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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sweet Discovery


I have a few favorites when it comes to things of this material world.  There are substances that stir my soul and make my heart beat just a little faster.  Their textures, qualities and purposes are all varied, but they all reach back through time to connect me to a distant past or land.

Photo credit

One of these is chocolate.  I’ve written of my love of good chocolate in the past.  I’m not content with Hershey’s or Mars.  In a pinch I won’t refuse, but they do not speak to my deepest parts. 

Pierre Marcolini knows my love language and sings it to me from across the waters of the cold Atlantic
.
But there are nearer Sirens.  They are elusive at times and can be costly, but I turn my ship towards the rocks that will not dash me to bits, but give sweet indulgence.


This particular call comes to me from the Rockies, from Boulder.  There in those mountains confectionery conjurers blend decadent dark chocolate with spicy chilies and dried cherries.  The love potion is enveloped in gold foil and wrapped in fiery red.  I say love potion, because when every mouthwatering bit is gone, I am left with poetry.

This is not metaphorical poetry, but actual verse; words that speak of love and art and treasure.


I am not an avid reader of poetry, but this was a surprise at the end of all that was good and had vanished.  It also spoke to my desire to CREATE throughout this year and in a way I had not considered: to create the keeping and guarding of love.  What a beautiful thought.

Now I have been doubly blessed by one of my favorite things in a most unlikely way.

I am sharing this as part of a birthday link-up celebration of not a favorite thing, but one of my favorite people.  Happy Birthday to my precious friend, BECKY DAYE!  May your day be as rich as chocolate, as sweet as cherries and as zesty as chilies!



Happy Birthday, Becky!!!  (with our dear friend Lizzie at Allume)

Becky would be pleased as punch to know that I have recently discovered I can buy this very bar at my local Wegman’s!  She may NOT be pleased as punch with this photo, but I love it!


Tell me about one of your favorite things, and if you’ve written about it go link up with the rest of us.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Laying Up Stones

Photo credit

I have just been reminded by Teri Lynne Underwood of the need to mark our faith history.  It’s often easy to look back and see the monumental moments that we have passed.  We remember deliverance from the hurricanes of life.

What about the brief fleeting, “Yes, and amen” moments that happen in the course of a weekday that flies by with stoplights and dirty dishes and shopping lines?  How do we remember those when they go by so quickly?

This is my attempt to set up my stones in the middle life’s rushing river.  It will likely be covered over and never seen by others, but I will know it is here.

Yesterday was just such a day. The moment came and went in less time than it took to make a short trip in the car.  I am so thankful that I was blessed with the knowledge of “Here you go.  This is the answer to your prayers of the last week.  You’re welcome.”

Our precious little boy is 4 now.  As if he wasn’t full of a million (his favorite number) questions before, the floodgates have opened.  I often feel like a walking series on the Discovery Channel that travels the world and covers manufacturing and physics and wildlife in its regular course.  There is one topic, however, that I have been praying about: ADOPTION.

There are so many facets to this one gem.  How do I chip away at the rough stone of the concept so that it shines and reflects God’s glory in all ways without shattering it from one bad strike?  This is delicate work for which I feel woefully unprepared.

To the glory of God, and my great relief, my little guy spoke from his tender heart and pointed me straight to an open door.  As we were discussing authority, specifically the police and the rules of the road, the conversation shifted to parents and children.  Then he said it – “If a little boy or girl’s mommy and daddy died I would take them home with me to take care of them.”  There it was!

My mouth nearly fell open.

I gathered my wits in all of .6 seconds and told him what a loving thing that would be.  I then explained that this would be ADOPTION.  He went on to say that he would take care of them for a little while if their mommy or daddy got in trouble or had to go to the grocery store and they would be lonely.  Here we had the perfect example of FOSTERING.

There is no way I could have orchestrated this conversation.  It was the perfect first strike for exposing the beauty, the mystery and the crystalline precision with which his adoption occurred.  There is much to be told.  He will learn his story over time and I hope to see God’s hand and hear his voice more clearly every step of the way.
This is my first stone.

Out of the Blue

Monday, January 28, 2013

Confessions of a Desperate Housewife


I have a confession to make: I am a terrible housekeeper.  I always have been, I think.  I used to love dusting and vacuuming our living room growing up, but I think that was because it was the only neat room in our house.  Hmmm….


Funny Confession Ecard: I really should be doing housework but this baby is holding me hostage!
Photo credit
                          
If you were thinking that this was going to be a steamy, murderous, or duplicitous revelation I apologize.  There isn’t much about my life that resembles the television show except that I happen to live in a house on a cul de sac.

I am currently living in a house that we rent with waaaay too much space for us and it is OVERWHELMING! (We are currently working on a way to change that.)



A couple weeks ago I saw someone mention Holley Gerth’s e-book , The “Do What You Can” Plan.  Holley opens by having you set a goal – then cut that goal in half.  I took a hatchet to my goal of having a clean home and hacked it down to just keeping up with the dishes. 

This is Day 10 and I have to say that I have kept up.  I have left a few dishes out overnight a couple times, but got them cleaned up first thing in the morning.  It’s not such a hard thing if the dishwasher is ready for them or the sink is empty for hand washing.

The liberty I’m experiencing is completely different this time.  I’m actually getting other things done incidentally and I have confidence that I can succeed because I kept my goal concrete and manageable.  When I reach the end of this 21 day plan my hopes are that this will be a firmly established habit and I can tack on a new one – still keeping it less than daunting.  Over time these smaller goals will add up to my larger goal.  It will take several repetitions of the process, but doesn’t everything?

Holley uses the analogy of starting out fast and strong on a bike ride only to crack/bonk/struggle when a hill comes.  It’s all about starting out with a pace that is sustainable and building up endurance.  I can completely relate.  I’ve had my home spic and span, top to bottom, only to have it be wrecked again in 3 days.  Discouragement is the name of that game.  I don’t want to play it anymore.

 My eyes are open wide to the distance I have to go, but I know my training regimen.  Like any future marathoner, I know that it takes lots of short runs to prepare for the big one.  I’m excited and for the first time I think this may actually work out.

So, I want to be a Desperate Mom No More and create a home filled with grace and peace, as Sally Clarkson encourages and just be able to breathe.

How are you tackling the big goals and dreams in your life?  Have anything particularly encouraging that you’d like to share?

Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Cherished – Five Minute Friday


It’s FRIDAY!!  What a glorious day of the week for several reasons!

Five Minute Friday

Here, it means I write for 5 minutes flat: no editing, no overthinking, no backspacing.  After all the thoughts have been traced into pixels and maybe a picture or two lined up, I do the scary part – hit publish.

After that we all head over to Lisa-Jo’s and link up.  Then comes the fun part:  we read those who linked up and leave encouragement in the form of comments.  We’d love for you to join us.  If you do, please be sure to read the one who linked up just before you.  If you don’t mind, could you also turn off your electronic hula hoops, aka Captcha, just to make it a little easier to spread the love.  That’s it!

So, after a brief time chatting with all the #FMFPARTY lovelies last night, it’s time to get my prompt from our fearless leader - TheGypsy Mama, herself!

Here are my Five Minutes on: Cherished


   
Wonder fully made!

That’s what it reads on the small silver plate surrounded by a red gemstone and a silver circle branded with an m.

The m – what’s it for?  It’s there to bring to mind the WHO and the by WHOM.

My WHOs, those that are cherished and wonderfully made are my Big Guy, my Little Guy and ME.  All these are the m.   All are wonderfully made.  All are cherished.  Not only be me but by our heavenly Creator Father who holds us all close in His hands and breathes His life into us.
This chain around my neck holds the words close to my heart and my mind.  How can I treat these around me as anything other than cherished?  Why would I ever dream of doing so?
And yet I do.

Sadly, cherished is often the last word that comes to mind as I navigate a minefield of LEGOS.

Cherished is not how I feel when dinner is refused – AGAIN.

But that’s no excuse and so I need this reminder.


TIME

Disclosure: This necklace was a gift from (in)Courage for participating in filming for the upcoming (in)RLconference April 26-27.  If you have not yet registered, I encourage you to do so.  You can read all about it here.  As always, the opinions and sentiments are mine.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Being a Brave Mama Like a Brave Kid


Do you know Jen Hatmaker? Not, like personally know (although if you do, I’d love an introduction sometime), but know who she is? I’ve only known about her for less than a year. However, it seems as if she was a missing puzzle piece of input for my life.

Reading 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess has changed my thinking on a daily basis. Much of the issues in the book were already part of me, but so many other areas were brand new. If you haven’t read it, I strongly encourage you to do so. I’m not saying that you have to follow it like a prescription, for that matter neither did she, it’s just a good eye-opener.


The Olympics were made complete by here live tweetcasting throughout various events. Swimming, diving, gymnastics, you name it; I was cheering and laughing and scoffing right along with her – often with tears streaming down my cheeks. If I can give you one piece of twitter advice it is this: Follow @JenHatmaker for all major live televised events!

Enough about her. Well, one more thing. Today Jen wrote about brave parents raising brave kids and I got to thinking. I think about how I am raising my son and how I was raised. Frankly, I’m a little ticked off at this fallen world that has dampened my experiences that are shareable. I don’t mean shareable in the telling way, but the doing!

I grew up in a rural area, but right off a major highway that travels the height of this country from New Orleans to the Canadian border at the tip of Lake Champlain. When I say right off, I mean that’s where our driveway ended. We stood beside it and waited for school buses, we crossed it to play at friends’ houses, we walked beside it to go play video games and buy candy at the store down the road – BY OURSELVES! We weren’t 5 or 6 year olds doing this, but we were in elementary school.

My friends and I learned how to shoot firearms from our parents. One dad taught us how to shoot a bow and arrow. I learned pretty early on that I am a fairly good shot. Side note: this horrified one of the assistant VPs at my university that I worked for who had never even held a gun – he was from a Boston suburb.

We played outside constantly. We would play in the woods in the summer time until it was dark and the kitchen lights in the house helped us find our way back. We swung on vines from the rocks below the road 15’ in the air. Once my sister fell off. She survived. We all did.

Our bikes and roller skates gave us endless hours of competition. Who could jump the farthest, go downhill the fastest, then uphill the highest with no hands, pop a wheelie the longest. Then there was the ramp! We built a ramp to sit at the bottom of our side yard and the end of the flat stretch above the next little drop off. My dad came home one day to see me flying through the air on my purple single speed with the banana seat. I was probably 11. I got a huge bruise on the inside of my right leg from the pedal when I landed, but I stuck it. AND I SURVIVED – we all did – without helmets or knee pads.

Old Print ad - we had the racing version on the left. Source unknown


My sister and I owned two of the original Snurfers. A neighbor that worked for Brunswick in Marion, VA where they manufactured the crazy thing. If mountain bikes had been around we probably would be X-Games legends!

This is all to say that I want crazy adventure for my little guy. I want him to concoct crazy plans and schemes – and then pull them off spectacularly! I want him to have a story about that time that he and his friends….. whatever.

I have cool scars, and like Mater, I don’t want them gone because I earned them. Some in ridiculously clumsy ways – most actually. But they are life markers that remind me I’ve been brave in my life.

I want to be a brave mama. It will probably leave me a little scarred, but it will leave a legacy that I can hopefully pass along.

I’ve had plenty of fear. You know what? Fear doesn’t give you any stories to tell, or to share, or to redo. It may keep you safe, but when are we ever called to be safe?

Were you brave once? YOU SURVIVED! How are you trying to be brave now?

Monday, January 14, 2013

(in) Real Life


Who are your friends?  Where are your people, your tribe, your Community?  If you’re envisioning a stream of avatars and names following @ you may be in need of some time (in) Real Life.  Watch this brief introduction.



Read here about how (in)RL was like coming up for air for me.   Like Michele-Lyn said in the video, I was suffocating without community.  


This video is filled with women that I love and are soul sisters because of the community that has developed from last year’s (in)RL, (in)Courage and the online world that took on flesh and wrapped arms around me at Allume.  But most of those are hours away from me and that just isn’t practical for having coffee on a Thursday morning. 


What is practical is meeting other women I can develop friendships with in my own town, county or metropolitan area.  Those are the girls I can meet up with and look into the eyes of and KNOW.

Last year, nearly 2000 women participated in the (in)RL unconference for women.  I have a feeling that there were millions more filled with loneliness that very weekend.  Maybe you were one of them.  That can all change.  Starting today.

The (in)RL webcast kicks off on Friday, April 26 in the comfort of your own home and pjs and (in)RL meetups follow on Saturday, April 27.

Think of it as a FREE girl’s weekend away that doesn’t require packing or plane tickets, where women can kick off any expectation of perfect, set aside their fears, their shyness, their worry that they’re not good enough, and find some of Jesus’ words of rest woven into every video shared here.
Last year we explored the nitty gritty of community. This year we're taking a closer look at what it takes to stay rooted in community when sometimes just walking away would be so much easier and tons more convenient. Women share stories of how they've chosen to stay through hard marriages, challenging parenting, worthwhile friendships. How choosing to stay has freed them more fully and unexpectedly than if they'd cut and run.”

Registration is open for this (in)RL 2013.  Sign up today.  It’s FREE!  Everyone who registers gets a FREE copy of the new ebook from (in)Courage: “Best of the Beach House 2012.”  If you register today (Monday-1/14/13) a FREE copy of the (in)Courage 365Daybrightener is available while supplies last (US residents only).

Maybe you want to host an event, maybe you want to just show up and dip a toe in to see how it feels.  Find your nearest location and join a meetup.  No one near you?  Keep checking back as others register.  Maybe you are the one that others are waiting for to pull on the brave boots and step out.





Did I mention there will most likely be chocolate, cupcakes and caffeine???

Either way, we want you to join us and build community right where you are.  Start living out loud, up close and personal (in) Real Life!!! 



Friday, January 11, 2013

Dive - Five Minute Friday


This is my weekly training ritual: a five minute wind sprint.  I don’t focus on form or technique.  I focus on the finish line five minutes ahead.  It flexes muscles and stretches me in ways that I need; that we all need.  Whether it is writing, drawing, running, cycling, or weight lifting, interval training is a great way to build endurance and become better.  Join us?  Lace up, crack those knuckles and when you’re done link up with Lisa-Jo for Five Minute Friday.

The prepare yourself!  Prepare for encouragement to com and to give encouragement – especially to the one who linked up right before you.  Make it easy on yourself and others and turn off all the captcha stuff, if you don’t mind.  Look around, read random posts and be BLESSED.

Now set your timer for 5 Minutes

The prompt is DIVE and…

Go!
Photo credit


Like taking that climb up the stairs which lead to a long unstable board over deep water.

Like an airplane in a death-defying descent at an airshow.

Like the man who rode in the capsule dangling from a hot air balloon into space….
And then took that step out into nothingness.

Diving is scary.

It’s traveling from where you are, through seemingly nothingness, to another point where the entry can be deadly if not done correctly.

It’s a leap of faith.

Remember Indiana Jones stepping out into the abyss only to have his foot land safely on the unseen bridge?  Then, with amazing presence of mind, scatters dust to see the way better – to give depth and perspective.

That’s life. 

We don’t honestly know where the next footfall will land or what the impact will feel like.  So we scatter the dust of our prayers and scripture out before us to open our eyes and see the path without relying solely on gravity to determine our way.

Time!


What big leaps have you been called to or are you stepping out into the abyss in some area? This space and exercise has been my leap.  The rewards have been exceedingly great.  You are a big part of that and I humbly thank you.

Yikes!  While heading to Lisa-Jo's to grab the link I just saw the photo.  What an amazing group of gals and amazing memories!  Community is the air I breathe folks!  More about that on Monday.  Be sure you come back.  Have an amazing weekend.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Desperate - Moms and Life


The new book Desperate - Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson released on Tuesday, January 8.  I was given an advance copy to read and review.  And then, this…

In true Desperate Mom fashion, this was supposed to go up on Tuesday the 8th.  Then, I noticed so many others going up on Monday the 7th.  You know what?  Life happened!

Life that has a birthday boy in the grumpiest mood all. weekend. long!

I learned of the death of a friend from freshman year of college.  That doesn’t seem like it would be too life-shattering.  However, that freshman year was spent in community college at home forging relationships that were part of the web of our hometowns.  This friend’s mother had also stayed with Shane’s grandmother as she was dying from bone cancer.  In the obituary I also learned that she had died three years ago.  My extroverted heart was filled with guilt for not keeping in touch better over the years.  Isn’t that what Facebook is for anyway.

So, Tuesday just wasn’t going to happen.  I went to Bible study that morning and treated myself to a movie that afternoon (it’s a preschool day).  Afterwards I learned that one of my dad’s best friends had died that morning.  This was a man that I knew before I knew it.  His daughter is my age – we’ve literally known each other our entire lives.  Frankly, I’m tearing up right now just writing about this.  Again, guilt for not stopping by at Christmas.  They live just four doors down from my sister.

I apologized to Sarah Mae and in her graciousness said not to worry about it. 

GRACE.

That’s what this book is about.  Giving AND receiving grace.  Oh, don’t we all need it every minute of every day?  I know I do.

There are books you cannot put down when you read it.  This was not one of those books.  I had to put it down constantly to pray, to weep, to ponder, to ask, to answer, to really see.  The multitude of sticky flags look like a beautiful rainbow emerging from the side of my copy.

The idea that stands out to me the most is from Sally Clarkson.  I want to CREATE a home of GRACE and PEACE!


Peace!  Really??  I can have that?  Yes, please!  All day, everyday!

So, if chocolate is used therapeutically and you need crunchy things around to be able to gnash your teeth on something, then this book is for you.

If you find yourself thinking you’re not sure you can do it for one more day (or one more hour), this book is for you.

If you survived and feel a call to help out the younger moms, but need a memory booster, this book is for you.

If you are a mom without a live-in nanny, housekeeper, chef and personal trainer, this book is for you!

DESPERATE!  We’ve all been there.  Did you hear that?  All!  You are not alone in this struggle and you shouldn’t feel like it.  Get this book and see the hope that lies before you.  Breathe and carry on in GRACE.


This week there are giveaways in conjunction with the launch of the book.  Please be sure to get your copy of Desperate and check out the blogs:  Sarahmae.com and ITakeJoy.com.  To read what others are saying about Desperate, go to the Desperate Mom Blog Tour page

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy to read and review.  All opinions and experiences are my own.  This post contains affiliate links.  Thanks.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Cousins & Chocolate


This originally was written as a challenge for the Better Writer Group in preparation for Allume.  At that point in time I did not even have a blog and the idea of buying a domain name wasn’t even on my radar screen.  The challenge for this particular piece was to describe a process.

Since that day I have written several posts and met so many amazing people.  A huge part of my writing life happens at the end of the week.  Fridays are typically reserved for Five Minute Friday with Lisa-Jo.  In preparation and anticipation, a group of us meet up on Thursday evenings.  As is often the case with large groups of women, the conversation quickly turns to CHOCOLATE!


Here is my story: 



The stuff that holds my relationship with my cousins together is a hot, steaming, cocoa infused pudding that we all affectionately refer to as Chocolate Butter.  Some may call it chocolate gravy, but to us it’s butter.  My granny, and probably her sisters and sisters-in-law spoiled us all on it.  This gem of the depression era is still a staple in each of our homes.  I close my eyes and I see it, smell it, and taste it.  You’re wishing for smell-o-vision or a scratch and sniff right about now, aren’t you?

Clouds of White Lily flour from the biscuits mingle with those from the flour used for the base of this delightful concoction.  The sweet goodness of sugar and cocoa powder come to join the party in the pot ready to meet with the flame and fresh milk.  
Patience is the magic ingredient. 

You find yourself stirring, stirring, stirring until you’re wondering if it’s worth it and nothing happens.  Then, as if the fairy dust fell in, the liquid starts to darken and thicken.  Now your whisk is giving up the secret that amazing things are happening.  When you pull it out there is a tempting sheen on each little wire.  Careful now!  Sticking and burning would make all your time be for naught.  You can see how the bubbles rise to the top, expelling all calories and fat from this heavenly pudding. 

You know when it’s just right.  It pours from a spoon in a steady thick stream like it has the strength to get you through the day and take on any biscuit you put it over.  Finally, it’s off the heat and the slab of butter goes into this lava as an offering.  Stirring and stirring until it has vanished.  Steaming biscuits, fresh from the oven have been split open on the plate and wait for the first ladle full.

Cousins sit with their kids at my mom’s house and we talk about time spent at Granny’s house.  We talk about the outhouse, the grapevine, standing over the heat grate, and eating chocolate butter for breakfast whenever you spent the night.  We talk about what it was like before Granny got Alzheimer’s.  We don’t talk about that.  Over in the next county, our other cousins are doing the same thing.  They’re talking about quilts and horses and putting up hay, but it’s still all around the chocolate butter.



CHOCOLATE BUTTER (GRAVY)
2-3 TBSP Cocoa
1 C Sugar
2-3 TBSP Flour
Pinch of Salt
½ Cup Water
1 TSP Vanilla
3 Cups Milk
4 TBSP Butter

Mix dry ingredients in a medium saucepan.  Add very warm water and stir; add vanilla.  Add milk and heat on medium high heat stirring constantly until desired thickness is reached, add butter and stir until melted.
Serve over hot buttered biscuits.

AMY’S CHEAT CHOCOLATE BUTTER
Jello Chocolate Cook & Serve pudding
Milk – 1 cup more than box calls for
3 TBSP Butter

Follow directions on box, but using extra milk.  Cook over medium high heat stirring constantly, scraping entire bottom.  After liquid boils, it will start to thicken.  Cook until desired consistency.  Remove from heat and add butter.  Serve over hot biscuits.  DEVOUR!

Now go CREATE some for yourself!

Do you have any family specific food traditions you can share?








Friday, January 4, 2013

Creating Opportunity



I have it in my notes.  It’s written there scheduled for the 15th, but this isn’t the 15th it’s the 4th.  Opportunities!

As I focus this year on Create – every day, I have it written:
I want to create opportunities

What does that mean?  We are often given opportunities, but how are they created?  Is it just something that happens to happen?  Can it be made to happen?

I’m not sure where I was going with that word, but it seemed right to put the word on paper.  Am I going to make opportunities for my son to experience new things and to grow in wisdom and responsibility?

Do I want to give opportunities to others, to make a way for them to stretch and grow and reach in directions they haven’t turned to before?

Am I going to make opportunities for myself and this space?  Will I put myself out there in a way that new things appear on the horizon that had never been there before?

Opportunity – it is a word ripe with the unknown.  Will I approach it with trepidation or an eager best foot forward?

What opportunity did I just give myself by forgetting to start the timer and guesstimating how much time is left of my five minutes?

Big thanks must go out to Lisa-Jo this morning as she has given me another opportunity and prompt to create.  To reach out.  To connect with you.  Who knows what opportunity will come just by being faithful to an exercise that takes so little time, but has such big rewards!

TIME!
What opportunities have unexpectedly come your way?  Want to join in the writing fun?  Come join us here for Five Minute Friday.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

One Word 2013 – CREATE


 This year I am choosing to focus on ONE WORD instead of making a list of resolutions or goals – that I will inevitably forget about or see as overwhelming.

Words can overwhelm us and drive us into procrastination, but ONE WORD can be straightforward.  The word may have many facets that will apply to many aspects of life.  This is the case for my ONE WORD.



This year I want to CREATE every day.
CREATE order

CREATE beauty

CREATE community

CREATE peace


CREATE plans

CREATE gifts

Much of this creating will require learning: skills, discipline, crafts, and methods.  This will be another year in which AMY LEARNS!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

What are your plans for the New Year?  Have you set goals or chosen one word as your focus?  Please share them in the comments.

I’d love for you to subscribe and join me throughout my year of CREATE.


Thanks so much to dear, sweet Melanie at Only A Breath for my beautiful ONE WORD graphic.  Need a button?  She’s offering them as a free gift.