December 13, 2010

Rosemary Fest!

I love going to the Dekalb Farmer's Market -- I just wish it was closer to my house! I was able to justify going there recently because it was close enough to the Carlos Museum at Emory University (a great field trip when studying Ancients). As we pulled into the parking lot, I rolled down the windows so we could inhale the scents -- exotic spices seem to emanate from the building!

After lunching on samplings from various culture's cuisines, the serious shopping started. I find my weakness is in the dry spices section... and the produce... including fresh herbs. Shopping at a farmer's market is kind of like Forest Gump's box of chocolates: you never know what you're going to get. But I almost always come away with fresh herbs (and very little idea of what I'm going to do with them).

Here's what I did with some of the fresh rosemary that I bought:

First, the pork chops. I'd bought a whole pork tenderloin (I'm talking the huge one now, the one that could be a lethal weapon if you can heft it) at Sam's and sliced part of it as chops. I seasoned some with just kosher salt and coarse-ground pepper, belted each with a slice of quality bacon, tucked in a rosemary sprig, and added a toothpick for security -- then double-bagged and froze them. These can be grilled, but they are also good cooked in a skillet with a little olive oil, like this:

I also wedged some new potatoes and shook them in a ziploc bag with a little olive oil, kosher salt, coarse ground pepper, and chopped fresh rosemary. You can also add pressed or minced garlic (I forgot). Shake well, then spread on an oiled jelly-roll pan and roast at 400 degrees for about 40-45 minutes, stirring at least once:

I was on a roll, so I opened a small can of mandarin oranges and mixed in a little chopped rosemary, as well:

This was later added to mixed greens and topped with craisins, toasted sliced almonds, and Ken's Steakhouse Sweet Vidalia Onion Dressing:

This meal seemed fancy without being fussy -- and it was good! Hope your family will enjoy it, too!

I shared this on:

I linked up over at Eat at Home's Ingredient Spotlight: Fresh Herbs! 

December 5, 2010

Christmas Traditions

For the past 15 years or more, our family has sought out and cut down our Christmas tree. Somewhere along the way, it became a tradition. When we lived in California, the tree farm was in Fillmore, an hour from our Newhall apartment, but we went anyway. And we added a new activity to the tradition... after cutting the tree, we would visit our favorite Mexican restaurant. This year, we did have to adjust that part of the tradition and eat yummy hometown Italian instead (still don't have a favorite Mexican place in Cartersville), and we also watched the Christmas parade.

Once we have the tree set up with lights and garland, and I've unpacked all the ornaments, we fulfill another tradition -- this one started by my mother. Each year, she handmade or carefully purchased an ornament for each grandchild.  When we began thinking about our tree in 2006, it suddenly hit me that there would be no ornaments from Mam-ma (she went to be with her Lord that past Christmas morning). I knew that this tradition was too good to let go, so I've continued it for our children. Over the years, each child has collected many beautiful ornaments -- this year, Christopher's are boxed up waiting for him in case he puts up a tree in his condo.

Each Christmas Eve, we allow the children to open one present -- something my parents allowed each year. While we were allowed to choose any gift under the tree, Jeff and I always select the gift our kids get to open. Sometimes it's a book they can read in bed for a bit, sometimes new pajamas or slippers, sometimes a game we can play that night. 

I can remember that, as a young child, my older siblings usually woke me up in the wee hours to try to sneak out and see what Santa had left (that, apparently, was their tradition). One year, my father laid a trap -- a swivel rocker blocking the end of the hallway, with metal mixing bowls and a few marbles to sound the alarm. I believe my crafty brother disabled the trap and we made it through anyway! Jeff and I have tried various foils over the years, but we finally just resorted to either putting out the Santa gifts early Christmas morning, or wrapping them but putting them out after the children went to bed. Our kids have always known that we are Santa (although I "believed" into teenage years because he kept bringing me things!), and we all enjoy the fun.

My father, who was not normally one to set tradition, did bring one important thing to our childhood Christmases. After the dust cleared from the Santa gift excitement, but before we tore into our other gifts, we all sat down together and listened to him read the Christmas story, the real Luke 2 Christmas story. It set the tone for our day, for our whole celebration. And that was a tradition worth keeping. 

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when  Quirinius was governor of Syria.  And all went to be registered, each to his own town.  And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,  to be registered with Mary, his betrothed,  who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.  And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.  And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”  And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
                                                                                                       Luke 2:1-20, ESV

Merry Christmas!

November 30, 2010

On being still...

"Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!"

Psalm 46:10 ESV

When our daughter was a a preschooler, Jeff was preparing for the pastorate. Knowing that we would likely be in a small church with no nursery, we began training her to sit in the service by giving her "still and quiet lessons" at home. This involved sitting her on the couch, first for just a few minutes, then up to 20 minutes, just being still and quiet. Occasionally she could quietly look at a book or hold a doll, but she had to be reasonably still and very quiet. This was a challenge for my verbal-from-birth girl, as well as for her active brother who came up behind her. (We never needed to do this with our oldest, but that's another story.) 

It was amazing to see that these children, who were never still and quiet unless they were asleep, could be trained to be obedient in this way. We began to see the benefit of these lessons -- they could be still and quiet in church, but also in the doctor's office, the theatre, while visiting the elderly, even when we were driving through hectic traffic (not to mention during homeschooling!). And I began to notice other benefits... they were more focused during those still and quiet times.

Sometimes I think I need still and quiet lessons. I'm such a Martha; there's always something to be done. It's fine to pray unceasingly as I go about my day; I even listen to spiritual things on my iPod as I work. But there is a certain benefit to being still and knowing that God is God, just meditating on that reality. Perhaps that's what I need in order to realize the opening verses of this same Psalm:
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way; though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling." (Psalm 46:1-3 ESV)
 Be still, and know...

November 10, 2010

Faith of our mothers

November is Juvenile Diabetes Awareness Month. Willow House is a proud sponsor and active contributor to the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. This month's event reminded me of friends who have dealt with this disease and how they positively impacted my life.

Almost thirty years ago, while Jeff and I were just engaged, we were privileged to be friends with a special family. Mike and Christine Nelson graciously and regularly invited us into their home, allowing us a glimpse into thirty-something married life with three young boys. Along the way, Jeff and I learned many lessons in love, faith, and fun.

One lesson that I continued to be reminded of is the faith that motherhood requires. Not long before moving to Chandler, Mike and Christine had learned (through near tragic events) that their youngest son, Ben, was diabetic. As Jeff and I spent time with the family, it was easy to see what a challenge that parenting a preschool diabetic could be. I already marveled at the feat of parenting three very young boys -- but throwing a life-altering disease into the mix was just mind-boggling.

At some point, we came aware that the diabetes kept Mike and Christine on a very short leash. Ben required testing and shots throughout the day, as well as constant supervision and evaluation. My mercy-filled fiance offered to learn how to provide this care for Ben so that we could take the kids at times, giving Mike and Christine much-needed couple time. (Note: this was no small feat, as Jeff did not normally "do" needles, blood, or pain without great risk to his own consciousness.) As a mother, I can now better understand the faith it must have taken for Christine to allow the two of us to take her boys -- particularly Ben -- on an all-day outing.

In later years, Ben was active in the church youth group and participated in all sorts of events. I believe that he once had some issues related to his sugar-management while away on a youth trip, and wasn't handled quite right (but with no serious consequences, thankfully). Meanwhile, Christine continued to trust and pray, allowing her boy to grow up and spread his wings. And grow up he did -- now married and, I believe, with children of his own.

My children are healthy and, generally speaking, discerning -- yet I still deal with fear at times as their independence grows. I must be continually reminded that there is One who cares for them even more than I do: their Heavenly Father. Thank you, Christine, for your example in this.

 When you purchase a Roxy Reindeer ornament, Willow House will donate $2 to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

November 8, 2010

Another cute giveaway at Ardent Sparrow

You gotta love Ardent Sparrow, and her great giveaways the little bird that much more lovable! Here's the latest: KikiLaRu Giveaway.


November 7, 2010

Rejoice always? Really?

For me, Philippians is one of my "go to" books. Maybe the fact that it's one of several biblical letters to believers makes it more personal to me; more likely it seems to readily identify my weaknesses and then give me hope. Whatever the reason, I found myself (once again) thinking on Philippians 4:4-9 this morning.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.  Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (ESV)
 I had been thinking about the past month, which included sickness in our home (including the dog), trying to identify potential food sensitivities (by eliminating a major dietary component), searching for employment, evaluating options for future relocation/employment/education, a weeklong trip away from home, a kidney stone flair-up, and all of the daily things that just go on.

Then I was reminded about other things that happened this month... God's continued provision for our family, new and renewed friendships, encouragement from surprising places, time spent with extended family, closure of a year-long family situation, patient and careful medical practitioners, unexpected time at a women's conference, along with other blessings and graces.

But here's my challenge... what if those other things had not happened? Could I still rejoice in the Lord? It is certainly a struggle to rejoice over difficult circumstances, but why are my eyes so much on the circumstances? Why am I not looking to God first, rather than a change in my circumstances? Why am I not thinking on what is true and honorable? Why is my mind so earth bound?

I need more practice. If I will practice these things, then I will know God's peace. And the last month or so has given me ample opportunity for practice, whether or not I was disciplined to obey.

Thankfully, God was gracious to provide me with big and little encouragers and encouragements along the way. Thankfully, He knows my weaknesses better than I do. Thankfully, He is infinitely more faithful than I am. And I can rejoice in that.

September 30, 2010

Raising Boys Who Read

My first child, a boy, came out of the womb reading. Well, practically. My second child, a girl, came out of the womb talking. Really. My third child, a boy, came out of the womb making machine gun noises. Seriously. And he was probably shooting at books.
Of the three, he provided the biggest challenge in teaching him to read. Of the three, he was the most challenging to get to read, once he knew how. Finding the right materials was the key. In his case, Mary Pope Osborne's Tales From the Odyssey were just what I needed to jumpstart him.  However, it's only this year, his first year in middle school, that he will independently select books from our family library to read. Of course, I still assign him a certain amount of pleasure reading each day, along with a heavy dose of historical fiction.

Because of this history, I was very interested in a recent Wall Street Journal article, How to Raise Boys Who Read.  It was interesting on several levels. The author, Thomas Spence, began by stating what he admitted is a well-known problem: boys are less proficient in reading than girls. And he notes that influential and well-intentioned folks want to do something about it. Spence's issue is with these folks' proposed remedy: "'meet them where they are' -- that is, pander to boys' untutored tastes." As any mother of an elementary- or middle-school boy knows, this involves all things gross. I mean, my youngest was playing his armpits and kneepits before he could sing well. And I didn't even know you could play a kneepit until he came along.

Spence falls back on wise men of the past to remind us that education, part of which is reading, is responsible for informing our manners and tastes. When Spence lists the books that are promoted for boys in this age group just to get them reading ("Worry about what they're reading later," postulates one library who, incidentally, throws gross-out parties to encourage reading.), I must admit that my sensibilities are offended. You'll want to read the article, because you wouldn't believe me if I told you.

Mr. Spense also notes that the discrepancy in boy-girl literacy has increased with the popularity of video games and other electronic entertainment. As books compete with these other entertainments for boys' attention, which do you suppose comes out on top? And a recent study confirmed the negative effect on boys' academic performance.

Thankfully, Mr. Spence offers helpful counsel on making a reader:

The secret to raising boys who read, I submit, is pretty simple -- keep electronic media, especially video games and recreational Internet, under control (that is to say, almost completely absent). Then fill your shelves with good books.
 A couple of other notable quotes finish up the article:

 Most importantly, a boy raised on great literature is more likely to grow up to think, to speak, and to write like a civilized man. Whom would you prefer to have shaped the boyhood imagination of your daughter's husband -- Raymond Bean or Robert Louis Stevenson?

I offer a final piece of evidence that is perhaps unanswerable: There is no literacy gap between home-schooled boys and girls. How many of these families, do you suppose, have thrown grossology parties?
I hope you'll read the article. I think it's worth the time.

September 26, 2010

Sunday Food

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it. 
Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.
For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.
Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
O men of blood, depart from me!
They speak against you with malicious intent;
your enemies take your name in vain!
Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
I hate them with complete hatred;
I count them my enemies.
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!

(Psalm 139, ESV)

Photo credit: Microsoft Office Clipart and Media Gallery

September 5, 2010

Do you feel fall in the air?

It's always nice when September begins with a sudden drop in temperatures. I grew up in the Phoenix area and never really knew a season (unless you count the four days of winter). So I've enjoyed my time in Georgia, and now that we are only an hour south of it's northernmost border, I'm seeing even more of a difference in seasons. This spring was absolutely beautiful, with just about everything blooming at once. Of course, that meant everything polinating at once, too... Then we had two months of wonderful summer rains, followed by a very toasty August.

This morning, Jared and I enjoyed a walk (while Bella ran -- she feels the fall, too); I even wore a jacket! The high today will be only in the mid-eighties. I know we'll have another run of warm weather before fall comes in earnest, but the Jackson family is thanking the Lord for this respite and preview!

Happy Labor Day, y'all!

(By the way, the photo is from last year's annual Burt's Pumpkin Farm trip... we won't go this year until late October.)

August 24, 2010

Wisdom for today

As Jeff and I carefully and prayerfully considered our new business venture, Jeff took me to Proverbs 31:

10  An excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.
13 She seeks wool and flax,
and works with willing hands.
14 She is like the ships of the merchant;
she brings her food from afar.
15 She rises while it is yet night
and provides food for her household
and portions for her maidens.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
17 She dresses herself with strength
and makes her arms strong.
18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
Her lamp does not go out at night.
19 She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her hands hold the spindle.
20 She opens her hand to the poor
and reaches out her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid of snow for her household,
for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes bed coverings for herself;
her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the gates
when he sits among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them;
she delivers sashes to the merchant.
25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27 She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the gates.  (ESV)
I hope that as I (and our family) pursue this opportunity, the Lord gives me wisdom for each day so that I can honor Him all along the way!

August 15, 2010

I hear the clock ticking...

It's Sunday evening, and we have mostly been in repose here at home today due to illness. We vacationed this week, if you can call tending to one full-fledged flu victim and trying to prevent a domino effect among other family members, along with spending a fair amount of time on school planning, vacation.

In spite of the challenges, it was an enjoyable and mostly relaxing time. Our cabin was perched next to something of a deer interstate, so we enjoyed the morning and evening parades. Only on the last day did we discover that the deer stood staring at us because they were waiting for corn, as provided by many of the previous tenants of the cabin! (Note: in a pinch, deer will eat wheat bread.)

School starts on Wednesday, and I'm not quite ready. Still more planning needed, as well as a couple of books that I need to order. Thankfully, we'll start with a modified, lighter schedule and work into our full schedule by sometime in September. Last year was challenging, and both kids are starting a new phase of study, so I almost feel like I'm starting from scratch in my planning, focus, and discipline. In addition, we're starting a new family business (shameless plug) which will require additional time from all of us.

Thankfully, we are daily laying our plans before the Lord as we allow Him to direct our steps.

8/17/2010 Update: AnnaKate succumbed to the stomach bug last night. I wasn't feeling very well myself, so my sweet husband stayed up with her through the night. He held her head when she was sick, and sanitized the hound out of the house while she was resting. Bella, our dog, kept vigil with him. On the bright side, I guess this gives me one more day of planning, since I doubt AnnaKate will be up to doing school tomorrow. Sadly (in his opinion), Jared will be starting on his own tomorrow -- provided there are no more victims!

August 1, 2010

Launch Pad

Well, today was launch day. Our oldest child has left the nest, moving into the city to be closer to work and (eventually) school. After church and lunch today, we came home, loaded up three vehicles, and trekked down to get him somewhat settled in.

We're proud that he is on his own, and his younger brother will probably enjoy having a room to himself, but we're going to miss him. We've had him for most of twenty-three years, so this is new territory.

CBJ, phone home. Often.

July 31, 2010

Do I know too much?

Infobesity. That's the word that caught my eye on my Google Reader feed today.

I consider myself somewhat discerning in the quality I allow my eyegate to take in. But does the sheer quantity of information that enters my head each day dilute the quality of the really good stuff I read and think about -- the stuff that matters, that helps me move toward my goals of being a more godly wife, mother, friend, person?

It was already something I'd been considering, something that my best friend / husband had brought to my attention. And now it has a name for me, thanks to Tim Challies' blog. Infobesity.

July 24, 2010

Just peachy!

We had a wonderful time last night with friends over for dinner. We love having folks into our home, and it's always fun to plan the menu. Last night's meal included squash, peas, and basil from our garden, as well as some tomatoes I picked up at our local farmer's market earlier in the week. Our local Publix has been carrying true Georgia peaches at a reasonable price, so I picked up a few of those, as well. Jeff was grilling pork chops for our main course; I thought it would be nice and summery to have some peach salsa to serve over those. Here's what I came up with:

3 medium peaches (ripe but firm) -- peel and dice
Half a lime -- squeeze juice over diced peaches and toss
1 jalapeno -- remove seeds and membrane*, chop finely
2-3 tbsp finely chopped onion
2 handfuls fresh cilantro, washed and coarsely chopped

Toss all ingredients together -- should make 2-3 cups of salsa.

This was great over the pork chops, and I think it would also be good on chicken or fish. I might serve it with regular tortilla chips or cinnamon chips. It might even be good over vanilla ice cream for dessert with a kick! It was also very pretty -- I wish I had taken a picture.

In case anyone wonders, our menu was:

Grilled porkchops (seasoned with garlic salt and lemon pepper)
Sauteed yellow squash and zucchini
Purple hull peas
Tomato and cucumber salad

And for dessert... triple chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream!

*you might want to wear gloves to do this -- the pepper oils linger and will affect other things you touch (food, your eyes, etc).

I linked up over at Eat at Home's Ingredient Spotlight: Fresh Herbs!

(Photo source:

July 15, 2010

The Ardent Sparrow does it again!

The Ardent Sparrow has another fabulous giveaway on her site -- this time, $20 in shop credit to Jewel Me Pretty by Rin (etsy store).  I was so charmed by the Time does not wait pocket watch that it stopped me in my tracks.

Do stop by both sites and see what you love, too!

July 14, 2010

Garden Update

Nothin' better than eating the literal fruits of your labors! We were a bit ambitious in the amount we planted in such a small area, but we'll let the veggies fight it out among themselves before we eat the winners!

(In the upper right corner, note the mother of all zucchini -- probably 14 inches long. Unfortunately, we now have two of these. Who knew that zucchini could hide so well? Looks like we'll be baking some of Mama's yummy zucchini bread!)
Posted by Picasa

July 4, 2010

Our Hope of Heaven

Our Bible study class this morning was on 1 Peter 3: 13-17. The teacher, David, began asking what exactly was the hope that Peter referred to. The hope is, of course, of heaven -- of the wonderful life beyond this life, when all of our daily trials are no more. Remembering that hope, that inevitability for the Christian, makes our day-to-day suffering (and even monotony) pale as our eyes look ahead to glory.

About ten years ago, my husband and I faced a very difficult and divisive church situation which seemed to get worse by the day. In the midst of that, the Lord provided the means for us to plan a romantic getaway to a beautiful inn on Amelia Island for a few days. Even that was delayed through a reservation glitch on the part of our lodging hosts, who graciously upgraded us to an oceanfront queen jacuzzi suite. Well, the worse our trial apeared to me, the more often I walked through the house chanting, "Oceanfront queen jacuzzi suite! Oceanfront queen jacuzzi suite!" I had hope in a future event and place which offered peace and contentment.

I thought about this during this morning's discussion. At first, I thought, "What a great earthly example of what our hope in heaven should look like!" But, suddenly convicted, I thought, "Why did I think only of my hope in 'oceanfront queen jacuzzi suite' instead of looking forward to heaven?" It's so easy for me to get caught up in temporal things, and then look to temporal things for relief.

Fernando Ortega does a good job of expressing the transformation I'd like to see in my heart:

One morning when time is done
Bright heaven will be our refuge
The city of God most high

I long for that holy day
This longing, sometimes it captures my heart
And carries me far away

Beyond the sky, beyond all telling
Our Father himself will be our light
His arms will hold us, and with his hands
He'll wipe away the tears that stain our eyes

When darkness falls over me
This promise, it's like a fire inside
Burning the dark away

Beyond the sky, beyond all telling
Our Father himself will be our light
His arms will hold us, and with his hands
He'll wipe away the tears that stain our eyes

(Click to listen to this beautiful song)

July 3, 2010

Happy Fourth!

Even though today is July 3, we've had lots of Independence Day celebration! I guess our town celebrated today because the 4th is on a Sunday. We started our day at the local parade, where we watched the crowd applaud both veterans and active duty military. The high school marching band set the tone with a patriotic tune. Local businesses participated, as well, and we saw our share of beauty queens and political candidates as they glad-handed and passed out candy and flags.

As the crowd cleared out, we wandered downtown to the farmer's market and bought beautiful heirloom tomatoes (wish I had taken a picture of them!), fresh flowers, and homemade salsa.

After taking care of a few things at home, we walked to the park for more fun. We checked out the vendors, then watched families enjoy the petting zoo, camel rides, and giant slide. When our thirst got the best of us, we bought some homemade lemonade before visiting with some newly-made friends for a while.

Dinner was everything a good 4th of July dinner should be -- grilled chicken, veggies from the garden, and ice cream for dessert. The grand finale was enjoying the fireworks from our back deck together. A great ending to a great day!

God is so good to provide these moments for us. Thank you, Lord, and help me to enjoy them fully.
Posted by Picasa

July 2, 2010

Immeasurable Grace

I was reminded today how immeasurable God's grace is. It is not limited by time, nor by distance. It made me think of our 2007 trip to the Grand Canyon. As I walked to the edge, my breath was taken away as I viewed the vastness of the Canyon. It was deeper and wider than my eyes could take in.

God's grace is even more vast than the Grand Canyon. That renewed realization let my mind to sing one of my favorite worship songs, one that I've not heard in a while.

Grace unmeasured, vast and free
That knew my from eternity
That called me out before my birth
To bring You glory on this earth.
Grace amazing, pure and deep
That saw me in my misery
That took my curse and owned my blame
So I could bear Your righeous name.

Grace abounding, strong and true
That makes me long to be like You
That turns me form my selfish pride
To love the cross on which you died.
Grace unending, all my days
You'll give me strength to run this race
And when my years on earth are through
The praise will all belong to You.

Grace paid for my sins
And brought me to life.
Grace clothes me with power
To do what is right.
Grace will lead me to heaven
Where I'll see your face
And never cease to thank You for Your grace.
Words and Music by Bob Kauflin, copyright 2005 Sovereign Grace Praise

May I ever be mindful and thankful for God's grace.

June 28, 2010

A few of my favorite things

The Ardent Sparrow is one of my favorite girly-girl blogs. One of the things I enjoy is the way Rebecca scouts around for fresh and beautiful things to share with her readers. She recently began offering a weekly giveaway in cooperation with some of her Etsy friends. This week's giveaway is from A Alicia Accessories in London -- I love her Burnt Umber Corsage Brooch. Visit Rebecca's blog and let me know what you think!

June 23, 2010

Fellowship of the Burger

We are an In-N-Out Burger family. Some of you have no idea what I'm talking about, some of you are shaking your head in pity, but a few  of you -- and you know who you are -- are part of an In-N-Out Burger family, too!

In-N-Outers are a unique group, a fraternity of sorts. Most lived in California, Nevada, or Arizona for at least a short time. All of us miss the uniqueness of our favorite burger joint. Chick-Fil-A gives us the service quality, but not the beef or fresh cut fries. And Five Guys may have similarities, but it's just not the same.

One of my favorite things about In-N-Out is that I have to make very few decisions when I eat there. I mean, their menu is limited (which allows them to excel at what they do offer). Our family can order there in record time! The food is consistently fresh, hot, good...

When we wear our In-N-Out paraphernalia  in public, we are often approached by fellow In-N-Outers. And we've done the same. Just the other day, we were approached in Lowe's in our little Georgia town by a former Orange County resident who almost drooled when he saw the shirt. "Oh, how 'bout an animal style!" he said longingly. "Just had one last week," I shot back. We're a sympathetic lot, we In-N-Outers!

And if you're an In-N-Outer, too, you'll understand the look on this guy's face:

Chow, baby!

June 20, 2010

On Discovering the Ultimate Father's Day

On Father's Day, I find myself thinking about my father, Jim Wheelis, who passed away in March. I love this picture of my father, taken in front of our rented RV. From my 'tween years until at least college, our family vacationed in San Diego each August to escape the worst of Arizona's heat. For several years, a group of families from our church would caravan with RVs to spend a week or two at De Anza Trailer Harbor in Mission Bay. I'd never do this with my kids now, but our parents would basically turn us loose to play on the little bay beach, ride bikes, play shuffleboard, and just generally have a great time. One day of our trip would be spent at Sea World, the San Diego Zoo, or something like that. And if we were there on a Sunday, the whole crew trekked over to worship at a local church. It wasn't a huge church -- I wonder if it was common for them to have 30 visitors on a summer Sunday!

The last few years that we vacationed in San Diego, we rented a condo down on Imperial Beach -- just our family. It always intrigued me that the homeowner would find another place to live during the summer so that total strangers could invade her space for one to two weeks at a time! Now that I'm older, I realize that she made a tidy little profit for her inconvenience, and I appreciate the homeyness we enjoyed (as well as the great view of the beach).

As a young father, Daddy worked as a farmer from sun up to sun down. By the time we began the San Diego tradition, he had transitioned into insurance, then real estate sales, but still worked very hard. These vacations helped us see a different side of Daddy over a period of days. He knew how to relax and have fun! One reason I love the picture above is the natural smile on Daddy's face, as well as the look of adoration on Mama's.

I miss my dad today. This is the first time since I've left home that I've not called him on Father's Day. As I helped my children get cards for their dad, I was reminded that I didn't need to get a card for Daddy. But I know that he is not even thinking about Father's Day, he's so taken with worshiping the ultimate Father in heaven. And that's the ultimate Father's Day, isn't it.

June 18, 2010

A lesson in perseverance

The past eighteen months has been full of firsts for our family. Some good, some not so good. But one recent first that is good has been the planting of a family garden. Jeff had helped his grandparents with large garden plots in his younger days, but those gardens were so big they were planted with a tractor! I've helped him with our flower beds and had dabbled with some herbs in pots, but this was a much bigger endeavor.

We planted some things from seed (which I jump-started by soaking in some damp paper towels overnight) -- three varieties of peas, some green beans, summer squash, zucchini, and corn. We also purchased some plants for our garden -- three varieties of tomatoes, some pepper plants, and our favorite herbs. Once everything was in the ground, we impatiently waited to see some green pop through the soil. It only took a few days for our seeds to sprout. Of course, this just made us want the harvest that much more! I commented that vegetable gardening was the antidote to instant gratification. With that said, it's only been a few weeks but we have already enjoyed three cherry tomatoes (those pictured were delicious when ripe!), basil, parsley, oregano, mint, and cilantro.

The Lord has blessed us with rain so that we've not had to do much watering. Did you know that corn lays down in heavy rain, wind, and hail, but that it does stand up again? I didn't! With the rain came weeds, but Jeff was good to take care of those. Our dog, Bella, has been faithful to keep the critters out. If we can just keep the squash and zucchini from taking over the world, we'll be okay!

A garden provides a good picture of perseverance -- both in the plants and in the gardeners!

June 14, 2010

Home is where the heart is...

Last week, our family went all different directions. Jeff attended an all-day class for three days, the younger kids were at camp for a few days, the oldest was working even more than usual, and I took a quick trip to Arizona. We were finally all back together on Monday, spending a fun day together.

Although I had a good time visiting with family (the one I was born into) in Arizona and taking care of some necessary things, I really missed sharing many special moments with my hubby and kids. It was a good exercise for me. For several days, I basically lived as a single woman on vacation might live -- I was able to get in some pampering, go to the movies, shop, and eat out (including In-N-Out Burger and some good Mexican). I shared funny and touching moments with my family there, but something was missing. I missed being able to say things with a look instead of words. I missed the impromptu hugs and humor from my kids. I missed the security of having my husband sleeping next to me. I missed my family -- my husband and kids; I missed my everyday life.

So now I'm back at home and we are all catching up. And I'm loving it.