Over the River and Through the Woods

I know I said I was signing off for the year… I just didn’t realize what belly-aching would ensue due to that statement. What can I say? I’m grateful to have so many loving (and tactless) friends and family in my life. I have decided to go back on my word and at least put up a couple pictures here from Christmas.

We went up to Southern Illinois to my Grandma and Grandpa’s log house in the woods for Christmas. There was music and blow-up ornaments hanging from the ceiling and a fiber optic Christmas tree and seven little girls running and screaming up and down the stairs. There was fried fish and barbecue and hush-puppies and biscuits and gravy and chicken tacos and fried rabbit and fried pheasant and fried chucker and sweet hot pickles and coffee with Swedish toast. There was church on Christmas Eve where all the dear people in that little country Baptist church played a part in a Christmas play they had written and our entire family made up the choir, complete with Grandpa on guitar and Uncle Billy on harmonica. There were tears in my Grandma’s eyes throughout the entire service as her life and her home and her heart were filled to the overflowing point. There was Texas Hold ‘em and Scrabble and Boggle and Settlers and Trivial Pursuit. There was everyone listening to their own music on their own iPods and sharing songs they liked with everyone else. I cried when Uncle Billy played a song for me. It made my lungs feel like they couldn’t take in any more breath when I listened to it. There were walks in the woods and sitting on the porch swing watching the freezing rain come down on Christmas day, wrapped up in my big coat and shivering and reflecting. There was so much more, but since I’ve signed off and will never have anything to say ever again (EVER), I can’t write about it now. Although we missed Robbie, Janet and Simeon very much, the rest of the family was all there and it was a lovely time. Like usual, I can’t pick just one or two pictures, so here’s a bunch:

Okay, yeah…there are a ridiculous amount of pictures here. Oh well. If you’ve made it all the way to the end, you must be a truly committed reader of this blog. Either that or you’re family. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

A Prayer For You

I have come to the conclusion that I have nothing left to say. As things get crazier over the next couple of weeks, there is not a chance that I will ever post again.


I’m sure of it. Maybe next year I’ll feel differently. We’ll see. But for now, I’m signing off…

May you know PEACE as you reflect on the birth of our Messiah. May you know LOVE as you are with the ones you love and remember those you can’t be with. May you know JOY as you thank God for His blessings in your life. May you know HOPE as you look forward to the new year and all the uncertainties it will bring.

Faith, Hope and Love

I cried a couple times this weekend. On Friday, we kept the girls home from school due to an extremely busy and emotional week. We felt that a family day was necessary. Sadie wasn’t sure if that was legal or not, but she was happy with our decision. We went to a matinee of The Nativity Story. I cried when I saw the faith of the old shepherd who couldn’t wait to make his way to the manger to worship. How I long for that kind of faith. I cried when I went to the memorial service for Nathan on Saturday morning. His wife, Lauren, sang a song that she wrote in the last couple of days. Her clear, high voice rang out through the church, almost in a whisper, “Lord, Your grace falls on me. Thank you, thank you, thank you…” How I long for that kind of faith. The church was lit up with the lights of hundreds of candles and when I got home and saw my Christmas tree with white lights burning like miniature candles, I cried. I’m still not so sure about equating white lights with peace and calm like others have said. It does something to me for sure, but I don’t think it’s anywhere near peace. That’s okay. I’m content with my white lights anyway. My brother, Robbie and nephew, Simeon came to town for the service this weekend too. The men all went out Saturday night with the Taylor men. I stayed here with the kids and some friends. When Simeon woke up crying in a strange room, I got him up and held him for a bit. It didn’t really help to calm him because I and all my friends were strangers to him. He looked around at each of our faces with a look of panic in his eyes and when he realized that not one of us was Mommy or Daddy, his mouth turned down and his chin started to wobble. That broke my heart a little bit and almost made me cry. On the way to church Sunday morning, we listened to “Where the Streets Have No Name” and I cried tears of hope. When my Mom, Dad, Carlee, Robbie and Simeon came over after church on Sunday, we played a game of Settlers and I do believe I cried a little bit because I was laughing so hard.

Now the weekend is over. I’m glad Rob and Simeon were here. We missed you, Janet. I guess it’s all summed up in tears, faith, longing, hope and joy. There’s love in there too. Maybe the pictures show a little of it.

Comfort Food

I heard someone say once that when they’re 80 years old, they’re probably going to regret every single diet they’ve ever been on. I like that. I wish I didn’t waste so much precious life-time worrying about my weight. Anyway, the Christmas tree is up now. I made the switch from colored lights to white lights this year. It may sound insignificant to you, but the turmoil for me in coming to this decision has been no small issue in my brain. I’ve always admired the way that white lights look on other people’s trees – so clear and simple and beautiful, like iced dew drops on a snow-covered tree. But every time we put our tree up, I just haven’t been able to bring myself to do it. I feel like the color is where the magic is and since we always had colored lights on our tree when I was growing up, I worry that I’ll lose both the magic and my sense of where I came from if I switch to white lights. Well, this year I did it anyway and to tell you the truth, I’m not sure how I feel about it yet. But what’s done is done.

What does my Christmas tree have to do with worrying about my weight? It’s simple (like the white lights): now is the time for living. I’m alive and I’m living. What better time to dwell on the wonder of it all than this Christmas season? I just made this chocolate pudding recipe that my friend Carrie shared with me a couple years ago. As I was enjoying every bite of the warm, gooey, dark, comforting, tasty pudding, topped with whipped cream, I wasn’t thinking at all about calories. I was thinking about how seriously good it tasted. I was thinking about how the same God who created me and loved me enough to send His Son as a baby to this earth to live, die, and rise again so that I could spend eternity with Him…that same God created the cocoa bean. Why? Because it’s good, that’s why! And I, for one am thankful. And this recipe is too good to keep to myself:

Chocolate Pudding (for one)

1 ½ tsp cornstarch
Pinch of salt
½ cup milk
¼ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a microwavable coffee mug, combine 1st three ingredients until smooth. Add chocolate chips. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Stir. Cook 30-45 seconds longer, until mixture just begins to boil. Stir. Cool (although I suggest eating it warm). Top with whipped cream, if desired.

Thanks again, Carrie. Comfort food and comfort friends….they’re not all bad.

Joy in Sorrow

I said goodbye to a friend this weekend. It was hard, joyful, sorrowful, heart-breaking, loving, worshipful and beautiful. I didn’t take my camera, but I have pictures in my mind that are firmly imprinted. I see Nathan’s mom, Pamella, taking us to see his body and standing there, stroking his arms over and over as we wept and hugged and shared memories while laughing, even. I see his brothers and sisters each getting up to speak at his funeral and sharing in such beautiful and articulate ways the relationships that they had with their brother. I see his wife – his beautiful, gracious, strong, young Spirit-filled wife, Lauren – remembering how Nathan had begged her to go on a walk through the woods with him the day before he died. She hadn’t wanted to go because it was cold and she was tired. He wooed her with the words he had used to propose to her: “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come with me. See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come… Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me.” She went on that walk with him through the breath-taking beauty of the rugged woods on the Oregon coast. They came to a massive tree that had fallen across a little ravine and sat by it for a while, not knowing that it would be their last time alone together, but reveling in the magic of it all anyway. I see the Pacific Ocean at sunset, the day of the funeral. We went directly from the funeral and I will always remember the sight of my two brothers, my friend Clay, and Nathan’s brother, Jeremy, standing there at the edge of the world in their suits and ties, so handsome, young and strong, watching the sun go down on the day we said goodbye to Nathan. And the thing that I see more clearly than anything is the hike we took through the woods, along with all the family members early Saturday morning, less than a week after Nathan and Lauren had walked along the same trail. We walked, single file, in silence as we remembered. Every blade of grass was covered in frost, every leaf and twig crunching and snapping under our feet, we could watch our breath go before us as we walked the mossy path. When we got to the tree that had made a bridge over the small ravine, we were each given a chance to take a handful of the ashes that Lauren was carrying, recite something from Scripture and walk down to the tree to let Nathan go. Lauren started us off by looking to the sky, closing her eyes and crying out, “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and go to Jesus. See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come… Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, go to Jesus.” Then she crawled out to the middle of the tree-bridge and let the wind carry his ashes away.