My heart is full.

DSC01626The day is yet dark, my coffee is piping hot, and it seems that winter has finally arrived in Iowa.  The chill is a trifle scathing, while the world outside lies suddenly dormant in a wind-blown white.

Still. Quiet.  I reflect.

My heart is so full of things.  Good things.  Wonderful things.  Christmas things.  Worrisome things (like the mouse I just caught scurrying across the laundry room floor. Eek).

Full.  Of.  Things.  To peruse, ponder, and pray about.

This week will also be full.  Calendar limits will be tested.  Coffee will be my constant companion.  For just a moment more, I linger at the window, warming my hands at the cup, and savor the view: winter white in the just-breaking dawn.

“You will keep in perfect peace
    those whose minds are steadfast,
    because they trust in you.”  Isaiah 26.3 (NIV)

Happy Tuesday.

Love & coffee. 

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And the chicken???  Part 2 is coming tomorrow.  You won’t believe what happens next…
(In case you missed Part 1, you can catch up here:  For The Birds, Part 1.)

 

The Quiet.

Gosh, I am such a traditionalist.  I just can’t help myself.  It’s my roots.  It’s what I feel.
But it wasn’t always this way.  I grew up staunchly conservative in every sense of the word.  And I fought back.  Hard.  I escaped to a much bigger city, trying to shed my Iowa roots and the stigma that came along with it, the best I could.  At times it was difficult to explain to people that even though I was from Iowa, I didn’t own a pig and I’d never driven a tractor.  (Newsflash:  Iowa is not one big, happy farm.)
But I love Iowa.  And I love cornfields.  And as most of you know, I am now happily planted (and beginning to thrive!) in the country.
I am home.  And it feels good.
I used to think I was pretty cutting edge.  In college, I had a Palm Pilot.  (Ha.  Remember those?)  It was basically a prehistoric smartphone minus the internet.  And the phone.  And the color.  And pretty much anything remotely cool.  Over the years, I incessantly upgraded and upgraded until last April.  I am now the proud owner of a “dumb” phone which does exactly what it’s supposed to do.  Make and receive calls(Along with the occasional text message.)
Honestly, most days I prefer hiding from the ridiculous thing.  While the world is longing to check in, link up, and socially network with me, I find myself longing for a disconnect.  In exchange for a reconnect with the people I love most.  I guess I don’t always like being so… accessible.
I like faces.  There is so much to love about a genuine exchange with another specimen of God’s fine creation.  Expression.  Eye Contact.  I am disheartened that most of the young people I know can’t look me in the eye because they don’t know how to talk to my face.  I used to think I had something perpetually stuck in my teeth, but I truly think many just don’t know how to engage in this way.
As a homemaker, I am often regarded as extraordinarily available.  My work at home, however, is noteworthy, intentional, and fiercely un-interruptable.  (I think I invented a word there.)  I am raising three little ladies to know they are worth my time, my attention, and my love.
Perhaps I am deliriously old-fashioned, but I am recapturing a love for the quiet.  Not necessarily the absence of noise, but the kind of quiet that bestills my soul and refreshes my heart all at the same time.
It’s in the moment when I and my girlies are laboring in the kitchen over a fresh batch of sugar cookies, carefully crafting each one, with nary a sprinkle out of place.
It’s in the moment I am hanging the laundry on the clothesline, watching those same sweet girls running in and out of the billowing sheets, catching every sunbeam.
It’s in the moment when I read the same beloved story to my princesses for the 13th time and we all fall into a heap of giggles at the same part, even though we know exactly what’s going to happen next.
It’s in the moment when I revel in the adventures of a warm, summer day over a hearty dinner with my ruggedly handsome husband and three gorgeous girls.
It’s in the moment where the five of us circle the evening campfire, sipping coffee, chugging root beer, and watching the fireflies dance.
So if I don’t answer, please, leave me a message.  And I’ll get back to you.  
“Point your kids in the right direction—
when they’re old they won’t be lost.” 
Proverbs 22.6  (The Message)
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Days Like This.

There are days.  And then there are days.  

The year was 1996.  I was seventeen.  And I had this car.  The most amazing beast of a thing you ever did see.  It was green.  And it was a boat.  And it was older than me.  My 1977 Buick LeSabre was the stuff of legend and I loved every inch of it.  I called her “Greenbean.”

Generally speaking, I was a good driver.  An overly cautious driver.  Responsible.

I should have seen it coming, but then hindsight is always 20/20.  

I stopped at the convenience store to fill up on gas and pick up a lazy summer afternoon snack box of Junior Mints.  After starting up the beastly engine and securing my seat belt, I kicked her into drive, gingerly easing out onto the adjacent highway, at the urging of a patiently courteous driver.  And into the oncoming path of a callously impatient driver.   Pulling to the side of the road and into a nearby parking lot, I get out to survey the damage.  And oh, great.  The other driver?  A guy I vaguely know from school.  

In those days, most of us (including me) did not have cell phones so I go inside the business next door to call my mother, who promptly calls the police and rushes right over.  No one is hurt.  His little muscle car is totaled.  My ferocious animal of a car is largely unscathed (whew!).  

The police arrive.  I get some kind of warning citation.  Mom goes back to work.  And after nearly an hour of this ordeal, I prepare to climb back into my lovely green car and then it dawned on me:   The Junior Mints.  What the heck happened to my Junior Mints???  It didn’t take long to discover the entire box or Junior Mints emptied, smashed, melted, and utterly destroyed on the driver’s side seat.  And it didn’t take much longer to realize this same terrible scene was duplicated all across the backside of my light-washed jeans. 

I can only assume this happened sometime during the point of impact.  And here I am walking around all over kingdom come along the busiest stretch in town, with what one would only assume is something other than chocolate appropriately smeared in the worst possible place.  

Perfect. 

I watched as all parties involved hastily drove off, vehemently screaming on the inside…  “I swear it’s only chocolate!!!”

And I wonder does that cop still draw chuckles from his story of “the girl with the poo pants” over donuts and coffee with his comrades?  Am I the running joke at rookie training?  Does that kid from school tell his kids?


I think the moral of the story is pretty clear:  Junior Mints not only cause cavities, they cause accidents.   

All sorts of embarrassing accidents.  

“God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
   his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
   How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).
   He’s all I’ve got left.” 

Lamentations 3.22-24
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Critters.

They.  Are.  Everywhere.   

And I don’t necessarily mind.  It’s just all so new to me.   There is something genuinely spiritual about being in the presence of so much life.  

Takes my breath away.  

Sipping morning coffee on the side deck, watching the cats wrestle (and sincerely hoping they don’t kill each other).

Savoring afternoon coffee on a well-loved quilt, lying in the grass, and listening to the tree frogs croak above me.

Delighting in an evening coffee around the campfire in the trees, while watching thousands of fireflies perform for me.

I love being in the center of God’s handiwork. 


So much discovery.


My girls were beside themselves when they discovered a nest of baby birds in the lilac bushes.  We watched them for days until… one morning last week when we returned to see their nest destroyed and ummm… pieces on the ground.  To put it delicately.  This was only a couple weeks after finding the remains of baby robins and their eggs scattered about the yard.  Sad, but an important lesson for those sweet girlies on the circle of life (Elton John, anyone?).


The girls captured a tree frog the other day and were mesmerized for nearly an hour.  He climbed up their arms, tangled his sticky feet in their hair, and jumped back and forth amongst the three of them.  Pure joy.  


We have a skunk who prowls the yard late in the evening.  Hoping against all hope nothing gets him too riled or we will have a serious problem on our hands.  The woodchucks still duke it out in front of the chicken coop every afternoon around 3:00 pm.  Serious comedy. 

There are fresh deer tracks nearly every morning, however, we have yet to actually glimpse one on our property.  (Only a matter of time, I hope.)  I hear coyotes singing most evenings and lately, the crickets have been chiming in, too.

And then there are the cats.

Everyone told us we would have to get cats when we moved to the country, utterly ironic since hubby is ferociously allergic to them.  But they are already here.  Everywhere.

We have seen at least ten different cats that come around, migrating from Lord-only-knows-where, and they all have names, thanks to my little darlings.  Two of these creatures seem to be making themselves quite at home, sitting on the front step at precisely 6:30 am expecting breakfast, napping on the deck in the afternoons, and fending off the evening skunk.

And they fight.  They hate each other.  We call the timid white and gray one Sandy, although I’m pretty sure she is a “he.”  The big orange cat which bears a striking resemblance to Garfield is affectionately “Boss Kitty.”  Because he’s clearly the boss.   Of everything.   When Boss is around, the other cats bow down.  I have seen them smack each other across the face with a powerful paw over the leftover chicken I set out and I once saw Boss intentionally push Sandy down the deck stairs.  Boss is always picking a fight.  And Sandy has the wounds to prove it.  And oh, the stare-downs.  Ultimately, I like Boss.  He’s tenacious and gutsy.  And I fancy that.  

Fine country entertainment.  

My coffee cup is empty and the laundry is about to blow into a nearby field on this breezy Monday.  I have grand visions of finally unpacking every last box by Friday.  

Until tomorrow…


Love & Coffee.

“God looked over everything he had made;
      it was so good, so very good!” 

Genesis 1.31 (The Message)
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Simple.

I think that is one of the biggest reasons I love coffee so daRn much.  

Simplicity.  Beans.  Water.  Brew.  Done.

I’m a bit of a purist.  I drink my coffee mostly black.  Sometimes with a smidgen of sugar.  Or honey.  That’s it.  

Simple.   


The older I get (which I like to think isn’t all that old yet) the more I long for the simple things in life.  I really don’t want much.  I don’t need a lot.  In fact, whenever someone asks what I really want for my birthday or Christmas, I find it difficult to think of anything at all.  I have food on my table.  I have a lovely place to live.  My family is healthy and safe.  I have incredibly loyal friends.  Beyond that, I really cannot comprehend what might be important.  


I suppose that is why I am accruing a slew of gourmet coffees, kitschy coffee mugs, good chocolates, homey candles, and trendy scarves from well-meaning friends and family who have no idea what else to get me should an occasion arise.  And that’s not a complaint, because I truly adore all those things.  And I love that those closest to me know me well enough not to splurge too much.  I like simple things.  


Is it ironic that over the course of time, we have continuously innovated and modified our culture with inventions and technology designed to make our lives simpler?  To have more free time?  To make things easier?  Yet, as a whole, people are busier than ever (and grumpier), starving for real relationships (like the kind where you talk to someone’s face, reading everything they are feeling through their eyes, instead of misconstruing a facebook status), and jamming every parcel of spare time with something else (just for the sake of having something to do).  

Moments slipping away.  


It’s okay to relax.  It’s okay to keep it simple.  It.  Is.  Okay.  


And that’s what I keep telling myself.  

Our darling little town hosts a “Summer Sign-Up” event each May where parents can sign their kids up for every activity under the sun for the summer all in one sweep.  It really is a convenient little concept, however, I most generally walk away from the evening with a full calendar and empty pockets.  This year was different.  I walked away with hoards of paper fliers in hand, determined to just think about some things before signing our summer away.


And guess what.  I didn’t sign up for a thing.  Not a one!  (Except for the summer reading program at the library, which is free, and totally non-committal).   

I have the made the decision to take this summer and simply reconnect with my darling girls.  I want to dig for worms, roast marshmallows over the fire, camp out in the trees, throw a tea party under the perfectly aged peach tree, unearth family treasures and memories hidden in boxes packed away far too long, makeover their bedrooms into a dreamy wonderland all their own (involving them each in the creative process), bake cookies for a friend “just because,” go stargazing, lay in the grass and pick out cloud shapes, sew coordinating sundresses for all 4 of us, host mid-summer barbecues for all their friends and cousins, and I could go on.  And on.

And who knows?  Maybe we’ll like it so much that our “Simple Summer” will evolve into “Freedom-from-driving-20-minutes-into-town-every-time-I-turn-around Fall.”


Sometimes it’s okay to just be

And coffee.   Always coffee.  

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1-3God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing.
   You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
      you find me quiet pools to drink from.
   True to your word,
      you let me catch my breath
      and send me in the right direction.

 4 Even when the way goes through
      Death Valley,
   I’m not afraid
      when you walk at my side.
   Your trusty shepherd’s crook
      makes me feel secure.

 5 You serve me a six-course dinner
      right in front of my enemies.
   You revive my drooping head;
      my cup brims with blessing.

 6 Your beauty and love chase after me
      every day of my life.
   I’m back home in the hou
se of God
      for the rest of my life. 

Psalm 23  (The Message) 

This post is a part of Simple Lives Thursday.

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Soggy & Magical.

It was a perfect mid-morning coffee break.  New organic blend.  Steamy and fresh.  PBS on the tube and my girlies chillin’ on the sofa.  
I really needed that five minutes.
Then I left the room for like a minute.  I swear.  I only went to return a stray hairbrush to the bathroom drawer.  I sat down to catch up on email and sipped my lovely coffee when something the consistency of pasty, wet cotton ball was introduced to my mouth.
(Cough.  Gag.  Regurgitate.)
Hmmm.  I studied the debris field splorfed out before me in a methodical, CSI-ish manner.  Of course.  This could be none other than a soggy tortilla chip strategically placed in my coffee. 
Let me reiterate the fact that I was gone for “like a minute.”  Mere seconds.  This was definitely the handiwork of my little Lovey.  Yes.  The 2-year-old. 
And I have to say that this scenario is rather indicative of my life at the moment.  It seems that every time I turn around.  Soggy.  In mere seconds.  Mush.  

This is merely a season.  A tough frustrating exciting, faith-building season.  I believe the best things in life happen when you are pushed beyond what you believe to be your own limits.  However, I find it increasingly difficult to wait.  And wait.  And wait some more.  I have never been accused of being patient.  But I’m trying.  Really.  And the not-so-distant future is shaping up to be pretty darn promising.

(Remember the Fridge Flap from February?  Yeah.  Still living out of cooler… for reasons I hope to divulge soon.)

Fast forward to the afternoon.  We stopped to visit my hubby at work.  I left for like a minute.  Mere seconds.  And there it was.  The office floor displaying a crayon mural.  Snap!  Lovey looked up at me and said, “Isn’t it magical?” 

And she was mostly right.  

Beautiful messes can be downright magical. 

” Your beauty and love chase after me
      every day of my life.
   I’m back home in the house of God
      for the rest of my life.” 

Psalm 23.6 (The Message)

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Blue Jeans & Coffee Beans.

Jumble.

My mind is in a bit of a jumble this morning.  So many things bouncing around my coconut. (I had a college professor from Africa who would often say “Use your coconut,” referring to our brains. And it stuck.)

Some things that are on my mind:

1.  Reading The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson.  Incredible.  Challenging.  This book is changing me.  I really need this.

2.  Just returned from a Leadership Conference with my hubby where we took the Strengths Finder 2.0 assessment and listened to Dr. Alina Lehnert from Evangel University.  Ummm… wow.  I feel empowered by what I have learned about myself and my husband and the leadership team we work with on a regular basis.  This is going to be very good for our marriage and life in general.  I can see how this would be a valuable tool for premarital counseling…

(You can get the book here which includes an online code to take the assessment:  Strengths Finder 2.0)

3.  Still thinking about the movie, Courageous, which I saw for the first time last night.  I strongly dislike movies that make me bawl like a baby.  A little cheesy, but powerfully moving.  Holding my babies tighter.  Thankful my husband is a fabulous daddy to our princesses.  All in all, it was good.

4.  I need to devise a serious plan of attack this week.  I am completely over committed in the coming weeks (errr… months?).  This could get interesting…

5.  I am really crazy about my girls.  And my hubby.  And I really just want to hang out with them more.  Totally going to make this happen.

Go ahead.  Pour an extra cup.  It’s Monday….

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Blue Jeans & Coffee Beans.

   The revelation of God is whole
      and pulls our lives together.
   The signposts of God are clear
      and point out the right road.
   The life-maps of God are right,
      showing the way to joy.
   The directions of God are plain
      and easy on the eyes.
   God‘s reputation is twenty-four-carat gold,
      with a lifetime guarantee.
   The decisions of God are accurate
      down to the nth degree. 



Psalm 19.7-9 (The Message)

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