This blog is in response to the last verse in Psalm 107 which says, "If you really are wise, you'll think this over--it's time you appreciated God's deep love." (The Message) My heart is to see God everyday, everywhere and to document His deep love for me.
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
This past weekend, Will and I got to get away. We are so blessed to have a family willing to take care of our girls so that we can spend some time taking care of just ourselves. To us that meant rest. We headed down to the coast and did just that. I tried to jot down God's gifts as they came pouring in...
eating brunch...having kids means three meals a day, not the luxury of combining two!
68 degrees in January
roaming through antique stores
a long bike ride on the IOP connector over the waterway the view...
legs that got me over that bridge (in skinny jeans and leather riding boots, no less)... thank you, God, for yoga
a husband that will ride bikes with me (the only bike available for him...a turquoise beach cruiser with a basket (containing my purse) and a bell...a confident man) these two words...
buffalo shrimp tacos and a "Tell-Tale Heart" burger (topped with a fried egg) at Poe's in a readily available booth, while the Clemson basketball game aired live on a nearby TV
long afternoon naps on a couch so worn that it is like sleeping in a nest
a mixed up order at Starbucks that introduced me to a salted caramel mocha latte...divine
(the first time I have ever drank an entire coffee drink...the caffeine high...I'm hooked)
another movie, why not?
eating sushi at 10:00pm...speechless
two, beautiful girls wrapping themselves around us...FAMILY
one first missing tooth...the last first missing tooth...realizing the fleeting nature of time...
a reminder to open my eyes to see the beauty of her snaggle-tooth grin right now
(taken on a cell phone)
Thanking God that His yoke is easy and His burden is light...Today, always. Thanking God for rest for our weary souls.
Sunshine...61 degrees...thank you God for letting me live in the Sunny South.
I have been taking an online photography class and needed some shots with light. Today the sun made its grand reappearance. As soon as I picked Reagan up from school, we headed out to one of our favorite spots and captured a wildly wonderful world...
Searching and Finding
Grits "Gritsy Boy" Genesis Bud-Bud Merritt
Thank you God for letting us have this dog.
A priceless, golden treasure
Being kissed by the sun, taking my breath away.
Eyes that speak
Pausing this moment, hoping to make it last forever.
Shoes worn over a wildly wonderful world!
"What a wildly wonderful world, God! You made it all, with Wisdom at your side, made earth overflow with your wonderful creations."
"My son, pay attention to what I say: listen closely to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to a man's whole body. Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil." Proverbs 4:20-27
Will and I have been trying to go through the Proverbs with Reagan. Last week, we were reading this verse and, yet again, God began to speak to me through this passage. The funny thing was, I wasn't quite sure (other than the obvious words on the pages) what He was saying to me.
I haven't posted anything in three days. I had mentioned earlier that my goal (with great intentions) was to post everyday. However, God showed me quickly that this could easily become ritualistic and He preferred a flexible heart (a flexible heart leads to freedom...another gift).
So, for three days I pondered. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is in Luke 2:19, "...But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." So many good things to see and to hear over the weekend. Rainy, lazy, restful days. God did not lead me to document any of it. He just allowed me to treasure it and ponder, to rest. God allowed this verse in Proverbs to stand out, and I believe since then he has been weaving the following into my heart, opening my eyes and ears to what He is saying and only allowing its very simplified articulation until now.
First, the obvious for me..."pay attention to what I say: listen closely to my words. Do not let them out of your sight..." More of God encouraging me to open up my eyes and see (sight), to pay attention, to stay awake, a reoccurring theme in His word. Also, a reminder to stay in His word. The daily discipline of reading the Bible. His living story, sustained thousands of years...a miracle, a gift in and of itself.
Second, "keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to a man's whole body." Two posts ago, I wrote about becoming untangled. This was a reminder of the interconnectedness of our spiritual and physical beings. What is good for the heart is good for the body.
Third, "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk from your lips." Guarding my heart has been a discipline I have only recently began consciously pursuing. While in Virginia this past fall, we stayed with some friends who live very close to an Amish community. We were talking about the no TV/no technology rules this community embraces. He said when he asked one of them, they explained (and I am over-simplifying and condensing here) that one of the reasons they did not watch TV was the rapidity of which information came at you. That your brain does not have time to process what it is seeing or hearing before it reaches your heart. It reaches your mind so quickly, unfiltered and then spills into your heart (sometimes without us ever being aware). I couldn't argue with that logic. I got rid of the satellite. My attempt to guarding my heart (we still watch movies so I am not exactly sure how that is different, but it saves money anyway ;). Realizing the need to rely on God's help in guarding this treasure (before I bury myself in rules...so Type A of me). I read His words.
I love how this verse ties guarding our hearts directly to our words. What spills forth from our mouths is a direct reflection of our hearts. This, I needed to be reminded of! Today, for me, guarding my heart means less talking, more hearing. It reminded me of a quote I once read,
"There was a wise, old owl who lived in an oak,
the more he saw, the less he spoke.
The less he spoke, the more he heard.
Why can't we all be like that bird?"
Fourth, "Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you." Our pastor constantly reminds us that life is about simply taking and focusing on the next step (a discipline that I have grown to love). Only living in today, right now, that is all I have...a gift. Last night, Will and I were watching previews to a movie and the trailer for War Horse came on (a rainy, movie weekend...another gift). I was only half paying attention until I heard this quote..."Can you imagine flying over a war and you know you can never look down? You have to look forward, or you'll never get home. I ask you, what could be braver than that?" The Holy Spirit immediately wove that quote into my heart. Hearing through ears that are striving to listen. I felt it was a message I was hearing directly from God. The Grandfather who said this was explaining to his grandchildren how brave a soldier must be in battle to fulfill his sole goal, coming home. This road may only be attained and conquered with eyes that look straight, a gaze that is direct. God instantly reminded me of this verse, encouraged me to be brave, to look straight ahead, to fix my gaze on Him, and to someday reach home.
Finally, "Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil." A gentle reminder. By nature, I wander. I have a very difficult time staying on any, one path. This verse, I pray for Him to seal into my heart. This verse brought me back to one of my favorite hymns. One, I frequently play(Sufjan Stevens' version is my favorite) and frequently pray. One that speaks to and about the heart. All of this being connected, everything being connected to Him as He "binds my wandering heart to Thee."
"Come thou fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet, sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it, mount of thy redeeming love.
Here I raise my Ebeneezer, hither by thy help I'm come;
and I hope by thy good pleasure; safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God;
He to rescue me from danger, interposed His precious blood.
O, to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love;
here's my heart, o take and seal it; seal it for thy courts above."
down the path of peace." Luke 1:77-79 (The Message)
This morning, my husband gave me a gift. I am not a morning person so I can count on my fingers the number of times I have seen the sunrise. If I have seen it, I am usually too ill about being up to even be in awe of its beauty. However, my husband is a very early riser and captured the sunrise for me this morning. He emailed it to me after 8:00am. This morning, my husband gave me this magnificent gift through his eyes...
I love the above picture because the sunrise looks like a "consuming fire."
"Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our 'God is a consuming fire'" Hebrews 12:28-29
Thanks to my husband, my day began by seeing God's glory because he stopped to take these pictures for me. Knowing, that I would love this, encouraging me in my quest to see God, seeing Him for me.
Starting the day like this, makes it hard not to see God's love throughout the rest of the day...
The gift of imagination...It was 40-something degrees this January day, but that did not stop this one from putting on her surf shirt, kicking off her shoes, and surfing on the see saw. Oh, to be seven again! The next best thing is living through her eyes, her imagination.
With her, we just never know...always up to or into something.
Tonight, I got to fix one of the girls' favorites...mac and cheese (Jess said that was her gift from God today). Last year, I got serious about our family eating more whole, natural foods (okay, a little serious...I absolutely cannot give up Cheetos and if I quit buying Little Debbies, I think my family would send me into exile). I figured that we are going to eat processed foods some, but if I took the time to cook, I would try to focus on cooking with real food. I read a great book called Real Food Has Curves (by B. Weinstein & M. Scarbrough). These two guys give a really practical overview of getting off processed foods (at your own pace and comfort level) and it is full of information of the yucky/fake stuff that is in a lot of processed foods. The best thing about this book was that it included recipes (they both have written several cookbooks). The mac and cheese I made tonight, I adapted from their recipe (their recipe has mushrooms, onions, and broccoli...yum to me, not so much to my girls). I love this because it literally takes minutes to make. It is packed full of protein and can stand alone as a main dish. It is a skillet version and if you grate the cheese the night before, then you could probably make this in 20 min (10 of that will be boiling pasta).
Pasta of choice (I buy the whole wheat (less processed) penne variety because it is full of fiber and since it will be drowned in cheese, you really can't taste the difference)
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (it is always better to buy in wedge or block form and shred. Plus it tastes so much better. It is pricey but it will keep for a long time and you can use it in other recipes or salads.
Cheddar Cheese (I choose cabot smooth sharp because they don't add animal rennet). Again, whatever cheese you choose, buy in block form for a much better taste. Feel free to add your own favorite cheese to the mix or substitute.
Butter (always real butter, never margarine)
Unbleached Flour (minimally processed and you cannot taste the difference)
Whole Milk (or low-fat)
Black Pepper and Salt (I use Kosher Salt)
Shred approx 4 oz. (half the block) or Cheddar Cheese and 2-3 oz. of Parm-Reg. cheese (feel free to reduce or add to this, you can always shred more or save the excess). Mix together in a bowl and set aside.
Cook about 1/2 a box of pasta (8oz.), drain and set aside.
Melt 1 tbsp. of butter (you can get away with reducing this if you are making a lower calorie version) on medium-high heat in large, high-sided, oven-safe skillet.
Add about 1.5-2 tbsp. of flour.
Whisk in about 1.5 cups of milk in a steady, thin stream until creamy.
Whisk in about 1/2 to 1 tbsp. of Dijon Mustard, salt (I guess, but about 1/4-1/2 tsp), and pepper (I just sprinkle enough pepper to sparsely cover the top).
Continue whisking until the mixture starts to bubble and the liquid thickens (about 3 minutes).
Remove the skillet from the heat. Stir in three-quarters of the shredded cheeses until smooth. Stir in cooked pasta.
Preheat the broiler after setting the rack 4-6 inches from the heat source.
Sprinkle remaining shredded cheese over the top of the skillet.
Broil until lightly browned and bubbling (around 5 minutes).
Handles will be HOT!
Cool for about 5-10 minutes
It is so creamy, delicious, filling, and full of fiber and protein. It easily makes 4-5 portions. What we don't eat, we heat up for left overs.
I serve it with some steamed broccoli (I just put a handful of frozen broccoli in a bowl in the microwave, sit an oversized lid on top, and microwave for a minute and a half. Reagan requested a salad with hers topped with Ranch (see, only a little serious about the whole processed thing).
Thank you God for sunrises, a husband who captures them for me, time to play, and for macaroni and cheese...all found on a path of peace. God, thank you for the gift of another day!
While reading in Matthew yesterday, I came across a familiar passage. Knowing I had read and heard this story so many times before, I stopped and prayed. I asked the Holy Spirit to shine His light on what I was reading...to make the familiar unfamiliar...to allow me to see Him speaking to me through this text. Matthew 26:36-45 is about the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus is about to be betrayed and handed over to the ones who will kill Him. He asks his friends to pray with Him, to be awake, to be aware. They fell asleep. Three times he found them sleeping. The first time he found them sleeping He told Peter something that immediately caught my attention..."Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak" (v.41). Here, the spirit and the body are connected...something I had somehow missed before. One can be willing, but if the other is weak, then there is brokenness. Last week, I had just read where the disciples asked Jesus which of the commands or laws was the most important. He replied, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind"(Matthew 22:37). Heart, soul, and mind...again, all connected. Every living part of us is interwoven. We cannot let one area weaken and expect the others to thrive. Even if the spirit is willing, we will fall if the body is weak. If our soul thirsts, it will eventually break our hearts. If our hearts are broken, our minds will begin to grow weary. We are one tangled mess. Jesus warned his friends. He told them to watch and pray to avoid falling into temptation, to avoid becoming tangled. I was struck by the simplicity of this, yet how much my life has lacked these disciplines. Watching has now become my focus. Staying awake is a new discipline for me. In every moment, good or bad, opening my eyes, waking up and watching God. Watching Him is seeing Him. Seeing Him is, again, knowing Him. Knowing Him allows us to speak to Him through prayer...an expression of love, of trust. Watching and praying lead to being loved and loving. Focusing not on the weight of the burdens, not on the giant knot of tangles I have become, but just on Him being God. Loving Him by surrendering my mind, my heart, and my soul to Him and only to Him. Watching and praying as He untangles this mess in me. Trusting Him as he begins to straighten me out. Becoming one spirit, one body, one heart, one mind, and one soul. Becoming untangled.
"Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother's womb. I thank you, High God—you're breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I'd even lived one day." Psalm 139:13
I had the privilege of turning 33 today. It was an especially blessed day for me. I have a husband who goes out of his way to toil and stress to make a birthday the "perfect day." I have two, spirited girls who love to shower me with gifts, affection, surprises, and who love birthdays period. I have two parents who drove over three hours just to spend the day with me (I wouldn't have had this day had they not done their part, a pretty important gift)! I got to spend this day in some of the most beautiful places my eyes have ever seen. I experienced God's presence everywhere today, spilling over. My soul recognizes His works and rejoices in His beauty. Today, He displayed these works, His creation and I received each one as a gift. Today, He opened my eyes to see...
After serving me breakfast in bed (his famous bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches), he decided to do the dishes. He said no one ever told him you couldn't put dish soap in the dishwasher. Hence, the river of soapy water that invaded our kitchen...He tries so hard!
Getting to spend some time in one of my most favorite, little towns....McClellanville.
Eating local shrimp at T.W. Grahams. I love this shrimp! I love how it is caught in their backyard and I love that it isn't the size of my hand like the kind you get at the grocery store. This is good ole South Carolina shrimp!
Shrimp Boats...now that's fresh!
A quaint little church sitting in a quaint little town...breathtaking!
After leaving McClellanville, we headed to the beach. The sand, the ocean, the sky, the sun, my family...all gifts, all from God.
Jess...always searching, always finding.
My parents...always there, always loving.
Will and Rea...always playing, always having fun!
This one loves the camera capturing her moments...
Piles and piles of sea shells!
Her Papa...he gave up his Sunday nap to be with us, to be with me. Every type A trait I have came from him. He loves me alot!
Her sister...again, I love her point of view. The crookedness of the shot, its imperfections making it so perfect. Her best friend.
This time, I captured her. She is wild and free and I feel like I caught a glimpse of that uncontainable spirit in this shot.
I love his size compared to her...her gentle giant.
My baby girl...always.
My other baby, my first...the one who never stands still...always in motion.
God, I love her.
"Your thoughts--how rare, how beautiful! God, I'll never comprehend them! I couldn't even begin to count them--any more than I could count the sand of the sea." (Psalm 139:17)
Jess took this picture...I love everything about it.
These trees, this sun...I cannot write words to describe them...I love what I read once...
"Every time you feel in God's creatures something pleasing and attractive, do not let your attention be arrested by them alone, but, passing them by, transfer your thought to God and say:
'O my God, if Thy creations are so full of beauty, delight and joy, how infinitely more full of beauty, delight and joy art Thou Thyself, Creator of all!"
--Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain
God, thank you for a 33rd birthday. Thank you for sharing your infinite beauty with me. You have given me eyes to see and love to share. I rejoice in adoration at your great works. I am in awe. I delight in your gifts!