"If the God you believe in as an idea doesn’t start showing up in what happens to you in your own life, you have as much cause for concern as if the God you don’t believe in as an idea does start showing up. It is absolutely crucial, therefore, to keep in constant touch with what is going on in your own life’s story and to pay close attention to what is going on in the stories of others’ lives. If God is present anywhere, it is in those stories that God is present. If God is not present in those stories, then they are scarcely worth telling." ~ Frederick Buechner

28 April 2012

Cinnamon Squares & Birthday Treats

I may never make cinnamon rolls again after discovering how easy cinnamon squares are to make. I have my friend Danielle to thank for the link to the recipe.
Look at that buttery goodness (and my little container of dried seaweed on top of my spice rack, ha ha)
A little somebody squeezed himself between me and the counter and little fingers inched upward to sneak pieces of yummy dough
Mmmm ... almost ready to go in the oven
Had to stuff them all in there!
Scrumptiously crispy-sugary on top and oh-so-soft and buttery on the inside
A perfect treat for a girls' coffee night last week
In other news, another birthday has come and gone. Nich surprised me with flowers and mangoes (my favorite fruit, but we rarely find good ones here) when he came home from work that day. Aren't they pretty? He has never bought me lilies before; he said he got them because of their color. I do love how bright they are.
Instant cheer for my kitchen windowsill
Blooming beautifully today
Last night, one of the girls in our community group/Bible study surprised me with a yummy dessert concoction involving mangoes (she did a little inquiring ahead of time) and phyllo dough. Not only was it a scrumptious treat, I so appreciated her thoughtfulness. She also brought a large jar of homemade chili for us to enjoy.

The chili was perfect for our lunch today, as we had a Productive Saturday (meaning, we accomplished quite a bit of Home Lovin'). We did also have a little bit of fun, though, as our little neighbor friend Carter came to play while his parents finish the last portions of their move. We sure will miss having them next door.

19 April 2012

"Broken Hallelujah"

I first heard of Mandisa when I watched her lead worship at Women of Faith a few years ago. I learned of this song through a friend whose precious baby boy was born incredibly prematurely at just over half-term. Although he was tiny, he was feisty and, by all medical counts, a miracle baby.
Because he was so little, infection set in in his lungs, and at ten days old, the Lord took Baby William to be with Him.

It is impossible for me to fathom the depths of the kind of grief that comes from losing your child.

When Little B was just a few months old, I read Bringing Adam Home: The Abduction that Changed America. For the next few weeks, I was hyper-aware whenever we went out, taking note of everyone around us. I double-checked the locks on the doors every night before bed.

And then the Lord gently reminded me of this: that before B was even a thought in my head, God loved him. He knew everything about him before B was even conceived. God reminded me of the two "trust lessons" He taught us while I was pregnant. I was humbled to remember that even now, as I'm still learning about this child and getting to know him, God knows him intimately and perfectly, through and through.

The thought of losing Little B still makes me feel sick to my stomach, and when it enters my head, I immediately think about something else. But if something like that were to ever happen, I hope I can remember my friend's courage and incredible faith in the goodness of the One who knows us - and our babies - through and through.

"Broken Hallelujah"

With my love and my sadness
I come before You Lord
My heart's in a thousand pieces
Maybe even more
Yet I trust in this moment You're with me somehow
And You've always been faithful so Lord even now

When all that I can sing is a broken Hallelujah
When my only offering is shattered praise
Still a song of adoration will rise up from these ruins
And I will worship You and give You thanks
Even when my only praise is a broken Hallelujah

Oh Father, You have given
much more than I deserve
And I have felt Your hand of blessing
on me at every turn
How could I doubt Your goodness,
Your wisdom, Your grace
Oh Lord hear my heart in this painful place

When all that I can sing is a broken Hallelujah
When my only offering is shattered praise
Still a song of adoration will rise up from these ruins
And I will worship You and give You thanks
Even when my only praise is a broken Hallelujah


I lift my voice
Your spirit moves
I raise my hands
I reach for You

'Cause all that I can sing is a broken Hallelujah
And my only offering is shattered praise
Still a song of adoration will rise up from these ruins
And I will worship You and give You thanks
Even when my only praise is a broken Hallelujah


17 April 2012

A Whole Lot of Cuteness

I thought I'd do a post of mostly Little B photos to off-set the humdrum of my last post. Here are some of the things we've been up to lately. Enjoy!

B often falls asleep on our way home from outings. He also falls asleep in the jogging stroller if we are out for long enough. These moments provide the perfect opportunity for me to read, crochet, do my Bible study, etc.
Fast asleep. Aren't his little shoes so cute?
I found a box of this at TJMaxx last month. I haven't seen it since. This is especially sad because it has become our favorite tea.
B likes to help me with my home-loving duties, and such a good helper he is! He pushed this very-full hamper from the laundry room all the way to the middle of the living room before he got tired.
Nich caught this picture of B "playing a pipe" and dancing. He DOES dance tappity-tap, moving his little feet up and down quickly, but the "pipe" was by chance.
Now that the weather is nice, we ride our bikes to the nearby park quite often.
Smooches for Daddy
No fear (for B) ... Mama's heart jumps a little bit whenever he gets close to the edge.
Rockin' Mama's sunglasses
On his bike seat with his new helmet
A good bath after a day of playing hard
Running away from Mama because he doesn't want to put on clothes
"Hiding" in the kitchen
"Peek-a-boo! Here I am!"
"I will slay you with my light saber!"
He loves to sit inside the kitchen cabinets.
And last, but not least: I got these for Nich as a stocking stuffer for Christmas. He wanted to wait until the weather had cleared up and he could clean off his car thoroughly before putting these on. It finally happened this past weekend.
And now, if you'll excuse me, this scrumptiousness is calling my name.

15 April 2012

My Place in the Family of Things

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
call to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things

 - Mary Oliver

*Warning: I'm writing this while feeling a bit raw (I did wait until I had talked it through with Nich and processed it, so it's not highly emotional or anything, but I thought I should warn anyone who is going to take the time to read).

I am in the middle of reading Kelle Hampton's bloom: finding beauty in the unexpected. Stories like this make me grateful for my little family, but they also leave me with a sense that I have a huge, gaping hole in my life where "community" is supposed to be.

Much of Kelle's story involves the healing that comes from being a part of a "village," a community of friends and family that surround you with love, sacrificial and abundant ... for the long haul.

Nich and I got to go on an unexpected dinner date on Friday night, because our small group was cancelled (but we already had a babysitter lined up). It was the first time we got to really talk in a long time. Where we asked probing questions of one another. And one of the things Nich mentioned to me was that I didn't seem as confident anymore as I used to be.

It occurred to me tonight, as I felt myself "losing it" while doing dishes after Little B went to bed, that never before in my life have I felt so ... not liked. Not so much that people outright don't like me, but that there aren't that many people here who truly know, love, and accept me. Before graduate school, I always had a solid group of close friends wherever I lived. I know I've talked before about how lonely we have been here, but there are days like today where it really feels like a punch to the gut how different it really is. I found myself wondering if we would even have a local village if we were to go through something like what the Hamptons faced, and the sad reality is that we don't.

I left church today feeling empty. We exchanged greetings and shared conversation with a lot of people, but what I crave is true caring. Some reassurance that if we dropped off the face of the earth for a week, that someone would notice. It's hard to be a part of this big church and feel like we aren't loved well.

This is all compounded by the lack of connection we have with our families and the empty promises that are made repeatedly, the false hope that all too often leaves us feeling incredibly disappointed.

Thankfully, we do have an extended village of friends globally, and I cling to that. We have friends who do care deeply; they're just not here, for the most part. I'm immensely grateful for those friends, more than they probably know. But sometimes, my insides hurt for that love and care to be HERE.

This is a rough night for me, but ... The temperatures are rising, we're getting to go on bike rides nearly every weekend, and through it all, I serve a God who sees the Bigger Picture. Even if I don't belong here (and five years later, it looks like I never will), I belong with my family and I belong with Him. In the scope of eternity, this is minor, and I'm holding on to that truth tonight.

11 April 2012

A Seat for a Little Bottom

Little B has taken a liking to sitting on things, whether it be his Duplos box, Etch-a-Sketch, a cookie sheet, or a throw pillow.

So I decided to make him his very own "sit on" cushion with some spare yarn I had from my international crochet square swap project.
It turned out pretty cute. What do you think?

08 April 2012

Happy Easter!

Such a little guy last year for his first Easter

And such a wiggly, squirmy bundle of energy this year!

07 April 2012

A Quiet Saturday

I forgot to take a picture of the finished hot cross buns yesterday morning in the midst of ... well, you know, that thing called life. So here is a picture of the finished product for you.
I made thirty-two total, and they have been a hit with everyone. Little B has really enjoyed having a yummy treat to eat.
Actually, he really enjoys eating in general. He inherited that from his papa. Okay, he probably got it more from me. Multiple times a day, he'll wander toward the kitchen, making the "eat" sign. He'll stand by the refrigerator, slapping the door with his little hand, or point at the cabinet where I keep his snacks, making a fish-face (which he makes when he wants something).
B and Daddy spent the morning together, as I am a bit under the weather. They went grocery shopping to get Easter treats, brought home lunch, took a nap in the car on the way home, read books, and are now cuddling on the couch, watching "How to Train Your Dragon" with their hot cross buns. 
 Just a quiet Saturday here at our home this Easter weekend. What's going on in yours?

05 April 2012

In Preparation for Good Friday: Hot Cross Buns

Hot cross buns came into my radar last year, via Pioneer Woman. I mean, like everyone else who has grown up within an educational system that even remotely resembles the American one, I learned to play the nursery rhyme on the recorder in elementary school, but I didn't know what the actual "hot cross bun" was until I saw the recipe on PW's blog. At Easter time last year, though, I was still adjusting to my new identity as "Mommy," so I wasn't doing much baking.

Now that Little B is older (read: going to bed at 6:30 and sleeping nearly 13 hours), I'm loving re-discovering my hobbies, baking being one of them.

Look what's in the oven tonight, filling our home with the scent of cinnamon-y, nutmeg-y, raisin-y goodness:
They are browning quite nicely right now, and I'm enjoying sitting here in my chair watching them. There is just something delightfully satisfying about it. I am grateful to whoever designed ovens with windows and interior lights.

My husband's sitting on the counter next to me, a tad concerned at the "brown-ness" of the buns. I keep explaining to him that it's the egg wash that's making them brown. I even showed him pictures from Pioneer Woman to reassure him. But I think I should hop up and take them out, if only to relieve his mild anxiety.

Food is very important to Nich.

It's one of his Love Languages.

I'm making the icing as I wait for the first batch of buns to cool and the second batch to bake.
I am having mixer envy. I have been coveting a Kitchen Aid mixer, particularly this one, for about two years now. But as I wait for the day when they're not quite so fashionable expensive -- or maybe I'll miraculously find one at a garage sale (hey, there's always hope, right?) -- I'm thankful for my faithful little handheld mixer.

I'm going to send some with Nich to share at work tomorrow and run a few over to the neighbors. Maybe I'll even wrap a couple to take to our chiropractors, because we just love "Doc Kee" (that's how Little B says, "Dr. Keith") and his family.

Somebody has been naughty and sneaked a bun before disappearing to bed.
 Speaking of bed, I should get there myself. Look what time it is!
The buns need to be COMPLETELY cool before I can pipe on the crosses, so I think that will be an early, first-thing-in-the-morning project.

Until then, I'll leave you with this bit of cuteness I found at Target for $3. We don't get into the whole commercialized Easter business (I kind of think the Easter bunny nonsense is a bit like telling Jewish people we're going to make a purple unicorn their Passover mascot). Little B loves to drink out of straws, though, and as he was born in the Year of the Rabbit, I figured this wouldn't hurt.
Isn't he cute?! I just love the little bowtie.
G'night, all!

03 April 2012

Oh, the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus*

This Holy Week, as we watch life budding spring green on tree branches and pushing through the soil, I pray that you know how deeply the Creator of the world loves you, just as you are.

Before you drew your first breath, He loved you.

He loved you before you were a thought in your parents' heads. 

He loved you two thousand years ago when He chose to die for you.

I pray that you know this ... really KNOW this. And I pray that you are overwhelmed with gratitude.

Remember who you are to Him this week.

And remember why He died.

*Title of hymn by Samuel T. Francis

02 April 2012

200th Post: A Sleeping Toddler

Little B is taking an out-of-the-norm, late afternoon nap today, so for my 200th post (!) I thought I'd share some pictures of my sleeping toddler (from a few weeks ago). Normally, he sleeps in his crib, but on this day, not only did he fall asleep on the couch, he stayed asleep while I did chores around him. I checked on him every once in a while, to make sure he didn't roll off onto the floor (and to scoot him over when he got too close to the edge).
I just love baby cheeks. They're so chubsy and kissable! Must resist...
Do you ever wonder how they sleep the way they do? My neck wouldn't stand for this angle.
And this. How is this a comfortable way to sleep? And yet, this is how he falls asleep every night. We place him on his back and he immediately rolls right over and sticks his little hiney up in the air, with his blankie stuffed under his face.
As I cleaned up the kitchen, I heard a little roar of indignation. I turned around to see this little face pop up over the back of the couch.
Washed out picture, but it's the only one I got of him looking right at me. :~) This was before he tried to take a leap off the couch instead of wiggling off backwards like he normally does.