Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Thank you, God, for Madeleine

I grew up in small town in Iowa, just two doors down from an amazing woman. She wasn't glamorous nor did she have a job with a fancy title that required a fancy degree. She was just Madeleine; housewife, mother and Jesus-follower. I know that she loved Jesus because of the way that she loved others.

Madeleine was the one who led me to Christ that summer so long ago at Vacation Bible School. She was the adult that I could have gone to if I had something that I "couldn't discuss" with my mother. I don't think I ever did but it sure was comforting knowing that there was someone that I could trust with anything. She was somebody that I could count on. 

Today Madeleine is having a mastectomy. After suffering for the past years from a debilitating disease (Parkinson's) she now has breast cancer. Tears flow down my face as I think of this sweet, caring, selfless woman and the suffering that she has endured over the past years. Thoughts of "it's NOT FAIR!" and questioning why good people suffer creep into my mind. Yet as soon as these thoughts begin a vision of how Madeleine would respond to these questions chases away the questions of doubt. 

"Oh, it's okay, kid!" she'd say, shrugging off the suffering as if it was a nuisance to even speak about and then giving me a big smile. She always called everyone kid. She always smiled.

We moved away from that small Iowa town when I was fifteen so I've only seen Madeleine a handful of times over the past 30 years. But a few years ago I visited and had the opportunity to witness the sweetest act of servitude. A large group of my parent's friends had meet at a restaurant for lunch after church. There were too many of us to fit at the same table so I had the privilege of sitting at a smaller table with Madeleine and her husband. I left that day with a heart full of gratitude and love for this couple. During our meal I watched Madeleine, the one who was always serving others, being served by her husband. It was the most beautiful thing (next to her constant smile) I have ever witnessed. In her husband I saw patience and a love that turned this tough, manly-man into a tender and compassionate caregiver. In Madeleine, despite the fact that her husband was helping feed her, I saw this incredible joy, joy which radiated from her constant smile. My friends, that beautiful image will remain in my memory forever.

I don't know why Madeleine has been living a life of great suffering but I do know God has a plan. Maybe that plan is to allow others to serve Madeleine, repaying her for all those years of serving others. Maybe her suffering is an example for some who needs to learn how to suffer well. 
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
I don't know why she suffers but I do know that my life has been forever changed by an amazing woman named Madeleine.




Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A great love


Last week I did a little craft project with the daycare kiddos. I did the first cross painting to model for the children how to create this water painted cross. As I showed them the importance of using just the right amount of water - not too much and not too little, we talked about Easter. I opened with the question, "Why do we celebrate Easter? What is it all about?"

Responses varied but most had to do with the Easter bunny. Instead of getting discouraged I instead agreed with them (hold on here), "Yes, part of our celebration includes the Easter bunny. We sometimes add things to holidays to make them fun. At Christmas we have Santa and at Easter we have a bunny but......Why do we celebrate Christmas? Whose birth do we celebrate?"
They all cheerfully exclaimed, "JESUS!"

"Yes, Christmas is really about the birth of Jesus! Does anyone know who Easter is really about?"

One boy hesitantly said, "Jesus?"

"YES! It's all about Jesus! It's about Jesus dying on the cross for US!" The kids at this point would usually be itching to begin their own painting project but today they seemed just as interested in learning about Easter so I continued, "Jesus loves us so much that He died on the cross for each of you!"

As I painted one of the boys said quietly, "I wish Jesus didn't have to die......"

"Oh honey, guess what?", I said with a big smile, "Jesus, because he's God's son isn't dead! He came back to life! Which means if we believe in Him then when we die we will get to live in heaven with Him! He is waiting for us in heaven! Isn't that exciting?"

The smiles on the faces of these sweet, precious children was priceless. As I continued to tell the kids of Jesus' love for them one of the girls exclaimed, "He loves us to the moon and back again!"

Yes, dear one, He loves us to the moon and back again. In fact, He loves us to the cross and back again!

It's all about the cross, my friend. The cross and God's great big love.

Living He loved me! Dying He saved me! Buried He carried my sins far away! Rising He justified freely forever!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Tilapia with Pineapple Salsa

As I was preparing dinner the other night, hubs walked through the kitchen and saw this:

and said that I needed to take a picture. Being the obedient wife that I am (only by the grace of God as obedience has always been a struggle for me), I did. There is something very satisfying in the act of preparing dishes such as this one. It's like a slow, sweet dance that I perform in my kitchen. A dance that I prefer to dance alone but one which will benefit those that I love. I lined my pan with foil, carefully placed the fish and drizzled it with oil. Next came the cutting board and my favorite knife (does everyone have a favorite knife or is this just another one of my oddities?), herbs and fruits spread across the counter top, each waiting their turn to contribute their delishishness to my dish. 

First the pineapple. Top and bottom cut off for my backyard chickens to feast upon. Slicing the pineapple in half and carefully shaving off the skin so that only the sweet, juicy fruit remains. Fingers sticky from dicing up the pineapple, I place the fruit on top of the fish. I love touching my food (yes, I'm sure another oddity). A few pieces stolen to taste, rinse my fingers and move onto the next. Tomatoes halved and quartered. Squishing garlic (no need to mince for this recipe). Chopping chives, green onions and cilantro (my favorite of herbs). Each ingredient sprinkled on top of dinner. Squeezing the orange and lime, juice topping the goodness that will soon fill our bellies. As I top my creation with foil, pinching the edge of the bottom to the top, I am filled with joy and anticipation. Joy from the act of creating. Anticipation to share this joy with my family in the form of nourishment for their bodies. 
The tilapa was served on a bed of jasmine rice and accompanied by green beans and a salad. 

The green beans (frozen) were simply tossed with Wildtree Roasted Grapeseed Oil, a little salt and pepper, a handful of Parmesan cheese and baked for 30 minutes. 

The spring salad was topped with my favorite homemade dressing (Wildtree Roasted Garlic Grapeseed Oil, balsamic vineagar, and Wildtree's OPA! Seasoning), tomatoes and sunflower seeds. 

Printable recipe: Tilapia with Pineapple Salsa


The Chicken Chick


Monday, March 10, 2014

Hands Open, Heart Willing




Where you go, I'll go
Where you stay, I'll stay
When you move, I'll move
I will follow you
Who you love, I'll love
How you serve I'll serve

If this life I lose, I will follow you, 

I will follow....

As I sang these words in church this weekend, I cupped my hands towards the heavens; giving God my offering, yet my mind quickly was diverted with a thought. 

Will I go, stay, move, love, serve? Have I? Am I following God with a heart that is completely willing to follow WHERE EVER I am called?

Will I love EVERYONE? Even those who hurt me or harder yet, love those who hurt those I love so dearly.

Will I move -- jump when God says jump? With no hesitation and with a willing heart?

Will I serve even if it means that I have to so when it's not convenient to my schedule?

My hands say, "Here I am, God, use me" yet my heart holds back, unwilling to give myself completely to the God who has given me everything. 

It's easy to think that with my hands open wide I am following, being obedient to His voice but what if........

What if my to-list, my agenda, is drowning out His voice?

What if my fears are so debilitating that I am frozen, unable to see His will for my life?

What if I am only following when it is comfortable, when it is easy?

When Jesus saws, "Follow Me", I want to be like Peter, Andrew, James and John. I want to drop my net, my net tangled with self-doubt and fear, tangled with too much of myself. I want to be like those men with willing, obedient hearts who "immediately left their nets and followed Him"(Matthew 4).

This morning I sing with a new purpose and pray, "Father, give me courage to go, contentment to stay, direction to move, a compassionate and forgiving heart to love, the willingness to serve. God, equip me with a willing heart so that I may serve you well, that your will may be done and that you alone will be glorified!"




Thursday, February 13, 2014

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 
2 Cor. 12:9

Monday, January 27, 2014

My Retro Stove

As I deep cleaned my kitchen this morning I was a bit taken back by where my thoughts wandered to. You see, typically while I'm deep cleaning I make a mental list of all failures of my home. The section of my yellow kitchen ceiling that is not yellow but white as it was patched up 7 years ago when the bathroom above the kitchen "sprung a leak". The tile that has a long crack. The veneer on the cupboard door which keeps falling off in chunks. And then there's this ancient stove. 

My harvest gold stove is almost as old as I am. My husband keeps reviving it and I'm not sure if that is a good thing. Two years ago the heating element went out on the oven and I learned to make bread on an outdoor fire pit (I have to admit that that was a fun learning experiment!). Last year the knobs started crumbling one by one. I was finally down to two knobs which I glued together when we were able to locate replacement knobs online. Shortly after we got the knobs replaced for each burner two of the burners stopped working. By November I had ONE burner working. Fortunately I like being challenged and finding innovative ways to problem solve.....until the day my husband requested "Breakfast for Dinner". I kind of lost it as I said in complete exasperation, "I can't cook hash browns AND bacon AND eggs AND pancakes (he a Tremendous Twelve kind of guy) on ONE BURNER!" After I gave myself a time out for flipping out I did find a way to meet his request. Hubby ordered the parts and fixed the stove top last month except the replacement "parts" for two of the burners only cooks on high heat. But, hey, I've got four burners so I'm not going to complain!

So back to this morning. I'm cleaning, organizing and wiping down cupboards, wiping down the oven, etc. when I realize that each time I find something that needs repair (or replacement) I'm not making a mental note with grumbling (yep, that mental list often causes a bad attitude to develop). Instead I'm giving praise. As I washed the cupboard that is in great need of a face lift, I gave thanks that the cupboard, although not pretty, is still functioning. As I washed the stove, I remembered a blog post I had read last fall and was reminded that my old, worn out stove would be a luxury to some and I am thankful. As I look at the burner which will forever bear the orange enamel mark of my tea pot, I am thankful for my boy, the boy who absentmindedly attempted to heat some water for tea but forgot to add water to the teapot. 

As soon as thoughts of, "I wish I could afford a new cupboard/stove/kitchen remodel/new house" those thoughts were quickly replaced with, "No, not this year. This is the year for missions" and my heart sung. I happily can live with what I have. As I've learned recently, I have enough. Maybe next year I'll be able to save up for those stainless steel appliances I've been eyeing but for now my appliances are good enough. Besides, aren't retro appliances in style these days? 



Sunday, January 19, 2014

Encouragement

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. 
Romans 15:4-9

Encouragement. I'm not sure about you but it's something that I need regularly. 

A pat on the back to say "job well done".

A hug to show that someone acknowledges a moment of heartache.

A pep talk when the chaos of our lives becomes a bit unbearable and leaves us feeling all too weary.

A tender word when we are unable to live up to our own high standards.

A blog post of a mother who has been there and tells me it's okay.

God's word reminding me of the hope that I have in Him.

Yet as much as I need occasional encouragement, I've found that I thrive when I am able to encourage another. When I began this blog my purpose was to encourage others, to teach and love and encourage with my words. Yet I've been a bit too quiet here. I had forgotten what my motivation was to write. Fears have silenced my words. Fears of not being good enough (who am I kidding? I'm not a "writer"). Fears of where my thoughts and words would take me. Fears of exposing too much of myself (funny as I'm pretty much an open book). 

Today I am reminded of my purpose and the purpose of why I write. May that purpose awaken my words. 


Today I'm linking up with others at Lisa-Jo's (the queen of encouragement!) where writers around the globe spend five minutes writing on one word. Today's word: ENCOURAGEMENT

I encourage you to head on over there. May you be encouraged today.