Sunday, January 21, 2018

Quieting My Heart: In Memorial

How can a life end so quickly?
How can a loved one just vanish
from our view, from our touch?

How can love leave us quiet,
grieving, tearful - 
yet joy-filled, thankful?

How do we continue on
when our heart is breaking,
when our heart is overflowing
with thanks, with deepest love?

How do we even know
how to take the next step?

"I will offer You
a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and call on the Name of the Lord."
(Psalm 116:17)

By Your grace, with Your strength,
I will pause, I will quiet my heart:
I will offer up my thanks to You -
through my tears, with my joy;
I will pull in close, so close,
to You.

- - - - - - -

(Grieving, and filled with thanks
for my father, who passed away
on Jan. 11 after a heart attack,
at 96 years of age -
receiving his greatest wish ...
of being in the presence of God,
and being reunited with my mother.)

Monday, January 8, 2018

Quieting My Heart: What will be my Focus?

What will be my focus?
When I look into this new year
with joy and anticipation,
but also with concerns and uncertainties;
what will I fix my gaze on?

What will be my guiding light,
the beacon that leads me through the year -
the strong tower that will always be there;
what will be my constant, 
my main thing, my everything?

Will I expect perfection, a life of ease;
will I strive for it, use up my energy for it?

Or will I choose, instead, a different path;
will I choose a path of rest?
Will I choose Presence, His Presence?

"The secret of joy
is always a matter of focus;
a resolute focusing on the Father,
not on the fears."
(Ann Voskamp)

At the start of this new year,
by His grace and by His strength,
I will choose Presence;
focusing on Presence over fears;
receiving the greatest of gifts ...
the Joy of His Presence;
peace, rest, deep joy -
moment by moment, today,
and every day.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

In the Kitchen: Wrapping up Christmas and Entering the New Year

I spent a lot of time in the kitchen during December! And you probably did the same. With the anticipation of 24 family members here for our Family Christmas on Dec. 23rd, I needed to prepare a lot of food. And I also needed to prepare it ahead of time

It's important for me to do as much as I can ahead of time, because I want to be present when our whole family is home. In contrast to being in the kitchen the whole time they are here!

Pictured are some of the food items that I prepared ahead of time ...
(Clockwise from the top left photo)

Cranberry-Caramel Chex Mix
Jam-Topped Mini-Cheesecake
Dilly Rolls
Orange-Cranberry Nut Tarts

The Cinnamon Rolls, Jam-Topped Mini-Cheesecakes, Chocolate Chip-Cranberry Scones, Dilly Rolls, Orange-Cranberry Nut Tarts, and Date Pinwheels were made ahead and frozen. The Cranberry-Caramel Chex Mix and Chocolate Peanut Clusters were made ahead and stored in airtight containers. 

I also prepared main dishes ahead of time: Creamy Meatballs were made ahead of time, before our Christmas, frozen, thawed, and then heated up in the slow cooker before serving. The Baked Ham with Orange Glaze dish was prepared a day ahead, and also heated up in the slow cooker on our Christmas Day. And the Make-Ahead Mashed Potato dish was prepared two days ahead, kept in the refrigerator, and then baked in the oven on our Family Christmas Day.

And to make all the magic of our Christmas feast come together on our Family Christmas Day ... our four daughters, and other family members, helped! They are amazing! They helped me get everything together and on the table, and our daughters also each brought a side or salad dish to add to our feast. It was a beautiful time together, filled with memories ... In the Kitchen, and all through the house. Also, a beautiful time all through the day, and into the evening with our traditional snack spread (while we played games together until late in the evening). Food is such a big part of a family holiday; and planning ahead is important so that we can be present, focusing on each person!

Especially when cooking for a big group, do you like to keep records of what you did ... what worked, and what didn't work? I've been doing this for years. It's not only a record of what was served, but also notes on how much of each item was made. It is very helpful to refer back to when the holidays come around again. (Above you can see some screen shots of parts of the two pages that I typed up for my records.)

And now ... it is time to move on into a brand New Year of In the Kitchen I have goodies in the freezer to last awhile, and I'm ready to switch to the warmth of winter menus: soups, breads, and slow cooker meals. Each season has it's highlights, and I'll look forward to sharing some of the things that will be happening In the Kitchen during 2018. 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Word of the Year: Presence

At the start of a new year, what are the deep longings on your heart? With each new year, each new season, new thoughts and desires often surface. And it is wise to pay attention to these stirrings of the heart ...

There has been a stirring in my heart. First, a few faint thoughts, then these thoughts kept surfacing, and now, at the start of this new year, I am drawn in to embrace them more fully. Some like to choose a "word of the year" , or a word to more fully engage with during the coming season. Something to focus on, and pursue with intentionality in the weeks and months ahead. 

At the beginning of this new year, 2018 ...

I will give a name to my thoughts, to the stirrings in my heart ...


In a world of busyness, of focusing on so many things; a world of hurry, and progress, and planners, and accomplishment ...

I just want to be present,
 to embrace the gift of presence.

I have been learning, but there is so much more to learn. I experienced this gift of presence in deeper ways throughout the past two months. I stepped into the holiday season the beginning of November feeling more overwhelmed than usual. I love the holidays - love so many, many things about the holiday season - but I was overwhelmed with all that I needed to do and be during this most wonderful time of the year. 

And by His grace, God reminded me through His Word, to not worry about anything, but to talk with Him about everything. (Philippians 4:6-7) The weeks of preparing for our Family Christmas (with 24 family members here!) were busy, but most of all, they were beautiful. Why? Because I talked with Jesus about everything. Instead of worrying about the whole picture and all that I needed to do, I focused on the being, on the talking with Him about everything. One day at a time, one step at a time, one moment at a time ... walking close, living in His Presence. It was a busy time, but it was a beautiful time. Giving Him my focused, undivided attention turned out to be a gift to myself ... the gift of His Presence each day, throughout the moments of each day.

This gift of presence spills out into every area of our lives. What a beautiful world this would be if we each gave our family members and our friends, and even strangers, the gift of our presence. Pausing even in the midst of our busyness, to listen, to love, to just be with someone. Giving the gift of presence in a big and often lonely world.

"Our undivided attention is the most 
precious resource we can give people ..." 
(Shelly Miller)

But how do we enter into knowing someone deeply - into knowing God deeply, into loving and caring for family and friends deeply? In a world that draws us in so many directions, how can we possibly take time? 

It takes a focus. It takes a desire. And it takes a depending on Him to help us focus on the things that are of most importance. It takes a pausing, a being still; it requires listening, sharing our thoughts, being present, giving the gift of  our presence.

"Be still, and know that I am God!"
(Psalm 46:10)

Jesus came to our world that first Christmas as 
Immanuel: God with us. 

"His with-ness is so important 
that every time we say His name,
 we declare it - 
Immanuel, God with us."
(Emily Freeman)

Loving Lord, may this be a year of living out these words, a year of living out "God with us". May we walk with You in the present, each day, each moment, giving You the gift of our presence, and experiencing the joy of Your Presence.

May we give each other - each family member, our friends, and even strangers - the gift of presence. May we live in the present, right where we are, offering love and care to others. All an overflowing of Your love and presence with us.

NOTE: As I journey through the months ahead, embracing presence ... you are invited to return here to read more thoughts. And I would love to hear yours - here, or on Instagram.

(free photo from pexels)