The Birthday Boy ~ 16 years!

 Wasn’t I just turning 16?  Like last week?  Really, I can vividly remember turning 16 and my aunt taking me to the Department of Transportation to take my driver’s test in San Antonio, TX.  I failed parallel parking, but passed overall ~ barely.  (I still have the test results!) Seems like I couldn’t possibly be old enough to have birthed and raised my own 16-year old.  But alas, there is much evidence to prove that, indeed I am ~ like this handsome young man sitting at my dining room table!
Robert had the idea to get him an iPad for his birthday, so he rounded up support from the extended family and it became a group gift.  (Thank you, Grandad, Uncle Stu, Aunt Melissa, and Aunt Melinda!)  As you can see, he was pretty shocked and very excited.
 Aunt Melinda gets double thanks for sending along a new University of Texas t-shirt to go along with the iPad.  He was almost as excited about that and wore it all day long.
 Of course, he had LOTS of eager IT technicians at his side once they saw what was in the box.  There was thrill in the hearts of the younger siblings to be sure!
 Kory had to say goodbye to his special gift just minutes after receiving it so as not to be late to Driver’s Ed!  Yes, he celebrated his 16th by spending from 9a.m. to 4p.m. sitting in a classroom listening to lectures and watching scary videos about driving.  We met him with a special Starbucks drink outside when he was finished!
I know I’ve posted these pics before, but today I just can’t resist letting you see an earlier version of the now 16-year old….
 Red-headed, back pack on, and ready for the first day of pre-school!
And this one’s from Oklahoma.  He was about 4 years old here and riding in the “car” of his friend Mackenzie.  Guess he was getting an early start on the whole driving thing there!
Kory is such a great young man, and I am proud to be his mom.  He is kind, responsible, and trustworthy.  He is self-motivated and mature.  I count on his strength and know-how on a daily basis. I haven’t told him yet, but I spent some time praying for him yesterday and writing it all down…
“Thank you for Kory, Lord, and for the joy he has always been.  Thank you for his character and maturity.  Bless him today at driver’s ed and surround him with fun and friends there.  Bless the time of celebrating with friends and family on Sunday. Most of all, Lord, I pray that Kory would know you daily and be humbled by your gift of salvation.  May his heart grow daily in gratitude for the cross and for your forgiveness.  Deepen his understanding of your Word and may he grow in his love for it and be transformed by it.  Please make clear his calling and begin to reveal what vocation he is to pursue. Place him in the college or university that you desire and reveal what major he is to choose.  Please provide a godly wife for Kory.  Protect him and give him godly wisdom and discernment in this area.  Steer him away from those who would hurt him or distract him from you.  May she be in love with you and have a love for your Word as well.  May she love Kory deeply and be a true encouragement to him.  May she have a passion and vision for family and motherhood.  
May Kory’s heart be full of the joy that is in you all the days of his life. Amen.”

Grace in the Law of the Sabbath

I’ve been reading about and pondering the Sabbath commandment for years ~ re-reading the 4th Commandment, looking at Jesus’ words on it, and reading instructional books on how to institute it into family life. I’ve felt guilty for shopping on Sundays, but even when I didn’t shop ~ “working” myself and thereby causing others to work as well ~ I was busy working at church or home serving, entertaining, cleaning, or ministering in some fashion or another.  Sundays have never been a Sabbath in this pastor’s family.  So, we tried Fridays, and usually I could get away to drink a cup of tea or iced coffee while reading my Bible and prayer-journaling, but inevitably those coffee dates with the Lord would turn into a coffee date with a friend or college student, or a wedding rehearsal and dinner, or…..something.
In the last two years I’ve been more compelled and convicted than ever to observe the Sabbath, but fearing the accusation of legalism, my tendency to make everything in my life law and burden anyway, my mile-long to-do list, and the ever-present needs of people in my family and church, it just didn’t seem feasible, and therefore it didn’t happen.  I chose to keep going, though it didn’t feel as if I really had a choice.
My heart and mind and body were telling me ~ or should I say that the Spirit was nudging me via these avenues and warning signs toward an obedient Sabbath, though.  It was even one of my New Year’s goals/resolutions ~ an intentional weekly Sabbath.  Well, it didn’t happen. I chose (though, again, it didn’t feel like a choice!) to keep going and ignore the conviction, the warning, all the while feeling the effects of my disobedience ~ anger, irritability, bitterness, despair, depression.  But the plates will stop spinning!  Heck, the world might stop spinning if I take a day off.  
Oh, the pride….the sinful self-sufficiency.
One of my other New Year’s goals/resolutions was to read LOTS of the Bible this year ~ big chunks.  This one I’ve actually been able to accomplish, and as the Lord promised, His Word has not returned void.  I’m always exhorting the girls in my Bible studies and classes to JUST READ IT ~ even out of sheer obedience ~ even plopping it open randomly (though this is not a recommended habit) ~ JUST READ YOUR  BIBLE and He WILL meet you there.  Well, He’s been meeting me there over the Sabbath.  I started with Genesis and Acts.  Now, I’m on to Exodus and Psalms.  Last week I was reading the Lord’s final instructions to Moses on Mt. Sinai ~ the Ten Commandments, the instructions for building the tabernacle, and finally an exhortation to observe the sabbath as “a sign” and “throughout the generations…”
“…that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you.”
Ex. 31:13
He goes on to tell Moses, 
“…for six days the Lord made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day 
He ceased from labor, and was refreshed.”

I’ve also been reading Galations, because that’s what is being preached on at church this summer, as well as what we are studying in our small groups on Wednesday evening.  I read chapter 2 last week in preparation for small group and was struck by this very familiar verse:
“I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died needlessly.”
Galations 2:21
Oh, how I’ve nullified the grace of God over and over in my ceaseless striving after righteousness ~ whatever my definition of righteousness happens to be for the day.  Inbox emptied?  Beds all made?  Phone calls returned?  Groceries bought and meals prepared?  All bills paid?  Bedtime stories and prayers faithfully executed? 4 mile run, gym workout, and lots of fruit and veggies today?  Anger stuffed and tongue bitten?  Patience with people? Hospitality shown?
In striving to keep the Old Testament Law or even my own VERY LONG LIST of laws for myself (Oh, you wouldn’t even believe the length, the details…….the ridiculousness!), then Christ died needlessly ~ the torture of the Cross was in vain.
Except for the Sabbath.
When I cease from my striving by observing the Law of the Sabbath, I verify the grace of God.  I acknowledge that it is HE who sanctifies me (Ex. 31:13), HE who accomplishes all things for me (Psalm 138:8).
It is a Law that encourages me to bask in Grace.
Refraining from work is very difficult for me.  This is not everyone’s struggle, but it is most definitely mine.  I really like Law ~ rules, checklists, formulas.  I have a hard time with Grace ~ free stuff?  freedom?  rest?  But, today I did it ~ well, HE did it through me and for me.  I (we) observed the Sabbath.  Sadly, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve done this, but today was the best.  I worked hard (well, He did in and through me) for six days ~ even prepared the food for today yesterday, so that today I could do….. nothing.  Well, not nothing, but lots of hot tea drinking, Bible reading, praying, basking in sunshine, reading a good novel, and eating out.  It was wonderful, and I’m so thankful, because the next six days will require a lot of effort.  It’s part of why I knew I had to do it.  Oh, there were a lot of things I could have been doing, felt I needed to do, but His call to…
“Cease striving and know that I am God.”
Psalm 46:19

was very clear.  I know He is calling me to repent from the belief that my performance earns me more of Him, and I desire to be obedient, so that He, His gospel, and His grace are verified in my heart for what they really are ~ enough, and much, much more than I could ever earn.

Hoping (and hopefully choosing by faith) to engage in many future grace-verifying Sabbaths.

Gluten Free Friday ~ Almond Macaroons (& a coconut craze!)

Been meaning to post this recipe since Easter and the Passover Seder we celebrated at church.  Macaroons are a traditional Passover dessert, and I made a bunch of them that week.  I’ve only become a fan of coconut in recent years, but now I’m fairly nuts over coconut ~ coconut milk, coconut oil, and just plain old shredded coconut. By the way, coconuts are not nuts at all.  They are seeds ~ very large seeds, that is.  Have you tried the new Mocha Coconut Frappucino at Starbucks?  Oh. My.  It is so good, and even topped with toasted coconut.  (I get mine with only ONE pump of mocha and ONE pump of coconut syrup, and it is still so sweet ~ almost too sweet for me.  Getting the regular 4 PUMPS OF EACH might just put me in some sort of sugar shock!)  
I do NOT, however, like coconut water AT ALL.
Macaroons also remind me of my grandmother, Memo.  On our trips out to see her in Uvalde, Texas, we would always stop at Haby’s Bakery in Castroville, Texas.  My dad would purchase macaroons for Memo, and Cowboy Cookies for us kids.  This was long before we discovered the whole Celiac Disease thing, and we thoroughly enjoyed this stop which was not complete without a cherry Coke from Sammy’s Restaurant across highway 90. 
(Talk about sugar shock ~ and gluten too.)
Well, my grown-up and gluten free tastes have changed quite a bit, and now I would even prefer the macaroon to the cowboy cookie.  These are naturally gluten and dairy free!
Almond Macaroons
3 egg whites
1/8 tsp salt
1/3 cup sugar
2 cups shredded sweetened coconut
1/3 cup raw slivered almonds
1/3 cup ground almonds ~ or almond meal/flour
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp vanilla
melted chocolate & sliced almonds to top ~ if desired. (Don’t know why you wouldn’t!)
Best egg whites until they will form firm peaks, adding the sugar and salt as you go. Fold in remaining ingredients.  Drop by spoonfuls onto greased baking sheet.  Bake for 10-12 minutes at 325 degrees. 

I melted a handful of chocolate chips to top mine and placed a few sliced almonds on top as a garnish.

There Are No Words…

…except for these:
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
Romans 1:20

Phoenix So Far…

Cactus, high temps, beautiful Bermuda grass, The Hilton, (We’re sharing the Hilton with the Roller Derby Championship Teams. Yes, the Roller Derby Ladies + the Southern Baptists = one big happy family!), more cactus, chapped lips, needing more product for my turned-to-straw-hair, swimming pool, glass elevators, light rail train to downtown, 14 Starbucks in a five mile radius, sports stadiums, dinner with a student (Hi Greg!) from Mercyhouse (and his dad!), missions luncheons, speakers (Piper, Giglio, Platt, Warren, Stetzer!), panel discussions, kids loading up on freebies in exhibit hall, 40% off ALL Lifeway products, perpetual VBS and Centrifuge (Wet ‘n Wild trip today!) for the kids (they are not as excited about this as we are), wonderful worship, lots of friendly folks, waking up at 4a.m., running at 5a.m. (it’s 8a.m. at home!), going to bed at 8p.m. (it’s 11p.m. at home!), and thankful for this restorative respite in the middle of one crazy summer.
Looking forward to 108 degrees tomorrow and the Grand Canyon on Thursday!

End of an Era: Coach Krum Retires

Just as the sun sets on Kory’s time on the mound, so it also sets on the career of one loved and notorious coach in our fair town.  From T-Ball, to Prep, to Little League, and finally to Babe Ruth Coach Krum has been there in some capacity.  He rose to the coveted position of “coach” (well, technically he’s the manager) a few years ago when our boys both played Little League.  How did he acquire this illustrious position?  By being the only dad from the team to show up at the first parent’s meeting ~ Congratulations Coach!  Here is your cap and clip board, your bucket of balls and bag ‘o bats!
And why the notoriety? 
Because he was the coach of the last place team every season of his career.  Now, that’s not an easy thing to accomplish. Wednesday night was the final coaches’ meeting ~ to look at standings and discuss the playoffs, and he dreaded going.
“I really hate to lose,” he lamented in the afternoon before the meeting.  “REALLY. I just HATE losing.  And we were SO close SO many times!”
and then the kicker…
“And just how exactly does it bring glory to God when the pastor/coach is last in the league????   I mean, if the Pastor’s team won the championship many would turn to Christ!  People would flock to church! It would convince them that Jesus’ team is the one to be on!”
Now, obviously he was kidding, but you have to remember that:
 1. He loves Jesus.
 2. He’s a firstborn
3. He’s a guy.
4. He’s from Texas.
5. His dad was a/his high school football coach.
6. In Texas.
So, he obviously comes by this competitive spirit naturally.  No one likes to lose, of course, but Coach Krum REALLY, REALLY, REALLY does not like it.
 Coop up to bat.

This losing streak was especially disappointing, because he put a lot of effort into being a good coach.  Somewhat unfamiliar with the rules and strategies of baseball, he read up on the game, met with a seasoned, long-time coach for consultation, and heartily encouraged the boys (and one girl) on his team during each drill and practice.
 Coach Krum is the handsome one in the dark sunglasses!
And even though he had first pick in the draft, the team was only able to pull off one win.  Several close scoring games, but only the one win.  It was quite disappointing for all involved, but especially the coach.
He had to miss most Sunday games because of the whole pastor gig, and even several Saturday games because of the whole 8-wedding gig.  Often times at a wedding reception, I would see him check his email via his Blackberry and then hear a terrible gasp.
“Honey, what is it? Are the kids ok?  Did someone die?” I would anxiously ask.
“We lost the game 10-7,” he would say.  “Arghhh!  SO close!”
No real emergencies; just a game report….and a panic attack for me.
The main reason for Coach Krum’s retirement is not his losing streak, but rather the fact that Kory will be over the age limit to play in the town leagues next year, and Cooper just could not care less about baseball.  Coop would be eligible for another year of the Babe Ruth League, but he has begun to despise baseball (“You call that a SPORT???” he says.) and absolutely fall in love with basketball.  He’s fairly obsessed, actually, and never not shooting some object into some receptacle when he’s not at the courts playing one-on-one or two-on-two.  So, since neither boy will be playing town league baseball, Robert will not need to coach.  
Don’t worry, he’s not too broken up about it.
Kory played on the local high school team this season just like he did last season ~ even moving up a level from the JV B team to the JV A team. (They allow homeschoolers to participate in all sports!) Playing on both teams meant that he was playing his favorite sport almost every single day of the week.  He could not have been happier, but now that both seasons are just about over (one last Babe Ruth game tomorrow), he has been exhibiting some passive-aggressive behavior.  When I ask him what’s wrong, he just mumbles, “I just want to play baseball.”
 Kory tags the returning runner.
Kory’s team had a decent record, and he enjoyed being able to contribute with some good hits and plays.  After one beautiful double, his high school coach said, “Good job, Krums!  Didn’t know if you had it in you.”  Well, he does, and he loved being able to improve this season.  It really was fun to watch all of these boys who have been playing together since they were 5 or 6 years old grow up and gain skill.  I was constantly amazed at their abilities, and loved being at the games.
Great Job Kory and Coop!  
And thanks, Coach Krum, for being a great coach (despite your record) and a great dad!

Summer Sullenness Strategies

1. showing irritation or ill humor by a gloomy silence or reserve.

2. persistently and silently ill-humored; morose.

3. indicative of gloomy ill humor.
1. See cross 2. See glum  3.  sulky, moody, sour, bad-tempered. 4.  cheerless, clouded, overcast, somber, mournful, dark. 5.  slow, stagnant. 
Related words:

 I am completely astonished every spring when the complaints and questions of my children suddenly go from this:
“HOW many more days of school do we have?” 
“I am SO tired of school.”  
“When do we get our SUMMER, Mom?” 
“I am SO bored.” 
“There is NOTHING to do.”
“Could you take us to the beach, movie, swimming pool, friend’s house….?”
“When is so-and-so coming to visit?”
In the blink of an eye they suddenly become SULLEN ~ bad attitudes, long faces, sibling rivalry, continuing complaints, restlessness, and more seem to follow, and just when they’ve gotten exactly what they’ve been wishing for ~ SUMMER!
This is difficult for me to relate to, partly because as a grown up I really can not remember the last time I was bored (Honestly, I would LOVE to be bored for at least a day or two!), and partly because I don’t ever remember looking to the adults in my life to entertain me in my free time when I was a child ~ except for my sweet grandmother who sat by her backyard pool for hours on end watching us siblings swim and making us snacks.  Aside from that, I remember roller skating, and Barbie playing (we had a very extensive and intricate, hours-on-end system for this!), hide-and-go-seek, and freeze tag.  We also had TV, and unfortunately I watched a lot of soap operas in the summertime once I reached a certain age.  My kids don’t have that option!
It seems that the sullenness gets worse the older they get, so last year I devised a plan.  It was pretty basic.  They had to log one hour of reading and one hour playing outside before they could have their regular 3-4 p.m. “electronic time.”  (This is the only time during the day that they can play computer games, check email/Facebook, iPod touch and PSP games.)  We also added what we called “The $20 Bible Challenge.”  Each month we gave them a memorization challenge from scripture, and once it was accomplished they received $20.  Typically, we give them a certain amount of spending money for vacation.  This way, they could earn up to $60 for our annual trip to Maine.  The monthly challenges were: 
June: Memorize all the books of the Bible in order
July: Memorize “The Romans Road” ~ a series of verses that explain the gospel
August: Memorize John 15:1-11 (the Vine and branches verses)
Cooper and Kayla accomplished each challenge and earned their $60.  Kory always seems to have money from some odd job he’s done for someone, so was much less motivated than his poverty stricken siblings.
This summer we’re doing the same thing, but adding a few items to the daily requirements.  Here’s what their days and Bible Challenges look like this summer:
Every day Tasks:
  • Complete a lesson in their Bible study workbooks ~ takes 20 minutes  (see first pic above)
  • Read a novel (not a comic book! or a magazine!) for one hour
  • Play outside for one hour (It is NOT 100 degrees here!)
  • Complete 2-3 extra chores (of Mom’s choice) on top of regular chores
  • Staying Sharp:  Kayla = two sets of multiplication/division flash cards; Cooper = cursive writing practice; Kory = PSAT prep
    Now, they weren’t exactly cheering about having to do actual, physical work, or anything that resembles school work, but at least two of them really thrive in having some structure and a checklist for their day.  (I’ll let you guess which two that would be!)  They wake up and get to work on the list of things they need to accomplish, and then any free time after that (which is still a lot) is purely relished!  They are happy, there’s no time to be bored, and they have very good attitudes about the whole thing ~ mostly. Meanwhile, we get some help keeping up with the cleaning and maintenance of the house (today I have clean floors, windows, and an organized utensil drawer in the kitchen!) as well as time to get other things done, like the homeschool reports that are consuming all of my time at the moment. (Well, those and blogging, obviously.)
    The Bible challenges for THIS summer will be:
    June:  Read Chapters 1-25 of Genesis & write a one-sentence summary of each chapter
    July: Read Chapters 26-50 of Genesis & write a one-sentence summary of each chapter
    August: Memorize The Nicene Creed
    and for $5 extra dollars per month there will be a poetry challenge as well:
    June:  “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost
    July: “I’m Nobody!  Who Are You?” by Emily Dickinson
    August: “My Shadow” by Robert Louis Stevenson (or 6+ line poem of your choice)

    Even with all of these tasks and challenges, we still have plenty of hours in the day to do lots of fun summer stuff, like trips to the swimming pool or local pond, bike trail rides (last night we biked to Whole foods for gelato!), picnics, beach trips, hikes, and cookouts. 
    What about you?  Any other ideas to combat summer sullenness? What about other poetry ideas for kids?  Any good ones they might like memorizing more than these?
    Hoping your summer is off to a great start!
    Next up: (and a little out of order)  
    School Year Wrap-Up & Baseball Highlights


    Backyard Murder Mystery

    Sadly, this has often been the scene in our backyard in recent months ~ feathers in a frenzied path, and one or two less chickens in the coop.  We’ve had fourteen hens for over a year now, but now we’re down to………….THREE.
    While it appears that we are terrible chicken parents, the truth is that we (Robert) have worked very hard to protect them ~ always investigating where the breech in the chicken wire may be, and then reinforcing it with staples, boards, nails, etc.  Seems we are dealing with a very vicious predator here, or at least a VERY hungry one.  Just take a look at the most recent opening our feisty fox fiend found….
    Can you see where he dug under the framed fencing of the coop yard?  I can’t believe a fox can crawl through that small opening, go into the small door to the coop, grab a chicken, and then drag it out into the yard to gobble it up!  Wow.  We did confirm that it is indeed a fox, because we ran into our two-doors-up neighbor on Sunday while out for an evening walk.  She was setting her recycle bins out on the curb for Monday morning pick-up and said “Did that fox get some of your chickens?”
    “That fox got A LOT of our chickens,” we answered.  Then she proceeded to tell us that they’d heard the squawking skirmishes through their open windows at night (not the first time they’ve mentioned their open windows and our chickens), and that one night the fox ended up on their porch while in pursuit of a chicken that was “roosting” in a flimsy nearby tree in efforts to get away from Mr. Fox.  We are always oblivious to all outside noises, because of the fans we have running at night, which have recently multiplied in number due to the summer season’s arrival.  (Robert’s usual love of white noise + no air conditioning = we would not hear a freight train if it came down Rt. 9.)
    I’ve thought about leaving a fan on their front porch with a love note from our chickens, but instead I’ve often found myself clapping or throwing rocks from the back door to get the feathered ladies to stop their daybreak clucking for the sake of the two-doors-up neighbors.  The very next door neighbor happens to love the chickens ~ even when they come grazing in her backyard.
    Good thing our town just passed a backyard chicken ordinance allowing even folks who live in the downtown area to have up to 14 chickens, otherwise these last three may have been gobbled up by the Krum fam.
     In other backyard news:  Kayla and her Daddy went to Home Depot to buy a few flowers for a small planter by our front door. There were a couple of flowers left over, so she decided to decorate Buddy’s grave , which is in the backyard and near the chicken coop. 
    She surrounded it with some of his old toys.  So sweet.
    Hoping to hang on to our last three hens until next spring, when we’ll probably start over again with a new batch of baby chicks ~ everyone’s favorite part of owning chickens!

    Gluten Free Friday ~ “Dreamy Polenta”

    I’m not sure why, but I love books about food.  Typically, this has involved browsing the cookbook section of our local library or bookstore, but recently I discovered a genre within the cookbook genre which is “cookbook author or chef biographies.” I don’t think that is really the official title of this genre, but I’m not sure what else to call it.  A few weeks ago, I was drawn to this little section on the shelf at our library and pulled down a biography by Julie Powell of Julie and Julia fame.  Having really enjoyed the movie, I thought I might like this follow-up book of hers.  Well, I opened to a random chapter and began to read and was greatly dismayed at its illicit nature. My goodness.  I put it back and pulled down another:  Too Many Cooks ~ Kitchen Adventures with 1 Mom, 4 Kids, and 102 Recipes by Emily Franklin.
    If you enjoy books about food and a fly-on-the-wall vantage point into the kitchens, marriages, and homes of other families, then you will enjoy this book.  And there is nothing illicit here, unless you count the numerous and often hilarious references to breastfeeding.  I loved reading about Emily’s adventures with her four small children in the kitchen and elsewhere, and her educational, yet nonchalant approach to getting her kids to eat lots of different types of food.  And the 102 recipes?  Well, I wanted to try almost every one of them!  So far, I’ve only tried four, and thought I’d share one of my family’s favorites with you: Dreamy Polenta.  We also tried Sweet New Year Salmon (honey & soy sauce marinade!), Autumnal Chicken (apple & cheese stuffed!), and Chocolate Pudding Cake (syrup magically appears on the bottom!)  Kayla made the cake all by herself, and all were delicious.
    Emily Franklin’s Dreamy Polenta
    2 cups chicken stock/broth
    2 cups water (or milk, or a mixture)
    2 cups polenta (cornmeal)
    dab of butter ~ if you like
    salt to taste
    olive oil for baking
    Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, for grating on top (I used asiago)
    Boil stock and water/milk together in a pot.  Pour polenta into liquid, stirring as you pour.  Bring to a boil again, but then reduce heat and simmer for about 40 minutes.  Dab with butter and salt, and stir occasionally.  When the polenta mixture has become thick and somewhat solid, remove from heat and let cool.  Place the polenta “solid” on a cutting board and slice into strips, or grab handfuls and pat into small round cakes.  Place cakes on an oiled baking pan and dot with butter again if you like, or rub each with a bit of oil.  Bake until beginning to brown.  Add grated cheese to tops and bake a few more minutes until cheese is melted.
    As you can see, I added a slice of tomato under the grated asiago.  I served it with her Sweet New Year Salmon and broccoli, and it was a hit for my own little family of taste testers ~ and all naturally gluten free!