Image Bearing

The fan stirs muggy night air into turbulence as I gaze at their sleeping innocence. Long, dark lashes caress chubby cheeks, soft breathing and dimpled hands tug at my heart even in repose.

Oh, Lord, thank You.

Three little replicas of their daddy and me, and yet…not. At ages 4, 2, and almost 5 months respectively, they are no rubber stamp of each other or us.

I stroke back the dark, wispy tendrils from my girl’s cheek, blooming with health and energy. She’s my favorite. Fierce, tender, exuberant.

In the darkness, I move to the crib where her brother sleeps. Chest rising and falling steadily, fingers curled around his blanket. My chest tightens with emotion. He’s my favorite, you see. Funny, observant, patient.

Moving to the cradle, I peek in on the littlest of my treasures. I pause, remembering the moment he broke out of the cradling darkness of my womb. Resurrection Sunday. Sweet hope for the future in a world gone mad. This one is my favorite. His name means Messenger of God, and oh, but he is. Sunny, engaging, talkative.

Yes, they are all my favorite in their own unique way. It hushes my soul in wonder as I contemplate…am I my Father’s favorite? Are you? Aren’t we all His beloved?

Wouldn’t it change the way we value others and ourselves if we rightly saw the world through His eyes? And maybe gave others a peek of Him, too? After all, we are His children…made in His image.

Can we just pause for a moment to contemplate that the Parisian artist, and the San Francisco guitar player, and the Arkansas mechanic, and the Russian figure skater, and the Chinese biophysicist, and the African tribesman, and the Indian entrepreneur are all made in His image.

 

Could we, could I dare to bring it closer to home?

 

The homeless heroin addict?

 

The girl at church with the sad eyes?

 

The rude driver that cut me off?

 

All. His. Favorite. Children.

And at night, as I lay my sleep-fogged head onto my pillow, I can picture Him bending low. Brushing a wisp of hair off my cheek with a smile.

 

Because I’m His favorite, you know.

 

And so are you.

Balsamic Roasted Chicken (Slow Cooker Paleo Style)

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Is anyone else letting out a happy sigh that it’s slow cooker season again? And pumpkin everything season. And casserole, soup, and chili season.

And jacket season.

I might as well confess that I bought an awesome leather jacket, and I’m excited to wear it. It’s sort of my rebellion against turning into a stodgy, spit up covered, sweatpants and messy hair mom. (Not that I don’t have those moments…er…days. But still, a girl’s gotta have some hope, right?)

Anyway, confession aside, how about tossing some chicken in the crockpot and forgetting about it till dinner? Count me in!

Pull out your crockpot, and brush off the cobwebs that have accumulated over the summer.

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Spray the ever loving goodness out of the insert, and drop in those chicken pieces. Here I used boneless, skinless thighs, but I actually prefer bone in for slow cooker use. Whatevs.

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Now, grab about a teaspoon each of rosemary and thyme, and half a teaspoon each of salt and pepper, and sprinkle it over those sleeping beauties.

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Toss on some chopped onion (1/4 cup or so) and 3 or 4 peeled garlic cloves.

NOTE: I used to hate peeling garlic until I discovered the “chef” way. Now it’s just fun!

Put your clove on the counter, or cutting board. Put the flat of your knife blade on top…

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… and SMACK down with your open hand. Voila! The skin comes right off!

See? I told you it was fun.

Anyways. Drizzle on about 1/3 cup of balsamic vinegar, and add 1/2 cup of water.

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Cook on low for 4-5 hours or hi 2-3 hours (and always make sure you check your chicken’s internal temperature…it should be at least 165° F).

Now that dinner’ s in the crockpot, there’s time to enjoy a walk (maybe even with a leather jacket and a pumpkin latte).

Harvesting Hope

Friends of ours are taking a vacation and invited us to pick the produce from their garden, visit their goats and chickens (my 2 year old’s favorite!), and cut as many flowers as we wish (the 4 year old’s favorite).

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Where to begin?  There’s spicy basil, decadently fragrant, practically begging to come to my kitchen.  Prickly, opinionated parsley.  String beans, gently velveted pods hiding amid the leaves. Sun drenched flowers, faces tilted heavenward in a silent invocation to worship.  Tiny tomatoes, golden orange globes stretched to bursting with the goodness of warm earth and sunshine. Joyous invitations, all, to believe that God is a good giver. It’s easy in the glow of a late summer sunset.

But in the icy cold of early spring, there was no color, fragrance, or feast for the senses.

There was only a handful of shrivelled brown seeds, a trowel, and the cold, wet earth. A season before, some gardener took the dead remains and shook out a few hard, dried up husks. A fistful of hope for a coming harvest. It didn’t look like hope.

He brings life out of dead things.

Isn’t that our hope, as believers in a dead Man risen?

He brings life out of dead things.

The blinding pain of this cold earth makes me want to shrivel right up.  I’ve been afraid to ask the hard questions, afraid to point the accusing finger at a God who says He makes all things good.

Where is the good in this? Can’t I ask that?

Can’t we cry, like David, out of the depths of a pain too blindingly big?  Dare we choke out our questions with mingled anger and grief?

Yes.

I have only to read the Psalms to know that the man after God’s own heart had all these questions and more.  God’s answer?

Himself. The I AM.

Aren’t You grieved, Lord?

I AM.

Aren’t You big enough to prevent this?

I AM.

Aren’t You big enough to fix this?

I AM.

Are You ever going to fix this?

I AM.

And I wonder, as my eyes scan the news of war, and famine, and death, and divorce…mass shootings, children abused and discarded and harvested for their parts…devastating diseases that suck the life and light right out…will You make these into seeds? Some day, oh, could I dare to hope that what’s dead and shrivelled and buried could burst into light and color and fragrance?

I don’t see it, or understand it…but could I believe it?

He warns us, you know, that there are some things that we just can’t understand right now. (Isaiah 55:9) Kelley Latta pictured it as a ceiling that only He can raise. I have resented that, imagined cold condescension. But God is our loving Father, and I think He makes the statement to calm my thrashing heart. It’s an invitation to trust.

Is there any other response possible in light of the cross? How can a heart fathom a Love so canyon deep that the very powers of hell are rendered impotent at the whisper of His name?

On a blood drenched hill, a splintered cross and a mother’s tortured prayers are the seeds planted in the darkest hours of our history. Only this, what is unequivocally anguishing, could sow eternal hope.

In Jesus, we are given a frame through which to view the very worst of what this world can throw at us. Hebrews 6 reminds us that God’s promises are our hope, and hope is the anchor for our storm-tossed souls.

I am invited to believe in His goodness and love. Even in winter’s embrace.

And some day, what we have chosen to believe in the face of cold, painful seasons…will burst forth in riotous harvest colors and we will see.

Oh, how we will see!

Until then, I really do believe…

He brings life out of dead things.

Chasing my tail

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Homemaking.

When I got married 6 years ago, I was unprepared for the daily-ness of it all. The table that needs wiping after every meal, the floor that gets crunchy mere hours after I’ve swiped a broom. The dishes that fill the sink to brimming while the dishwasher is bravely scrubbing a full load.  And the laundry.

Ladies, can I just take a moment of silence for the laundry?

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Amen and amen.

In all the many crevices of my homemaking, nowhere does the edenic command to “subdue and rule” seem so fitting. Washing is no problem. Drying? Usually not an issue. Folding and putting away….you’ve got me. I feel subdued just thinking about it.

I fantasize about a laundry robot who will do it all, and then I have to shake my head. Really? My dreams are about a mythical laundry bot? Pathetic!

Sometimes it feels like chasing my tail, but then I think about the comfort it brings to my favorite people. When Superman reaches into his sock drawer and finds socks, he can go about his day knowing I care enough to wash and fold and deliver for him. When my little princess snuggles into her Frozen shirt, she knows that mama cares about the dreams of her little heart. Clean blankets, smooth floors, a good meal (on clean dishes!)…it’s not just endlessly chasing my tail.

Could it be kind of like the cup of cold water that Jesus mentions? Just a simple kindness.  Nothing earth shattering…

It’s whispering love over, and over, and over again to my family.

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Worth it.

Chime in: what is your most dreaded household chore?

There’s a snake in my Eden…

I hate snakes.  No. I really, really, REALLY hate snakes. There is something visceral that stirs in me when I glimpse even a flash of their sinuous bodies, tiny, glittering eyes, and sharply darting tongues.

Does it go back to that long-ago garden? I don’t know.  But something has been nibbling at the apple of my contentedness, and I suspect a snake….

“Peese?”

“Juice!”

“Mama-please-can-I-oh-please-I-want-this-I-will-die-if-I-don’t-have-it-and-I-just-really-need-it!”

“But (insert name here) has one, and I have wanted one forever, and WHY CAN’T I???!!!”

Hiss.

The whining around here has begun to affect my caffeine intake (read that: it’s increasing.) It just plain wears me out.  We do our best to provide for our kids in every possible way, from the spiritual to the emotional to the material…and quite often all we hear is whining.  Superman and I have just about had it.

And it struck me today that maybe my heavenly Father is just about ready to ask me if I want some cheese with MY whine.  Because I do.

Whine, that is.

In the martyrous sigh I heave as I plunge out of bed to soothe the baby again. In the petulant roll of my eyes as I remind my toddler not to hit his sister for the four hundred billionth time. In my sharp words and even sharper tone as I vent my ire over spilled milk, inconvienences, and the just plain messiness of having children. In my often voiced discontent with the old sofa, old TV, old chair. In the mental tirade I give to the frustrating people in my life who just won’t for the life of them concede to my point of view.

Hiss.

And it hits me like a sledgehammer…I let the snake in the fruit bowl when I endlessly unleash the ingratitude that spills so easily from my heart.  I send the invitation for a slithering bundle of hungry serpents when I fret and pout and whine for what I have, and don’t have, and wish I had.

Because my Heavenly Father is so good. He fills my cup to overflowing, and I have the nerve to complain about the dripping sides. I Peter 5:8 reminds me that Satan is a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. I have been darn near devoured by the disappointments, and selfishness, and frustration birthed by ingratitude.

No more.

I choose thankfulness.

If ingratitude is what opens the door to the fangs that pierce my Eden, gratitude just might be the buckshot that splatters my discontent to pieces.

Excuse me a moment.  I’m going snake hunting. Join me?

Savory Summer-lovin’ Supper

The main players all lined up...

The main players all lined up…

The dog days of summer are upon us. And I mean tongue lolling out, give-me-a-popsicle-before-I-die kind of heat. (On a side note, Mango Italian Ice is lifesavingly refreshing AND lower calorie than, say, butter crunch ice cream. Which is good, considering that I have a 4 month old and a few extra pounds…but I digress.)

By the time 5 o’clock rolls around at this joint, my grey matter is fried. If I don’t have a plan in place for dinner (read: written down and posted on the fridge), we just might resort to the good old standby of scrambled eggs and toast. Which is where easy and fool proof come into play. Let’s not forget kid-friendly and cost-sensitive. Ready to toss on your chef hat? Let’s get cooking!

Grab your favorite skillet or frying pan, and put it on your burner at medium. Then go to your fridge and grab the butter and some boneless, skinless chicken. While you’re at it, pull out your meat tenderizer and toss 2 tablespoons of butter into that pan.

Don't be shy about the butter...

Don’t be shy about the butter…

Toss the chicken pieces on a cutting board (one you use only for poultry is recommended), and season away. I like Montreal Steak Seasoning, or garlic salt, pepper, and paprika, but whatever floats your boat.

Spicy goodness!

Spicy goodness!

Now for the fun part. Grab your cooking mallet or one of these handy gadgets,

and take out any latent aggression…I won’t tell. (Cue pounding.)

Pound away, baby!

Pound away, baby!

Now add your chicken to the hot skillet with all that melty, wonderful butter.

You have some time. Slice some French bread, set out some watermelon, and drop some corn in a pot of hot water.

The corn is cooking...dinner will be delicious!

The corn is cooking…dinner will be delicious!

After you’ve done all that (or about 5 minutes has gone by), you can turn your oh-so-delicious chicken over to finish cooking.

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Set the table, wash the toddler’s grimy hands, and referee a squabble or two. Check the chicken with an instant read thermometer and make sure it’s 165° or above. To be safe, I usually go for 170°. Depending on your stove and the thickness of your chicken, you may need to put a lid on for a few minutes of cooking time to bring it to the proper temperature. After removing the chicken from the heat, it’s a good idea to let it “rest” for 5 minutes without poking or prodding. All this does is keep the meat nice and juicy. Besides, it takes that long to round up everyone to the dinner table anyway, right? Now give thanks and dig in!

Searching for what?

From the first flailing breath, to the last reedy sigh, we cry for something lost. Elusive, we think it hides behind a smile, a great house, or spouse, or kid, or job. Or things. Or exotic places. Yet chasing it, we find only a fistful of wind (Ecclesiastes 1:14) and an acrid tang of disillusionment. The truth is, it was lost long before we entered this world.

Eden.

Can it be found? What is this longing for, if not to push us to find it? Could it be that we long for the Maker of Eden, and our restlessness can be the catapult that launches our souls heavenward?