Hope For The Dark Days

This written exactly one year ago, and me…perhaps you too?….needing reminders that there is hope! We just rearranged our living area for spring and brought back up this chalkboard with words of life scrawled line by line out in the open where we can all see it clear as day.  And a gentle nudge from this friend to you to write your own? For you? For your brood? After all…we need a map to know where we are going.

They shout and rail against each other these three of the same seed. The “she did” and “he didn’t” hurl through the air and I wince as doors slam and feet stomp hard and all this before day has dawned. I pull covers tighter and hope beyond hope that it ceases before I have to be the one to crawl out of my cozy cocoon and halt it. How are we to live in peace when even flesh and blood tear each other word by word with actions louder than megaphones? This mother’s heart is laid clean open, fractured fragile, and I wonder what will be the glue to piece it back together. Another war of words begin and I join tit for tat because sometimes when you are hurting all you know to do is hurt back and I am in this moment that one I hoped to never be.  It’s there in all this broken jumbled mess, I run. Run from shame and failure and not getting it right day after day after day gone by. How does one go from stellar mom to stellar failure in one sure blow?

We muddle through the day…barely…and I chop vegetables and tears mix with meal prep and I am brought low for there is nothing like a day gone south to remind that in all this striving and struggling to be..to live…I cannot do this. My frail body can’t begin to muster the strength, the right living I need to teach my children how to love for I am failing at every turn drenched in selfishness and my own desire to not be inconvenienced by the needs of others.

I find myself whispering Romans…this book that has become like a dear friend of mine since lent…and there He cuts through to the heart of it all and I begin to feel life filling these veins again. There is hope and a promise that I can’t but HE can in me because I am in Him and He is making me…US…new! Husband comes in to the wafting smells of shepherds pie and I think how much we need our Shepherd right now.  These frazzled sheep needing someone to lead them to cool waters and green pastures, spreading a table in front of the enemy who would seek to destroy through lies and says instead have no fear for I have overcome so you can have victory here and now.

It’s then I grab chalk and write words that speak life to the dead, words that we can’t escape because they are forefront in the room visible to all where we break bread because God knows that if we don’t write it on the door posts of our home, if we don’t tie them to our hands or carry them with us we will forget and isn’t forgetting the first step to forfeiting peace? We must talk about them from the moment our feet hit the ground running for oatmeal to the last second we are kissing wearied brows before bed for these words are truth that pierces darkness and if we do not pause to renew the mind, it will whither dry.

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This brood of ours gathers solemn over dinner and we begin to read it together, this manifesto, our new family motto:

 Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.

Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder.

Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.

Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” ~Romans 12

Food fills the belly, chatter commences and hope is dawning in the heart of this Mom.

Rest

You too? Stumbling with a far too heavy burden that’s inverting the camel’s back? Packing the lie there’s no rest for the weary?

Listen! Through trembling branches dusted white and down shafts of slanting light in woodlands, Someone is whispering.  Someone is calling.

Come into rest. Cease from striving. 

It is finished.

His arms are bigger. They hold all we frantically grasp to control. Rest in the presence of your Shepherd today. He has this. He has you.

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It’s Not About a Bunny…It’s About a Lamb

It’s the day after Good Friday and there’s anticipation in the air. Night ended sad and forlorn but dawn brings hints of joy and celebration because Sunday is coming! We whip up frosting in pastels and knead coconut into grass and unwrap the lamb that’s been sitting under Saran because we must have something tangible to remind us that it’s not about the bunny or the eggs or the candy..it’s about a lamb.

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A perfect lamb that was led to the slaughter to buy my freedom. A lamb who willingly laid down His life so that I can live. And this friends is why every year we pull out the mold and mix sugar and butter and cocoa and painstakingly frost and decorate so that we will not forget. Really it’s what’s been happening for generations now in my family and I want to pass it on. The Shepherd becoming a lamb, laying down all for His sheep. A beautiful picture of love and redemption…and it will be right there on our table Easter morning in case we forget.

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Perfect Chocolate Cake

(this is from a dear friend’s family cookbook and she found it in Southern Living. It makes three 9″ cake pans or if you use the Wilton lamb cake mold you will have enough batter left to make one 9″ cake. This recipe works great for the lamb mold because it is a dense cake.)

Combine and stir until smooth, set aside to cool:

1 cup cocoa

2 cups boiling water

Combine and mix until fluffy:

1 cup butter

2 1/2 cups sugar

4 eggs

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine dry ingredients in another bowl:

2 3/4 cups flour

2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

With an electric mixer on slow speed add dry mixture and cocoa mixture to sugar mixture alternating between the two beginning and ending with flour mixture. Do not over beat.

Pour batter into 3 greased and floured 9″ round cake pans. Bake 350 for 25-30 min. until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 min. and the. Remove and cool completely. (I followed the directions for baking off the Wilton mold box.)

Italian Butter Frosting

(This recipe is my Mom’s and it was on our wedding cake. My favorite frosting ever.)

2 cups butter flavored shortening

6-8 cups powdered sugar

4 tsp almond flavoring

half and half to thin the frosting

Beat ingredients together in mixer adding cream to make it as thin as you need. I kept mine pretty thick so it would hold up as we used it to decorate the cake. (no more than a couple tablespoons). Continue beating until light and fluffy.

 

*The kids loved having fun decorating the extra 9″ cake with the leftover icing.

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A Prayer When Fear Would Consume

imageFather my soul waits for you more than those who watch for the morning. In you there is peace. In me there is anxiety and despair. I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am like one without strength. Instead of eyeing you at every turn I run ahead into shadows where you are not leading. It is more than I can bear. Save me from myself!

For you are my Shepherd. By you, and in you and through you all things hold together.  In your presence is life and love and fear has no home. Restore in me the joy of your salvation. I will lay down in peace and sleep knowing that it is you who makes me dwell in safety and in this moment where fear would consume I believe that you do all things well.blog cover picphoto(41)

Day of My Psalm

Pallid face, black circles under eyes; I knew this was the beginning it was just a matter of time.  Not now. Not during holiday preparations.  Not before our company arrives. Nothing could chase away the aches, the chilling fever, cough that wrung through the body like a washerwoman twisting the last drop of water from clothes. It is all too familiar.  The phone calls to cancel plans, disappointment in small faces as you whisper no through pained tears. These are the tears that I tried to hide now leaking. “Sorry dear one,” my voice trails, “there will be another time, another chance..” Meanwhile the heart’s ache goes deeper.  How much longer am I required to play the weak role? The one who always falls ill and is less than better? The one who cannot for all her trying pull her house together before collapsing again gasping for air? I am that one, the girl fighting everyday of her life to be strong and not weak.  Funny how tears and fever’s chills and moans of the heart have a way of taking you back to your roots, the beginning where it all started.  On early mornings over warm bowls of porridge, when toes were too short to reach the ground and pig tails were the style, along with my five other brothers and sisters we were fed readings of Psalms.  An everyday liturgy for the soul for without daily filling a body can whither hard and bitter. I know how quickly the lie seeps in. I am strong enough, I know what I need, I can do enough to impress, I am the one everyone can depend on. I have lived this long enough. Through years of braces and boyfriends, music classes and college jobs, over marriage vows and swollen bellies, birthing babies and raising toddlers. One never grows up thinking that before the hair is gray you will suffer, be made weak, realize that you aren’t all this.  I glance over at the date. It’s the 23rd. The day of my Psalm, the psalm that has kept me together and followed me into ER’s and birthing rooms and into those frazzled parenting moments when one is sure to lose your mind forever.  It has sat with me as I comforted a little one in the middle of the night and given hope when there was no hope left.  The lips spill the truth “the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.” I breathe a sigh of relief.  My shepherd is here.  Here in the disappointment, in the tears and with the frail body that cannot live up to the expectations abounding.  He is here to lead me by still waters and restore my soul. There is comfort in knowing that you are being held, that the shadows of life will not bring fear but Love that pursues you all the days of your life.  I recall the words with whispers, words that have carried me from childhood that have become my identity.  I am simply a sheep, a sheep that wanders away into scary places, who fears more than trusts, who longs to be known and yet forgets that my Shepherd knows me far better than anyone else I run to.  He is made strong when I am weak.  I grasp the covers and sink deeper into my pillow content for the moment to trust and not fear.
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