Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Beauty everywhere. . .

So, I've been to California and back  - and here my blog sits, blank and lonely as I process my life between here and there. . .

Everywhere I see God's beauty-- pomegranates, exquisite California beauties! I deseeded a dozen, being advised that breaking up the fruit under running water controls the squirting crimson juices!

Everywhere I see God's beauty--a cardboard container of savory clam chowder, a hike along the Mendocino coast,  banks of ice plant turned red, sounds and smells of the Pacific, the foam of mighty waves.

Everywhere I see God's beauty- this week I'm wandering my neighborhood with a small brown sack, picking up pecans- round, oval, striped, thin and hard shell- on sidewalks, I'm rescuing stragglers from streets; it's what I do most years in November, imagining what delicious treat I will create with God's bounty.

Everywhere I see God's beauty- I keep looking since beauty is often wedged between the messy,  the burdens, the brokenness. The other day we helped our friend pack up her family home; the house sold- now what?  God has a space, a plan- but for now much is a mystery for my dear friend.

I see brokenness. But everywhere I see God's beauty-- because He is there.

We need never shout across the spaces to an absent God. 
He is is nearer than our own soul closer than our most secret thoughts. 
(A.W. Tozer)

(And tomorrow we're off to the Carolinas-- I'll look for God's beauty there)

Sunday, October 18, 2015

in my own backyard. . .

Last Saturday- on a warm October evening we hosted a party celebrating Sam and Mercy's marriage. A crowd of Texas friends filled our backyard and it was lovely- singing, sharing, dinner and dancing, all in our own backyard.

Then we hugged our friends and cleaned up the yard. Sam and Mercy went home to North Carolina- we miss them already. Sometimes it feels like my children flow in and out of my days like ocean waves (without the predictable rhythm).
But I imagine our children say the same about John and me!

I think I'm almost ready for the next thing. . . I've packed a bag with a book and a bit of knitting. This morning I'm off to California to lend a hand to a friend.

 In a few weeks I'll be back- John will be waiting and we'll eat breakfast in our own backyard.

Friday, October 16, 2015

iron sharpens iron

Lately I've been thinking about this quote and embracing the worthy pursuit. . . .

Never resist even the least urge to pray

Never resist even the least urge. . .
So I come humbly,  Lord, open the eyes of my heart, make me keen to your promptings! 

 I'm praying more. . . .impromptu prayers, over the phone, over coffee, over and amid every situation and conversation. I'm leaning hard into God that way, trusting that prayer will grow more a part of my inner self, if you know what I mean?

I shared the challenge with the women in my Bible study and received this text from a friend:

I heard your voice in my head last night saying, "Don't ignore the Holy Spirit's prompting to pray."After some internal debate I obeyed and prayed audibly over my husband for his rest and work stresses. Thanks for spurring me on to obedience.

And thanks, friend, for spurring me on-- so like iron sharpens iron, so one woman sharpens another.

Friday, October 9, 2015

embracing the unexpected. . . or not

Welcome lovely October! My neighbor dropped by early today and we drank coffee at the small square table in my front window, soaking in October light patterns and new day conversation. . . so good!

I like impromptu visits. . .  dropping by your house- tapping on your door, peeking in the window, calling out your name,  turning the door knob perhaps- but of course, you're my sweet friend and you know that about me. These days I text before coming. And each week I reserve clean squares in my red calendar book,  just enough empty to anticipate the unexpected.

So- I've been pulling dusty journals off the closet shelf, pouring over memories recorded in pen or faded pencil, thoughts that amuse and surprise me.  In my soul there's a longing for what was and what is to come . . . Ahh, such are the gathering of days.

 I'm reading the description of Mercy's birth 27 years ago . . .   before dawn as chickens rustled in the courtyard of Susana's house, our tiny daughter was born unexpectedly early.
Mercy was born in Chignahuapan, a mountain town in central Mexico- her's was an impromptu birth.

We were unprepared, totally unprepared, no gas in the van,  no clothes, no blankets for her- in fact everything was still packed away or lent out somewhere. But 7 brothers and sisters were prepared to embrace her. . .we wrapped her in something clean. . .

"I'm frustrated that we're so unprepared for her!" I lamented.

"It's an adventure- isn't the unexpected exciting?" John cheered me on.

But the Lord was clearly at hand- and Susana butchered a chicken in the courtyard at dawn and she  fed us all in celebration that day.

I'm remembering that even in the uncomfortable parts of the unexpected, our God designs comfort for his beloved. Amazing.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

a breathing space

There's this lovely corner in Abi's new home in New York. . . I can't wait to go back, to toss my knitting in the basket, to settle in the little chair, just my size- and to breathe.
I've been reading some stuff. . . reminders to make a space to breathe. I understand the mechanics, really I do- but usually it's not the space that's noisy; the problem is my own noisy, distracted self.

Honestly, I struggle to have restful time alone with God especially when I travel; I grow a bit frantic inside.
Ahh, we were created to long for Him, to yearn for the Good Shepherd to lead us beside still waters! Sometimes the still waters elude me and discouraged,  I conclude that a monastic life must be the answer. (Imagine that!)

So, I'm home in Texas, back in my routines and in my familiar breathing space.  I'm anticipating travel again next month- and I wonder, Will I find that space to breathe with God inside my own heart?

Last month I spent a season of days in Psalm 119. . . I find myself resting there about every 6 months,  drinking in the Psalmist's heart:

God be gracious to me according to your promise. . .when I think on your ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies, I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments. (vs 59)

I'm not looking for a formula, a literal space, a particular routine. Today I breathe in God and desire a yearning heart . And I'm thinking on his ways, one thought at a time, again and again, thoughts that will change the direction of my heart no matter where I carry my backpack, no matter where I lay my my head.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

He keeps doing what he loves. . . .

Yesterday John and I got to take part in Grandparents Day with Hope and Logan, children from our church family.
In first grade the teacher requested a few grandparents to volunteer for storytelling.  Hope, sweet girl, right away raised her hand and offered John and me for the storytelling job!

I declined, but John stepped up with a story of his own, a great story about 6 year old Johnny who was fearful of train tracks and train noise but who loved his grandma's quiet house and the delight of exploring old trunks in the basement. The kids were attentive, laughed and responded in all the right places in the story. Then they clapped at the end.

Sometimes I wonder,  What does a man do with himself in retirement?
This man just keeps doing what he loves . . . and I'm grateful.

Monday, September 7, 2015

we share children. . .

Early this morning I pulled tall weeds from my garden, weeds that evidence my 5 week absence.
Martha, my sweet neighbor, faithfully watered my garden in the August heat, but weeds always grow faster and heartier than plants, have you noticed?

A few weeks ago we headed south to Texas, driving between New York, Ohio, Tennessee and Arkansas. I kept waking in the night, Which bed? in which house? where's the bathroom?
But now we're home- and my neighbor sent me a text, "Welcome home, it's good to see your windows open again!"

Sometimes I come home from a summer trip and feel like I need a vacation. This time I'm weary and resting- weary and pursing the next thing. Summer memories and milestones flood in.. . . and I'm thinking about lots of sweet ones.
For the fourth time I heard my husband answer, "Who gives this woman to be married to this man?" (funny thing, he answers a little different every time, but the sentiment is the same- warm and hearty affirmation.)

 I'm thinking about Lucinda, my dear friend, and how we share children and grandchildren twice over- Lucinda, we get to be mother-in-laws together, again, imagine that?

The Monday after the wedding, in the yard over coffee and scones we talked about our favorite parts of the day. . . . the dancing flower girls. . . worship in the open air. . . the vows, bold and tender.

We prayed together for our children, Sam and Mercy, Nathaniel and Abigail- and I thought about the richness of friendship and a favorite quote:

"They went lovingly on together and had pleasant conversation
 about all the things that happened to them on their pilgrimage"
(The Pilgrim's Progress)

Friday, July 31, 2015

night watches

My eyes anticipate the night watches, that I may meditate on your promise.
Ps 119:148

I don't especially long for night watches - but lately sleep struggles dominate the 24 hour cycle of my life.  I can grind my teeth- or like the psalmist, I can embrace wakeful nights.

Last week a fan whirred in the window pulling in cool air at 2 A.M. I sat at my desk, pale light spread over book and paper, and I listened to John's breathing in the adjoining room.
And the night breathed, warm yet pleasant, "Lord, this is good," I sighed.

And in my red covered journal I recorded meditations and prayer to keep remembering in the dark of night and beyond.

There is one who scatters but increases all the more and there is one who withholds what is justly due but it results only in want. (Prov 11:24)

Lord, when the day dawns, today, tomorrow, the next, help me to generously scatter- Lord, show me when and how I withhold what is justly due. . . . my resources, yes, but make me willing  to give myself, to carry heavy burdens - cheerfully.

O give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name, Sing to Him. . . .speak of his wonders, Glory in his holy name. Let the heart of those who seek the Lord be glad. Seek the Lord and his strength, seek His face continually. . . 
(Ps 105)

Lord, for my loved ones- Let the heart of those who seek the Lord be glad with the first light of morning, the next day and the next. . . .and into the night.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

wisdom - better than silver

Men in spandex- so say their wives. . .  notice my husband there, riding out on Arkansas roads with his boys.
And after the ride he's a happy man, albeit chagrined that he can't sprint with the pack.
We remind him. . .

The glory of young men is their strength and the honor of old men is their grey hair. (Prov 22:29)

So, I've been thinking about the honor of grey hair (because I'm grey too!)
Grey hair indicates longevity, experience, achievement; hopefully grey hair signals humility and wisdom, but sometimes I wonder. . .

Recently I succumbed to an internet scam; Yikes! what happened to my better judgement?
I know all about sin's dark side, but when the deception came into my own house, into my own computer, when darkness masqueraded as light, I foolishly stepped into the trap.  Ahh, it all appeared and sounded so right, so good. "All your personal information is at risk!" they warned. And then fear hijacked my mind.
With hindsight, I detect hints that should have warned me to yell, Deceivers!
But I didn't. . . .

 So, John came home and I cried, angry, mortified. He held me and mopped up my mess, patient man.

Heart, what did you learn? 

 As my wonderful brood of grandchildren increases,  I keep writing their names in my Bible's margin beside Proverbs 8- but the wisdom pursuit is for me too, even as one by one my hair turns grey-

"Does not wisdom call and understanding lift up her voice?. . .
 Take my instruction and not silver and knowledge rather than choicest gold.
 For wisdom is better than jewels and all desirable things can not compare with her."

Saturday, June 27, 2015

emotions like knitted cables

I'm a productive knitter when John drives on road trips, but mostly I'm a meandering, sporadic knitter. A few weeks ago I unraveled a stale project and began knitting a small blue sweater with textured seed stitch and twisted cables- Ahh, smooth, lovely cotton/rayon yarn! If I'm an undistracted knitter, then the cables twist perfectly, but if not, then I rip and redo.
My emotions are like knitted cables, weaving appropriately through the seed stitch of my life, but sometimes my emotions are like tangled cables. I'm taking inventory of the past week. . . .

Joy- This week John turned 66 years old; we celebrated his day with our grandchildren at the  children's museum. He loved it!  My husband describes himself. . . an old man who rides his bicycle like the wind!

Longing- This week my sweet friend moved away, far away. Sometimes God blesses us with an uncommon friendship-  then we exclaim, "Thank you God! this friendship is from you!" My friend is  gone from sight and there's a hole. . .

Pleasure- This week I've been looking at tutorials-  how to make a wedding veil.  Mercy will marry Samuel in August. . . lots of emotion but mainly pleasure!

Uncertainty- This week there were moments when my life seemed undefined. . . . How do I do this new season? Every day I tell myself (as I readily remind others), "Heart, you are in Christ." And day after day I fight to bring truth close, truth that remembers my identity is in Christ.

Delight- This week I got a text from Anna, "Mrs. Newton, is this you? Are you in town, I've missed you!" Ahh, the delight of an unexpected coffee with this sweet girl. Anna's mother is in heaven-- and I'm certain she would delight her mother's heart.

Disappointment- This week I've asked myself, "Heart, why are you disappointed?" Unraveling the event of disappointment from the emotion, I'm pursuing good fruit, "Lord, I want my emotion to grow in the soil of love and faith, producing contentment and gracious forbearance- and Lord, I need you!"

Sadness and Wonder- Last week Elisabeth Elliot went to heaven- even though we never met she impacted my life over decades. She taught me to embrace biblical womanhood, to find satisfaction and beauty in my role.  I still hear her words:
Let God be God. . . in acceptance there is peace. . . Trust God and obey Him! 
So, on the day Elisabeth Elliot died I had a good cry for the wonder of a life lived well and a Savior worshiped.

 So, I wonder- how can a mountain of emotion crowd into one soul in a gathering of days? These good emotions are a gift from the God who created me in his image, reminding me that I'm alive! I'm all too aware of the tangles but ever grateful He's at hand, always.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Our dwelling place

John and I spent last week with sweet children from our church community. Mom and Dad flew out of town and we sort of took their place. It felt a bit like vacation- you know, cooking in a new kitchen, loving on toddlers, mornings at the park, zoo day, no reminders that my clogged closets call my name . . .

So, we live in this old house with memories that sometime suffocate me- and we're still trying to figure out our house and retirement. Should we fix the leaks and cracks in this old house?  Should we move on to a smaller, newer space? Should we give it all away and launch a radical retirement in a tear drop trailer?
Hmmm, maybe - maybe not- but for now we keep chipping away on our old house.
We planted a little tree in the yard and John's busy with a creative deck project. For months my favorite cut out lay hidden on a dusty shelf and finally I framed it- a new picture to hang on my old wall.

Yesterday morning I found myself driving in the neighborhood of a new coffee shop. Do I dare stop and have a coffee alone? Yes, do it! So I chose a spot on an umbrella shaded patio and splurged on a croissant and coffee in a white cup. I sat in this lovely space reading, musing, when an elderly man from a neighboring table approached.

"Are you reading the Bible? you need to read this verse." Fumbling with a pencil, he appeared  confused.

I offered up my Bible; he leaned over the table, smoothing the rumbled pages. "Right here, Psalm 90!"

And the kind stranger read to me,  "Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were born you gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting you are God."

Then he handed back my Bible, smiled and walked away. Sometimes life on this earth is so strange, so good- and God's Word is incredibly timely. . .

He is jealous for me, loves like a hurricane. 
I am a tree bending beneath the weight of his wind
Mercy, oh how He loves. . .

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

a kind of mothering

A sweet woman from my church community slipped me a dozen home grown eggs on Mother's Day.
All week John has been eating eggs- and I have been savoring a look. . . tiny, extra large, blue, brown,
speckled white eggs.

Five years ago John and I visited Abigail and Nathaniel in London and there we celebrated Mothering Sunday. Bunches of spring daffodils awaited all the women that day.  I love the term Mothering Sunday- because in
every culture women nurture and mother others in all sorts of relationships and contexts.

Early Thursday morning Isa sent me a text, "Can we switch our 10 A.M. date to a coffee shop on Broadway?"

"Perfect! I'm on my way to an impromptu 8 A.M. date at a different shop on Broadway!"

Ahh, I'm a rich woman- 2 coffee dates on a single morning at 2 shops where the coffee is good.

So, I pushed open the heavy door to #2 shop on Broadway and spotted sweet Isa bent over her laptop. We hugged and I  scooted my chair close while rummaging deep in my bag for $2 for a coffee.
#2 coffee shop on Broadway felt familiar yet changed- I surveyed the shiny tables, the leather chairs, the urban mural. . . Ahh, indeed! a dozen years ago I met Mary week after week in this place- mothering of sorts happened here.

Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have rolled over me. . . (Psalm 42:7-8)

Sometimes life's rolling waves crash in on one's soul- the roar seems deafening. . . By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.

 Week after week over coffee and God's Word we exposed our hearts- and mothering of sorts happened here.

 Friend! Guess where I went for coffee today? Remember? Thanks for letting me know you, really know you- 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

surely goodness and mercy. . .

Last month some of our children and grandchildren dropped in for visits from far off places.
Ahh- how I long for things to be perfect when they come- you know, perfect food, perfect sleeping arrangements, perfect weather, perfect conversation- and of course it's never perfect.
But south Texas is lovely in the spring and I'm simply grateful that from time to time they find their way back.

One evening over coffee and ice cream we played the compatibility game and the get to know you better game- someone tossed this one into the ring:

 "If you were stranded on a desert island and could have 
just 3 books of the Bible,which 3 would you choose?"

So. . . what do you think? and what do I think?! Everybody wrestled, everybody answered, and everybody selected the Psalms. I overheard a murmur, What would I do without the Psalms?

I've been walking this winding path with Jesus for at least 40 years, but a decade ago I began to drink deeply and cherish the Psalms- daily God feeds my soul through this rich book. I could write a weekly blog post reflecting on the Psalms- perhaps I will. . . .

Psalm 23 is on my mind today, one that's engraved in most of us since childhood- the rhythm is familiar and I almost miss the treasure-

. . . Surely goodness and mercy shall follow you all the days of your life and you shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Surely (inevitably, without fail) God's goodness and mercy shall follow you. . . forever, all the way to the end, dear friend- and so I pray for you today.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

the best covering

I love how God created the world with smooth things-  like vanilla ice-cream, bar soap, new baby skin. . . and He created textured things- like succulents in a pot, wholewheat toast and steel cut oats, nubby wool and knitted cables- all so lovely!

And life in God's world is smooth and textured too - you know, the hills and valleys, curves, crags,  straights. I remind myself that He owns and fashions it all for his glory and my good.
So- last week my days and nights bumped and dipped with unexpected encounters, long phone calls, lots of reminders that I live in a broken world. . .
I was laughing and weeping, resting and groaning all week. I read Proverbs 2- Ahh, I need more wisdom, Lord!

And even as I beseeched the God of wisdom for more of Himself, I received a text from a young friend; for a few years I discipled her through a rough patch of life- and then my friend and her family moved far away-

I think of you often, Darcie! I am missing you and our conversations!
I miss your sweet home and John too. I would love to cover you in prayer.
As I continue to pray for my life and how I can best honor God, so many things
have happened to help me soften my heart and love others. I see God's work 
more and more and am so thankful. How can I pray for you specifically this week?

Pray for me, friend, that I would grow in WISDOM. . . I love you!

"The Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright. . .And He preserves the way of His godly ones." Proverbs 2

Sunday, March 29, 2015

some sweet reflection

Dear Mercy,

Today I'm standing in the middle of your bright green room- we're planning to paint it this month. Papi bought grey paint, just ordinary grey. Truth be told- it's hard to cover up the old paint, the vibrant green that reminds me of you, of the way you live each day. I love that about you, Mercy.

So, I'm taking down your eclectic wall decor: Audrey Hepburn next to Tintin, fashion beside a cardboard basketball jersey, pictures of kids, lots of smiling kids, and worn dusty books- Anne of Green Gables, Betsy,Tacy, and Tib (and all the sequels). Next the closets (Aye!). . .the spaces crammed with memories of people, events, photos, thrift store finds, creative pursuits: fabric, paper, paint, sequins (did I mention the shoes?) I resist the temptation to dig in, to sort, to toss- and instead I just close the closet doors. And I think about all that overflowing mixture of life and beauty that reminds me of you.

Mercy, I love that you're relational and so persistent in pursuing people- and I've watched you pursue me.
I've noticed how you're not satisfied with "cream on the top" kind of conversations with me; if I don't go deeper then you take me there. . . so curious, since I'm the one known around here for going deep! I'm thinking about our conversation over coffee awhile back when I was struggling with an issue. You made some observations that surprised me, that brought me to a new place-- and I remember your thoughtful exhortation. That day was good, Mercy- Thank you. . .

with affection always,


Monday, March 23, 2015

to detect the burdens of others

I've never been fingerprinted. . . that is until now. I guess a woman doesn't need a background check to mother the children she gives birth to.. .
So,  the other day I helped my friend with 3 foster children, a set of tiny twins and their 15 month old sibling.
I rocked babies, held bottles, changed diapers, wiped spills and spit up, hugged and listened to my friend's big boys. And for a spare 30 minutes I sat with my friend, feet propped up, sipping coffee, a bit of a chat--this too is mentoring.

I was doing some on-line reading the other day and came across an article about the ministry of burden bearing.
I extracted this quote for my journal:

Here is a vocation that will bring you more satisfaction then if you become a millionaire 10 times over: Develop the extraordinary skill for detecting the burdens of others and devote yourself daily to making them lighter. (John Piper)

 John and I are defining a new season of life- a season of new vocations.
Lord, help me to see the beauty of  simply bearing burdens!
I do- but I don't. . .  my vision is short sighted.
I see the obvious, plain-as-day kind of opportunities (like my sweet friend and her foster children).
I want to start today- to work at developing this extraordinary skill for detecting the burdens of others and devote myself daily to making them lighter.

"Christians must have strong shoulders and mighty bones-
sturdy enough, that is, to carry heavy burdens"

Martin Luther

Thursday, March 12, 2015

cabled mittens. . . and my heart

Packing my suitcase for Ohio, I tucked in a skein of lovely grey wool along with the pattern for a pair of cabled mittens, size small- for me! So- I knit on and off, just enough to finish one mitten and begin the second before coming home. A few days ago I completed the second -although wool mittens aren't especially useful in the Texas spring time. Truth be told- I'm obsessed with completing pairs! I love the twisting pattern of cables knit into almost anything. Sometimes I knit the cable row all wrong; I have to rip out, back up, unravel, sort out stitches, but if I calculate and execute correctly, then it comes out just fine- smooth, cabled beauty!

I've been thinking about relationships that get tangled up, like tangled cables. . .  hmm, I wish the untangling could be as uncomplicated and predictable as fixing cables in my knitting.  God pushes himself and his truth into my tangled relationships. . .

( Colossians 3: 12-13) As those chosen of God, holy and beloved,  put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, love. . .all those qualities that are vital and useful in the context of relationships. God sees how I dress my heart and so do you!

Bearing with one another, if anyone has a complaint, forgive one another as God in Christ Jesus has forgiven you. (do you all ever have complaints?)

If I have a complaint, a persistent complaint resulting in disunity, I need to remember the question/answer from James 4:1

Q. "What is is it that causes quarrels and conflicts among you?"

A.  "Is it not the desires that wage war in your members."

So- lately I've been examining my heart for those stray selfish desires that sometimes hide deep; then if the conflict persists, I'm asking:

Have I been compassionate enough? Have I been gentle enough?  Have I been humble enough?

Have I loved fervently enough? Did I forbear long enough? And in the midst of the battle, did I loose hope? Did I give up?

It's not a formula- this pursuit of peace, of untangling relationships. But I worship the God of Peace, revealed in the Gospel of Peace- so I keep at it day after day til there's no more days

. . .to worship the Prince of Peace.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

to navigate a new season. . .

We're home, out of the snow- squirming into a routine of sorts. Last week I told John, "We've been home for 3 retirement days-- and it's good!"

With old routines closed up, fresh opportunities and unknowns wait in the wings. . . but really, a lot is still the same in our day to day lives. John just has more free time and we'll hang out together more.
And we're happy to be home with our church family- to love our body, to serve them, to bare their burdens, to know they love us in Christ Jesus- inspite of ourselves.

Last Friday I met with dear women for coffee, conversation, life sharing and at the end of it- they surprised me with a retirement basket; John's the one who officially retired, but I guess it's about me too! A card wedged in among the gifts reads:

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. . . (Ecc 3:1)

This basket contains a few items we thought would be helpful as you navigate this new season:

Water bottles and protein bars- for all the bike rides that John will take with Darcie.

Fancy Pancake mix and maple syrup- for all the breakfasts that you can leisurely enjoy!

Sparkling Cider, chocolates- to remind you of the blessings of your marriage that survived all those years of public school teaching!

Mr. and Mrs. hand towels- also to remind you of the beginning and how you have lots of tie now to practice being Mr. and Mrs.

List of questions to ask one another- to keep the conversations going now that you have lots of time together!

A good book- to read aloud on your car trips to see the grands!

A children's book- to read to the grands!

A soft blanket- to cuddle together.

Retirement mugs- to enjoy coffee and tea with each other.

We love you, 
ROCC (real organic conversation club)

I'm not an easy one to surprise, but I was. . . . and so delighted. John surveyed the list of couple questions and began with this one:

"One of the qualities that drew me to you when we first met was. . ."

"I remember thinking, This girl has a lot to say!!"

"Was that a good thing?" I inquired.

"Umm, hmm. . .and so it is- still." he assured.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

about routine (and a bit about reproof)

I'm learning that amid a midwest snow storm, folks shovel and shovel, more than once a day.  Brett shoveled snow 3 times in a day. If my winter visits become a routine thing- I'll buy boots.

On a clear day we drove to Syracuse for an eye blink visit with Abi and Nathaniel- we encountered lots more snow; in fact one day we were out in a quiet snow storm!

 I'm learning to knock snow off my shoes before getting in the car.  And I'm learning the slipper routine. . . replacing snowy shoes with cozy slippers is the preferred routine or  one leaves puddles.
(I'll buy slippers too. . .)
 After 3 weeks I've figured out the children's snow outfit routine: first the snow pants, then the mittens, the puffy jacket, snow boots and finally the furry hat. If you do it right, then they're ready for a blizzard.

The rhythm of routine settles my heart-  our good God created us that way- and when I'm away from home, out of my normal,  then my time in God's Word sags. . . Oh, it's there, but not too deep.

As we motored through the snow, my sweet friend was traveling with her family as well. I sent her a text, "Thinking about you, how's the trip?"
My friend responded, "As usual, when I'm away from home, I struggle with finding time alone in the Word, but I was able to get up early today and everyone slept really late. . ."

Ahh, friend, I know the challenge-- 

Then she shared, ". . . everything I read today was reproving me the way I needed. God is so good--to always meet me where I am. Wish that I wouldn't need so much reproving!"

Ahh, I love this dear woman's transparency, her humility and attentiveness to God's persistent and loving reproof in his Word. I'm praying today-
"God, make my heart tender, for I know, reproofs of discipline are the way of life . . . and will you encourage my friend-

The ear that listens to life giving reproof will dwell among the wise 
Proverbs 15:31

Friday, February 13, 2015

good for my soul. . .

One afternoon I was peeling potatoes with my Bible open on the sink. I read Psalm 131:

Oh Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me, but I have calmed and quieted my soul. . .

My days have overflowed with ordinary work this month--like shopping, organizing, washing up, folding, scrubbing, chopping, baking, serving up food and repeating it all.
(And I get to do it all for dear ones!)

I know this. . . God created me to discover satisfaction in ordinary work, but sometimes I forget,  sometimes I want more. When my heart is lifted up I'm agitated with the ordinary; I desire work that seems more important, work that will be praised, recognized, work that doesn't need repeating tomorrow.

Amid so much to cherish this month, I've found pleasure in ordinary work. . .work that is good for my soul.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

living His story. . . still

Seek the things that are above where Christ is. . . Set your mind on the things above-

We're cozy inside again today, watching from the window-  snow swirls, brave souls step out on icy streets. I'll mix up a pot of soup from the bits and pieces in the fridge- reminds me of my life in rural Mexico, sort of. . .

But one day this week Ivan and I crunched through the snow to the library and arrived just in time for  story hour. Ahh, how I love a good story, the picture books that tell a real story with lovely words and images, like The Gardener and The Friend by Sarah Stewart. But Ivan is 2- those stories wait in the wings.

This week in Texas John completed his last day of school, the last day in the same school for the last 24 years. I called him at 4:00 and he was still there, inputting grades, hugging kids- I could hear the hum of school life. Yesterday morning he turned in his keys, badge, final paperwork. He called me,

"I walked through the gym and the kids ran up, Mr. Newton, can I go to the bathroom?"

"I'm not the teacher anymore. . . you have to ask Coach B!"

 A chapter closed . . . sounds rather dramatic!
I know my husband- he'll remind me about our King Jesus and his grand eternal story. And we'll tell each other, "We're still a part- still living His story!"

Since you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above where Christ is. . . Set your mind on the things above. . .for your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3: 1-4)

Monday, January 26, 2015

new rhythm, new recipe

Here in Ohio I'm adjusting to Brett and Rachel's daily rhythm -  listening, observing, fitting in to a routine similar to mine yet different,  distinctly their own. . .

Early on weekday mornings I hear Brett in the kitchen, arranging the breakfast tray, making coffee, setting out toast, butter, jam, yogurt. I hear the rhythm of his voice chatting with his little Ivan in Spanish. I just listen in.

Newtons love scones- so I brought along a new recipe, untested but looking really delicious.  I discovered this one printed in the winter mailing from Churchmouse Yarns and Teas.

One morning Rachel and I  whipped them up  and loved the toasty oat flavor!

Oatmeal Scones

1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
10 T. butter, cold, cut into cubes
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup cream
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla

Spread oats evenly onto baking sheet and toast at 375 until lightly golden and fragrant (8-10 min)
Cool. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Whisk together milk, cream, egg, vanilla. In separate bowl combine flour, sugar and baking powder.
Cut butter into flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in oats, then liquid mixture until just combined; with floured hands knead until dough forms a cohesive mass. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and pat into a 7" round about 1" thick. Cut into 8 wedges and place each on a lined baking sheet.
Optional: with thumb, make a small indentation in the middle of each scone and fill with 1 T of good jam or marmalade. Bake until golden, 12-14 minutes. Serve with butter or stiff cream or simply plain!

(I toasted the oats the night before and used all milk, whatever kind that was in the fridge.  I did the thumb indentation and jam-- which was so lovely and delicious! I baked these scones just 12 minutes.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

to look outward and inward

Here in northeast Ohio snow fell in the night- all night, I think.  Morning dawned and snow keeps coming. . . coming thick and steady. I suggest to sweet Ivan that he push the white chair to face the window and we'll read and watch. . . we fit snug together on the white chair and listen to the snowy hush- like the snow, I sort of whisper as I read:  The Little House (Burton) and  Mama, Is It Summer Yet? (McClure) and All About Alfie (Hughes) -Ahh, how we love Alfie! I spot a pair of cardinals, the male brilliant against the snowy branch.

I'm visiting our Ohio children and grandchildren all month- in a few weeks John retires and he'll  drive up to join me, visiting family along the way .  . .hmmm,  new things on the horizon.

So, today I pulled out my Colossians study and came to a favorite passage:

If then you have been raised up with Christ keep seeking the things above where Christ is. . .
(Colossians 3: 1-4)

Keep seeking, keep seeking the things above. . . How do I purpose to keep seeking day by day?
I'm thinking of my friend back home and prayed for her. Friend, remember. . .

Seek the Lord and his strength, seek his presence continually. (Psalm 105:4)

(Here's my first try at Fair Isle, a tiny hat for baby Zeke. It's a fun project although I ripped out once!)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

one about friendship

One morning last month I met Martha for coffee; my sweet friend and I share lots of life, a journey that stretches 2 decades. We're part of the same church community, mentor women,  co-lead a Bible study, but most  notably- my son is married to Martha's daughter and we share 3 darling grandchildren.

 Longevity with a friend is one of the sweetest parts of this earthly life, I think.
But all that mixing and sharing can provoke misunderstandings, untrue thinking, even envy- imagine that?
So, Martha and I work at our friendship; time sails on, days swallow days, and I'll get a call from Martha,
"Darcie, we need to have coffee!" 

 We keep our lives in the open, share desires, clarify doubts, pray for one another, and sometimes we talk about this season of life as we're slowing down joint by achy joint, growing  a little weary.  We remind each other truth about God. I have a text from Martha saved on my phone,

"Darcie, in my Bible reading yesterday I found a phrase which I think describes you and me: weary yet pursuing (Judges 8:4)!"

Indeed friend, let's keep it up. . .

One  morning last week Martha and I met over coffee. We shared Scripture and encouragement and we prayed together, this time for our grandchildren-  you see, this week we're sharing them, 8 days split in half (while their parents are anniversary vacationing!)
John and I claimed the first half- and last night we turned the children over to the other grandparents amid a flurry of blankets, pillows, school bags and trailing socks.
We keep praying;  now John and I are relaxing- the house is silent.

This morning Martha texted me that she found 11 widowed socks. . .11?? (John says that maybe the grandchildren's 11 socks are in the basket with his 20?)

Weary yet pursuing. . .

Sunday, January 4, 2015

to hoist sail and draw up anchor

When I walk a neighborhood I notice doors that extend an invitation, if you know what I mean?
 Doors seem to hold the promise of what's hidden on the other side - expected, unexpected, new and old, ordinary and exceptional, food, comfort, people, life sharing, beauty. . .
(maybe I'll photograph doors in 2015-  then I'll write about what's on the other side!)

Usually I give the new year door a hearty shove, but the 2015 door squeaks open inch by tiny inch. I'm tentative, not quite use to the thought - (even though John and I greeted the dawn of 2015 with the young and hearty. ) And really, whether I'm ready or not, I'm living a new day, new year, on the threshold.

If I try to swallow January 2015 in a huge 31 day chunk, then I can't catch enough breath. . .
So, there's the momentous, like retirement and a new grandson and turning 65. And there's the mundane, like paperwork and more paper, meetings, packing, preparing, traveling.
Heart- God gives daily grace, day after day, always new every morning grace.

Last week my dear friend texted me, "Read Year's End and New Year from Valley of Vision."
So I pulled my falling apart copy from books piled very high on the back of the sofa-
And the Lord renewed my courage,  renewed my vision for 2015. . .

"O Love Beyond Compare, Thou art good. . .

Thy goodness will be with me in the year ahead;
I hoist sail and draw up anchor. . .
I bless thee that thou hast veiled my eyes to the waters ahead.

If thou hast appointed storms of tribulation,
    thou wilt be with me in them;
If I have to pass through tempests of persecution and temptation,
    I shall not drown;
If I am to die,
    I shall see thy face the sooner;
If a painful end is to be my lot,
grant me grace that my faith fail not. . .
Only glorify thyself in me whether in comfort or trial,
    as a chosen vessel meet always for thy use."

Hmmm, Amen, so good. . .