Spring: “Filled & Fried”

“We were both so filled at Easter, and also kinda fried,” is what my friend Christina said the other day when we were catching up via text message. (Hopefully she doesn’t mind me quoting her.)

She is also a pastor’s wife, but you don’t have to have that role to feel that way. Everyone I talk to lately has been feeling the same…filled by the warm weather, the meaningful times of worship, the sweet fellowship, the fun activities, but also fried by the frenzied pace of it all.

Here’s a little glimpse into our spring – things that have passed and things upcoming. Warning: this is a long post (again), but I just needed to get it all down.

Weeks of Shakespeare rehearsals and then a weekend of performances – also known as the time of year I get to live out my secret ambition of being a hairstylist. Jessica’s hair was a bit of a dilemma, since she had to turn into a boy in the middle of the play (As You Like It) and then back into a girl.

Kayla did an excellent job in her smaller role, which she always has to balance with her track practices and meets. Lots of hurrying back and forth for both of us the last weeks of March.

Our church’s women’s retreat had been booked and on the calendar for a year, and then the Shakespeare play was booked for the same weekend. This meant I could only help with dress rehearsals and one performance on a Thursday night.  Friday, it was off to New Hampshire in the middle of a raging March 30-April 1 snowstorm!

Every time a woman arrived at the conference center, I was silently thanking the Lord for safe travel. It snowed for over 30 hours and left over 18 inches behind before it was all over, but in the end, all of these ladies made it, and we all had the best time being snowed in together.

 

With Sarah hosting games, this is Elisabeth and me – about to compete at charades.
Household chores the theme; “Dusting a lamp” was our acting assignment. đŸ˜©
Every Sunday after church we hosted a small group Bible study, except that it wasn’t very small. Some of you know that one of my favorite things to do is have people over for lunch after church. Hosting a small group at that time is really just a sneaky way for me to get to do this regularly.

We enjoyed discussions on the book of John, and then broke into smaller groups for prayer.

Abby and Maddie, two Mount Holyoke students, came home after the first service with me every week and helped prepare the meal. Kayla and I loved spending time in the kitchen with them chopping veggies and making multiple pots of coffee.

(We also did some informal scientific research during those weeks and came to the conclusion that more women than men enjoy hazelnut coffee, which led to changes in grocery purchases, and number of pots of regular vs. hazelnut since we had far more women in the group than men!)

I should have put these next photos right after the retreat photos, because less than 45 minutes after I arrived home from the women’s retreat in New Hampshire, Robert and I left for Indianapolis for The Gospel Coalition Conference. Unlike the scheduling of the Shakespeare play which we had no idea would fall on the same weekend, we were well aware of the back-to-back nature of these events. But the conference was going to be in celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, and the list of speakers included all of our favorites and more. We couldn’t resist, and we’re so glad we made it happen.
Josh Moody is one of Robert’s good friends and a fellow pastor. He used to pastor in Connecticut, but is now at College
Church in Wheaton, IL. We had fun catching up over dinner one evening. Josh has written several books lately –
you should look him up at God Centered Life!

I’m just now realizing I didn’t get a picture of our whole group, as we had friends from Ohio join us, but Chris and Katie were with us for the whole conference – and beyond. (!) Both from Texas, newly married, Chris an Amherst College grad, and Katie a University of Texas grad, they are now on staff with Intervarsity on our local college campuses and a part of our church as well.

It was so fun to have them with us, but I think they got much more time with us than they bargained for, as our flights home were canceled mid-trip, and we were forced to take hotel vouchers in Detroit. It was quite an adventure, and I think I have finally learned that is it wise to take some toiletries and a change of clothes with me in a carry-on bag. I bought a $6 t-shirt at the airport to sleep in and Katie was kind enough to let me borrow some mascara the next morning. Thanks to Katie and that fateful morning, I am now in love with this mascara. Grounding us in Detroit was clearly God’s way of showing me His mascara will.

Then it was Holy Week and Easter. We had a wonderful Palm Sunday, 9pm worship services at Amherst College every night after that, a Passover Seder, a Crosswalk through town, a Good Friday service, and ended the week with an 82 degree Easter Sunday and fun lunch gathering at our house.
Grant is a senior at Amherst College and preached at one of the evening services.
(I’ve just turned off the “live” photo feature on my phone, since it gives me 2 second videos
rather than still photos.)

Friend and church member, Shannon, took photos of anyone who wanted them after each service. They all turned out so great!

 

Robert led the congregation in a song he wrote especially for Easter. Cindy accompanied on viola. So beautiful.

 

Coop was home for the long weekend.
More college kids home – friends old and new.

 

The warm weather meant we could be outside.

 

 

Texas, Iran, Massachusetts, Rwanda, Kenya, Mexico, and China – all represented around my table
Such a beautiful sight, a true gift, and a glimpse of heaven.
Some of the frenzy is by my own choosing, but peer pressure plays a part. The following Saturday I ran my first half marathon trail race with Betsy and her friend, Liz. The race was Betsy’s idea (definitely not mine!), and since she moved to Natick last year, I decided to join her as a way to spend some time catching up. This meant that during Holy Week and the week after Easter, I was having to up my running mileage quite a bit to prepare. You know…not much else going on those weeks, so why not? Sigh…
These things always sound like a great idea two months prior.
I’m pretty sure that running on an actual trail would have been highly recommended for training purposes, but the edge of the bike trail is the closest I got to the real thing. There were some rocks and roots, but no mud or hills. Oh well.

The route was a 6+ mile loop…or cloverleaf? It rained the whole day before as well as the last half hour of the race. We were freezing by the time it was over and all had blue lips when we met up at the finish line. I was the last of the three of us to finish at 2 hours 24 minutes – about 30 minutes slower than my last half marathon.

Kayla has been running and jumping a lot herself lately with spring track. She’s been doing the triple jump, the 100m, 200m, the 4×100, and the 4×400.

Several of her fans joined us at a recent meet, and she had fun racing some of her beloved kindergartners, first-graders, and toddlers.

Yep…breaking all of the blogging rules with the length of this, but here are a few more things we’ve done this spring…

A trip to the Boston Opera House with friends to see The King and I. So good!
Betsy’s son (and Pete’s!) Dustin was baptized last Sunday. He had to have a special, early
baptism due to his UMass Ultimate Frisbee team schedule.

After Dustin’s baptism, we hosted a graduate luncheon at our house – about 20 of them were able to join us, but as you can see there are so many more leaving us this year! This pic reflects only those in the second service.

 

 

 

Alena (and Lois) were over on Saturday night and Sunday helping prepare, host, and clean up.

 

Grant and Parker – we’ll be back in Indianapolis next month for Grant’s wedding!

This week included Kayla’s Challenge III Protocol Night. Along with the Challenge I class, we enjoyed an Italian dinner at a local restaurant and then headed to Amherst College for their Christian A cappella group’s spring concert.

 

Challenge I (Freshmen) and Challenge III (Juniors) classes together

 

I took my final exam in Theology III on Wednesday…

…and instead of blogging, I should be reading that top book and writing a 5 page paper on it, because it’s due next Wednesday at midnight, but we’ll be in Texas by then…

…and helping another graduate move out of his house in Waco. I am so happy and so sad all at the same time over this. Happy that he has had such an incredible experience and education at Baylor and sad that he’ll be entering the real world which will no longer include long holiday breaks and summer vacations during which he can come home for extended visits.

He was kind enough to take one last picture for me on his last day of class, and while I know he was
celebrating this day, I was truly grieving!
So…Wednesday we’ll move him out (and I will finally move IN to the Magnolia store and bakery for some shopping rather than stare at a hopelessly long line of Fixer Upper fans – hopefully!?), Thursday we’ll have a party, Friday we’ll head back to Waco, Saturday we’ll graduate, Sunday we’ll do church and lunch with him in Waco, and then say goodbye as he heads to Pine Cove Camp for the summer. He’ll move to Austin in August for his first “real world” job at Oracle.
Cooper won’t be able to join us in Texas for the graduation festivities due to his final exam schedule at Gordon, and this totally ruins my plan to have a family photo for the Christmas card this year. It also signals the end of a season – the full nest season – and it’s affecting me more than I thought it would. I’m so happy that my kiddos are growing and thriving in their individual lives and paths, but so sad that there will be so much less family time.
So…yes – filled by the recent joys and fellowship and experiences and hopes for the future, and fried, too – by the pace and the effort and the emotion of it all. I suppose I wouldn’t have it any other way, but am looking forward to some rest as well as some different adventures this summer. (It will be our 25th wedding anniversary in August!)
Back soon with graduation picks and maybe even some updates around this little space. June will mark 10 years of blogging (and nearly 800 posts) for me, and I’m looking forward to celebrating with a bit of a “fixer upper” of my own.
Happy Spring!

 

It Was Too Cold To Blog

 See what I mean?  You really can’t do anything in temps like that. The winter of 2015 was a deep freeze like we’ve never experienced before. And then my blog disappeared probably also due to the arctic temps. I had to rescue it from cyberspace by approving my domain name via Robert’s near-obsolete chilidogk AOL email ~ ha!  All better now.

The icicles just kept growing and growing until they were scary.

 The picture of our house was taken early on ~ before Christmas.  By the end, the snow was covering the front steps and shrubs…

…and picnic table.
And as much as I wanted to stay under the covers drinking hot tea, we did manage to fit in quite a lot of winter activities. Our women’s retreat was in February, mostly due to no one having anything else to do when it’s below zero outside.  During free time I went snow shoeing with these lovely ladies.  Rachel, on the far right, is from India, and thoroughly enjoyed the novelty of excessive amounts of snow and special shoes to trek through it!

Cooper, Kayla, and I enjoyed another 6 weeks of Thursdays at Mt. Snow in Vermont with lots of our homeschool friends. I can still keep up with the young ‘ens for the most part, but their skills improve and their speed increases with each year ~ complete with spins and jumps. I’d just like to be able to keep skiing each winter without killing myself.  Honestly, the lift is the scariest part for me. I’m getting old.
Mt. Snow is absolutely beautiful ~ and so is this little ski bunny!
We had very special visitors ~ Romy and Matt ~ from Switzerland who always come bearing the finest of Swiss treats. Such a lovely time catching up with these two, and then just a couple of days later we FINALLY got to escape our ice tundra for warmer climates and a part of the country to which we’d never been…
San Francisco!
It was wonderful to get away and participate in the Collegiate Church Planter Collaborative in Oakland with these friends and fellow church planters as well as collegiate church planters from all over the country.  Our friend from Stillwater, OK, Brian Frye, was the mastermind behind the conference. I’ve limited myself to an hour for getting this blog out (the to-do list is LONG), so I don’t have time to tell you about the wonderful people we got to meet and the incredible church ~ Gracepoint Oakland ~ that hosted us, but it was all so encouraging and fun. Robert got to speak to the whole group ~ about 200 people ~ one morning, and I helped lead a seminar called “Help, I’m Married To A Collegiate Church Planter” as well as with a video (horrors!) on ministering to collegiate women.

 Chris and Patrick are pastors in Lowell, MA and good friends of ours.  We had a blast seeing the Golden Gate Bridge, hiking through Muir Woods, and hanging out on the wharf with them. (Somehow I managed a semi-muddy three mile hike in a skirt and flats.  Totally worth it.)

The New England Contingency (Why am I the only girl?)

 We extended our stay in the Bay Area so that I could see my one of my dearest high school friends and her family.  It was a quick 30 minute train ride to their home and we packed in as much as we could in just two short days which included quite a lot of physical exercise!  Kerry took me to her Smart Barre (ballet/pilates) class which almost killed me, and then we went for a run on their local bike trail with Robert.  The next day was a 2 hour hike around a beautiful reservoir. It was non-stop talking and catching up and cooking and eating and laughing and just so wonderful.

We went back to San Francisco one night to visit with another dear friend, Greg, but for the life of me I can’t find the picture that I know I took of him and Robert right here on the famous Lombard Street. Anyway, we had a wonderful evening walking and talking and eating In and Out Burgers and drinking Starbucks.
There have been babies born and hospital visits…
The Worcester gals and Baby Analiz!
Soren was born in January ~ most prayed for baby ever!
There was a trip to a casino (shhhh….) with friends and fellow church planters, Shaun and Deshni ~ but only for steaks at the Michael Jordan Steakhouse, I promise. We loved seeing their new church building (located between two major casinos and ministering to lots of folks who work there) and hearing about all that God is doing in southern Connecticut.

 Then it was Palm Sunday and Holy Week and the Passover Seder and Crosswalk and Good Friday service and Easter…Whew. (30 people at my house for Easter which may be a record!?)

 Some new family members showed up in the frames on my piano on April 1.  Kayla loves a practical joke and this one was perfect with all our favorites: Grumpy Cat, Jack Black/Bernie, and T-Swift: Insane Girlfriend Version. It is now April 17 and these photos are still on display.  I have forgotten which photos were originally in place ~ and that would be a small indicator of the chaos of life now (and for what seems like forever) ~ no time to do anything but the next thing.

Now it’s time for spring track for Kayla.  She’s tearing it up in the 100m sprint as well as the sprint relay.  She also had to run the 400m recently and like a typical sprinter thought she might die due to the LONG distance.  She did GREAT!

 Just when we thought the snow and ice were over and gone, this happened last week while I was out running.  It was depressing, but we have had a couple of 60+ degree days since complete with sunshine which I thought might be gone forever.

 And then this happened on Tuesday…

Four wisdom teeth out and lots of ice cream and couch time.  He’s still hurting today, but up and about and on the mend overall.

 Oh ~ and it took us forever, but Robert and I finally finished this…

…which was such a great show.  My goodness.  Tears every episode.
But now we can give our full attention to this…
If Parenthood made us cry every time, Gilmore Girls makes us laugh out loud.  Sadly, many of the 70’s and 80’s references are lost on our kids (there are hundreds!), but Robert and I crack up.  If you’re looking for a light, funny, and (almost entirely, but not quite entirely) clean show ~ this one’s for you!
Okay ~ my hour to blog was over about 20 minutes ago, but there’s a quick ~  even if it is kinda shallow (because it’s highly edited to make us look all fun and carefree…) update on the last three months.
Maybe (hopefully) it won’t be so long next time. Thanks for checking in friends!

Matthew’s Account: My Underlines

Two months. In seven years, I don’t think I’ve gone two months without writing here on my blog. And there’s lots to tell ~ which is part of why I haven’t written. Too much activity to sit for a while and put the words down. Lots of urgent things taking first place over the important things at times, but many important things being accomplished, too, which just means that writing them down has not been as important as doing them.  But I miss writing them down.
One important thing that the Lord has supplied grace to do almost every day, though, is take in His Word. I began reading the Bible from cover to cover a while back. I’ve never done that before, and it has been an incredible experience ~ to read each book in succession gleaning an understanding of the big picture as I go.  I tell my Bible study gals almost every week to read. their. Bibles. and I promise them (because God has promised them) that He will meet them there every day ~ guaranteed. In my Genesis to Revelation pursuit, it didn’t matter if I was reading Numbers, or Jeremiah, or Malachi, or Haggai ~ the Lord met me in each book, each chapter, each verse, and gave me new insight, increased knowledge and understanding, but most importantly, He allowed me to worship Him more due to a deepening realization of His holiness and sovereignty. That is an answered prayer.
A couple of weeks ago, I finished the Old Testament and landed on Matthew ~ which seemed perfect, because I always tend to go to the gospels for reading during Lent. I’ve also been underlining as I go through the Bible this time. I even started with a NEW Bible in this new beginning-to-end-endeavor ~ which is not as easy as you might think, since I happen to love the NASB version. Sadly, it seems to be a dying version due to the popularity of the ESV, so finding one that was brown leather and not a Charles Stanley version was no easy task!
So, today, on Good Friday, instead of telling you about my incredible trip to the Dominican Republic, my winter-sanity trip to Texas, my super-fun group of Challenge II students and seminars, my weekly boot camp Bible study, the Shakespeare play the kids were just in, Kayla’s first spring track season, or my Easter Sunday lunch menu for a houseful of anticipated guest, I’ll just leave you with what I underlined in the last few chapters of Matthew.  May the highlights of the final few days of Jesus’ life draw you in to worship Him as they did me.

Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be handed over for crucifixion
The chief priests…elders…
Plotted together to seize Jesus by stealth
A woman came to Him with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume
She did it to prepare Me for burial
Wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will be spoken of in memory of her
Judas Iscariot…What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you
One of you will betray Me…Woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed
Take, eat; this is My body
This is My blood of the covenant poured out for many for forgiveness of sins
Singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives
You will all fall away because of Me this night
I will never fall away
You will deny Me three times
Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You
Gethsemane
My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death
My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me
Not as I will, but as You will
Found them sleeping
The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak
If this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done
Judas…accompanied by a large crowd with swords and clubs
Laid hands on Jesus and seized Him
One..struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear
Do you not think that I cannot appeal to My Father and He will at once put at My disposal twelve legions of angels?
How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?
Then all the disciples left Him and fled
Peter was following Him at a distance
This man stated ” I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.”
Tell us whether you are the Christ, the Son of God
You have said it yourself
He has blasphemed!
He deserves death!
They spat in His face and beat Him with their fists
Others slapped Him
Now Peter…and a servant girl…but he denied it
Another servant girl……”This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.”
I do not know the man
I do not know the man!
Before a rooster crows
And he went out and wept bitterly
They bound Him and led Him away and delivered Him to Pilate the governor
Judas…felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver
I have sinned by betraying innocent blood
Hanged himself…Potter’s Field…Jeremiah
Are You the King of the Jews?
It is as you say
He did not answer him with regard to a single charge
The governor was quite amazed
A notorious prisoner, called Barabbas
Barabbus, or Jesus who is called Christ?
His wife sent him a message…Have nothing to do with the righteous man
Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?
Crucify Him!
Why, what evil has He done?
Crucify Him!
I am innocent of this man’s blood
His blood shall be on us and our children!
They stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him…crown of thorns
They spat on Him…began to beat Him on the head…and led Him away to crucify Him
Golgotha…Place of the Skull
Crucified Him…divided up His garments
THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS
Those passing by were hurling abuse
Mocking Him
My God, My God. Why have you forsaken Me?
Cried out…yielded up His spirit
Veil of the temple was torn in two
Earth shook…rocks were split…tombs were opened
Truly, this was the son of God!
A rich man from Arimathea…asked for the body of Jesus
Rolled a large stone against the entrance of the tomb
Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary
Chief priests…Pharisees…remember…”After three days I am to rise again.”
Made the grave secure…guard…set a seal on the stone
An angel of the Lord descended from heaven
Rolled away the stone and sat upon it
The guards shook for fear of him
To the women…”He is not here, for He has risen just as He said.”
Go quickly and tell the disciples
Jesus met them and greeted them
Chief priests…elders…gave a large sum of money to the soldiers
You are to say, “His disciples came by night and stole Him away…”
This story was widely spread among the Jews
When they saw Him, they worshiped Him

Celebrating Together {Resurrection Sunday!}

I’m a day late, but for some reason Blogger wasn’t working last night, and I couldn’t log in to my blog. So, I sat in a chair drinking tea, watching the final episode of “The Bible” with Robert and the kids, and being thankful for the wonderful season of Lent and the great Resurrection Day celebrated with a crowd at church and then at my own house.
It was hard not having Kory here, though.  I have photos of my three together for every Easter since Kayla was born, but he’s missing from these since he is still in Texas visiting a couple of colleges there.  See the obvious gap in this photo?  That’s sibling love right there!
Kayla enjoyed having some of her best friends over for lunch after church and an egg hunt.
Cooper enjoyed having some of his best buddies over, too.  They disappeared after lunch, and even before dessert.  The only thing we could figure is that they headed to UMass to play basketball.  Basketball is the ONLY thing that takes priority over dessert in their minds.
 I got to totally indulge in one of my favorite things ever which is having a crowd around my dining room table for lunch after church ~ and a very special crowd at that.  We ate barbecued brisket, pork tenderloin, scalloped potatoes, green salad, fruit salad, asparagus, broccoli-bacon salad, chocolate cake, ice cream, lemon bars, and more ~ with help from friends, of course! Almost everyone stayed into the evening and the men hid eggs for the girls while the women did dishes and drank another cup of tea or coffee.  So wonderful!
Blessed to have these great ladies in my life ~ even if some of them couldn’t stay in their Easter clothes long enough to take the special Easter Sunday photos. â˜ș{The kids stripped almost immediately, too. Had to get their pics before unlocking the front door once home from church!}
Such a gift to celebrate the Resurrection and the end of my Lenten journey like this. Robert preached through I Corinthians 15 on Sunday ~ explaining in basic, but very important terms the necessity of the Resurrection. I kept thinking of a few things…

First ~ something I read a few days back in John Piper’s Finally Alive:

O that every believer would know the glory of what has happened to him! Do you know what God has done for and in you? You were ransomed with the imperishable blood of Christ.  You were raised with Christ from the dead to an eternally living hope. You were called from death to life like Lazarus, and you saw Christ for the Treasure that He is. You were born again.  You received Him and were saved.

It’s a truly miraculous gift, and this gift was undeserved and unearned.

Second ~ one of the hymns we sang yesterday and have been singing a lot lately:

Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
Behold Him there the risen Lamb
My perfect spotless righteousness
The great unchangeable I Am
The king of glory and of grace
One with Himself, I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ my savior and my God!

And third ~ the simple creed attributed to James, the brother of Jesus,  that Robert had us repeat at the end of yesterday’s service:

Christ has died.  Christ is risen.  Christ will come again.
And this musical version of the creed that gives me chills and tears every time I listen and sing…
Thank you, Lord, for dying, for rising, and for promising to come again ~ for me.

The In Between Day: Death and Expectation {Lent Day #47}

 It is so full and so crazy, but I do so love this week. The Seder on Wednesday night was ~ “so beautiful.”  That’s what everyone kept saying, anyway, and I had to agree.  The beautiful part goes far beyond the table settings and candles to the number of people gathered to remember the sin, death, and slavery we were rescued from by our Passover Lamb.

Then yesterday we gathered for the 14th year in a row ~ since we started the church ~ to walk the wooden cross through our town ~ reading the story of Good Friday at different stops along the way.  This is definitely not a “fun” thing to do, but an important one, I think.  On a very, very small scale it allows us to identify with the shame and ridicule that Jesus endured on the way to His death on our behalf.

Later in the evening  ~ after I took Kory to the airport for a college-tour trip ~ we met back at church for a Tenebrae service with chairs circled around the cross and dramatic readings from scripture telling the story of the Crucifixion.  It ends in complete darkness and silence. Many stayed to pray in the solemn shadows.  While I sat praying, I kept thinking of the stanzas from two of my favorite hymns…
My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
Is nailed to the Cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, O my soul!
(It Is Well With My Soul ~ Horatio Spofford)

and

And when I think that God, His Son not sparing
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing
He bled and died to take away my sin
(How Great Thou Art ~ Stuart Hine)

And then today, on this “in between day” ~ the day after the death of Christ and before His Resurrected victory over death, we went to a funeral.  Well, actually it was a memorial service for a young man who took his own life last month ~ the 22 year old son of a friend of ours ~ a child we’ve known and interacted with off and on for the last 13 years.
 It was both grievous and glorious.  We cried as his parents and friends talked about their indescribable sadness and as we watched the slide show of his baby through college years.  And then we clapped and praised and sang together in the joy of knowing his eternal security and ours, too.  Because his life celebration was all held on this “in between” death and resurrection day, it gave us all such a vivid picture of the hope of Resurrection and New Life ~ the things that WILL happen to us who believe ~  by grace through faith ~ because of WHAT JESUS DID tomorrow.  If there could ever be a “perfect” day to mourn and hope all at the same time, today is certainly that day.
 Before and after the memorial, Kayla and I worked on an “au naturel” Easter egg project.  We boiled cabbage, yellow onions, beets, turmeric, coffee, and saffron in various combinations to make natural dyes for our eggs this year.  We let the dyes cool while we were away for the afternoon, and this evening, we’ve been letting the eggs sit in the natural dyes.  Actually, Kayla has been dying eggs AND cooking dinner for us at the same time this evening ~ Ginger BBQ Chicken Kabobs! She’s getting to be a pro in the kitchen.
They are turning out better than I expected.  The beets definitely provide the strongest stain, and second runner-up goes to the yellow onion skin/saffron/turmeric dye.  I love the “earthy” look of the finished product.

The day is almost over, and that’s a good thing…

For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless, you are still in your sins.  Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.
I Corinthians 15: 16-19

Gluten Free Friday ~ Deviled Eggs {Lent Day #46}

Happy Good Friday!  I have had a busy day already, and now am heading out the door to take Kory to the airport.  He’ll be visiting two colleges there that he’s been accepted to, but has never seen. He’s now got only one month left to decide where he’ll go to college in the fall. I’m hoping to get back from the airport in time for our Good Friday service tonight!
I do think it’s ironic that these eggs are called “deviled.”  I’m sure the real devil was rejoicing about the events that happened today, but he only got a few days to relish in his seeming victory.
I’ll be serving these on Sunday after church ~ when we’ll all be celebrating Jesus’ victory over death and our own new lives because of it!


Deviled Eggs

12 eggs
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp mustard {yellow or dijon}
salt and pepper to taste
paprika to sprinkle for garnish

Place eggs in saucepan and cover with water.  Bring to a boil for a minute or two and then remove pan from heat.  Cover and let sit for 15 minutes.  Rinse eggs with cold water for 2 minutes.  Peel shells off eggs, slice in half lengthwise, and pop yolks out into a separate bowl.  Use a fork to break up yolks and then add the remaining ingredients.  Combine thoroughly and until mixture is smooth.  Use small spoons or pastry bags to fill each egg half with the yolk mixture.  Sprinkle with paprika.

Thanks and Bread and Betrayal {Lent day #45}

So, this is one of the pieces of artwork I got to see while slowly strolling through the Boston Museum of Fine Arts last week.  I think the religious artwork is partly why I’m drawn to the European Art section.  Some of them are sort of ridiculous and based on unlikely legend, but some of them are so moving.  I did get tickled over the ones depicting the incarnation or the crucifixion that also included St. Jerome.  He would always be peeking around the scene ~ from behind Mary as she held the baby Jesus or standing near the Cross itself. So funny.
I loved this sculpture of the Last Supper.  It appears to be such a lively scene, which it probably was for a while.  But it also made me think of the darkness of the coming betrayal and the giving of thanks that Jesus gives in the face of that betrayal
…that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
I Corinthians 11: 23, 24
When I read Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts, I learned that in Greek the phrase “He had given thanks” or “He gave thanks”  in that verse is “eucharisteo.”
When I finished the book last year, I made this banner for Easter as a reminder of what Jesus did.  The premise of Ann’s book is that there is always reason to give thanks, and that in doing so miracles happen ~ especially miracles of transformation in our way of seeing and therefore in our experiencing of joy.

I spoke to a group of women over the weekend on the topic of sanctification.  We looked at the life of an Old Testament woman ~ the Shunammite woman of 2 Kings.  She sets a really high standard in her godly responses to the trials of life.  I tried to encourage them (and myself) by reminding them that Jesus also went through this process…

In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety.  Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things He suffered…
Hebrews 5: 7-8

Therefore He had to be make like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of people.  For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.
Hebrews 2: 17-18

I read the stories of the Exodus Passover and Jesus’ last Passover with His disciples to my Challenge students this week. I heard a few groans and saw a few rolled eyes over the betrayal by Judas.  What a wretched, evil guy Judas was, seemed to be the thinking.  And it’s true, but ALL of the disciples betrayed and denied Jesus that night ~ and so have all of us.

I have felt the sting of betrayal in recent years ~ big and small betrayals ~ by those close and not so close.  One of the close ones reached out for a helping hand recently. My first response?  Incredulity. How could they possibly have the audacity to ask a favor in light of all they’ve done to me?  All they’ve taken from me? How can they act as if  there’s nothing between us?

Good thing the One I’ve betrayed doesn’t allow those same realities to keep Him from giving generously when I ask for help.  Thankfully, He is not incredulous when the former traitor comes to Him with pleas of rescue and comfort.

No.  He sympathizes with the pain of my experience with betrayal, because He’s been there ~ experienced  the betrayal of His closest friends over 2000 years ago tonight.  And then ~ amazingly ~ He doesn’t hold my sin of betrayal against me, but credits me with His own righteousness.

May this truth overwhelm me as it should, Lord ~ during this weekend of celebrating Your betrayal on my behalf, and every day.

Bitter Roots, Sweet Trees {Lent Day #44}

Whole Foods Cashier: {surprised} “Is that horseradish?  That’s a lot of horseradish!”

Me: {laughing} “Yes, it IS horseradish.  And it IS a lot!

Whole Foods Cashier: “Do you mind if I ask what you are going to do with all of that horseradish?”

I quickly explained that I was making 15 Seder Plates for a Passover celebration this week, and that some day soon I would be crying in my kitchen while peeling and grating all of that horseradish!

And today was that day.  Oh, wow.  It hurts to breathe.  I forget just how strong and painful that sensation is. It’s much worse than an onion.  The tears and sore throat are totally unavoidable.

But now it’s all sealed up in a plastic container, and thankfully, the stinging sensation in my sinuses is dissipating.

We’ll all eat a couple of bites of raw, grated horseradish tonight at our Passover meal in order to remember the bitterness of the Israelites slavery in Egypt.  Here’s what the Messianic Passover Haggadah reads just prior to the eating of the horseradish:

On all other nights we eat all kinds of vegetables, but on Passover we eat only maror, bitter herbs.  As sweet as our lives are today, let us still remember how bitter life was for the children of Israel in the land of Egypt.

“…so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites and worked them ruthlessly.  They made their lives bitter with hard labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields.” (Exodus 1:12-14)

 The bitter herbs are called “The Maror.”  Remember Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi?  Remember how she asked to be called “Mara” and not “Naomi” anymore?  It was because she was “bitter” over the death of her husband and sons.  The Hebrew word for “bitter” is “maror.”

The Israelites lived bitter lives of toil due to their enslavement in Egypt. Naomi grieved bitterly over the curse of death experienced in her immediate family.  Slavery and death are the results of sin ~ the very bitter results.

But the “afikomen” and the wine, or juice is sweet.

At the end of the Seder meal, the striped, pierced “afikomen” matzah will be hidden, found by children, and then ransomed back in order to be eaten for dessert.  Then the cup of redemption and the cup of praise will be lifted and all in unison we will say…

Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

It will be like when those freed Israelite slaves began complaining that the only water to drink in the desert was bitter.  They even had thoughts of returning to Egypt and slavery where at least the water was good and the food was rich, but Moses cried out to God for help, and God showed him a tree.

When Moses threw the tree into the water, it became sweet. It took away the bitterness. It was a sign of things to come.

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law (death, slavery), having become a curse for us – for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”… (Galations 3: 13)

Tasting of the horseradish-bitter curse of sin, death, and slavery tonight in order to better taste the sweetness of the Tree.

Passover Crimson, Snowfall White ~ Again {Lent Day #43}

{Re-posting this today ~ since it’s Passover AND my brother’s birthday. Celebrating him today, and all the Lord has done in his life and his wife’s life ~ and now their life together.  They gave exuberant permission to share their story, because it glorifies our Passover Lamb, Jesus ~ and all that He has done on our behalf.}

He’s been near and dear for many years.  She was fairly new on the scene, becoming his wife in the summertime. I go to a lot of weddings.  I cried at theirs, because I had prayed for this moment for so long, because he was so happy, because she was so beautiful, so perfect for him, and because the ceremony put Christ on display so clearly, so unashamedly.  She wore a long white dress with aqua-colored sandals.  He wore a white shirt with an aqua-colored tie and a content smile.  We were on the beach and basking in dazzling sunshine.  It was glorious.

“We’ve both been through a lot, and we want to start off strong,” was his explanation for paying for professional pre-marital Christian counseling.  When the counselor indicated the end of his typical sessions, they took his offer to continue, pressing deeper into their pasts, gaining tools for the future.

Sexual brokenness haunted each of their histories.  “She talks to the girls about remaining pure because she suffered the pain of promiscuity beginning as a teen,” he said of a ministry in which they served together. “I was the old virgin on the panel,” he laughed, but as a victim of sexual abuse, he is also able to minister to needful teens uniquely. I was humbled by their authenticity, blessed by their willingness to be used in this way.

I’ve read quite a lot of the Bible, and the more I do, the more I am in absolute awe and can declare with the Psalmist, “Oh, how I love Your law!  It is my meditation all the day,” and “How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” {Psalm 119:97, 103} Truly, hardly a day passes in which He does not speak specifically and directly to my heart through His word. And it IS a promise that He would do this, so I’m not sure why I am surprised.  Really, I should expect nothing less, but He’s still building that faith in me, I suppose.

In the last 3 years I’ve made my way through most of the Old Testament and quite a bit of the New in a more systematic way than usual. A while back I got a little chuckle out of Hezekiah re-instituting the Passover in chapter 30 of 2 Chronicles, because it reminded me of the semi-rag tag nature of my own church…

“For a multitude…had not purified themselves, yet they ate the Passover otherwise than prescribed.  For Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, ‘May the good Lord pardon everyone who prepares his heart to seek God, the Lord God of his fathers, though not according to the purification rules of the sanctuary.’  So the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people.” 
{v.18-20}

Full of grace, Hezekiah’s Passover was also glorious…

“So there was great joy in Jerusalem because there was nothing like this in Jerusalem since the days of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel.  Then the Levitical priests arose and blessed the people, and their voice was heard and their prayer came to His holy dwelling place, to heaven.” {v. 26-27}
Passover: One of three main Jewish festivals to commemorate protection from the plague of death against the firstborn in Egypt and liberation from Egyptian slavery.

That’s the definition my Bible’s dictionary gives it.  Hezekiah re-instituted this important festival, because the people needed to remember their great deliverance by their great and covenantal God.  They needed to recount the red blood on their doorposts, and the protection it afforded them. Reading the account caused me to pause and remember, too.

There were a couple of really wicked kings after Hezekiah, but then Josiah’s reign begins.  Slowly and thoroughly, he removed the idols, and repaired the temple and calls the people back to their God.  And like Hezekiah, Josiah also had to re-institute the Passover celebration which had not been celebrated in about 75 years.  Josiah’s Passover was even more glorious than Hezekiah’s…

“There had not been celebrated a Passover like it in Israel since the days of Samuel the prophet, nor had any of the kings of Israel celebrated such a Passover as Josiah did with the priests and Levites, all Judah and Israel who were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” 
{2 Chronicles 35: 18}

Passover, Passover, and more Passover is what I was reading about in the last couple of weeks, and therefore thinking quite a bit about.  The passing over of sin at the Cross was evidently something the Lord was wanting me to think on and celebrate.  Christ, the Passover Lamb, the fulfillment of all of those celebrations, the cessation of the sacrificial system, the fully and forever atoning bloodshed.

Those summer newlyweds came to visit in a cold month.  I prayed that it would snow for the desert-dwelling-duo, and it did. They threw snowballs, and built snowmen, and even shoveled the stuff. It was glorious. Different from the dazzling white of the sunny beach wedding, but glorious!

There was a bit of girltalk during their visit. I wish there had been more. She said her story, her painful, broken story had been written in a book, and warned me that it was bad, really bad.  I praised her for her courage to be vulnerable in sharing her “really bad” story.

I had no idea.

I ordered the book, not only because I wanted to know her better, but also because it seemed like a great resource to use with women in my church.  It arrived on a Friday evening.  UPS.  The kids hoped that the package on the doorstep was their new Xbox game.  They were disappointed that inside of that box was not a super cool soccer game, and totally unaware that it actaully contained a piece of the heart of Christ sent to his daughter, their mom.

“Mom!  Oh my gosh, Mom!  What happened?  What’s the matter?”  one child came running.  I didn’t realize I had gasped and started to cry in the kitchen as I read.  I apologized and explained that nothing bad had happened; I was only reading a sad story in a book.  They are used to me crying over sad books, meaningful movies… typical. The explanation sufficed.

I moved to the basement, and the sobs came uncontrollably.  Abortion. I had not anticipated that one.  Twins that required not one abortion, but two.  The second one late term. She was so young then, and there were other “bad” things, but those were expected.  It was the abortions which happened a decade ago that made my heart literally hurt inside of my chest.  Close friends of mine have had abortions.  I’ve watched at least one walk through its pain and then journey into Christ’s healing.  It took years. When he took her, her dad said it would only hurt like a paper cut, really bad at first, but then insignificantly later. He was wrong.  She has a charm bracelet with the names of the one aborted, and then one miscarried. Now she has four healthy, grown children. Forgiveness. Mercy.  Redemption.  Beautiful.

This one seemed so close, though.

Then flooding into my heart and mind came this…

“Though your sins are as scarlet,
They will be white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They will be like wool.”
Isaiah 1:18

and then David’s words…

“Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”
Psalm 51:7

Oh, God!  The Passover.  The crimson Passover!  And the snow that I asked for!?! The pure, white, delightful snow.  She was playing. in. the. SNOW.  Playing!  Forgiven. Free.  And that dress. That snow white dress that she wore at the beach. Now the sobs turned into all out weeping.  The Old Testament Bible readings.  The silly weather prayer requests.  They were gifts for me, preparation for this moment.  You are so good to me.  You are so faithful to show this “good girl” the extent of your love and grace to others, so that my prayer to understand my equal need will be accomplished.  I long to know you in your extravagant grace and forgiveness, and you answer that prayer so readily.  “for there is no distinction, for all have sinned…” {Romans 3:22-23}

And as is repeated in the Passover liturgy…”It would have been enough…It would have been enough…”  Yes, that experience was more than enough, but the story doesn’t end there.

Exactly nine days later, nine days after I wept over her “bad” past, he sends a photo text message. It’s of a home pregnancy test.  It’s positive.

Oh my! You must just really enjoy delighting me with your boundless grace, Lord.  A baby!?  She’s going to have a baby!  He’s going to be a Daddy.

And then as if it had been settled before the foundation of the earth, written in the days of His book before one of them came to be, I was filling in birthdays on my new 2013 calendar later that same afternoon ~ the baby news day.  When I got to his birthday month, I noticed that it already had something printed by the manufacturer in the square that marked his special day, an annual and nationally recognized holiday.

Passover.

Of course.

Tender Tears {Lent Day #42}

The questions was “What turn of event in your life has the Lord used to perfect you as a worshiper of Him?” Around the tables small groups of women began to answer…

“I lost my job last week, but I start a new one tomorrow.”

“I had a baby a year ago.”

“He broke our engagement right before the wedding.”

And then one woman got only a few seconds into her “turn” before the tears started to roll down her cheeks.  She talked about how she had walked away from God and church as a teenager, married, chose not to raise her kids in any specific faith, made several moves, and had basically been “driving” her own life for decades. “And then, about six weeks ago,” she said, “He showed me what I was doing, and how incapable I am of driving my own life, and now He’s driving my life again.” The tears were streaming.

She started to apologize for the tears, but then she said, “No.  Actually, I’m so grateful for these tender tears, and I hope I never lose them.”

I understood completely, and thought about her as I drove home from the retreat, praying for her.

I woke up totally exhausted Sunday morning.  I fell asleep forgetting to pray for Robert before bed like I try to do on Saturday nights.  I also try and have his breakfast all ready on Sunday mornings, but barely pulled myself out of bed to send him off to church before the early service yesterday.

I was finally awake by the second service. The sermon was on Matthew 6, and highly convicting.  Secret prayer life.  Secret giving. Don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Look your best while fasting.

It came time for Communion. I heard the familiar words of institution, and watched the bread being broken. I received my bread and juice and sat down taking them in one at a time.  I thought about His body broken. His blood spilled.  For me.

And this doesn’t always happen, but it’s happening more and more.  Tender tears falling.

I thought of my new friend from the retreat.

Yes, I’m so grateful for these tender tears.  May they come more frequently over what He’s done for me.  May I never lose them.