Monday, September 22, 2014

In the Quiet of the World


I've been rereading 7 this month, trying to write a few posts ahead for 31 Days in October (because the whole point of 7 is that it's a mutiny against excess, and worrying about trying to write a blog post every day while battling our spotty internet and attending to Brooklyn seems excessive to me), and I'm currently on the chapter about stress. It's gotten me thinking about Sabbath, and peace, and rest, and quiet.


(The square cube on top of my iced vanilla mocha is a handmade marshmallow - I savored nibbles between sips)

Part of what makes Autumn so appealing to me is its invitation to rest with walks outside and cups of tea and sitting socially around campfires. Inside and out alike become more congenial as warm sun lures you outside during the day and cool air makes blankets indoors a cozy evening prospect, and it feels like there's less noise in general.


It's also a knittier time of year - the concept of working with fuzzy fibers is more appealing, as is the idea of wearing the completed item. I finished up Beorn's Bees just in time for cooler weather - and my nerd heart is delighted by the chance to publish it today, on Bilbo's birthday, since it was inspired by his adventures in The Hobbit. I had a lot of fun with this design, despite it being a huge experiment in knitting physics (I was nervous as I bound off, wondering if it would work) but I'm looking forward to consistently cooler days so I can wear it (it was a little warm for it the day of our photoshoot).


Also today is Adam's birthday. We spent the weekend in Fayetteville, celebrating with family, and enjoying the opportunity to spend an afternoon at the park reading, talking, walking, and sipping coffee together while Brooklyn ignored my parents in favor of carrying things around their living room (which is her current favorite activity).


A season of comfort deserves cozy food. I've been dabbling with baked layers lately, and my current favorite is this gluten-free Layered Pasta Bake.

Prepare one package of the pasta of your choice (I used Kroger's store brand gluten-free penne). While your pasta is cooking, brown 1 pound of ground meat (I used lamb this time - I've also used beef. Use sliced portobello mushrooms for a vegetarian version. Whatever floats your boat). Drain meat, and drain pasta then immediately toss pasta with about 6 ounces of spinach, until it wilts. In a couple of loaf pans (or equivalent) layer pasta/spinach mixture, ground meat, pasta sauce of choice (I used Classico because it's gluten-free and we like all of their different flavors), and spoonfuls of ricotta cheese - repeat, then top the whole thing with shredded mozzarella and bake on 350 for 20 minutes. It's great fresh, and also reheats really well (especially in a toaster oven).


Things are slowing down and speeding up at the same time - I'm looking forward to 31 Days and Socktober next month (it still counts as Socktober if I design something using sock yarn that isn't socks, right?), and our third anniversary on the first (yay!) but also pausing to enjoy the now.

How do you find the balance between busyness and rest?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Hold...

It's Five Minute Friday! A weekly flashmob of bloggers gathering internet-wide to write for five minutes (no stopping, no editing!) on a prompt provided by sweet Kate, then linking up and sharing a little comment love. For more info, more posts, and/or to join in, head here!


If "hope is the thing with feathers," then my allotment flew South long ago. Because I've been trapped in the icy grip of a spiritual drift for some time - plodding numbly along, wondering why it felt like it was always Winter but never Christmas, alternating between trying to Do It Myself and crying out to God, admitting that I can't do anything on my own, and begging Him to either change my circumstances or give me the peace and strength to make it through them.

But neither seemed to happen. Whatever phase was wearing on my last nerve would pass, only to be replaced by something worse. I counted gifts. I prayed (desperately). I read my Bible when I could. I tried to make the best choice for each day when Brooklyn's naptime arrived and I had to choose between lunch, a shower, household tasks, or a nap of my own. And I waited - waited for Hope to return.

At last it dawned on me that perhaps my heart wasn't a very inviting place for Hope to perch - I do have a tendency to ride on whatever high or low was most recent, instead of holding onto the good even through the bad. Bad just makes me look for something good that's new, instead of looking back at what's already (or always) been.

So I rubbed my frozen hands together and opened my Bible and a journal. I got caught up on IF : Equip studies, agreed to work through a series-long reading plan our church started recently along with Adam (reading the Old Testament passage on our own in the morning, the New Testament together at night, and discussing both), wrote down my thoughts and struggles and prayers, and prepared for an inner housecleaning next month (Adam and I are doing a condensed version of Jen Hatmaker's 7 experiment, which will hopefully also provide material for #write31days). I also picked up my knitting and went outside with it, reveling in creation and Creation, and pausing to listen to the Creator instead of just complaining in His direction like I am wont to do.

And a funny thing happened... Hope returned. Circumstances as a general whole haven't really improved, there's still quite a bit of physical and emotional stress, and I haven't really felt a surge of inner strength or coping ability (today I barely won the battle to not put Brooklyn down for her nap early - she didn't really need it any sooner, but I sure did) - but there's Hope. We explored the River Market district as a family last weekend, and I spotted this stone at a Ten Thousand Villages shop - I picked it up, drawn to the cool, smooth reality of it - a tangible way to hold onto Hope.

How do you hold onto hope?

Kintsugi

The weekly reckoning...
854. Brooklyn bringing me the little piece that broke off of her toy wagon, instead of putting it in her mouth
855. Adam coming home early and taking her and the grocery list so that I could Practice Peace in solitude
856. A new issue of Mary Jane's Farm and a beautiful evening on which to enjoy it on the balcony
857. A mentally distracting song coming on the radio and derailing my train of worry-thought about Brooklyn's visit to the pediatrician
858. Sitting on the living room floor, playing Uno with Adam
859. Tea-drinking weather with delicious tea and pretty mugs to enjoy it with
860. Exploring the River Market district with Adam and Brooklyn
861. Her delight at holding his hand and walking with us
862. Discovering the perfect spot for a design photo shoot
863. Baby capybaras at the zoo - so cute!
864. A family dinner date at Big Orange, and a waitress who always stopped to talk to Brooklyn (but also kept an eye on us grownups)


865. Neither Brooklyn nor I being hurt when the glass globe on our dining area light fell off and smashed all over the table that we were sitting at

Sunday evening, I sat down at our kitchen table to help Brooklyn with her dinner. Adam was getting ready for a shower, and I was multi-tasking, writing out a to-do list for the next day between doling out bites of fried egg. The ping of a small metal object hitting the table caused us both to close our eyes and turn away reflexively - thankfully, as the heavy glass globe covering our overhead light swiftly followed the knob whose purpose is to hold it in place.

We sat there in silence for a moment, stunned and trying to process the shards of frosted glass that littered the table and floor. Brooklyn decided that it was funny and laughed, handing me the metal knob, which was the only piece that had landed on her tray (another blessing). Adam burst out of the bathroom, deeply concerned, to find out what the crash was, then brought shoes and fresh clothes and a wet washcloth and sent us into her room to play while he cleaned up.

Neither of us were damaged (physically or emotionally) and after maintenance came and replaced the globe the next day, the only relic of the incident is a few barely perceptible nicks in the surface of our table (nothing a good rub with a brown crayon won't fix).

Kayla over at Renown Crowned wrote a post this week about the blogger's balance between only telling about the good and only telling about the bad. Probably because I read it under the unfiltered light of three bare bulbs while waiting for maintenance to come, it made me think of how I reacted to the unexpectedly shattered glass - and how I captioned it on the Instagram picture I took before Adam swept it away. Brief, honest, positive.

As a child, I noticed that people avoid complainers but like humor. So I mastered the art of turning every situation, no matter how potentially negative, into a funny story. While my motive was perhaps not the best, it did have a positive outcome - after all, the only difference between a pessimist and an optimist is their outlook. Both could experience the same day, but because one focuses only on the negative and on unfulfilled expectations while the other embraces the beauty and small moments of spontaneity, each perceives the end result differently. Looking for the humor in daily life turned me into an optimist.

But mere optimism isn't enough - it can laugh at broken glass, but it can't repair it. Only gratitude can do that. Gratitude toward a loving and gracious God is the liquid gold that binds the pieces together into something all the more beautiful because of its brokenness. It stands out among the apparently unbroken (or perhaps only more secretively repaired), the shine catching your eye. Better still, my favorite aspect of the Japanese art of kintsugi (repairing broken pottery with golden lacquer) is that regardless of the origin of the piece, once repaired it becomes Japanese. Property of the One who cares enough to pick up the pieces and put them back together.

So without meaning to, my online portrayal of life-lived-out probably looks a little better than it really is, even with the imperfections I deliberately share. The veins of gold that run between the rough of edges of my broken-and-remade life stand out to me, making the cracks and lines seem less egregious, even while drawing attention to them. Because in the end, the only events worth celebrating are the ones that point to and glorify our Father - and with the right perspective, all of them can.
_______________

866. Waking up naturally a whole hour before Brooklyn - a first since she was born!
867. A before-dinner walk at the park, enjoying the cool  and the nice people and a puppy
868. Swinging side by side - Brooklyn though it was wonderful
869. Meeting Adam for lunch
870. Practicing Peace on the River Walk with Brooklyn - she watched a squirrel and I journaled and we both enjoyed the cool breeze
871. A letter from a friend and an update from Compassion about our sponsored child
872. Writing replies on the balcony in the sun, with a cup of tea and the door open
873. Meeting Adam at the park before dinner, after he got off work
874. and his near-heroism in blindly sticking his arm in an outdoor trashcan  in search of an irreplaceable missing sunglasses lens that I'd dropped (he found it)


The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness! The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will trust in Him.
[Lamentations 3:22-24]

Won't you join us in counting (and recounting!) His mercies anew? Just grab a journal or notebook (it doesn't have to be fancy) and a pen and write them down, then join us each week to encourage each other by sharing all of the blessings we've spotted. Catch up on everyone's posts and if you don't have a blog, feel free to participate by commenting, instead!

Check out these #NewEveryMorning hosts, as well, and don't forget to use the hashtag on Twitter so that we can find each other:
   Kayla [at] Renown and Crowned
   Kelsey [at] Faith Fun and the Fergusons

Monday, September 15, 2014

Cool Air and a Clear Head


The cycle of seasons continues to spin, and it's almost Autumn's turn. While I would love to celebrate that with camping, hiking, and sitting-by-a-fire, I'll content myself in this lifestage with walks at the park and hot tea on the balcony in the evenings.


We've been taking advantage of the decrease in temperature by opening our windows at night (three cheers for living on the second floor!) and doing some on-foot exploring that we didn't really have time for last Spring. It's such a blessing that Adam's current job allows for weekends off (except Drill once a month) without the worry of being called in at random.


Last weekend we took a few pieces of furniture back to Adam's parents in Fayetteville, one of which was an upholstered arm chair. It had been the landing place for a square pillow that accompanied our couch and the pillow became homeless in the chair's absence. Because pillow forms are expensive and even my mediocre sewing skills can handle two squares sewn together, I trimmed off the fringe and Brooklyn helped me choose some cute fabric at Hobby Lobby that would go with our kitchen chairs.


The two proper chairs that we have both have cushioned seats - my wicker bench that I love did not. And if sat on in shorts or even a thin skirt, it would leave wicker-marks on the backs of your legs, which wasn't terribly enjoyable. The pillow was a little wider than the seat, but it was also a little flattened, so I made my cover seat-width and wrestled the pillow in --- now it's fluffier, firmer, and the bench has become my favorite seat at the table (just don't look too closely at the bit of hand sewing I had to do in order to close the seam...)


With the shifting seasons, I also tire of whatever same three things I've been making and eating in rotation for the past while - a privileged perspective, I know, but it at least has the effect of inspiring creativity, or, in this case, bringing back childhood memories. The only single-dish meal that I would eat as a kid was Taco Casserole, which has the wonderful bonus of being naturally gluten free.

Brown 1 pound of ground beef. Drain and season (I used half a packet of Simply Organic spicy taco seasoning). In a casserole dish or a couple of loaf pans (which is what I happened to have), layer Fritos, then beef, then as much cheese as you'd like (I was generous with a shredded cheddar jack blend) and repeat once more. Bake on 350 for 20 minutes.

This is especially good for company and/or families with picky eaters - you can serve it taco-style with lettuce, tomatoes or salsa, onions, avocados or guacamole, sour cream and whatever else you'd like on the side and let each person assemble their own plate. It also reheats really well in a toaster oven.


My thoughts swirl with the falling leaves and new ideas abound - delightful possibilities dangerously expand, and when I step out of bed in the morning, there's no knowing where I'll be swept off to!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Ready...

It's Five Minute Friday! A weekly internet flashmob, where bloggers gather to write for five minutes (no stopping, no editing!) on a prompt provided by sweet Kate, then link up and share a little comment love. For more posts, more info, and or/to join in, head here!


Two days ago, I broke a sweat carrying Brooklyn from my car (parked in one of the closest spots) up the stairs to our apartment - even under the shelter of the building, it was hot. Yesterday, it rained all day and when I finally ventured forth I immediately went back in for jeans and a cardi. It felt like fall. I sat on the balcony with my coffee and marshmallow dream bar and an appropriate magazine that coincidentally arrived in the mail that afternoon and relished the fact that it was almost too cool to be sitting outside.

I really try not to complain about specific seasons... I recognize that each one serves a purpose and all together they're a wonderful reminder of a God who keeps His promises. But that doesn't keep me from having a favorite. The crisp air, cool nights and connotations of campfires, back-to-school, hot tea on the back porch, boots (oh, the boots!) and jackets and brilliant leaves all wake me up and make me excited to go outside and do something - and then come back in and snuggle up with a book or some knitting. It's the glorious interval between the scorching heat of summer and the icy grip of winter, and it's something I celebrate every year.

It's still only mid-September here in the South, so I know this taste of autumn is just an appetizer. We still have some warm days ahead of us, but in the interim I'll polish my boots, start researching new hiking trails within day-tripping distance, and finishing up the scarf I'm knitting so that as soon as it gets consistently cool, I'll be ready.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Revival

This week's gifts...
836. Not setting the microwave on fire (there is a limit to how long a damp dishtowel can endure radiation before it starts to burn)
837. and a wasp (or other stinging insect) not flying in the door I left open so that the smoke and fumes could clear
838. A surprise date night in with my Bear (pizza and Moms' Night Out - he chose the movie!)
839. Enough time to run errands and pack before Adam got home from his work event
840. Stocking up on supplies before visiting Fayetteville, instead of the other way around - Little Rock is starting to be home
841. Brooklyn's contentedness for the entire drive, despite only sleeping for 30 minutes of it


842. Being able to witness a knitter, coworker, friend, and now-sister's baptism
843. and the entire pew full of people that she invited

In the past, I have done evangelism very, very wrong - I've been arrogant and superior and hypocritical and probably the target of those "Lord, protect me from your followers" bumper stickers. But the more I grow in faith, the smaller I find myself becoming - I don't have all the answers, I don't know everything, and I certainly can't see into people's hearts.

Now I just try to live out love in a way that would cause someone to call me a Christian (instead of me having to tell them that I am one because otherwise they'd have no idea). I suppose that's why she started asking me questions, about a year and a half ago. We'd sit and knit at Handheld, where I was working at the time, and talk about all kinds of random things - and sometimes those things were theological. When I mentioned a Bible study that I was coleading with a college student friend in a generic to-whom-it-may-concern Facebook status, she asked if I would give her a ride from campus. So I gave her a ride and a Bible, and she came with more questions.

And then she kept coming. She started reading the Bible I'd given her, and messaging me long questions that sent me to my knees and my own Bible, feeling extremely unqualified (Leviticus. God, why Leviticus?!). Her life-path has led through places that I can't even imagine, and that gave her a completely different perspective which often rocked mine.

But after Christmas, there was a shift. Her questions continued, but they were mixed in with epiphany-statements that perfectly and accurately summarized theological concepts that I, raised in church and in a Christian home, still struggle with. She became noticeably more joyful (despite a series of difficult life events happening in rapid succession) and filled with a passion for Jesus that bubbled out in a beautiful way. She was transformed.

Being a part of the thunderous applause and scattered cheering that followed her public act of obedience through baptism brought tears to my eyes - and made me think about the word revival. To live again. Really, a new believer isn't living again - they're being brought to life for the first time. But a believer who is living out the Great Commission and making disciples lives anew through the eyes of each lost-sheep-found --- because their questions force us to examine the reason for our beliefs, their innocence brings us back to the Gospel in its purest form, and their fresh delight can reignite our faith when our own sense of wonder is slowly twisted into jaded cynicism.

So I'm not only grateful for the joy and hope she's found - I'm also grateful for the renewal that her journey toward the Light has brought to me.
_______________

844. Spending an evening with Adam's parents and brother and sister-in-law --- and meeting our new little niece
845. Waking up in time to say bye to Mum before she left for work and we left for home
846. Getting to meet Adam's mom for lunch on our way out of town
847. An uneventful trip home. with time for us to talk while Brooklyn played and counted her toes in the back seat
848. Managing to make both dinner and a quiche for my breakfasts after Brooklyn's nap
849. Adam getting home from work in time to see her before bed, and while dinner was still warm
850. Unexpected knitting time
851. Visiting Adam at the Armory with the lunch he forgot, since he was working late and ended up needing dinner (and he and Brooklyn got to see each other that way!)
852. Espying a tiny adorable gecko while we were there - I didn't know we had them here
853. An offer to do customer service remotely for a knitting publishing company - from a person I've enjoyed working for in the past


The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness! The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will trust in Him.
[Lamentations 3:22-24]

Won't you join us in counting (and recounting!) His mercies anew? Just grab a journal or notebook (it doesn't have to be fancy) and a pen and write them down, then join us each week to encourage each other by sharing all of the blessings we've spotted. Catch up on everyone's posts and if you don't have a blog, feel free to participate by commenting, instead!

Check out these #NewEveryMorning hosts, as well, and don't forget to use the hashtag on Twitter so that we can find each other:
   Kayla [at] Renown and Crowned
   Kelsey [at] Faith Fun and the Fergusons

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Road Goes Ever On


Brooklyn began a thorough exploration of walking last week - it's magical. You can carry things and move at the same time, and sometimes she's so excited by the wonder of it that she just has to sit down for a minute. She spent an entire day mastering Going Around Corners - for a few hours, she could only go the direction that she was facing so when she came to a turn she would walk sideways. It was absolutely adorable. Unfortunately, she walks silently (when she crawls she makes a loud galloping noise with her hands on the floor) which means that she can vanish quickly and get into things before I know what she's up to.


It's also made taking her picture a bit harder - she doesn't want to be made to sit still for a picture, and if she's on her feet then she's going to be moving (unless you switch to video, in which case she will instantly sit down). We managed to get a few moments of peaceful-ish sitting over the weekend so my mom-in-law could have some pictures --- cousin Hannah sweetly looked on, wondering what all the silly wiggling and protesting was about. Just relax.


Adam was able to come with us (yay! he almost didn't get to), which meant that I had a good chunk of knitting time on the drive. I've been making more than my hoped-for daily quota on the Giant Triangle, and I'm optimistic that I can get it finished and published before the end of the month (still trying to think of a Hobbitty name for it and aiming to publish it on Bilbo's birthday - the 22nd - if possible, because that's how I am). As added motivation (not that I'm needing much - the yarn is soft and beautiful and I can't wait to wear this once it's finished!) I acquired the yarn for my next project while we were in Northwest Arkansas --- as I slog through 200+ stitch rows of garter stitch, I can admire it and look forward to winding it into balls by hand and then getting to knit [a smaller, more detailed project] with it.


This trip went much more smoothly than the last one - Brooklyn was happy for the entire drive both ways, we were able to witness a dear friend's baptism, and spent some time with both halves of our family. We were still glad to get home - she promptly pulled out all of her books and toys and just looked at the mess, delighted. My grandparents sent us home with a tiny wagon for her - she's excited to pull her blocks around in it (another bonus of walking) and I'm happy to have the mixing bowl the blocks were in before back in the kitchen where it belongs.


After she was in bed, we played Risk (the Lord of the Rings version) complete with our usual discussion on who wanted what (Well, I'd really like Rohan, but if you wanted it... No, no! You can have it. I'll go East, instead), a standing agreement to eliminate the neutral armies before attacking each other, and willingly admitting what our next move was going to be to help the other make better decisions when reallocating their forces. After making a decision that was smart strategically but not-so-much relationally that resulted in getting nearly wiped off the map (he plays emotionally - sometimes that works to my favor, sometimes it doesn't) I offered to concede rather than stay up til 2am and still lose, and he graciously declared it a draw.

It also added some motivation for my Giant Triangle, but the 22nd is only 12 days away, so I'd better get to work if I want to be finished by then, and once Brooklyn wakes up from her nap I need to work on cooking ahead for the week - hopefully those activities will produce some good photo opportunities (and possibly recipes to share :)