Gluten Free/Paleo Friday ~ Christmas Prep & “Coffee” & Homecomings

 Christmas can kinda make you (or just me) crazy, it seems. Here’s evidence…

On Wednesday, I was frantically running around town doing errands and frantically running around the house trying to clean it and make Kory’s bed for his arrival home from his first semester at Baylor.  Somehow I got it in my head that his plane arrived in Boston at 5:30pm.  This was perfect, since we had tickets to a really special version of A Christmas Carol at 7:30pm in Concord, MA. We got on the road at about 3:45 after having to make two trips to the bank, since the teller forgot to give Robert back his driver’s license.  Kory texted about 30 minutes later: “On the ground in Boston!”

Boston is 80 miles from my house, and we had traveled only about 10 of those.

Robert had thought Kory’s pick up time was 3:45pm, and indeed it was ~ with a 30 minute delay due to snow in Boston.  I pulled up his itinerary, and 5:30 was not a time anywhere on the thing. So, Kory was right on time and I am crazy.  The poor kid had to wait in Boston for TWO AND A HALF HOURS before we arrived.  How’s that for a warm welcome home?

And I’m not even going to describe the traffic going out of Boston to Concord and how we missed the opening scene of the musical and how I was in tears over missing this long-planned-event and how everyone’s bladder was going to burst in the process and how we ate dinner at Denny’s at 11pm and got home at 1:30am.

Hordes and hordes of these

 Last night we planned a family shopping trip to the “big” mall half an hour from our house.  We knew we wouldn’t make it home in time for dinner, since the trip had to be after Cooper’s driving hours scheduled with his Driver’s Ed school that day.  We all had a great time, got most of our gifts purchased, and had a fun Mexican food dinner out.  Watched a movie when we got home while some of us took turns upstairs wrapping gifts. (Not me, though.  NONE of my gifts are wrapped, and only about half of them are purchased. Sigh…)

This morning I realized that while we were out having fun and accomplishing tasks we also missed Kayla’s final gymnastics class before the holidays, which she also missed last week due to being sick, which we also paid quite a lot of money for this semester.

I am losing my mind.

Gingerbread house-making supplies

 But it’s okay.  The Lord is teaching me to trust Him and not myself, and showing me that despite my failing at my to-do lists and obligations, HE is accomplishing things, and we’re having Christmas just like we always do.

There was a tea party ~ or “cupcake and cappuccino” party as we called it this year ~ for Kayla and friends, complete with a French theme. (And yes, I know that cappuccino is not really French.)  And it was complete with all the usual gingerbread-house-making, treat-eating, and craft-for-mom-creating.

Ready to be decorated by Kayla’s guests!

Madeline HAD to make an appearance at our France-inspired Christmas Tea Party

 We even managed a family cookie baking night for the 3rd Sunday in Advent.  Dad, Cooper, and Kayla ALL got in on the action, and while that is a bit stressful for me (I like to be in control of outcomes in the kitchen), it was nice to all be working together and listening to Dean Martin, Amy Grant, and Karen Carpenter sing our favorite Christmas tunes.

One of my favorite Susan Brach Cookbooks ~ opens to this page automatically!

 There was an eye doctor appointment which led to shopping for a new winter coat which led to Christmas shopping for siblings (and self!) and then a lunch at Whole Foods with Cooper, who is quite entertaining to be with at all times, except for when he texts people from my phone and says questionable things without making the true author of the text known. He’s a laugh a minute, that guy.

Did I mention it was an intense snowstorm and snow day for most while Cooper and I were shopping?
This is the front of Whole Foods right as the snow started.

 More cookies were made in anticipation of my dad’s arrival Monday, and for dinner guests on Christmas Eve. ALL cookies are snug in the freezer, and I stationed an armed guard in the basement to protect them from pre-Christmas thieves.  Well, not really, but “out of sight” has so far resulted in “out of mind.”

 And while I don’t really have time for trying new recipes, let alone creating them, I have been sipping on a new form of “coffee” that was inspired by a recipe my friend Karla posted on Facebook, as well as a recipe my chiropractor sent out to patients for tea.

It’s delicious, and I look forward to a cup every afternoon if I am home and can spare a few moments to prepare it.  I haven’t had coffee since the beginning of October when I read about its cross-reactant properties with gluten, and I can tell a huge difference with digestion/tummy issues. Here’s the recipe:

Coconut Milk “Coffee”

1 1/2 cup coconut milk/almond milk
1/2 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom (I LOVE cardamom!)
1/4 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp grass fed butter

1 tsp coconut oil
1 Tbsp honey
In a small saucepan heat milk and add spices, butter, coconut oil, vanilla and honey. After about 5 minutes of heating make sure butter and oil are melted and then blend in a blender for 15-20 seconds until frothy. (Be very careful blending this hot mixture, though.  Hold on to the lid of the blender!)
It’s sort of like drinking chai minus the tea, but you could certainly steep some tea in this if you desire.  I think it is delicious, and a delightful coffee replacement.
Here’s a photo of the homecoming.  This was taken at about 10:30pm on Wednesday night AFTER the musical and BEFORE a late night Denny’s meal.  Aren’t they cute?  It’s so nice to have everyone home together for Christmas!

I hope you are not feeling as crazy I am right now.  Still so much to do here. Now, I’m off to shower and then head out to buy LOTS of groceries, ribbon, gift tags, gift cards, and a few remaining gifts.  We did manage to get our 250 Christmas cards in the mail early this morning on the way to the gym. Whew!

Here’s what I’m trying to keep in my heart and mind as I go about the dizzying list of tasks.  It’s what Scrooge said, or actually what he prayed, down on his knees, in Wednesday night’s beautiful performance, (based on Charles Dickens’ own spiritual transformation) when he finally understood what God was trying to reveal to Him all along…

How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts the blessing of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray.
Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels, the great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord, Emmanuel.

Yes, descend to me, abide with me, enter in to my world of sin and chaos,  keeping my heart meek, soft, and open to You being WITH me, as I forge ahead in my own strength all too often to “do” Christmas.

I pray you are also able to experience His nearness despite the frantic pace, and will have a very merry weekend-before Christmas!

Highlights In Heaviness & Girly, Giggling Grace

A month and a half almost since I’ve written here. Nothing totally tragic. No severe suffering. All are healthy and happy for the most part.  Life is still hard, though ~ isn’t it? I don’t know if I’ve ever felt its heaviness, its burdens, and its challenges like I do right now.  Oh, I know I’ve said that before, but today it’s true again. Despairing news, an impossible pace, accusations, expectations and other “do-not-be-surprised-fiery-ordeals.” And like I said, we’re all fairly happy and healthy here, so I’m sure… no, I KNOW heavier future burdens await.
His grace is sufficient. His grace sustains. 
(sustains ~ that’s been my word for the summer/fall.)
And His sustaining grace is what I choose to focus on today.  The grace of a group of girls that came together to commit to study that grace in the form of biblical doctrine (of all things!) this semester. We called it “Women’s Boot Camp.”  I still like the term “girls,” though. Maybe because of the giggling. There was no giggling in the “Men’s Boot Camp” going on upstairs at church on Wednesday nights.
We went out to eat here last night to celebrate. Dressing up was suggested. (Girls!) 
Yummy hamburgers (with GF buns! a Paleo cheat!)

We covered seven doctrines this semester using the book Doctrine by Bershears and Driscoll 
1. Trinity
2. Revelation (the Word)
3. Creation
4. Image
5. Fall
6. Covenant
7. Incarnation
Think about that order. Just think about it. 
Grace. Beautiful grace.
And “Incarnation” right before everyone heads home for Christmas?  Wow.
Candy cane silliness

More giggling…

 There were questions about inspiration ~ “Even the Psalms? But those are prayers by humans,” young and old earth theories, gender roles, open and closed hand issues, spiritual gifts, whether God favors some over others, and even… love vs. lust, marriage, plastic surgery (girls…), and more.

And there were stories…of salvation, of family issues, of struggles with sin, of past pains, of missions, of sharing faith with friends and family and strangers, of new love, of future aspirations…and even of a deep, serious aversion to human feet (and now having to wash those as a JOB), and of dropping your student ID in the toilet…and retrieving it…while sitting on it….after having USED it…fearing the possibility of an automated flush.

LOTS of giggling, I tell ya.

 Two were brand new believers ~ vibrant, inquisitive, hungry, joyful.

“Write out and give my testimony?  What’s a testimony?” 

Others were in various stages of growth in Christ and craving more.

They paid fines for being late, not doing homework, and missing group time.  They took weekly quizzes. Yes, QUIZZES ~ on the specifics, the details, and the implications of each doctrine. Some even got VERY EXCITED about strategically studying for and taking the weekly quizzes.

 One of them was baptized, and I GOT TO HELP.

So, so fun.

Have I told you that this beautiful one is also our newest daughter? I always wanted four.
Another has asked for a near future coffee date to discuss her own baptism, and I can hardly wait.
Most are planning to continue next semester ~ looking at more doctrines of the faith, with the understanding that they will have teaching and facilitating roles for the new ones who may join us in the spring.
“…entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (II Timothy 2:2)
Faithful women and girls certainly fall into that general category.

Such a privilege. Such a joy.  Such a highlight in the heaviness.

Such giggly grace.