Counting One Thousand Gifts ~ April

“How many loaves do you have?” He asked them.

It was in response to their question: “Where will anyone be able to find enough bread here in this desolate place to satisfy these people?”

I think I’ve had the same sentiments in the last week and a half ~ Where WILL anyone be able to find enough bread HERE in this desolate place to satisfy THESE people?  The question resounded in my heart and flesh, and I became one of them. It wasn’t pretty either. Yeah, Jesus. There isn’t really any way anything can be done, so let’s just forget about it. And no one else really cares anyway, so why try?  There’s not enough concern, not enough support, not enough money, not enough energy, not enough vision, not enough time. It’s too much.  How will anyone be able to do anything in this place with these people?

My friend Karla’s beautiful loaves

But Jesus was determined to feed the people He “felt compassion” for, so He just responded with, “How many loaves do you have?” Which is funny (or frustrating) because He had very recently fed another larger crowd with less available bread, and the disciples didn’t just watch, they were a part of the whole experience.  They were the ones left holding twelve baskets of “leftovers” after passing out five loaves of bread to five thousand people. They really should have known better.  They should have eagerly anticipated this next miraculous provision of Jesus.

And isn’t it funny (or frustrating) that this was the very place in Mark I happened to be reading last week?  I don’t think it was any coincidence. (Don’t really believe in those anyway.) I was feeling tired, frustrated, and like a lot of efforts over a long time have been fruitless.  I was fantasizing about fruitful, abounding-in-bread-places, with different, non-needy, high capacity people, and this “happened” to be my reading for the day.

“How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked me.

And then I thought of April and my gift list.  There were wonderful times of worship during Holy Week, delightful coffee dates, glorious getaways and girl talk, good food, great accomplishments, and even laughter.  Really, it holds a lot of loaves.  Much more than the seven they had in that moment, and yet I still lost sight.  All these gifts of grace and I still put on the lenses of desolation and famine and hopelessness.

Even today I’m finding it difficult to keep the gifts in sight, but through grace, by faith I choose to eagerly anticipate the next miraculous provision of Jesus ~ which may be simply (or majestically!) a cup of tea in a bookstore while pondering such things.

1. Bowls of soup for Sunday lunch (round)
2. Ring of fellowship around my dining room table (round)
3. The joyful cycle of setting my mind on the spirit (round)
4. Holy Week artwork by Kayla on sketch paper (white)
5. White clouds replacing grey ones (white)
6. Coconut milk on oatmeal with chia seeds (white)
7. “But the Lord was pleased to crush Him…” Isaiah 53:10 (His Word)
8. “But He Himself bore the sin of many…” Isaiah 53:12 (His Word)
9. “Listen carefully to me and eat what is good….delight in abundance.” Isaiah 55:2 (His Word)
10.  Steamed chai with a friend (11am)
11. Finding Kayla an Easter dress &  sunshine (2pm)
12. Evening baseball victories & warm soup waiting (6pm)
13. His hands and feet to the cross (nailed together)
14. My rescue & redemption (nailed down)
15. My freedom & forgiveness (nailed down)
16. Salvation of dear ones (waited for)
17. A bride for my brother (waited for)
18. His meeting me in faith (waited for)
19. New & real joy in my heart (rising up)
20. Kayla’s spring seedlings (rising up)
21. Glimpse of glorification & its beautiful hope (rising up)
22. Robert being encouraged and complimented (heard)
23. Me sleeping under covers mid-day (hiding)
24. Bible, journal, and good books in a quiet room (held)
25. Oven full of fresh muffins (opened up)
26. Hurting heart of a friend (opened up)
27. A new Bible study with the kids (opened up)
28. New ideas motivations for home/time management (budding/blooming)
29. A teen’s maturity, wise choices (budding/blooming)
30. Spring bulbs in front flower bed
31. Thursday running route with Betsy (worn)
32. Paperback copy of Stepping Heavenward (worn)
33. New $10 TJ Maxx cardigan (worn)
34. Sun shining on outdoor cafe table & conversation (bright)
35.  Kayla’s mastery of memory work for CC (bright)
36. Pink raspberry icing on chocolate GF cupcake (bright)
37. Flowering trees, pink and white (found looking up)
38. Admiration for my husband (found looking up)
39. Kayla swinging HIGH on new tree swing (found looking up)
40. Restaurant style tortilla chips (in a bag)
41. Recently ordered books (in a box)
42. “The very nature of joy…to have is to want, to want is to have.” C.S. Lewis (in a book)
43. Church ministry (hard eucharisteos)
44. Awareness of sin (hard eucharisteos)
45. New parenting terrain (hard eucharisteos)
46. Words, thought, ideas for writing, blogging  (woven together)
47. Hymn lyrics and Theology (woven together)
48. My life with Robert’s (woven together)
49. Dining room sets from Memo & Sarah (inherited)
50. Curiosity & desire to learn (inherited)
51. Joy in serving (inherited)
52. Windowpanes with sunlight streaming (square)
53. Rice Krispie Treats (square)
54. Study of Doctrine & Theology (square)
55. Good books on my nightstand (stacked)
56. Cards & letters of encouragement (stashed)
57. An anxious & angry heart (stilled)
58. “The hope of glory.” Col. 1:27 (found in Christ)
59. A high priest who can sympathize. Heb. 4:15 (found in Christ)
60. “All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Col. 2:3 (found in Christ)
61. The Holy Spirit (close)
62. Beaches AND mountains (close)
63. Relationship with Kayla (close)
64. His word reflecting Truth and love (reflecting)
65. Relationships reflecting feedback on my heart (reflecting)
66. Children reflecting my good and bad traits (reflecting)
67. Emotions that prod toward God (fragile)
68. New believers, God’s work in them (fragile)
69. Newborn babies still in hospital (fragile)
70. New spring scarf (cloth)
71. Resolve via the Holy Spirit for joy (steel)
72. Picnic table (wood)
73. Martin (moving)
74. Steve (moving)
75. Gregory (moving)
76. Difficult, but good talks with my dad (“ugly beautiful”)
77. Desperate prayer pleas on knees (“ugly beautiful”)
78. Sanctification (“ugly beautiful”)
79. $1 mangoes at Whole Foods (orange)
80. Ribbons & flowers on a new necklace (orange)
81. University of TX Longhorns, Alma Mater (orange)
82. Playful kids (in dirt)
83. Joy in hard work (in dirt)
84. Farm fresh food and flowers (in dirt)
85. Nike gift cards from uncles to nephews (given)
86. Special lunch for seniors (made)
87.  Robert’s time to listen and serve (sacrificed)
88. Kayla’s video camera (surprisingly found)
89. Kayla’s headphones/speaker (surprisingly found)
90. Fatigue and sadness that remind me of my daily need for Christ (surprisingly found)

And still more….

91. “Mystery” by Charlie Hall
92. Yummy potato skins
93. Old photos of my kids
94. Books that teach and sharpen
95. “Downton Abbey”
96. Holding newborns
97. Laughing at toddlers
98. Sabbath silence
99. Running with Betsy
100. Homeschooling, and the opportunity to shield, protect, disciple, and equip my kids
101. Opportunities to serve and bless others
102. Memory Master success
103. Raw granola (“Grawnola”)
104. Bed & Breakfasts
105. Girl talk with pastor’s wives
106. Text messaging
107. iTunes gift giving options
108. A successful road test and driver’s license
109. Electric blankets for cold Aprils
110. Emotional Purity ~ God-timed readings

The Gifts of Cassie and Chuck

It was my age and my “title”, I think, that drew her to me about twelve years ago.  I was the youngest, by many years, in our local Woman’s Club at the time, and a “pastor’s wife.”  She seemed intrigued by my choices and life’s path. There was also the “Texas Connection”, which there often is. Cassie was from Tulsa (so, there was the “Oklahoma Connection”, too), but she had spent summers in the Texas Hill Country at a place called Camp Waldemar.  I knew of it, because just down the road was another camp called Mystic.  My grandmother’s best friend ran that camp, and our family visited there many times. So we “clicked”  ~ over Texas, over Oklahoma, over Camp Mystic and Camp Waldemar, over our youth (hers in heart and mind, mine in age and season of life), and over faith….somewhat.

At the very next meeting, Cassie handed me a book called The Good Book.  Cassie held its progressive-thinking author in very high regard, and had, at the same time, sized me up as an evangelical  ~ probably with all of its negative connotations. She wanted to see how I would respond to this liberal-in-Theology, homosexual, pastor’s point of view.  It didn’t take much reading to discover that Cassie and I differed in our beliefs about Scripture.  I tried to return the book, but she insisted I keep it, and it still sits on a bookshelf in Robert’s basement office.

A few of the other women in the club picked up on our blossoming friendship and felt compelled to inform me that this was no other than Cassie Steinway ~ wife of Frederick Steinway, who was grandson to the creator/owner of the famed Steinway Piano Company. Cassie was, at that time, nursing Frederick in the final days of his life.

Spring arrived and Cassie followed through on her promise to have me over for tea.  It had to be within a certain window of time, because her husband took his meals and tea at very specific times of the day.  She invited Kayla to come along as well.  It was wonderful.  Not only did she have tea all prepared, but a special drink for Kayla (chocolate milk, I think), as well as a way to keep Kayla occupied so that we would be able to talk freely.  She had hidden little foil-wrapped Easter eggs all over her living and dining rooms, and had given Kayla a basket to keep them in once found.  Cassie even had them all counted, so that we would know if Kayla had indeed found all of them.

I felt very honored to be in this important woman’s home, and blessed to hear about her life, including her courtship story which began during World War II, and while she attended Radcliffe.  Summer and holiday transportation sources were all being used for the war effort, and so Cassie could not travel from Boston back home to Tulsa. She was forced to spend the school break at the nearby home of her roommate, who also happened to be Frederick’s sister.

When the eggs were all found, Cassie had another activity planned for Kayla: playing with the dollhouse her father had hand made for her with all of its original furniture, rugs, wallpaper, and dishes.  What a gift and privilege I felt this was, which also made more time for us to discuss faith and religion.  While Cassie was a faithful giver to the local Episcopal Church (she had an upcoming meeting with the pastor regarding her contributions), her loyalty was purely as an artist (her college degree) and devoted community member.

“Why do you give money if you don’t believe in its purpose or mission?” I asked, after finding out that she did not believe in God, and that the moral teacher, Jesus, had followers only because they were poor and maligned and He gave them food (literal food, that is) and attention.

“To preserve the beautiful architecture,” was her response.

“What about the meaning of life? And do you believe in any kind of an afterlife?” I asked, curiously.

“I don’t believe anything happens after life,” she replied. “You just die, and it’s over. Nothing happens.”

I was able to share some of my beliefs about the Bible and its historical evidences of accuracy, that the disciples of Jesus chose to die over their conviction that He was indeed God (no man chooses to die for something they know to be a lie), as well as the limiting and logical “Lord, Lunatic, or Liar” categories for Jesus, but she seemed unaffected and moved us on to different topics.  She was really the first person of her generation I had ever met who thought faith silly, and while it sincerely grieved me, I still counted her friendship as an honor and a gift, and naturally began to pray for her.

In return for her gift of The Good Book, I gave her The Hiding Place and insisted on her keeping it.  She reported enjoying the book, but did not even hint at admiring the faith and miracles which sustained Corrie Ten Boom and her sister, Betsie in the midst of a German concentration camp.

Once, we enjoyed a lunch date together at my favorite downtown restaurant, Judie’s.  I have always loved being around older people, fascinated by their lives and experiences, and so I had some prepared questions for our time together.  Questions that I thought might just reveal that somewhere deep down she did maintain some kind of faith or belief in God.

“Cassie, how in the world have you been able to stay married all this time? 50+ years is a long time.  How do you do it?” I inquired.

“You just do it.” she replied matter-of-factly and the discussion was over. She was, at least, consistent in her worldview, I suppose. 

Beside our Texas/Oklahoma roots, we also shared a common disdain for feminism.  Like her contemporary, Margaret Thatcher, Cassie seemed to think the feminists were just plain silly, and I agreed.  Here was a highly educated and successful woman who had become so, in her mind, in spite of any help from men-haters. The funny thing was that she chalked up my convictions to forgo career, live on my husband’s income, and stay at home to raise my children to my being a part of the “swing back” generation, simply a pendulum shift from the era of second wave feminism, and not due to loftier ideals, biblical patterns or principles.

Frederick died eventually, and she began preparing to move into a local retirement community.  She called after dark one evening and asked if I would stop by for some things she wanted to give me. I loved walking through her garage and kitchen, receiving things she would not have need or room for in her new place. She passed along her heavy duty bundt cake pan and her large and small, made-in-France souffle dishes and ramekins, all of which I continue to use on a weekly basis. The things I treasured most, though, were a small trunk of doll clothes her mother had made, and the book of American and British poetry she was given upon her “High Honors” high school graduation from Holland Hall in Tulsa, OK in 1942.

After her move, I didn’t see her as much, only occasionally at a Monday Woman’s Club meeting.  My prayers for both her health and her spiritual salvation continued, spurred on, in part, by Kayla, who had also come to love and treasure “Mrs. Steinway.”  Last year sometime, we learned that Cassie had moved into the nursing home which is only a short walk from my house, literally around the corner.  I mentally vowed to visit  many times, but never followed through until a Providential trip to my local Home Depot early last summer.

I was buying “chalkboard paint” for my kitchen doors as well as some trim paint for our upstairs bathroom.  The very friendly man behind the paint counter asked me about my pending projects, and we got into a lively discussion about home improvements, as he had just purchased an old home downtown.  The more he described the house, and its location, the more I knew he was talking about Cassie’s house.  There had been one owner between he and Cassie, but when I asked him if it had been the Steinway’s home, he said “How did you know that?”

“I know Cassie,” I said. “She’s a friend of mine.”

“Really!?! Were you ever in the house?” he wondered.

“Yes, several times,” I answered, and went on to tell him about Cassie’s hospitality and our tea and dollhouse dates. (There were several!)

While he went on to tell me about all of the renovations he and his partner were doing, mostly by themselves,  my mind was distracted, and my heart was being strongly stirred to make a beeline to the nursing home. I said goodbye, paid for my paint, and arrived at the nursing home in about five minutes flat.

“No, we don’t have anyone here by the name of Cassie Steinway,” the receptionist explained after looking in various locations for her room number, “but you can go up to the second floor and ask at the desk there.”

As soon as the elevator doors parted, there she was, sitting in a comfy chair in the hallway, reading a book. (They had her listed as “Mary Kathryn.”) She smiled upon recognizing me, and then told me she was about to move to our beloved state ~ Texas.  She would live in a retirement home there, and get to be near her son and grandchildren.

“When will you be leaving?” I asked.

“In two more days,” she said.

It was confirmation that those heart stirrings were, in fact, the Holy Spirit.

The Reason for God  (Belief in an Age of Skepticism is its subtitle) kept coming to mind as I prayed about what book to send her off to Texas with. (She was a voracious reader, and had read all that the nursing home had to offer.) Barnes and Noble did not have it, and there wasn’t time to order, so Robert handed me his personal copy, and I wrapped it up with a goodbye card and headed back to the nursing home on the morning of her departure.

“You just missed her!” the nurse, who was cleaning her room informed me. There were dying flower bouquets on her bedside table. “She only left about 10 minutes ago.” And seeing my gift in hand, she said, “I’m so sorry!”

Disappointed but determined, I asked if she could possibly give me the address of her new facility in Texas, and after searching around a bit, she found it and wrote it down for me.  The post office was my next stop.

I received two cards in the mail from her months later, one near Thanksgiving, and one Christmas card, neither of which acknowledged the book, but both of which seemed in response to receiving a piece of mail from me. She never failed to acknowledge a gesture with a thank you note, and I received one after each lunch date or book gift. (Those notes are treasures of mine as well.) I prayed many times that through the logic and intellect of Tim Keller, Cassie would come to know the Truth of Christ, and experience His love for her.

On the same day that I learned of the impending death of Chuck Colson, another older hero of mine, whom I only know through his memoir Born Again, I also received an email from the current president of our Woman’s Club informing us that Cassie had passed away in Texas a few days prior.  Grief-stricken with the news of both, I began to think about Mr. Colson’s life and conversion, and then go searching my house for his book in which he explains how it was through the logic of C.S. Lewis’s writings in Mere Christianity, that this sharp lawyer and conniving political “hatchet man” became convinced of the Truth of Jesus Christ.

“Today no one questions the Court’s power of judicial review, which it has exercised with dramatic effects thousands of times since.  Even a neophyte law student would prefer to argue the validity of the case for Marbury v. Madison.  There isn’t much going for him with a contrary position, because of the way in which the doctrine has become so well established by its long history of acceptance.

So why should I worry as I once did about being accused of mindlessly following the pack by accepting Christ?  And why struggle so hard with concepts about God when I wouldn’t question legal principles that have far less historic validity than the one laid before our eyes in the life and impact of the Carpenter of Nazareth?”

Once faced with the staggering proposition that He is God, I was cornered, all avenues of retreat blocked, no falling back to that comfortable ground about Jesus being a good moral teacher.  If He is not God, He is nothing, least of all a great moral teacher.  For what he taught includes the assertion that He is indeed God.  And if He is not, that one statement alone would have to qualify as the most monstrous lie of all time – stripping Him at once of any possible moral platform.”  
~ Born Again, p. 139

Chuck came to the logical (and yes, supernatural) conclusion that Jesus is God and therefore worthy of belief and a surrendered life, and it is my hope that Cassie did as well.  If one thing remained sharp is was her ability to read and discern. Both gifts of grace to me in that they each built up my faith in one way or another, my hope is that these two great minds are now enjoying sweet fellowship together and a lively discussion about (or possibly with!) President Nixon while sitting at the feet of their King Jesus.

Counting Gifts ~ Hard and Good

“I hadn’t known that joy meant dying.
What did I think hard eucharisteo and the table of the Last Supper meant?”
Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p. 179
And He summoned the crowd with His disciples and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
Mark 8:24

Now those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Galations 5:24

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
Galations 2:20

Not much need for crucifying self today when it held warm weather, lots of sunshine, a hoilday, and the chance to visit  a greatly anticipated newborn church member. See? Nothing but joy and happiness in those photos! And I think it’s my favorite part of church ministry ~ getting to see the seasons and covenants of baptism and marriage in the lives of people from a front row seat.  Truly, I count it a blessing, a gift.

But the Joy Dare prompt for today is hard eucharisteos ~ gifts that are difficult to be thankful for.  Did you know that there were such things?  Well, there are, but sometimes you have to look from a different angle to see them, walk on new paths to find them.

My hard eucharisteos  ~ some always, some occasionally…

1. church ministry

I’ve always loved church and ministry, since I was a teen really, but sometimes the things that bring me the greatest joy and happiness also bring the biggest burdens and griefs, anxieties and frustrations. Ministry is sometimes hard to give thanks for, because of its emotional and financial strain, its time requirements, as well as that front row seat in people’s lives I mentioned above.  Sometimes that people part is really ugly, but I guess it also brings me to my next hard eucharisteo…

2. awareness of my sin

Ministry, parenting, marriage….heck, breathing ~ all wonderful opportunities to become aware of what’s really going on in my heart, and it’s just as ugly as what I oftentimes judge to be the state of other’s hearts. But this is actually an answer to prayer.  When I compare myself wrongly to others, sometimes I decide that I’m not in quite as much need of forgiveness as the next person.  Thankfully, the Holy Spirit makes me aware of this deception, this ploy to minimize grace and the sacrifice made on MY behalf.  When I minimize those things, I don’t worship rightly, don’t love fully, don’t forgive easily, but when I’m aware, by His grace gift, I am able to, which is where true joy is found.

3. navigating new parenting terrain

Oh, if I could just be in control everything would be perfect!  There would be no TV, arranged marriages, and read alouds by the hearth every evening (and Pa on his fiddle) (kidding) (sort of), but alas, it is a difficult world in which to control those things (And participation in and exposure to church ministry would definitely be out of the question. Too much worldly reality and lack of control there!) So, today I give thanks for the new terrain, but it is not easy.  In fact, it’s scary.  But it’s also an opportunity to trust, to pray, and to relate ~ with the Lord and my kids. It’s a chance to “cease striving and know that He is God.” (Ps. 46:10)

Hard eucharisteos, yes. But aren’t those the things James was talking about?

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.   And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James 1: 2-4

In fact, doesn’t he even go as far as to say that considering difficulty joy is equal to having wisdom? It is the very next verse…

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let Him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
James 1:5

As if not counting trials as joy is foolish.

Yes, this is hard, but it is also good.  Good that in His great grace He moves us to wisdom.  Good that He doesn’t allow us to remain foolish and miss out on knowing Him. Good that He prods us toward knowing true Joy. I am so thankful.

Sunday Snapshots

For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.  And not only this, but also we ourselves groan within ourselves waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.  For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope, for who hopes for what he already sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; for He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Romans 8: 22-27

Gluten Free Friday ~ Chia Craze (Oatmeal, Mango, & Mason Jars, too)

 Don’t you love free sample days at Whole Foods?  You could make a whole meal just browsing through the store ~ salads, cheeses, jams, chips, dips, chocolate, chili (even chili with chocolate), yogurt and gelato, too. It was on one of these free sample days that I discovered chia seeds.  (Yes, the same ones used for the Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia pets.) One of the many samples that day was a chocolate chia seed pudding.  It was like tapioca pudding, which I adore, but never make. This pudding was dairy free, as it used almond milk, and sweetened with dates. A healthy, nutritious dessert? Wow. Now I’ve taken to drinking kombucha WITH chia seeds floating in it, which has caused some alarmed reactions in my family, but I did find a bottle of it in my Easter basket, so at least they don’t mind accommodating my “disgusting” new health habits. I know that some of you just can’t do the tapioca “texture”, though, and so for you I would recommend the other pudding I tried that day: Chocolate Avocado! 

Chia seeds are expensive, but they happened to be marked down quite a bit last week at Whole Foods, so I decided to buy some. I was searching online for how to, and if it is even permissible to include chia seeds in cooked oatmeal for breakfast (Yes, I still crave rules and permission, even in the kitchen. Working on that.), when I came across this really fun idea for overnight soaked oatmeal in mason jars WITH chia seeds! (I also found that it is perfectly permissible to cook chia seeds right along in the same pot as your hot oatmeal ~ whew!) Anyway, I’ve become obsessed with this healthy breakfast idea, and wanted to share it with you.  If you like this idea, you should really take a trip over to The Yummy Life for more ideas and variations of this recipe.

 Here’s what I used for my breakfast jars:

1 pint mason jar
1/2 cup GF oats (regular, but quick oats might work just fine)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 Tbsp chia seeds
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp honey, agave, or maple syrup (or do without sweetener altogether!)
1/2 – 2/3 cup coconut milk  (any type of milk will do, but I’m also in love with coconut milk currently)
fruit (mangoes, berries, bananas, any you prefer)

Speaking of fruit, my friend Jenna recently taught me how to slice/dice a mango.  My first-ever mango was eaten while on an eighth grade trip to Mexico City with my Spanish Class.  Whole mangoes, mango ice cream ~ they seemed to be everywhere.  I thought they were wonderful, but don’t think I ever ate another one until about 5 years ago.  Mangoes were a dollar a piece this week at Whole Foods, so they’ve definitely been the fruit of the week at our house.

First, slice the mango into two halves along each side of the thin, flat pit.  Then, cut vertical and horizontal lines in the flesh of the fruit forming a grid of mango cubes. Push up on the skin underneath to turn the cubes of flesh out.  Use a sharp knife to cut each cube off of the skin. 

Layer the oats, cinnamon, chia seeds, yogurt, milk, and sweetener in the one pint jar.  Stir until thoroughly combined.  Add cut fruit and stir to combine again.  Place a lid on the jar and store in the refrigerator overnight.  In the morning, the oats and chia seeds will have absorbed some of the liquid, and become a wonderful “porridge” type breakfast dish packed full of omega 3’s (chia seeds contain more than salmon), protein (as much as quinoa), calcium, vitamin B, and fiber.

You could leave them in the frig for even 24 hours (possibly more), and I would recommend at least 12 hours.  Also, if cold porridge doesn’t appeal to you, then either use all yogurt or a combo of yogurt and raw milk and let it sit out for the 12-24 hours.  (Not pasteurized milk, though as it has no good bacteria to prevent spoiling!  Thanks, Karla for this reminder!) Or, just warm up the contents when you are ready to eat it.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I have!

Holy Week Gifts

Gifts nailed together was the Joy Dare prompt for Friday.
1. His hands and feet to the Cross
2. My rescue and redemption
3. My forgiveness and freedom
Thankfully, these three things were nailed together, or rather, nailed down at the Cross for me, and what a week it was remembering and celebrating along with others who’ve received those gifts nailed down as well. A wonderfully beautiful week. A completely exhausting week.
Wednesday night we celebrated Christ in the Passover with a Messianic Seder Dinner.  Set tables for 70, and ended up with 100 ~ all gathering to worship and remember who the true Passover lamb is, to realize that all of Scripture points to Jesus, the lamb of God.  Setting extra places for worship and fellowship is always a good problem to have!
Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. 
For Christ, our Passover, has also been sacrificed. 
I Corinthians 5:7
Gifts from His Word was the prompt for Wednesday:
1. But the Lord was pleased to crush Him… Is. 53:10
2. But He Himself bore the sin of many… Is. 53:12
3. Listen carefully…eat what is good…delight in abundance… Is. 55:2

Good Friday brought about the ironic, sober despair it intends ~ walking the cross through town, listening to the jeers, the horns honking, reading the story along the way, gathering in the sanctuary for more dramatic recounting of the story later that evening, being led to yell “Crucify Him!” with the congregation, (even if I would have refrained all those years ago, my sin would have cried out the same refrain), singing the somber songs of remembrance, blowing out the final candle on the cross, praying in darkness, leaving in silence.

We rented The Passion of the Christ on the way home from church that evening, and watched it together before bed. (Kayla was allowed to participate this year, but couldn’t bring herself to watch much.) It gets more difficult to watch each year, and I think we all headed to bed feeling awful.

“I’ve never been more ready for Sunday to get here,” I said. “I feel terrible after the events of today.”

“Well, we’ve crucified Jesus three times today, Robert said as we climbed into bed, “it’s no wonder.”

But its been my prayer to grow in awareness of sin that produces gratitude for the cross, and He’s answering that prayer. This is also a gift.

 Saturday brought early morning swimming lessons, agitated attitudes, lots of shopping for groceries and Easter basket goodies, fatigue, and this appropriate prompt for grace gifts: 

Gifts waited for.

1. the salvation of those dear to me
2. His meeting me with joy through faith
3. a bride for my brother

As we waited for the Resurrection Celebration that was on its way, I was able to meditate on these other things I’ve waited for and received ~ all after years of prayer.

Then Easter arrived!  I got up early to fill baskets, set table, prepare a special breakfast, and welcome my family to the day with gifts of celebration.  Church was another awesome celebration of Christ’s alive-ness and victory over death through music, as well as an incredible teaching (yes, I’m biased, but also discerning ☺) time about the picture of glorification that the day represented; the hope that enables us to suffer, because the suffering can not even come close to comparing to the coming glory of being with Him.
Later, we were blessed to continue the celebration at the home of dear friends with delicious food, laughter, and the joy of watching a toddler be more interested in sticks and dirt than finding hidden eggs ~ until he discovered there were marshmallows in the eggs, that is.
My Gifts Rising Up?
1. a new, real, growing joy in my heart
2. a glimpse of glorification and its beautiful hope
3. Kayla’s spring seedlings growing in our basement

Today, I chose to obey His previous and long leading to make Mondays a Sabbath, but struggled with guilt while comparing myself to other moms, wives, homeschoolers who are plugging away at life today, serving sacrificially, and not stopping like I am ~ like I seem to have to do ~ like He seems to be asking. I slept in till 8 am this morning, ran (only because it gives me life and joy), and after giving direction to the kids for the day, came back to my room to read His Word, to pray, to sit in silence for a while.  I only made it through one chapter of Matthew before I needed to lay my head down on the pillow, and I slept.  And I never sleep during the day.  And I mean never.  Too many thoughts spinning, too many things on the list. But today I slept, and now it seems the perfect way to spend the day after Easter ~ resting in His finished work ~ a Holy Week gift to be sure.

Gluten Free GOOD Friday ~ Triple Chocolate Cake

This may be one of my favorite weeks of the year ~ Holy Week.  We had a wonderful time celebrating Christ in the Passover with our church family on Wednesday night, participated in the profound and somber walking of the large wooden cross through town this afternoon, and will head to church again tonight for the Good Friday worship service. Sunday will have us back at church rejoicing in the Resurrection. It’s a whole week of focusing on the work of the Cross that Jesus accomplished on our behalf, reflecting on my sin that required it, and celebrating victory over death and the freedom found therein.  I’ll never fully be able to comprehend how Jesus “set His face like flint” to go to Jerusalem and perfectly submitted to the Father’s plan for my redemption, but each time we celebrate Holy Week, He deepens my understanding, awakens my awe, and grows gratitude for grace in my heart.

Seems weird to post about cake today, but this recipe definitely shouts celebration with it’s chocolate upon chocolate!  It could even be called Quadruple Chocolate Cake, because of its chocolate cake with chocolate chips inside, chocolate icing, and mini chocolate chips sprinkled on top.  I think I’ve made this cake three times in the last two weeks, and it has been devoured each time.  Maybe it’s just in time for your Resurrection Sunday meal planning!

Happy Easter!

Triple Chocolate Cake

2 cups GF flour mix (rice, tapioca, potato ~ a bean flour will work as part of this, too)
1/2 cup cocoa
2 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/4 cup canola oil
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup buttermilk (or milk soured with 2 tsp vinegar)
1 cup chocolate chips


1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
2 Tbsp butter, melted
6 – 8 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
mini chocolate chips for sprinkling on top

For cake batter, sift or stir together all dry ingredients (first 7 ingredients). Combine butter, oil, eggs, vanilla, and buttermilk in separate bowl.  Add liquid ingredients to dry and stir or beat until thoroughly combined.  Add chocolate chips to batter and stir again.  Pour into a well-greased bundt pan and bake at 325° for 45-55 minutes.  Let cool 10-15 minutes before transferring to serving platter.

For icing, sift or stir together powdered sugar and cocoa.  Place 6 Tbsp milk and 2 Tbsp butter in a bowl together and either “defrost” in microwave together so that they don’t overheat, but are warm and melted together, or heat gently on the stove top.  Add milk/butter mixture to cocoa and sugar mixture.  Add vanilla, and whisk together until smooth.  Add more milk or more sugar as needed to get a consistency that will drizzle, but also stick to the cake well.  After cake and icing are mostly cooled, drizzle icing on top, and sprinkle mini chips on freshly drizzled icing.

Don’t forget the perfect accompaniment of vanilla ice cream ~ yum!

Counting One Thousand Gifts ~ March (and the Rubbermaid incident)

“In the midst of what seems a mess, in the tripping up and the stumbling down of all hopes, Jesus gives thanks?  What precedes the miracle is thanksgiving, eucharisteo, and it is a Greek word with a hard meaning that is harder yet to live.  Do I really want to take up this word?” 
One Thousand Gifts, p. 37

It really wasn’t a big mess, or a dashing of all hope, just a little scary and a bit emotional ~ but I’m learning that taking up the word eucharisteo in every moment is what brings about the transformation to joy.

We had been caravan-ing down fast highways for literally thousands of miles by the time the blue Rubbermaid container decided to loose from its bungee cord in Robert’s red truck ahead of us and fly in to the air.  I was actually talking to him on the phone as it happened.  My 16 year old chauffeur alerted me to the certain disaster and I alerted (with a scream) Robert who never would have known about the loss of cargo otherwise.

We hit the thing head on and slowed to a stop on the left side of the highway beside the concrete dividing wall.  I thought perhaps we had also stopped the container from making any more flights across the highway with our front end.  But then my peripheral vision picked up a sight in my passenger side-view mirror.

Papers, red and white, fluttering, flying, falling all around.

Not underneath our bumper as I had hoped, the container had made its way across the highway to the shoulder area.  As we dodged traffic and made our way to the other side of the busy road, I could see cards, gift bags, tissue paper, scarves, shoes, and receipts, but it was the blank pages of my One Thousand Gifts yet-to-be-filled-out calendar floating by that finally called up the tears. But only for a brief moment.

Tears? I thought.  Haven’t I learned anything?  

The floating calendar pages, companion to this life-transforming, Spirit-nudging book, were reminders to me to put into practice exactly what the Lord has been so gently teaching me, modeling for me.  That is, to do what He did in the face of much more grief and pain producing circumstances than flying Rubbermaid containers.  

Eucharisteo.  He gave thanks.

Thank you, Lord, that it didn’t hit the windshield while my 16 year old was driving.

Thank you for preventing a pile-up as we stopped on the highway.

Thank you, Lord that no one was hurt, and no collisions occurred among other cars behind us.

Thank you that in 4000+ miles of driving, this (THIS!) was our only incident.

Thank you for printers that can easily produce new calendars.

Thank you that it was mostly receipts, papers, gift wrap, and not my teapot or computer or…

Thank you for protecting me as I retrieved Sara’s hand-knit cowl, and Kory’s gift-scarf from Turkey off of the highway.

Thank you for the duct tape that held many other items in the container. 

Thank you for an opportunity to choose the bright side, a light heart over a grave attitude.

Thank you for this testimony of transformation in my heart ~ the joy that I’ve long prayed for.

“Long, I am woman who speaks but one language, the language of the fall – discontentment and self-condemnation, the critical eye and the never satisfied….but eucharisteo – it’s the word Jesus whispered when death prowled close and His anguish trickled down bloody.  He took the bread, even the bread of death, and gave thanks.” p. 46

There’s a fear in this learning of eucharisteo, though.  The fear, the knowledge that it gets much, much worse than flying Rubbermaids on busy highways in this life.  Still, I want to learn it.  I want to learn Him.

My grace gifts for March…

1. a missionary slide show by Kory (3pm)
2. a husband doing laundry (3pm)
3. hot tea in a new Anthropologie tea cup (thanks, Yvette!) (3pm)
4. freshly mowed St. Augustine grass (green)
5. table umbrellas at The Oasis (green)
6. a margarita at sunset (green)
7. new, white, spring, sweater (wore)
8. my wedding ring (wore)
9. new bracelets (wore)
10. teenage attitudes and emotions (hard to give thanks for)
11. costly remodels (hard to give thanks for)
12. rain and fog (hard to give thanks for)
13. a bright Big Dipper and shining planets (found)
14. sunsets shared with kids on a warm restaurant deck (found)
15. artistic earrings (found)
16. Ugandan paper bead bracelets (broken) 
17. a husband bent toward prayer (bent)
18. worshiping with Mike, Wende, Jack, Kelly, and Melinda (beautiful)
19. fresh, gluten-free stir fry on I-10 in Florida (in the kitchen)
20. our Sheraton suite kitchen (in the kitchen)
21. gracious, kind chef at our African buffet (in the kitchen)
22. Pandora radio (loud)
23. Rock ‘N Roller Coaster (loud)
24. Beauty and the Beast on stage (loud)
25. rocking chairs around a fire pit (carved)
26. sculpted Disney figures in ivy and flowers (carved)
27. the time for sabbatical (carved)
28. freedom (in Christ)
29. transformation (in Christ)
30. hope (in Christ)
31.Surprised By Joy ~ C.S. Lewis (read)
32. Letter to the Ephesians ~ Paul (read)
33. Redbook parenting article (read)
34.  burritos on a sunny patio in Florida (wind)
35. jacuzzi bath tub in master suite (water)
36. fluffy white clouds against a bright blue sky (white)
37. intact tires for cross country driving (round)
38. roller coasters (round)
39. wedding ring (round)
40. rest (found in silence)
41. voice of God (found in silence)
42. adjusted perspective (found in silence)
43. filled jars (given away)
44. hospitality (given away)
45. a smile (given away)
46. flying, exploding Rubbermaid containers (hard eucharisteos)
47. facing debt (hard eucharisteos)
48. reality and routine (hard eucharisteos)
49. a bathroom makeover (turned)
50. sheets on bed and turned down by Lois (folded)
51. new Emmaus print (hung)
52. worship with Mercyhouse (red)
53. tomatoes and other stocked groceries for our return (red)
54.  fresh flowers to greet us (red)
55. potato soup ~ thanks, Sarah! (eaten)
56. corned beef and cabbage ~ thanks again, Sarah!) (eaten)
57. Romans 8: 1-4 ~ thanks, Josh (eaten)
58. Sarah A. impersonating Tim Hawkins (made me laugh)
59. little Owen (made me laugh)
60. showing Disney “scared” photos (made me laugh)
61. popcorn at the movie (salty)
62. an opportunity to encourage and comfort Kayla (sweet)
63. 1000 Gifts flip calendar from Sara (just right)
64. “…that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matt. 5:16 (in His Word)
65. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Matt. 5: 6 (in His Word)
66. “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” Matt. 6:27 (in his Word)
67. dinner with Izckra ~ her passion and perseverance (gifts found in women)
68. lunch with Betsy ~ her joy and faith (gifts found in women)
69. weekend with Romy ~ her love and generosity (gifts found in women)
70. “We missed you.”  (spoken ~ by church and CC friends)
71. “I love you.” (spoken ~ by Romy and Robert)
72. “Kayla, you are getting to be so beautiful.” (spoken ~ by Vicky J.)
73. “Thou my best thought, by day or by night…” (sung)
74. Martin’s handwritten sermon ~ set mind on Spirit (written)
75. New Jerusalem painting from Israel from Cindy (painted)
76. maple syrup (almost gone)
77. Luxemburgerli from Switzerland! (almost gone)
78. welcome home food in frig and pantry (almost gone)
79. Izckra’s life (redeemed)
80. relating with a child after regret (redeemed)
81.  a heart that knows joy and healing ~ mine! (redeemed)
82. security and sanctification of marriage (entwined)
83. my life tied with others with the body of Christ (entwined)
84. Eucharisteo banners (entwined)
85.  “Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well.”  Matt. 9:22 (His promises)
86.  “For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.” Matt. 10:20 (His promises)
87.  “So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” Matt. 10:31 (His promises)
88. heart thoughts of a teen (uncovered)
89. my real standing in a relationship (uncovered)
90. returns to intimacy (uncovered)
91. 80’s music at the roller skating rink (heard)
92. Kayla’s hand while skating (held)
93. financial covering (hoped for)

And even more…

94. Disney World consultants and advisers (Thanks, Anne!)
95. beautiful and spacious Sheraton suite
96. tucking in teens at bedtime
97. a son that gives gifts to others
98. Choosing To See by Mary Beth Chapman ~ blessing to Kayla, Kory, and me
99. Kerbey Lane two days in a row with two different college friends
100. “Magical Moment” front row parking at Animal Kingdom
101. Sunshine for great Disney days
102. Rain for short ride lines and repeated rides!
103. funny blogs, fashion blogs, food blogs
104. being keeper of my home again
105. Lois, Alie, and Zeena cleaning and prepping house for our return
106. spring seeds and potting soil
107. hibachi grill with friends (Ryan and Christie!) & catching zucchini in my mouth
108. reunions in Target
109. Bible and iced coffee on the swing in the sun
110.  Book of Matthew and Spirit-led prayer for a sister for Lent
111. a kind and listening physician and good health
112. three cute kids in my house