First Things First

For as long as I can remember, I have prayed that God would make me a woman of prayer. I want to be a prayer warrior. I have suffered no little guilt over having a less-than-powerful prayer life. I have wondered why it is so much more difficult to spend time with the Lord than, say, with a magazine, or a movie, or any other inane thing. Why does prayer take so much out of me, instead of being a time of refreshing?

 

I have not seen this prayer answered, and I have wondered at God’s silence.

 

I have also spent much of my time in prayer hoping that my faith would not be found lacking. Trying hard to find the faith I need to believe God for the things I am asking. Scraping together the bits and pieces lying about my mind and heart to make a mustard seed’s worth.

 

I admire people with faith. I admire people who love the Lord completely, irrationally, miraculously, violently. I used to think they were born that way. They just…had it. And maybe, if I would just try harder, I could have a tiny fraction too. If I could just be more obedient. More structured, more scheduled, more regimented.

 

Lately, I’ve been increasingly certain that I’ve got things backwards. It occured to me, with the thunderclap of realization that usually accompanies God’s voice, that the only way to be a Woman Of Prayer was to first be a Woman In Love With Her Lord.Don’t get me wrong. I love the Lord. He’s My Creator, the Reason I’m Here Today, the Preserver of My Life, My Deliverer, My Healer, and My Best Friend. Why wouldn’t I be in love with Him? Well, why wouldn’t I?

 

*crickets chirping*

Maybe because my heart has no capacity for it.

 

Sure, I love Him. But I’m not in love with Him. Not in love enough to leave the warmth and comfort of my bed at the hour ungodly enough for me to have uninterrupted time with Him. Not in love enough to turn to Him first when things go awry. Not in love enough for Him to be the first one I think of to thank when things go well.

 

Not in love, it would seem, at all.

 

But along with this revelation came the stunning realization that instead of trying to conjure up what I did not have, I could pray for a heart that loves Him best. I could stop praying to be a prayer warrior, and start to simply pray for Him to give me a new heart. A heart of flesh to replace this heart of stone. A heart that loves Him to the exclusion of all else, because if I could have that heart, all else would find its place in Him.

 

And prayer would have the preeminence I have always wanted it to have.

 

And faith? Instead of wasting time trying to drum it up, I could pray for that too. It’s not something static, faith. It’s not a one-time offer, an act-now-or-lose-your-chance deal. God’s storehouse is not closed and shuttered after birth. The windows are open and ready to pour. I just have to ask.

 

James 1:5 tells us unequivocably that if we lack wisdom, we can ask it of God and He will give it, generously. I never expected to be wise without asking. I just never thought it could apply to other areas as well.

 

And so, as the new year begins, I will pray in ways I never prayed before. For things I never thought to pray for. And that’s my only resolution.

 

The year is new.
Can I be too?
Reworked
Refined
in fires true?

 

The clay is dry
settled awry
fatigued
depressed
afraid to try.

 

But come and shake
although I quake
re-wet
re-throw
a better shape.

 

The fire’s hot
for ore and pot
I cry
I die
but not for naught.

 

Although You break
You heal and wake
new life
you give
for true love’s sake.

 

My Weighty Accomplishments

Since Christmas Day, I have been:

 

Eating


 

 

 

 

 

Playing


 

 

 

Reading

 


 


 

Laundry? Uh….yeah, I think I remember that.

 

Making meals? What? Like Christmas candy isn’t a food group?

 

Diapers? Bathing? Shopping?

 

Hm. I think these words used to have meaning in my life.

 

I confess, I have been in a fog. A fog that largely consists of chocolate. But I have had good company there. I have cheered for Atticus, cried over Jem, and laughed with Scout. And occasionally surfed with penguins. It has been highly enjoyable.

 

So enjoyable that I have been able to largely forget that January is rapidly approaching with it’s monolithic weight of oppressive gray nothingness. I feel it creeping up behind me, plucking at the hem of my shirt with its cold blue fingers. But the nourishment my soul has received from relishing what is possibly the best book ever written just may be enough to fortify against the month to come. Maybe.

 

But I think I need more Snickers, just to be sure.

Angelic

Four years ago today, I was contracting. Not like turning

 

is not

 

into

 

isn’t

 

or

 

we have

 

into

 

we’ve,

 

but the more painful sort of contracting, which turns

 

my, my, what an interesting squeezing, spasmodic sensation is occuring in my nether regions!

into

!!#%*@!

That sort of contracting.

 

I have no intention whatsoever of going into the details of my darling 10th-born’s actual birth, but suffice to say that it was not transcendent. I did not experience oneness with the earth mother as I called upon primordial strength with which to persuade him to join us in the warm light of day. Instead, by the time he got around to exiting my body (24 hours later), I had literally forgotten that there was any sort of child involved in the process.

 

Nor did I care in the slightest. If anyone tried to remind me of the fact, I was sure to let them know how little I cared by giving them a swift karate chop to the esophagus.

 

But.

 

BUT!

 

Lo and behold, when my uterus finally decided to negotiate with the authorities and give up its hostage, darned if he wasn’t the sweetest little thing.


 

 

And he went on, as if to apologize for his initial tumultuous impression, to be, quite possibly, The Most Laid Back Baby Ever.


 

 

 

 

As if that wasn’t enough, he was adorable too.


 

 

 

 

Stinkin’ adorable.


 

 

 

 

 

But wait! THEN he went on to become a Remarkably Affable Toddler.


 

 

 

AND you also get this set of Ginsu Knives! he was Mr. Easystreet 2 Year Old.


One would think this was enough. One would be tempted to say “okay okay, so then the poo hit the fan and he turned into Mr. Demanding, right?” Nope. He ALSO became a reasonable and even-tempered 3 year old.


 

 

 

And now, on the cusp of turning 4, he continues in this ridiculous streak of likeability. He has some whiny moments. He’s not perfect. He’s such a pansy that his 2 year old brother whups him regularly, but it’s only because it doesn’t enter his head to knock the little turkey’s head off.


 

 

 

 

 

I am thankful for that. Gabriel, you are a tonic. Your squeezes defy the power of superlative adjective useage. I open my eyes each day not to the sun’s light peeking over the horizon, but to the delight of your face peering into mine enquiring “is it a little bit morning yet?”


 

 

 

 

It is a fine, fine way to wake up. And I find that I cannot quite hate winter with every fiber of my being. Because that’s when you came into my life.


You are my sunshine. My hunka-hunka burnin’ love. And even the grayest, most dismal day of this season is warmer because of you and your smile.


Happy Birthday.

 

 

Warmth

The fire low
and candle glow
bring joy where they reside
With voices clear
they call Come near!
and warm yourself beside!

 

The oven rings,
The kettle sings,
and both may serve to cheer
They say, I think,
Come feast and drink!
be filled when all seems drear!

 

The gathering
of loved ones brings
a special warmth within
Each loving face,
each fond embrace,
restores us once again

 

Though all of these
will serve to please
in momentary ways
And we delight
when they shine bright
in all our holidays

 

They do not last
they all will pass
for this one truth I know:
Although they face
they cannot chase
the chill this world bestows

 

When comes the day
they pass away
their promises forsaken,
That bright, hot flame
in manger lain
brings warmth that can’t be taken

 

His heat consumes
and leaves no room
for numbing apathy
His life a gift
to cross the rift
between my God and me

 

His fire dwells
within this shell
of mortal clay and bone
within my heart
He’ll not depart
and one day lead me Home

 

So gather round–
you lost, be found
within the stable door
A babe lies there
beyond compare
A lamb with lion’s roar

 

Bend low to view
Who makes you new
this holy baby boy
un-clothe your ears
that they may hear
good tidings of great joy

Freudian Slip

My favorite Christmas card message so far this season has come from one of my dearly-loved aunts. She wrote: “Just heard the good news. Congratulations on number twelve! 2008 will be an exciting day for you.”

 

Aunt Maria, if you read this, know that I am not making fun of you. I’m mostly in awe of your ability to encapsulate the fleeting nature of time in one sentence.

 

Because I’m sure 2008 will go by just about that quickly.

Merry Christmas Eve Eve Eve!

This morning I was in the bathroom, just minding my own business, applying deodorant to my festive armpits and humming Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus, when one of my elbows got a wee bit animated and knocked a favorite shadowbox of mine clean off the wall. It fell with a resounding crash, and immediately, in my mind, the Hallelujah Chorus started going

 

SHIT!lelujah! SHIT!lelujah! SHITLELUJAH!SHITLELUJAH!

 

Honestly, I didn’t mean for it to do that. My Id occasionally chews through the leather restraining straps and bursts forth in all his unruliness and I have to wrestle for a bit to get him under control again.

 

The shadowbox was undamaged, so I hung it back on the wall, stuffed Id back into his cage (bad! bad Id! Down! Stay!), and resumed my do-not-assault-other-people’s-nostril’s regimen. With slightly more subdued elbows.

 

Anyway.

 

Here are my current stats on the holiday hysteria:

 

Presents wrapped: somewhere between fifty and time to buy stock in Scotch tape

Types of goodies baked: ask my fat cells; they are keeping track far better than my brain

 

Parties thrown: one real, one cyber

 

Holiday blockbusters viewed: one (I Am Legend. Will Smith. Zombies. Cute doggie. Fun.)

 

Fingernails: blue

 

Mind: somewhere between Who-hash and Steamed Pudding

 

Credit card number: Haha! Made you look!

 

Hours spent shopping: SOB!

Trips to Wal Mart left: One. ONE, DO YOU HEAR ME, YOU MALEVOLENT MONEY-SUCKING MONOLITH?

 

Trips to Wal Mart which My Beloved will be called upon to make for some desperately-needed item without which life cannot proceed successfully: At least ten

 

Hours til Christmas: 61 (and counting). And may all of them be filled with laughter and good cheer (and keep those Ids under lock and key, okay?)

 

 

In which I ignore sciatic pain and roll out umpteen million gingerbread men

Key players:

 

Icing…



Children…


 

 

 

Candies…


 

More children…


Helpless victims…



Now, get to work! Work! Work work work!! C’mon you scurvy dogs, what do you think I bought you off the black market for, anyway? Avast!



Such hard, hard work, too…*sigh*…it’s tough to be a kid…


Caleb and Josiah contemplate their next step…



Emma is dainty…


Toby is…not…



Concentration is key…



Are those tweezers? Hard-core decorator, don’t get in her way…


Gabriel calls them “GingerMan Guys” which I think is a definite improvement on the traditional term…


My gingerman guy met with a tragic accident…


?

The End!

 

Wow. Just wow.

I want to thank everybody who came by my cyber-open-house, and especially those who took the time to leave such nice comments! I think my site meter broke, though. It’s been pushed to new heights, the likes of which I never thought existed except on some people’s excessively active and ridiculously entertaining blogs. I really loved the idea of the virtual house tour, and I visited and commented on (virtually) every. single. one. on BooMama’s list yesterday.

 

And then I keeled over, mouse clutched in my frozen claw of a hand.

 

 

But look! I got better, and have lived to blog another day.There were a few comments and questions that I wanted to answer, if anyone from yesterday comes back to check (anyone? anyone?). First, the Mary-who-is-heavy-with-child and Joseph-who-is-virile-and-manly. They came from a mystical land called Hahhl-Mahhrk” and are the artistic creation of a man called Jim Shore. You can find his work in other gift-shoppy-type places, but your best bet is the aforementioned land of wonders.

 

 

Secondly, the little snow men. Here are my exceptionally scientific and highly methodical directions for creating your own:

 

1. Find some baby socks. Preferably without holes (do baby socks ever get holes in them? I think, in my experience, they are the only socks that don’t sprout holes the size of Mt. Vesuvius within the first five minutes of wearing). I think I actually went out and bought some, fresh-picked, rather than pilfer from my baby’s sock drawer. It’s cool if you can find some in red and green (for hats), although baby socks tend to come only in shades of white. Check the toddler section for bigger snowmen.

 

2. Stuff one sock with stuffing. Not Stove-Top stuffing, but that white fluffy stuff that comes in bags. I think they call it…stuffing. Or maybe “poly-fil 100% polyester non-allergenic washable fiberfill”. Whatever. You could probably use dryer lint, or the hair of your dog, but I think poly-fil works best. Stuff the sock rather loosely.

 

3. Sew his head shut. You can just run it over with the sewing machine. It doesn’t matter if it looks weird, unless you’re one of those “but *I* would know” types, because you’re covering it with a hat.

 

4. Take another sock, and slap it on his noggin, covering the unsightliness of his run-over head. Sew it on. This, you will have to do by hand. Just whip some stiches around the circumference (big math word. I don’t really know what it means, but it sounded right), it’s not rocket science. If you own a needle and thread, you can do it, trust me.

5. Tie a knot in the hat to give him a jaunty, devil-may-care attitude. To create a smaller hat, you can cut the sock, turn it inside out, sew the top of it shut, turn it right side out, and then sew it to his noodle. It’s completely up to you. Revel in the freedom.

 

6. Stitch some eyes and a mouth by using french knots with black thread. I don’t remember how to do this. Maybe you could find a tutorial on french knots online.

 

7. Take a bit of orange pipe cleaner and ram it into the center of his face. If you make it longer than you think you need to, then sufficient length will remain lodged within the snowman’s head and it will not fall out. Unless you leave them lying about where small children can do exactly that. You could glue a big of orange felt on if you are making them specifically for children. That would probably be less hazardous.

 

8. Tie a bit of ric-rac around his neck for a scarf. Or you could use felt. Or a hand-knitted, one of a kind, tiny snowman scarf. If you do that, I may have to hate you.

 

9. Embellish him with pom-poms for the top of his hat, or his buttons, or just whatever. Use a hot glue gun. Don’t burn yourself.

 

10. I think that’s all. This turned out more complex than I remembered. I think I need to lie down now.

 

However, SOME demanding sorts wanted recipes. Recipes! So this brings me to my third point: The recipes.

 

The truffle recipe can be found here. It is crazy easy. The peanut butter kiss cookie recipe is as follows: take your favorite peanut butter cookie recipe. Double the amount of peanut butter in it. This will instantly transport it into the realm of sublime, whereas before it was just average. Doubling the peanut butter gives the cookies a sandier “bite” and makes it more like a peanut-butter cup. Adding a kiss on top, well, it oughta be illegal.

 

The sugar cookies are Fancy. And Time Consuming. I didn’t make them. My eldest daughter did. They are way too intense for me. But they do taste fabulous, and you don’t actually HAVE to make them into lovely swirls. You can just slice and bake them in their plain whiteness and embellish them with sprinkles and whatnot. But here’s the recipe, notwithstanding.

 

Tricolor cookies

 

 

 

 

8 oz unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2?cups powdered sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

 

Cream all the above together in your electric mixer bowl. Then add the following:

 

2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt

 

Now you can separate the dough into three lumps and tint one with green, and one with red, if you really want to. Use your hands to knead the color in until it’s the shade you want. Chill the dough for about 30 minutes. If you want spirals, roll each lump into a rectangle of equal size, about 1/4 inch thick. Brush the red dough with a beaten egg, lay the green dough atop it, brush again with egg, and lay the white dough atop it. Press lightly to adhere them together. Now roll lengthwise into a tight log, and chill overnight in plastic wrap.

 

Slice those babies about 1/4 inch thick and bake for 8-10 minutes at 350.

 

The brown bread is a recipe I simply must share because it is so, so yummy. It’s something my mom always makes at Christmastime, and it’s great because it’s not overly sweet, it’s chewy and satisfying, and hey, it’s probably good for your blood because it has lots of molasses in it. And you want your blood to be happy, right? Happy blood is never a bad thing.

 

Brown Bread

 

 

 

 

1 egg
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 cup molasses
1 cup white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup raisins (if you want, otherwise known as “optional”)

 

Grease a loaf pan, preheat oven to 350. Beat egg lightly in a mixing bowl, stir in buttermilk and molasses (spray your cup measure with cooking oil first). Add remaining ingredients, stirring only enough to mix well. Turn into prepared pan and bake about an hour (test with toothpick). Cool, and slather (slather, I tell you!) each slice with cream cheese before devouring.

 

And now, I must finish my Christmas shopping. Weep for me.

 

Welcome to the One Thing stop on the BooMama house tour!!

Hello, hello! So nice to see you! Won’t you come in? Yes, isn’t the weather awful? I hope the roads aren’t too slick later…



Yes, I made the wreath snowmen from little baby socks. They are a few years old now, so they aren’t at their best, but I still think they’re cute.

Would you like some refreshments?

Perhaps a truffle? Or a sugar cookie?

Oh no, I insist. Have as many as you like!

Peanut butter kiss? Brown bread with cream cheese?

The weather is not paying any attention to the {please don’t} part of my sign.

 


Come make yourself comfortable in the living room…

My garland is fresh this year…or rather…it *was* fresh, a few weeks ago…it’s a little dry and crispy now, but hey! It still smells nice, doesn’t it? What? Oh! I’m so sorry! I didn’t know you were allergic! Here, let me get you a tissue…Bless you!


 


My tree is real too…don’t get too close. Bless you again!

Okay, this one is fake. It’s my Norway tree (used to live there). I love the Swedish look it has, and the Santa is from Wal Mart (shhhh! don’t tell!). I honestly just liked his old-fashioned looks. And he has glitter. Everything (everything!) is better with glitter, don’t you think?


Stockings, hung with care…yes, My Beloved’s is hugegonimous. That’s a little joke. His mother made it for him. The rest were made by her, and two dear sisters-in-law. They’re good and stretchy, just right for stuffing. There’s even one at the veeery end for the pets. We’re gonna need more hooks real soon.

I like to decorate with scrapbook paper. It’s inexpensive, colorful, and I have plenty of it. It’s kind of like scrapbooking on a grand scale.


Nativity by

Jim Shore. I kinda like his work.



These framed pics come from my childhood. They were taken from a book by Joan Walsh Anglund.

I like feather boas for a snowy effect.

My collection of Rudolph figurines. It’s rather torturous setting them up every year and having to say no to all the little piping voices clambering to play with them, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

Highly refined window treatment.

More decorating with scrapbook paper.

 

Little cardstock houses assembled by DD Miriam, from Martha Stewart. Whatever your feelings on Martha, her crafts ROCK.



Need some punch? We’ll go into the kitchen. My kitchen has terrible lighting, but there is a holly garland going about the room with Jim Shore’s 12 days of Christmas hanging from it. Did I mention an affection for Jim Shore? I think the heater vent is especially festive, don’t you?

This is the sink corner. It’s rather pleasant, as far as a dishwashing corner goes. The ornaments on my feather tree are also from my childhood. Shiny Brite!


 


I made this little wooden button star. It was shamefully easy, but gives me a little smile every time I look at it.

Oh, and here are Mary and Joseph on their way to Bethlehem. Don’t they look fine?

Howdy, Joseph. You’re looking awfully handsome. I’m so glad you weren’t actually ten thousand years old at the time of this trip, as so many oil paintings had led me to believe! You actually look capable of caring for your woman and her precious cargo!

And Mary. Ah, Mary. The look on your face is so familiar to me. You’re lovely, my dear. Even though I know you must have had some serious hemorrhoids after that donkey ride.

Donkey apologizes, but it can’t be helped. Honestly, I’m sure it’s better than air travel these days.

They’re on their way…and so must you be. I know you have a lot of other houses to tour. Thank you for stopping by!! And remember…Christmas is all about that little family trip that changed the world…and it was just…


MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!