One Foot in Front of the Other

Before cancer, I never went to the doctor. In the past four months, I’ve been there 10 times plus 3 tests at the hospital because of a coronary issue that has developed, presumably from my cancer treatment. I deserve a frequent-user punch card. But my body, which is betraying me, decided that wasn’t enough. An auto-immune disease I struggle with flared 3 weeks ago. I’ve been in denial, refusing to call my doctor because I’m thoroughly sick of being poked, prodded and medicated. However, this weekend the pain level hit an extreme point and my husband and father “encouraged” me to be wise and let my doctor know.

So today, I called. It felt like such an admission of defeat. I’m trying to keep my chin up, but all I can manage to do is cry. The voice inside my head says, “Quit being such a baby!” but I’m just amazingly beaten down. I’m not in a good place. So, here with you, Dear Reader, I’m going to make a massive effort to find my joy, buck up, and walk the path set before me with grace and dignity.

These things I can be thankful for:

1. I have an amazing husband, family and friends who support me, encourage me, pray for me, love me, help me and gently pat my back in sympathy when all I can do is blubber.

2. Physical suffering has bred within me a fierce compassion for those whose struggle is a daily one and who need my love and prayers. Because of God’s love for me and involvement in my life, my heart has become more tender instead of becoming hardened with bitterness.

3. My children see the effort I’m making to keep up with all my “Mommy Duties” and express genuine caring and concern for me. I’ve been blessed with two tender-hearted, creative, loving daughters.

4. God speaks to me in quiet, simple ways, and because of that I can fully believe that He has a good and loving purpose in this. I am assured that I will get to the other side of this struggle and when I do, it will be amazing. I will have a testimony that will reach down to those who are broken and lift them up.

5. Amidst it all, I can still smile.

Advertisements

Amazing Grace

A few weeks ago, my husband noticed a skinny little feline coming around. We actually have lots of cats in the neighborhood and I know several by name (Diego, Cleo, Purry, …), but the look of this guy said stray. He was skin and bones and he would sit at our french doors and gaze through the glass with longing. (Well, that’s how I interpreted it anyway). We have two cats ourselves. We are cat people. So, it came as little surprise when my husband said we should feed him.

Building Trust

What he really meant, of course, was, “Let’s adopt him,” because I knew that feeding a hungry stray meant committing to the possibility of a long-term relationship. Then my husband named him – Enkidu (a character from ancient mythology), and I knew it was already a done deal. So, we fed him. Soon it was twice a day. At first, he ran off the deck when I opened the door to come out, crouching on the ground, watching me guardedly. He would only come up to the dish after I went back inside, and then he’d devour it. He was so hungry, poor thing. Now, he rubs my ankles when I come out, mewing and letting me pet him, but he still just eats and runs.

Enkidu

I asked my husband if he was sure he was good with the fact that we were spending money to feed this cat, and we were basically getting nothing from the arrangement. He said, “Absolutely.” For him, Enkidu is a daily picture of Grace. This is how we come to God – somewhat bedraggled, needy, unwilling to trust. Frequently, we only come because we want something. Yet God is there, offering what we need and so much more, patiently waiting for us to realize that we can have a relationship with Him. Yet He lets us take it at our own pace. He never forces anything. And then one day we recognize that He’s absolutely trustworthy. We crawl into His lap. We cease scrabbling through life, distrusting everyone and struggling to survive. Instead, we connect with the One who loves us.

This is the illustration God has given us in Enkidu. So now, when his little face shows up at the french door, I take his food out like always. But I’ve added the whispered prayer, “Thank you God, for Your amazing grace.”

Day 96 ~ Dispassionate Homemaking

I truly love spring. I love the newness of life. And I love lilacs, which I’ve brought into the house, along with their delicious fragrance. As an aside, some people don’t realize that because of their woody nature, you have to pound the cut end of the lilac branch with a hammer, splitting the wood and creating more surface area for the branch to draw water. Otherwise, these beauties will wilt within a few hours.

simplicity

Lilacs from the garden

Today has been a “day in the life.” Nothing spectacular has happened. We put grass seed on bare patches in our front yard (and by we I mean my husband). Normal household chores are being done. And I am facing projects that involve sorting – sorting and organizing, my least favorite things to do. I wish I could be passionate about homemaking. It would make my whole life happier, because that’s what I find myself spending the most time on. My problem is that I don’t feel passionate about these things I do. I feel that my whole existence requires me to operate in my area of greatest weakness and so I’m constantly falling short. (If this sounds like a familiar theme – it is. I continue to struggle with this same issue).

There is a blog written by a young woman called -of all things – Passionate Homemaking. She has hundreds, maybe thousands of readers, so she clearly resonates with people. But when I read her stuff, I find myself feeling like we are living in two absolutely different spheres. I can’t even try to run my home like she does. I wish I could – she says she’s loving simple, natural, intentional living. Who wouldn’t want that? I am a dispassionate homemaker (I guess). Of course, I have to run my home, I just don’t have it in me to be Martha Stewart. I suppose it’s not my mission. The question I have about missional living is this: how do you find your mission when you feel like you’ve been sidetracked and you’re not even sure exactly what you’re looking for?

Fleshing out this question this week, I’ve been reading “Flunking Sainthood” by Jana Riess. This is more my speed (compared to the aforementioned blog) because this woman is far from perfect. Each month she attempts a different spiritual practice, and in falling far short of her goals, learns some valuable life lessons. During one month in a chapter she calls, “Meeting Jesus in the Kitchen … or Not,” she studies Brother Lawrence (some monk from days gone by who did all of his monkly work in the kitchen) and works on mindfulness – being fully present in what she’s doing and thereby finding her creator in those daily tasks. Brother Lawrence was never made a saint by the Catholic church, and the author at one point says, “It suddenly strikes me why I’m so sensitive about Brother Lawrence’s lack of official saintly creds: He’s an underappreciated housewife, the one everyone takes for granted. He’s … a bit like me, and like a whole lot of people I know.” This is a work in process for me – finding my creator in tasks I despise. I simply have to say to myself – I work so hard, and I’m making change, and it’s possible the only one who sees it at all is God. And that must be enough.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m doing it for me, too. I’m doing for my family. And I’m hoping along the way that I trip over my mission in all the clutter.

Day 85 ~ Snow in April

Well, Spring Break is over and it’s time for real life again. (Predictably) I have no pictures to share. Why, you may ask? Well, I made a list before the trip. I put “camera” on the list. Then I never looked at the list again, and we forgot the camera. So, I took a bunch of pictures on my phone, but I don’t have the appropriate cable to transfer them to the computer. And, I don’t do the smart phone route, so I can’t email them. And this, in a nutshell, is what I’m trying to fix about my life. I’m trying to remember to read the list!

Being a vacationer is extremely enjoyable. We had cash in our pocket, a hotel room someone else was cleaning, and wonderful meals prepared by restaurant staff. We didn’t have to do anything we didn’t actually want to do. I love vacation. But then, vacation ends, and we have to go back to the routine of regular life. It can actually be a little depressing.

So, when I feel the drudgery of life closing in, I go looking for my joy. Frequently, I find it in gratitude, and I have much to be thankful for. On an extremely simple level, the fruit trees are blooming in Denver, and they’re beautiful. They signify hope, renewal, growth, and all good things.

Colorado Beauty

On a deeper level, this past week just west of Denver a vicious wildfire has been burning. Nearly 30 homes have been destroyed, and 3 people have died. The parents of a friend from church had fifteen minutes to evacuate, and escaped just moments before their house caught fire and burned to the ground. They lost every single thing they owned. They lost their cat and all the birds they own as breeders. I honestly don’t know how one deals with that kind of devastation. When something horrible happens, I always take a moment to take stock, because – really – none of us knows how many moments we have on this earth. It’s so easy to get caught up in the chores, the responsibilities, the things that must be done, that sometimes we forget to simply live and let those we love know that we do. So today I am practicing being thankful.

Lower North Fork Wildfire

I am thankful for my husband and beautiful girls. I am thankful for my extended family, and my many friends. I am thankful for my slightly dilapidated house because it’s not just a roof over our heads, it’s the holder of daily joy, warmth, love and security. I am thankful God loves me. And today, I’m thankful  that in Colorado warm weather, extremely dry conditions and violent winds can be followed the next day by 30 degree temps and snow. The snow is covering my favorite blossoms, but it’s a gift to the firefighters and so I end by saying, “Thank you, God, for snow in April.”

Day 72 ~ Stollen

Today, my older daughter had to bring a food to school representing her ethnicity. With all the blue eyes and fair skin in this family, that landed us in the north – either the British Isles, Scandinavia, or possibly Germany (on her papa’s side). Since my Scandinavian mother taught me to cook, I told my kiddo to pick something from Norway or Sweden.

She immediately jumped to lutefisk. If you don’t know lutefisk, count yourself lucky. (To all our Scandinavian friends who eat this stuff by choice, please forgive me). Lutefisk is a white fish, preserved in lye, with the consistency of the jelly that oozes out when you open a canned ham. Seriously.  If you think I’m kidding, this is the definition in my dictionary: a Scandinavian dish prepared by soaking dried cod in lye to tenderize it, then skinning, boning, and boiling the fish to a gelatinous consistency. Yum. I’ve eaten lutefisk many times out of duty, but wasn’t about to cook it. So I made some suggestions, and she chose Stollen, a bread eaten by both Scandinavians and Germans and which I’ve made before with my mother for Christmas.

Normally, since this was her school project, she’d help me. But yesterday was the Colorado Poetry Out Loud state finals, and my daughter, having won her school competition, got to attend. At thirteen, she was the youngest participant and we are enormously proud of her performances. (The mama in me had to give a shout out, because she did great). But … this meant I had to make the bread alone, and because I hadn’t thought through the timing, I almost didn’t start in time to get it done before the competition. So today, I’m writing about the Stollen, because that’s all I did yesterday (besides hours of poetry).

Stollen is a mildly sweet, glazed yeast bread. It is filled with currants, dried or candied fruits, almonds, orange peel and lemon peel; and it’s seasoned with cardamom, a spice frequently used in Scandinavian dishes. I considered cleaning up before I took the picture, but this is more authentic. I was in such a rush putting it together that my kitchen looked like something exploded by the time I was finished. My house smelled deliciously of oranges though, which is so much better than the smell of lutefisk…

simplicity

Stollen

4+ cups of bread flour
1 package active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
salt
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup currants
1/4 diced dried cherries
1/4 chopped blanched almonds
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 tablespoon lemon zest

Glaze:
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
2 tablespoons hot water
1/2 teaspoon butter

In a saucepan heat and stir milk, butter, sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt till warm (120˚ – 130˚). Butter will be almost melted. Add to yeast in a large mixing bowl and stir. Add cardamom and 4 cups flour, and stir until combined. Add additional flour until dough comes together without being too sticky. Stir in currants, dried fruit, almonds, and orange and lemon zest.

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough remaining flour to make a moderately soft dough that is smooth and elastic (5-8 minutes). Shape into a ball. Place in a greased bowl; turn once. Cover; let rise in a warm place until double – about 2 hours.

Punch dough down. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into thirds. Cover; let rest 10 minutes. Roll one portion into a 10×6-inch oval. Without stretching, fold the long side over to within 1 inch of the opposite edge – press lightly to seal. Place on greased baking sheet. Repeat with remainder of dough. Cover; let rise until double – another hour.

Bake in a 375˚ oven for 18-20 minutes or until golden. Remove to racks and cool for thirty minutes. Mix glaze and brush over the warm bread.

Day 44 ~ Walking the Path

This is a re-posting from Brave Girls Club. This little encouragement spoke so clearly into my soul today, and it came on top of a simplicitydiscussion at a women’s Bible study I attend where we talked about focusing on the process, not the results. For a “destination oriented” girl, this was exactly what I needed to hear. It’s all about the journey. I think even from God’s perspective, it’s about the journey. Yes, someday we’ll turn around and see how far we’ve come, but our character is exposed, and God’s creation in us is revealed as we walk the path. So, dear reader, keep walking the path before you. Be encouraged. Celebrate each step.

Dear Strong Girl,

So much good in life happens simply because of consistency… frustrating but true. So many times, we begin something that we know is very good, and we go for a while…but when it becomes tedious or boring…we stop…and then we wonder why we are not getting to where we want to go.

You see, dear girl, very good things often happen a tiny tiny tiny bit at a time…adding a little bit on top of the little bits that happened day by day by day over a loooong time. Then…these little things, done regularly, consistently, over time bring us to a very BIG place.

So, keep going, beautiful friend. Keep going even when you can’t see the big results that you would love to see. Keep going and celebrate the little things you’ve done at the end of each day. Know that you are getting there, because you are. If you have stopped doing the little things…just begin again…and then keep going.

You are so very loved.

xoxo

Day 29 ~ Dripping Gutters

simplicity

We really need new gutters. Our gutter drips right above this place, and so this last storm combined with above-freezing temperatures created this massive icicle in our bush.

Sometimes, I feel like that gutter. As long as the storm is not overwhelming, I function fairly well. But bring in the “extra” and I quickly become overrun, dripping at my seams. Things don’t function quite properly and we end up with a mess.

My temptation is to focus on the split seam, the dripping water, the brokenness where there should be function. For instance, this past weekend, I totally dropped the program. I had two days of eating junk (not a lot of junk, but some), skipping my morning exercise, and neglecting to do anything at all in furtherance of my goals. This morning, I wanted to feel bad about it. I really did. As a perfectionist, I can be very self-critical. One “free day” is okay, but two – and IN A ROW – not so much. But I didn’t do it. I fought it. I got up, had my morning devotion, did my morning exercise, consulted my action items, and began the work anew. And I chose to focus, not on the dripping gutter, but on the beauty it created as it refroze in the bush.

You see, I spent the weekend eating popcorn and ice cream, and watching the original Star Wars Trilogy with my family. It was the first time for my seven-year-old. She watched a good portion of Return of the Jedi with her blanket over her head, (refusing to look at anything that could in any way be classified as yucky), and we had a really good time. So instead of focusing on everything I didn’t do, I smiled as I remembered the joy we created as a family.

That’s what it’s all really about, isn’t it? –  Finding our Joy. Without joy, nothing we do matters. I can have a perfectly functional, even beautiful home – but if joy doesn’t reside here, I don’t want to either. So I will find my joy in the mess – in spite of the mess, in fact – even as I strive to change. I will not let my dissatisfaction with the way things have been turn to discontent. I will rejoice, I will work, and I will focus – not on the dripping gutters, but on the beauty they create.