the day he went to be with Jesus. We miss you Clarence!
Some links to the other part of the story:
and one of my favorites from this season:

We grieve with hope, as it says in I Thessalonians 4:13-14:

"But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus."

Saturday, September 20, 2014

How to Change Frustration to Thankfulness

Let’s play a game. What do a rock, a magnetic letter “R”, and a fruit snack wrapper have in common?

Can you guess their commonality?

Aww, it may be a trick question since their connecting point is simply that they have all been found in my purse.

Yep, you got it. A rock, an R, and a wrapper lived in my purse for a time.   

Sometimes when I notice such things, I get a ‘burst of love’ and I delight in the children that put them there. But, unfortunately, there are the many other times that I just get frustrated. Often, I sigh, “Why is this in here? Who put a rock in my purse? Why do they think my purse is a garbage can?”

On those days, all I can see is work, inconvenience, and thoughtlessness. Rocks need to go outside. Toys need to be put away. Wrappers need to go in the garbage can. Why am I the only one who cares about such things?

When I first became a mom, it was easier for me to be thankful because there was a time when I thought that I couldn’t have children. Sadly as the years sail on by, I easily forget these words that I penned long ago:

“There are so many hopes and dreams tied up into having a baby that I never fully realized were there. Until now. When we are really trying.  And it’s not happening. I can’t believe how much it is a daily ache within me. Yet, I am still hopeful and know that it’s the Lord who opens and closes the womb. And He can choose to do that for us.”

 Eventually, God granted our hope and dream of children.

About nine months after my firstborn son arrived, I said, “The hardest of days with my child are better than the best of days when the longing was so great.”

I wish I could hang onto those feelings of overwhelming gratitude.

But, to be honest the day-to-day grind takes its toll. I often do not stop to ponder and delight in my children. Nor am I thankful for all things at all times.

However, I recently discovered how to change my frustrated thinking into thankfulness. Angela Thomas, in her book Tender Mercy for the Mother’s Soul, says:

The blessings of motherhood have been honored through the ages. Somewhere inside of us, God has told us that this assignment and these relationships surpass any calling on earth. Somewhere in your soul, you know that to hold your own baby and kiss the back of his neck is a holy privilege. The blessings of motherhood are the kinds of things that take our breath away—the moments you hold in your heart forever.
            One day someone asked me, “What are the three hardest things about having four small children?”
            I quickly responded, “No sleep, the never-all-folded laundry and talking to little people all day.”
            Then he asked, “What are three of the best things?”
            I immediately realized that the blessings came attached to the frustrations. “The best things are having my three-year-old crawl into the middle of our bed around 2 a.m. and hold my hand the rest of the night … clean-footed pajamas on freshly bathed toddlers, scooting around the house until bedtime…and the tender words that come from the pure heart of a child.”

 ‘Blessings come attached to the frustrations.’ To learn how to see the blessing that is tied to the frustrations of life is the key to learn how to give thanks for all things at all times.

So, here, I’ll go first.

What can I be thankful for with this rock? Well, when I ask my children who made the rocks, they gladly shout, “God did.” I am thankful for their tender hearts that so easily claim the truths of Jesus.

What about the letter “R”? When I think of this letter R, I can see my two-year-old handing it to me and saying, “Here go, Mommy.” It is a gift from the hand of a two-year-old just because she loves me.

What about the fruit snack wrapper? I can remember the delighted whoops in the grocery store when I finally said “yes” to one of their repeated demands of ‘Mommy can I have this?” Truly, it takes so little to please them.

I am deeply thankful to have children. Therefore, I am glad that I have a rock, a letter R, and a fruit snack wrapper in my purse. They are reminders that God has fulfilled a deep longing in my heart.

And so you just might find a rock in my purse and wonder why it’s there.

Well, I left it there to remind me to be thankful for the frustrations in life because they are really just reminders of how God has fulfilled a deep longing of my heart.

How about you? 
Can you think of the blessing that is tied to a frustration in your life? 
Please share in the comments.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Endurance takes a long time to learn

You would think that as a distance runner I would have understood better the need for time in building endurance. I have run a full 26.2 marathon and will soon run my fourth half-marthon.

I know that endurance is not gained quickly. My daughter and I started training months ago in preparation for our event. Slowly but surely we have increased our runs from two miles to twelve miles. Even though I ran this same half-marathon event a year ago. I must still keep training or I will not be able to do it.

So why did I expect anything different in my spiritual life? Quick endurance does not exist. So, why am I surprised to still need the spiritual pluck to keep moving on in this season of non-crisis?

James 1:2-4 says, " Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

When we had bonus children come and stay with us for 9 weeks back in the spring of 2012, I recited these verses as often as I could in the few isolated moments that I could find. I focused on considering it pure joy by saying the phrase over and over. "Consider it pure joy...."

A few months later, after the kids returned to their families, my father-in-law went into the hospital and stayed for almost 5 months. My husband and I lived close so we were part of the hands-on care. While it was a privelege to serve family, care-taking is exhausting.

During this season, I began to recite James 1:2-4 again. This time the focus was on the perservance. 

It has been two years since I first clung to these verses and, honestly, I am tired of clinging. I would like the lesson to be learned so that I can check it off my list. Perhaps even sing of the joy of the lesson learned. Instead, I am still here putting one step in front of the other, wishing that the feelings of joy came more often.

And today, just a few moments ago, I realized that endurance is not quickly learned. 

"Stop being surprised, Kathleen, that endurance takes time!" I almost laughed out loud at this revelation.  I need to keep on, keeping on in my considerations of joy.

I need to consider even these days of non-crisis but full of chaotic life-that-I-can-hardly-keep-up-with-three-teenagers all joy.

If one can only learn to run for hours by running for hours, it should come as no surprise that endurance in the spiritual life can only come through enduring trials for a long time.

Friday, July 18, 2014

When good enough IS special

Why is it that when I am asked to bring a dish to share that I want to try something new? Something fancy? Something 'company worthy'? I definitely want to bring something more special than my everyday offerings. This is for company after all.

This realization of my compulsion came one night as several couples were meeting at a home with each of us bringing something for dinner: either the main dish, the salad or the dessert. As I walked in with my side dish, I was interrogated about whether or not this was a new dish or a tried-and-true dish.

It was new. Never before been tried.

Just like the other women. We each brought a new offering. Not our tried-and-true everyday offering.

I dismissed the gentleman who had asked me as he shook his head. He said the men always prepare what they know will get rave reviews -- not something new.  Not something untried.

I dismissed him. I understood the women. There are always new recipes that I want to try and use these sorts of occasions to try them out. Otherwise I just don't have the time to try something new.

This question about new versus known stuck in my brain. The years raced by and we got  a spontaneous Superbowl  party invitation with just one other family. I have even less time than I did years ago to prepare new and special. I am craving chocolate. I don't even have to bring anything to this event.

But I'm craving chocolate so I quickly whip up my home-made blonde brownies. It's quick. It's cheap. It's chocolate. And if I share with others I won't eat too many.

I bring them. This is no big deal. This is my everyday offerings to my family, who get bored with them because I make them so often.

The family raved about these brownies. Well, I should say the dad of the other family raved about the brownies and ate and ate and ate them. I wondered if anyone else was going to be able to get any. I surely grabbed one or two because I made them for my chocolate craving after all.

Honestly, I had no idea they would be raved about. I didn't think they were that good. They are just what I make on ordinary days and serve to my ordinary, lovely family, who sometimes wishes I would make new things.

The incident, though, got me to thinking about that dinner at that couple's house years ago with that man shaking his head. "Why not bring your tried-and-true recipe that you know everyone will rave about?"

Again, I thought of that couple's dinner and realized that I didn't offer my everyday items precisely because I thought that they were ordinary. I don't want to offer ordinary. I want to offer special. Spectacular. Especially to company.

But, here was the great surprise. My day-in and day-out offering to my family was special. It IS special. I am offering special things all the time. 

Sometimes it just takes offering them to company to notice.

 * * *
 Home made Blonde Brownies
from my mother's kitchen, tweaked by how I make them

2 cups brown sugar, packed
2/3 cup butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten
2 tsps vanilla
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter and mix with brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla. In a separate bowl mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add flour mixture to sugar, butter, and vanilla mixture. When completely mixed but not overly, pour into 13x9 pan and spread out. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top. Bake for 20 minutes.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

One sign that time has been well-spent

When time is well spent, it breaks your heart to say goodbye. Even though you know it will only be for a little while and that you'll not always be  apart, it can still rip your heart in two.

When time is well spent, miles and years can never really separate what has been deeply intertwined in your heart. Because being together has changed who you are. Not because they changed you but because they gave you the courage to be who you really are. To be vulnerable. You were you. And they were they. And you loved each other. Kindred spirits.

And now it is time to say goodbye. For awhile.

I think sometimes the 'for awhile part' makes people think that the goodbye doesn't hurt as much. But that is not true. The only time goodbye doesn't hurt is when it was time NOT well-spent.

There was a vivid time in my life when goodbye didn't hurt. I was glad to be leaving. I look back on that very difficult year of my life and there is not much redeemable from that time, certainly no relationship or connection from that time.

God profoundly used that time in my life in other ways. But at the end of that school year, goodbye didn't hurt. It was a relief.

It was one of the few times in my life when goodbye didn't hurt. Maybe the only time.

So now I know that I don't really want to feel only relief and gladness to be getting away. Even though I don't want to be feeling this. This heart-wrenching good-bye. Even though I don't want to say goodbye right now, even though I don't want to hurt this is good.

It is good. Time has been well-spent.

I have been given an amazing gift. As a friend reminded me last night, sometimes we don't know how much the Lord has given until He takes it away.

I knew they were special. I knew that I loved them. But I don't know if I knew what a great, grand gift I had been given in their special friendship throughout the years.

We have stories of rattlesnakes, flat tires, wet camping trips, and shivering trips tubing down a  river. We've been at each others weddings and graduations and baby births. We've held each others hands as we've said goodbye to a mom and a dad. We talked and laughed and camped and cried. We've jumped off cliffs. Played cards til the wee hours of the night.  Brewed coffee, run races. Watched chickens and flowers grow. We've spun our lives together for more than twenty years. What a gift.

Soon these kindred spirit friends are moving far away -- four thousand miles far away -- for at least three years. I love their courage, their pluck to live their calling.

I am inspired.

And sad.

My heart is breaking. It feels like it may never recover.

Time has been well-spent. Thank you. Amen.

*  *   *
How about you? Any painful goodbyes recently?

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