Monday, November 30, 2009

In the Midst of the Mess

I guess "delusional" is about the only word for it.

During the long car ride back from Ohio last night, my mind began filling with lists: people to email, tasks to complete, projects to start, gifts to purchase. I grabbed a pen and filled half a sheet of paper with scribbled reminders, a few urgent items starred.

Bright and early this morning, I dove in, selecting only the most time-sensitive and immediately necessary items to copy onto a to-do list for today. And then my toddler woke up, and we both faced the Monday Morning Reality Check: After five days of doting grandparents, plus Daddy being around, I was now the only source of attention for Elijah.

Neither of us dealt with it well.

Elijah whined. I snapped and seethed, impatient, irritable, resentful. I cried out for help, and snapped again, my morning an endless cycle of frustration, repentance, and repeated ugliness. I wished I could go to bed and start the whole day over again.

I stopped and confessed: Father, I am having such a hard time dying to self today.

I remembered my own words: Elijah is not an interruption to my agenda...he is my priority.

I thanked God that Jesus didn't pursue His own agenda, but instead prayed, "Not my will but YOURS be done."

And during a brief phone call, I listened to a friend say, "On days like today, I just have to accept that I'm not going to get anything else done. I have to love on my kids and let the rest go."

While Elijah napped, I ate leftover smoked turkey and apple-spinach salad and pored over wise words of grace and peace from Ann.

When he woke up, still slightly grumpy and begging for "Leleplh" (his cousin, Olivia--"Leleplh" is my terrible attempt to spell how he pronounces "Livi"--he loves to watch the videos my sister-in-law has posted online), I sat here with him on my lap, trying to breathe slow and deep, letting go of the to-do list, thanking God for our widescreen monitor as I browsed in another window while clicking through all 68 video clips (most are less than 30 seconds).

I scrapped my plans to package homemade cookies and take them to the post office this afternoon. I sat in the middle of the kitchen floor and read library books. I turned on "bebec" (music), and changed the song when it was apparently the WRONG bebec, and swayed and sang to my little grump.

Then I thought of a conversation I had with a friend recently. She shared how her husband is (wisely) wary of blogging because of the way we women put our best foot forward, sharing the polished versions of our lives. "Why don't you ever post pictures of the house when it's messy?" he challenged her.

I also thought of Ann Voskamp's ability to see beauty in the most mundane things. And so I grabbed my camera and documented a failure of a day. In this season when we all post warm, inviting pictures of our homes decorated beautifully for Christmas, I am inviting you to come tour my disaster.

Don't get me wrong, I think those holiday photos are fun--a friend of mine posted hers just this morning, and I loved the virtual tour of her beautiful home! But here at the Kannel house, in between Thanksgiving recovery and the trimming of the Christmas tree (which is currently still in the basement), we're just going to be real for a moment. Let me help you feel better about your mess.

Step in the back door and see three bags that need to be unpacked, library books strewn across the [ugly and in need of replacement] kitchen floor. The kitchen mess would be far more overwhelming if I used my wide-angle lens--but I was too lazy to change it.

Cookies I have never screwed up before, which I planned to bake and send to a friend this week: first batch completely flat (that has seriously never happened before, I have no idea why) and mangled coming off the sheet; second batch burned:

Cookie-baking dishes filling the sink:

Suitcases in the dining room, needing to be unpacked, laundry needing to be started:

Five days' worth of mail, meal planning paraphernalia, and other paper-clutter covering the dining room table...we'll have to clear a spot to eat...

Blocks scattered across the living room floor--meant to be cleaned up before we left last Tuesday, and forgotten in the rush to get on the road:

The long to-do list I foolishly expected to accomplish today (notice NOTHING is crossed have no idea how twitchy that makes my type-A, anal-retentive self):

...And the basket-case-yet-still-adorable two-year-old who had other plans (and desperately misses Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle Duh, Grammy, Pops, Uncle Josh and Chief):

(I'm not being totally heartless by snapping this picture, by the way...there was no immediate crisis. Here he is upset because he doesn't like the song that's playing and wants a different one. EVERYTHING was just that big a deal today.)

So now that whiny mess of a toddler is sleeping again (apparently needing to catch up after our trip), and instead of tackling my list, I'm taking the time to blog. Perhaps not the best use of my time--or perhaps (I hope) it will encourage someone today.

Heaven forbid any of you ever come away from this blog with a polished, shiny picture of me. I am real. I am oh so flawed. And this is what my house looks like on a Monday after a weekend away. But I serve a God who makes the ugly beautiful...who brings order from chaos...who loves me even when I am a grumpy mess...and who has drawn my boundary lines in pleasant places, given me a beautiful inheritance--if only I will open my eyes to see it.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Born to Be a Buckeye

Like any good Buckeye fans, we are proudly brainwashing our son :) Elijah has been watching Ohio State football since he was only a few weeks old:

And at five months, he proudly sported scarlet and gray:

This fall, we haven't been able to watch the games, but Elijah still knows who to root for. It would have been better to post this last weekend in honor of the big game against Michigan, but we wanted to wait until family members could see this shirt in person--especially Pops (who, as a Michigan fan, would hate it), and Uncle Duh (who, as an Ohio State fan, would love it).

First an action shot:

And then a better look at what the shirt says:

He's even wearing socks that say "Born to be a Buckeye" :)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Surfin' Saturday: Vitacost and Little Moon

I have two completely unrelated websites to share today, one utterly practical and the other just plain fun.

My first discovery is an online store called Vitacost. I ordered from them several weeks ago, and though I felt overwhelmed by the selection, I was thrilled with the prices and the service. This is now my go-to place for buying vitamins for our family. It's got much better quality vitamins than I can find at Target or Kroger, and at wholesale prices! It's also (as far as I can tell) the best price on the web for Nutiva extra-virgin coconut oil.

The more I look around, the more I am suprised to discover how many items they carry. Recently I found low prices on Dr. Bronner's soap and Bac-Out there, and I believe they carry many mainstream health and beauty items--the same things you'd find at your local store, only probably cheaper, and tax free. Shipping is flat-rate (only $4.99), and I was able to find a coupon code that made my shipping free (check I plan to do more and more of my health-related shopping at Vitacost--from nutritional supplements to specialty food items to cleaners to cosmetics.

Totally changing the of my favorite just-for-fun blogs is a photography blog called Little Moon. Amber Scruggs is a Virginia-based child and family photographer who specializes in natural light portraits. All her work is gorgeous, but the newborn shoots she does are absolutely breathtaking! Much as I would love it, I could never afford to have someone like her take photos of my family--so I just drool over her photos, and learn from her too (she does really helpful FAQ posts every now and then about her techniques, equipment, etc).

Surfin' Saturday: Shop 'Til You Drop
Surfin' Saturday: Coupon Codes

Friday, November 27, 2009

Relationships Come First

When I was in college, one of my dearest friends taught me a philosophy that has served me well ever since: "Relationships come first." Pam said it early and often in our friendship, and I never forgot those three simple words--in fact, I passed them along to countless other college friends long after Pam had graduated.

My schedule at college was packed--a full class load, a part-time job, leadership in the chorale, ministry team membership. But when I had to decide between writing a paper or having coffee and a deep conversation with a friend, the friend won every time. I'm not advocating irresponsibility; it's not that I was blowing off studying in order to watch a movie or play euchre with friends. Rather, I chose to prioritize meaningful investment in relationships--typically long talks over dinner or coffee--even if it meant staying up later to complete an assignment. If a friend needed me, it didn't matter if I had a test the next morning; I was going to put the relationship first.

Pam modeled it for me right from the start. She was at least as busy as I ever was, yet when I, a timid, lonely freshman, asked her to "sort of mentor me" during her junior year, she made time for me. Wednesday night dinner with Pam was a given on my calendar every week for the next three years, I think.

As she wisely pointed out, "In five years, what are you going to remember? The test material, or the friend you spent quality time with?" And you know what? She was right. I'm endlessly thankful for all I learned in the classroom during my four years of college, and there are a lot of things I'd do differently in terms of academics, to be sure. But I have never once regretted putting relationships first. What made the biggest, most lasting impact on me was not the ideas I pondered or the papers I wrote, but the people I learned to know and love.

These days, I may not have assignments or deadlines, but it's still all too easy to be task-oriented instead of people-oriented. Many days I find myself more concerned with crossing items off my to-do list than with caring for my son. So as I reflect on my college years, I want to remind myself: Relationships come first. The most important relationships in my life are Steve and Elijah--and they must be a bigger priority in my mind, heart and day-planner than any of the tasks I need to complete.

"'s easy to lose sight of what ministry is really about. ...We get our minds too focused on tasks, when ministry is ultimately about people. I just want to constantly remind myself that people aren't an interruption to my work. They are my work."
--Plan A...And There's No Plan B, Dwight Robertson and Mark Vermilion

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Ultimate Thankful Thursday: 2009 Edition

Four years ago, my dear friend Kelly inspired me to do a mega-thankful list for Thanksgiving: 100 things I'm thankful for. It's good to pile blessings on top of blessings and realize just how many reasons for gratitude I have, both big and small. A list of a hundred barely makes a dent in the pile.

Today, as every Thursday, my thanks are not generic. Every good gift I have comes from the hand of my Heavenly Father--and He Himself is the gift that surpasses all others. I'm feeling especially convicted this time around to focus on and treasure the Giver, not just the temporary earthly blessings He bestows. This year I am thanking God for countless gifts, including...
  1. His absolute sovereignty
  2. photographs that enable me to see places I'll never get to visit
  3. photographs that enable me to remember people and places I have known and loved
  4. freedom of speech
  5. working all things together for my good and His glory
  6. used book stores and sales
  7. hot showers
  8. Operation Christmas Child
  9. real mail
  10. His perfect goodness
  11. giraffes
  12. elephants
  13. lions
  14. dogs
  15. providing everything I need for life and godliness
  16. lessons taught well by others who have gone before me
  17. lessons learned the hard way
  18. Google
  19. sleeping through the night
  20. His steadfast love
  21. A Gospel Primer for Christians
  22. the mental capacity to memorize the gospel narratives in the book
  23. my parents' and my in-laws' wisdom with money
  24. the CCEF class I got to take this fall
  25. interceding for me
  26. friends who pray for me
  27. friends who share their heart so I can pray for them
  28. the holdout trees in our neighborhood--just a few who are still surprising me with their beauty
  29. our jogging stroller, so nice for long daily walks
  30. His unsearchable wisdom
  31. cookbooks
  32. recipe blogs
  33. a husband who will eat almost anything
  34. the realization that foods eaten closer to the way He created them have got to be better for us than foods man has screwed around with
  35. giving me a beautiful inheritance
  36. friends from my childhood
  37. friends from high school
  38. friends from college
  39. new friends
  40. friends my age
  41. older and wiser friends
  42. younger friends, who teach me as much as I teach them
  43. friends I've never met in real life
  44. Jesus, what a friend for sinners!
  45. not treating me as my sins deserve
  46. our new church
  47. our pastor's gospel-saturated preaching
  48. other pastors' gospel-centered preaching available free online
  49. cough drops
  50. His awesome power
  51. page protectors
  52. coconut oil
  53. podcasts
  54. the smell of freshly ground vanilla coffee
  55. completing the good work He began in me
  56. sloppy kisses from Elijah
  57. tender kisses from Steve
  58. the ability to read
  59. protection from ten thousand horrors I have never known and cannot imagine
  60. His coexisting justice and mercy
  61. hardwood floors
  62. home printers
  63. indoor lighting
  64. Christmas trees
  65. never leaving or forsaking me
  66. the gift of marriage
  67. the privilege of motherhood
  68. not just marriage generically, but the incredible man I am married to
  69. not just motherhood generically, but the adorable son I birthed
  70. the fact that He never changes
  71. the parents who gave me life and raised me with love
  72. the in-laws who have welcomed me into their family
  73. the miracle of adoption
  74. the ability to write
  75. keeping me from stumbling and falling away
  76. blue skies
  77. necessary rain
  78. warm fires
  79. acoustic guitars
  80. His absolute holiness and purity
  81. vocal music
  82. the ability to hear
  83. metaphors
  85. not breaking me when I am bruised or snuffing me out when I am only smoldering
  86. pumpkin
  87. clean drinking water
  88. the outlet that this blog has been for me
  89. the other blogs that challenge, encourage, inform and inspire me
  90. His patient gentleness
  91. the unfathomable suffering He endured at the cross
  92. defeating death and sin once and for all
  93. meeting me right where I am
  94. loving me too much to leave me there
  95. preparing for me an eternal inheritance that far outweighs any good or bad on earth
  96. breathing life into my soul when I was still dead in sin
  97. replacing my heart of stone with a heart of flesh
  98. the ability to see Him as beautiful and glorious
  99. the capacity to enjoy Him as the most valuable treasure in all the universe
  100. the hope of everlasting life with Him

Thanksgiving 2008
Thanksgiving 2007
Thanksgiving 2006
Thanksgiving 2005

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

WFMW: That Tube Goes Further Than You Think

I can't remember now who suggested this to me--but I'm so glad they did. Maybe this is obvious to most people, but it was brilliant to me. It is one of the easiest, most effortless ways I know to be frugal, and all you need is a pair of scissors and a ziploc bag.

You know those tubes of liquidy beauty items that stand on end--lotions and so forth? You figure that since they're standing on end, the lotion has settled at the cap and you're able to get most of it out. But there comes a point where you just can't squeeze hard enough, and you have to throw the tube away.

No more. You will be astonished to discover how much lotion or makeup is still in that tube! And getting it out this way is much easier than wrestling with the tube to squeeze out the last drops. I first did this with a tube of body cream from Bath & Body Works. I simply cut the very top off of the tube with a pair of scissors, and used my fingers to wipe out the lotion that was stuck to the inside of the tube. When I got all the lotion from the upper part of the tube, I cut it off further down so I could use up the rest. And I stored the cut tube in a plastic baggie in between uses to keep it from drying out.

Recently, I thought I was about out of foundation--but figured I would cut the top off and maybe get another day or two worth of makeup out. Wrong: I continued to use that tube for several WEEKS! It was a smaller tube, so I used a cotton swab to get the remaining foundation out.

The next time you think you're just about out of lotion or foundation or something similar, cut off the top of the tube. It works for me!

*I am out of the loop and, not being a regular participant, didn't realize that WFMW would be on vacation this week--oops! Next week, you can visit We Are THAT Family for more Works for Me Wednesday tips.*

WFMW: Bleaching in the Sun
WFMW: Photo Postcard Thank-Yous
WFMW: Christmas Card Prayers

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Why "Lavender *Sparkles*"?

I'm sort of surprised the question doesn't come up more. Lavender *Sparkles* is, after all, an unusual name for a blog. And this blog doesn't seem to have anything to do with lavender OR fact the layout isn't even purple, let alone sparkly. I'm like the blog version of Grape-Nuts.

But Zoanna asked a couple of weeks ago where my blog title came from. So here's the explanation (or lack thereof). I hate to disappoint you, but there's no real, logical reason for this crazy title. I'm absolutely terrible at titling, always have been. My favorite writing professor in college once drew a sad face next to a particularly terrible essay title. Truly.

When I started this blog, way back in November 2003, I wanted a unique title. No offense to anyone in particular...but I didn't want to call my blog "Random Musings" or any variation of that, even though that was the first, natural thing that came to mind. It seemed lame, and I wanted to be a little more original.

Lavender *Sparkles* was sort of a trademark/joke of mine back in the summer of 2002, when I was traveling from youth camp to camp on an IWU ministry team. Somewhere along the way--I can't remember now who got me started doing this--I began using a crazy lisp for fun (think "Sid the Sloth," if you've ever seen Ice Age). Just college students being silly.

Anyway, at one camp, everyone was divided into "family groups," and the groups were labeled by color. Their name tags hung on colored ribbons. All but one of them were the typical colors: blue, red, green, orange, etc. And then there was a sparkly light purple. For reasons I can't even explain, we all got a big kick out of saying, "Lavender SPARKLES!" in that silly lisp voice.

So I don't know if I had recently looked at my camp scrapbook back in November 2003, or what was going through my head. But somehow I had the flash of stupidity inspiration that instead of "Random Musings and Thoughts by Amy" I could call my blog "Lavender *Sparkles*". It's an improvement, right? Right?

I've thought about changing it many, many times since then...but I just can't come up with anything better. The best I've been able to do is come up with an ever-so-slightly related tag line ("shine like a star"...sparkles...get it?...ok, never mind).

I so admire the creative, meaningful blog titles others invent. There are the phrases from quotes or song lyrics (Chatting at the Sky), the clever people who play on their name (The Mental Ward), the people who are good at interesting turns of phrase (Just Another Pretty Farce). Then there are a few blogs who have ordinary titles, but their content is so good, you don't care--or the title is intentionally tongue-in-cheek, or deeper than it appears at first glance (Amy's Humble Musings, ordinary mother).

And then there's me. Pretty much the only thing I've got going for me is "unique." So although I feel a little sheepish and ridiculous about it, until inspiration strikes, Lavender *Sparkles* it is. In the meantime, I am absolutely open to brilliant suggestions.

[photo: from my summer 2002 scrapbook, me with the camper, Audra, who bought me a Lavender Sparkles pen she found at a gift shop--and a sampling of that infamous ribbon]

Monday, November 23, 2009

Reminders of Promises

Elijah doesn't trust me. Or he has really terrible short-term memory. Or something. I'm not well-versed in all the details of child development; all I know is, he doesn't yet understand that I'll do what I say I'm going to do.

Often I'll tell him we're going to do something--take a walk, say, or read some books--something he really, really enjoys. I try not to mention it until I'm actually ready to do it, but that doesn't always work: I'll get him dressed and get shoes on, but realize I need to hit the bathroom before we go. We'll sit down in the reading chair, and I'll immediately catch a whiff of poopy diaper.

Apparently, in his two-year-old mind, not doing it RIGHT NOW means we're not going to do it, ever again in his lifetime. So when I get back up out of the reading chair and carry him to the changing table instead of selecting a favorite book...well, you can imagine this makes for a very upset toddler.

When I see the agitated, anxious look on Elijah's face, and he begins to whine, I find myself repeating, over and over, my promise that we're going to do what I said we would do. If you'd been in my house this morning, when the reading/poopy diaper scenario ensued, you would have heard something like this:

"We're going to read, I promise. Mama just has to take care of your poopy diaper and wash her hands, and then we'll read. I promise we're going to read. We're going to read, in just a minute. I just have to wash my hands and then we'll read. We really are going to read. I promise, I will read to you!"

My thought is that this endless repetition will calm him enough to avoid a meltdown in the sixty seconds it takes me to finish the task and get back to the reading chair. (I do think it helps a little...if nothing else it makes me laugh instead of getting frustrated.) I'm reminding Elijah that I haven't forgotten my promise, that my word means something, that I really will do what I said I would do--even if it looks for a brief moment like I'm reneging. I'm human, so I know I'll screw up sometimes, but my hope is that my son will learn as he grows that Mama can be trusted--that she keeps her promises, that she is a woman of her word.

It occurred to me this afternoon that I know someone else who keeps promises, who really will do what He says He will do. And I know someone else who tends to freak out when it looks like He has forgotten her.

But I have an endless supply of great and glorious promises at my disposal. I know that even if I sometimes (be it deliberately or inadvertently) break my promises, God never, ever breaks His. I'm thankful that instead of getting angry with me when I fail to trust Him and instead get agitated and upset, He patiently reminds me of His promises. His Word is full of them--and perhaps I need to repeat them to myself over and over, until my soul calms down and I rest in the confidence that my Father can be trusted--that He keeps His promises, that His Word is true.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Stubborn Grace

"Human sin is stubborn, but not as stubborn as the grace of God and not half so persistent, not half so ready to suffer to win its way."

--Cornelius Plantinga, Not the Way It's Supposed to Be
(quoted at Of First Importance)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Fabulous Customer Service, Part 2

This must be my week for getting wonderful, unexpected treatment from retail stores! This afternoon I went to Whole Foods to look for a few unusual ingredients I knew I wouldn't find at Kroger. I just finally made it to Whole Foods for the first time a month or two ago, and oh, is that a grocery shopping experience. I so wish the closest one wasn't a 50-minute drive away...though maybe it's best for my grocery budget that it is!

Anyway, it was just a quick trip (especially because Elijah is SO not into grocery shopping at the moment), but I had several things I wanted to accomplish. I was hoping to get a good deal on organic apples to make applesauce and apple chips, and I wanted to pick up more Kerrygold butter. I also had Steve with me, for his first trip to Whole Foods, because we have a friend from church who is a cheese buyer there and Steve loves cheese :)

Why am I telling you all these details? I have no idea. You're used to it by now, I suppose. Most importantly, I had a few ingredients I needed for some baking experiments I plan to conduct this weekend (I'll explain more soon, if it goes well). I asked the first person I saw where I might find these, and he said that while the first two were across the street at Whole Foods Body, he would search for the coconut flour I wanted.

A few minutes later, he came back with a little bag of the flour. "This is the only kind we have," he said, and paused. "Have you ever used coconut flour before?" I said I hadn't, and he continued, "because it's $7 for this little bag." I smiled and said that didn't surprise me, since I had priced it online. But he proceeded to cross out the barcode with a pen and say, "I'm going to give you this bag for free, so you can try it out and see if you like it."

What?!? I totally was not expecting that kind of generosity! So I walked out of Whole Foods with a free bag of coconut flour, nine pounds of inexpensive, organic Cameo apples, a few pounds of high-quality grassfed butter, and all the ingredients for my kitchen experiment...and lots of goodwill toward/desire to shop at Whole Foods again. Yay for above-and-beyond customer service!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thankful Thursday, Take 141

Thanking God this week for...
  • the funny, surprising phrases Elijah says
  • opportunities to be outside in fresh air and sunshine
  • crockpots
  • opportunities to help women in need
  • the way Elijah fills in words in books and songs
  • my favorite Christmas CD (couldn't wait any longer to break it out...this one would be well-worth listening to year-round, but it's a special treat to save it for the holidays!)
  • singing in the car with Steve
  • the opportunity to hear an online friend's lovely voice this morning
  • successful new recipes this week: grilled brined turkey breast (makes you NEVER want to go back to the oven-roasted kind!) and turkey panzanella (great way to use the leftovers)
  • this month's Desiring God CD: one of Piper's advent poems!
  • Tim Keller's brilliant, mind-blowing gospel insights
  • Redeemer Presbyterian Church's generosity in putting many of his sermons online for free recently--including a wonderful one called "Work and Rest," which I listened to today
  • knowing the worst about me and loving me anyway

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

CSA Adventure: Week 26 (Final Thoughts)

After my run-in with a pumpkin yesterday (more on that later), I realized I was overdue for a CSA wrap-up post. We received our last share on November 6--no more veggies, but the last of the grass-fed beef and some eggs. One lasting benefit from this whole experience is that we are going to continue buying quality eggs from this farmer. At this point they are being delivered to our front door every Friday morning, which is really nice.

Final share:
  • one dozen farm-fresh eggs
  • four pounds grass-fed ground beef
  • one large grass-fed beef sirloin tip roast

So...with the CSA adventure now concluded, my wrap-up thoughts. I'm sure you've gathered that I'm disappointed with the whole experience. But first, the positives. I was glad to be able to support local farmers who are using sustainable, healthy growing practices. It could not have been much more convenient. And it was fun to experiment with herbs I don't normally use, vegetables I wouldn't ordinarily buy, etc. I loved that we were eating a variety of fresh, locally-grown, organic produce that was in season and optimally nourishing to our bodies. I loved knowing exactly where my beef came from and that it was way healthier than what I get at the store.

I also have a relationship with local, like-minded farmers now, and the potential to get other things I need from them. I already mentioned the eggs, and we will very likely be purchasing chickens from them next spring (which I wouldn't have known about if not for this experience).

My main frustration (as you well know if you've been reading all along) was that we received a whole lot less food than we expected--whether because of a misunderstanding, or because the farmer had a bad year, or both--and so that meant it was very, very expensive organic produce. We got a ton of fresh herbs and peppers, which, while nice, should have been a bonus to the food, not a replacement for the food. I can't exactly serve a side dish of sage, you know?

Much of what we received was also unusually tiny, except in one case. And that leads me to the pumpkin. It just kills me that things we expected to be normal-sized (carrots, bell peppers, eggplant, tomatoes) were strangely small...and then, the one thing that we would have *wanted* to be small (the pumpkin) was huge. Oh, the irony. (I'll explain in my next post why we wanted a small pumpkin.) And some of the things we would eat, weren't very good quality. The watermelon we got wasn't all that tasty (we were getting better ones at Kroger), and the sugar snap peas we got several times were really bitter.

So all in all...I would not do it again with this farm. I'm pretty sure I could have done better by driving 40 minutes to the Nashville Farmers' Market, even factoring in gas money. Of course, this was lots more convenient, and I also don't know about the growing practices of the farmers downtown. But we did end up with a lot of stuff we didn't particularly like or care to use, whereas at the farmers' market, I can buy what we like best and will eat.

Mostly I wish we could have a garden--not because I enjoy gardening, but because it is a much more cost effective way to get fresh organic produce--and you can choose exactly what to plant. But as long as we live in this location, that's not an option. I'm not sure what we'll do next summer. I still really, really like the idea of voting with my dollars and supporting local, sustainable farming. I don't even mind paying a premium for that kind of food (just not an *excessive* premium). So we may give the CSA concept one more shot (there's a bigger, more established CSA in the area--the one we almost signed up for before we found out about this one), or we may just be deliberate about frequenting farmers' markets and produce stands next summer.

At any rate, thanks for hanging in there with me through this experience...much to the relief of some of you, I am sure, I am all done talking about it now. Except for the pumpkin post (which is only marginally related).

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

White Chicken Chili in the Crockpot

I love my crockpot. Not as much as she does...but I really do love it. The more I use it, the more I want to use it. There is something so satisfying about doing all the work and making all the mess for dinner in the morning--and then not having to lift a finger at dinnertime!

So I was delighted when Lindsay at Passionate Homemaking announced a "Nourishing Crockpot Carnival" for this week. I'm always on the lookout for new recipes--especially crockpot ones. A Year of Slow Cooking is my go-to blog for crockpot recipes (the premise is uniquely insane--she used her crockpot every day for a YEAR--and the writing is great), but I loved the idea of getting crockpot recipes that use unprocessed, nourishing ingredients. This is a recipe carnival focused on the types of changes we are trying to make in our eating habits--in other words, my Pepsi Pot Roast, yummy though it may be, does not qualify :P

I was eager to join in, but wanted to post an original recipe--not one that I'd simply tweaked slightly from A Year of Slow Cooking. So on Sunday, I made my first attempt at modifying white chicken chili for the crockpot. This recipe is adapted from, but I've changed almost everything about it, so I can definitely call it my own. I'll confess, I'm not 100% satisfied with it--but it does work, it is healthy, and we happily eat it here. I'd love to hear from you if you try it out and tweak it to make it better (or if you have any tips based on your own white chicken chili recipe!).

This recipe is easier if you use canned beans--because then you can do it all at once rather than in two parts. But it works well with dried beans, if you don't mind having to come back to it a couple of hours before serving.

White Chicken Chili

1 (generous) cup of dry Great Northern Beans (or two cans)
3 cups chicken broth (approximately)
2 t. ground cumin
1 whole onion, diced
1-4 oz. can diced green chiles (these are very mild)
1 1/2 c. chopped cooked chicken
1 c. corn (optional)
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
salt to taste

The night before: Measure the dry beans into your crock and add enough water to cover, plus an inch or two. Soak at room temperature overnight.

In the morning: Dump the soaking water and rinse the beans. Add broth and onion and cook for 5-7 hours on low.

With a slotted spoon, remove about half the beans (more or less--no need to measure) and puree them in a food processor or blender. Return bean puree to the crockpot and add chiles, chicken, corn and cumin. Turn crockpot up to high and cook for another 1-2 hours; taste it and adjust seasonings to your liking--add some salt, and a pinch of cayenne or some jalapenos if you want some kick. Serve plain or with toppings: sour cream, shredded cheese, salsa, tortilla chips, etc.

If you want to simplify and use canned beans, just skip the soaking step, puree about 2/3 of one of the cans at the very beginning, and then dump everything in the crockpot on low for about 6-8 hours.

Yield: about six servings.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Recommended Resource: WTS Bookstore

I haven't hesitated to use this blog to complain about poor customer service--so I also don't want to hesitate to use it to applaud companies whose service is impressive. Today I am blown away by an email I just received from Westminster Bookstore, the campus bookstore for Westminster Theological Seminary.

A while back, I discovered that WTS Books has fantastic prices on many of the books Steve and I shop for--in many cases, they are lower than Amazon. And they charge a low, flat rate for shipping rates: $4 UPS shipping for orders over $35, and for orders under $35, you can use $3 USPS economy shipping.

If you get on Westminster Bookstore's mailing list, you also get opportunities to take advantage of some amazing deals. Often they will run a two-day sale on a new release, for 60% off the cover price! That's why I bought When Helping Hurts, which I have mentioned a couple of times in my Simple Woman's Daybook posts--I was able to get it for just $4.97. (So far it's a fantastic read.)

Last week they ran a similar deal for a new book by a CCEF faculty member, Michael Emlet, called CrossTalk: Where Life and Scripture Meet. I hadn't heard of the book, but as soon as I read the description, I knew it was a must-read--and for $4.97, I couldn't pass it up. So I ordered it. And then I received today's email:

I write to apologize about the delayed shipment of your order of CrossTalk. We experienced overwhelming demand and sold out of our initial 2,000 copies much more rapidly than expected. To add insult to injury, we did not make adequate arrangements to rapidly replenish stock. While we are still in the promised delivery time frame with your order of 1-3 weeks, the delay in shipping your product is unacceptable to us.

We will be crediting your credit card the $3 shipping charge as a token of our apology. The Lord provided our second shipment of 2,000 copies today and so we hope, God-willing, to get your order out today.

WOW. Is that crazy or what? In my view, the refund was unnecessary, but certainly very appreciated. I am astounded by this kind of proactive, generous customer service. And I thought I was getting a wonderful deal by paying $7.97 including shipping for the book (it's now $10.39 at WTS Books and $15.99 at Amazon)...but now it turns out I get it shipped to me, brand-new, for less than five bucks! You can't beat that, friends.

So, all that to say, I highly, highly recommend checking out Westminster Bookstore for your holiday shopping (is it really time to be thinking about that already?!)--and for all your online book-buying.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


I hate failure.

For the first time in the four years I have been doing NaBloPoMo...I didn't make the goal of posting at least once every day for the month of November :(

I realized at about 2:30 this morning that I hadn't put up a blog post in the insanity that was yesterday. Sad! I was so hoping that this would be my year to win one of the awesome prizes. The last three years, I've accomplished the goal, but not been selected for a prize. So probably, this year I'll be randomly selected and then be disqualified for not having posted every day. Argh! On the bright side, I haven't yet seen this year's prize list--when I first looked it up before NaBloPoMo started, it only contained one or two things that did not appeal to me. Now I'll just avoid looking so as not to torture myself.

I still plan on posting every remaining day in November. I've got a lot of ideas floating around in my head, both my own and ones you suggested. Yesterday was just so crazy that I did not have any time to post, unless I'd gotten on the computer at 10:45 when I got home--and at that point, the only things on my mind were bed, and my poor toddler with a horrible, barking cough.

What I *shouldn't* be sad about is the fact that real life took me away from the computer. Too often it is the other way around--the computer is a huge distraction from the people and tasks that are present right in front of me. So in reality, it's a GOOD thing that I was so busy living and loving right here and now that I wasn't thinking about the world of blogs! That's not "distraction"--that's called "right priorities." A helpful reminder, I guess--that NaBloPoMo should serve me and my family, not rule my life.

And the main reason I wasn't on the computer yesterday is because I was spending time with one of my dearest friends: the lovely Pamela Terry!
Pam and I went to college together, and she is now singing with the U.S. Army Field Band & Soldiers' Chorus--who were on tour in Nashville this week! After Thursday night's concert, Steve and I brought her home with us, and she and I stayed up until after 1:00 AM talking. Pam spent a few hours with Elijah and me in the morning, then we took her back downtown to catch her bus. I'm so glad we got to see her for a quick visit...even if the conductor did cut her solo at the last minute (boo).

After we dropped Pam off, Elijah and I went to Centennial Park to enjoy the beautiful weather. We fed the geese (which he got a huge kick out of...WHY didn't I take my camera?!) and he ran off a bunch of energy before we came home and crashed. I woke up from a long, much-needed nap with barely enough time to scramble and get things around to pick up four other ladies and go to a baby shower.

So it was a fun, full day--NaBloPoMo failure or not. And I know that whether I like it or not, it's good for my proud, perfectionist self to fail sometimes and learn humility :)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thankful Thursday, Take 140

Thanking God this week for...
  • grace to finish all my class assignments
  • a fun night of fellowship with ladies from church at a bridal shower last Friday
  • pizza with friends beforehand
  • Julie, Mike and the boys making the long trip down here to see us
  • friends who let us borrow a double stroller, pack-n-play and two booster seats for their visit
  • all the work Steve and Mike were able to get done upstairs (ALL drywall is now hung! yippee!)
  • gorgeous weather for taking long walks
  • the fun of watching Elijah play in the leaves
  • a long phone conversation with one of my favorite people
  • yesterday's Veterans Day parade and all the veterans + families who have sacrificed so much for all of us
  • free admission at the Frist Center yesterday
  • living so close to a fun big city
  • being so patient and gentle with me
  • the countless truths I learned through the last twelve weeks of my class
  • His absolute sovereignty
  • His steadfast love

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What I Love

"...I find my delight in your commandments, which I love. I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes" (Psalm 119:47-48).

How quick I am to proclaim my love:
I love football.
I love pizza.
I love smooth ballpoint pens,
feel-good sports movies,
heavy blankets on cold mornings.

I abuse the word 'love,'
and so warp my own understanding
of what it means to love You.
I look for instant pleasure,
happy feelings,
gratified physical senses.
So I don't love waiting;
I don't love dying to self,
learning to persevere.

Teach me to love.
Give me a taste for the delight that comes with searching,
the delight that has to be pursued, uncovered, found.
Make me love what IS good,
not merely what makes me feel good
for a moment or two.

Make me quick to proclaim my love:
I love the Savior.
I love His Word.
I love the cross,
the resurrection,
the glorious gospel of grace.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Simple Woman's Daybook ~ 11.10.09

Haven't done one of these since September! As always, if you'd like to play along, credit goes to The Simple Woman's Daybook.

Outside my window...
box elder bugs. Three of them crawling across the glass at the moment. They have begun their annual invasion of our back patio--though there are much, much fewer of than last year, which makes me think my ruthless killing of the eggs in the spring was effective. Yesssss.

I am thinking...
about natural living, going green, simplifying, avoiding toxins, etc. Wondering where the balance is between being an informed, educated consumer and living in fear...wanting to make wise choices for my family without spending a disproportionate amount of time or mental energy researching and pursuing these things. Considering buying some Soap Nuts.

I am thankful for...
my best friend Julie and her husband, Mike, who made the long drive down here from Ohio to visit us over the weekend. I'm also thankful for Mike's servanthood in 1) helping Steve hang drywall upstairs, and 2) keeping all three boys (two were sleeping the whole time) so Julie and I could go for a long, stroller-free, uninterrupted-conversation walk yesterday morning before they left!

From the kitchen...
trying to resist eating too many pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. I made them Sunday night, and they get tastier after a day or two.

I've also got an entire crockpot full of sweet potato casserole in the fridge that I have no idea what to do with. I made it last night for Steve to take to work today for a staff potluck...and it turned out he didn't go today (see below).

I am wearing...
a Bethany Bible College t-shirt I got when I traveled for IWU several summers ago and met up with BBC teams, with an old favorite pair of jeans that now have a giant hole in the knee :(

I am creating...
nothing, still! I have almost used up the giant stash of stamped cards I made last fall--so I need to get cracking on a new stash, especially if I am going to give variety packs away as Christmas gifts like I have in the past. I also need to work on a wedding gift for a girl at church who's getting married in a few weeks. No details, just in case she reads this blog :)

I am going...
to take a walk with Elijah in this GORGEOUS weather--I just can't get over how wonderful the temperature has been the last couple of weeks!--and to talk on the phone with my mentor, Diane, later this afternoon, yippee!

I am reading...
Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller; Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp; When Helping Hurts by Corbett & Fikkert. I'm hoping that Elijah's babysitter on Thursday will be bringing me a copy of Andrew Peterson's On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness to borrow. Oops, I guess that's the next question :)

I am hoping...
to find a productive, meaningful way to use all the time I have been carving out to work on my class. It's all over now, but since I know I can find several hours in the week to listen to lectures, read and work, I want to keep setting aside that time to accomplish other projects and not just absorb it into my week and waste it. I'm also hoping to take another class from CCEF eventually!

I am hearing...
absolutely nothing...for whatever reason I never think to turn music on while I'm at the computer.

Around the house...
my poor husband is upstairs sleeping. The only thing worse than working an odd shift is working first shift AND third shift in the same day! He got home from work around 4:30 yesterday...only to get a phone call at 9:30 last night and, after an hour of troubleshooting from home, end up going back in. He didn't get home until 7:45 this morning.

One of my favorite things...
reading Sandra Boynton's Snuggle Puppy with Elijah, who supplies the "Oooo"s and turns to give me a "Kiss!" at each prompt :)

A few plans for the rest of the week...
Tomorrow's playdate is going to be downtown, where we'll catch the Veteran's Day parade and hit up the Frist while it's free. I've never been there, so that should be interesting. Then on Thursday, I get to see one of my very dearest friends from college! Pamela is in the U.S. Army Field Band Soldiers' Chorus, and they are on tour in Nashville this week! So I'm planning to go to her concert on Thursday night and then bring her home with me to spend the night here. Can't wait to see her and catch up. And Friday, I'm going to a baby shower.

A picture thought I am sharing...
Elijah and his buddy Joel (Julie's older son--they were born two days apart) in the bathtub (click to see the expressions on their faces). One of the few times all weekend that they weren't fighting. We're hoping someday they will be great friends...but at this point they're both two-year-olds who don't particularly like to share :)

Monday, November 09, 2009

Mmm...Monday: Banana Bread with Chocolate

I've had a couple of requests for my banana bread recipe recently (previously mentioned on the blog here and here). This is my go-to quick bread, my favorite way to use up overripe bananas. It's a big hit with the guys at Steve's work :) No pictures to entice you, unfortunately, as I haven't made it lately.

The original credit for the brilliance of putting chocolate on banana bread goes to the Mahaney women over at GirlTalk--ever since printing off this recipe from their blog a few years ago, I've become firmly committed to the belief that the ONLY way to eat banana bread is with chocolate either in it or on top of it. I've changed the recipe quite a bit, though, including recent attempts to "healthy-ify" it. It's a pretty flexible recipe, so I'll note variations that have worked for me.

Banana Bread with Chocolate Glaze

1/2 c. softened butter (or melted coconut oil)
3/4 c. sugar (half brown/half white, optional--or I have also used sucanat)
2 eggs
1/2 c. sour cream (or plain yogurt)
1 t. vanilla
3 overripe bananas, mashed
1 3/4 c. whole wheat or white whole wheat flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1/2 - 1 t. salt

Preheat oven to 325*. Beat butter/oil and sugar. Add eggs, sour cream, vanilla and bananas and beat until blended. Stir together dry ingredients and add to wet mixture until blended (do not overmix). Pour into greased bundt pan and bake at 325* for 45-50 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan for about 15 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely.

To glaze, melt 1/2 c. chocolate chips and 3 T butter in microwave (on 30% power) or on stovetop (over low heat). Pour over top of bread.

1 large (9x5) loaf plus six muffins: Stir 1 c. chocolate chips into the batter. Bake loaf for 40-50 minutes and muffins for 18-20 minutes, both at 325*. (It's really not enough batter for two loaves, but a little too much for just one. This works well if you want to give the loaf to someone, but still have a little bit leftover for yourself!)

Mini-muffins: Bake for 10-12 minutes at 325* and dip tops in chocolate glaze when cooled. (Yields about 4 dozen--but the recipe halves nicely.)

Started Something
Love to Be Asked
Mmm...Monday: Luscious Four-Layer Pumpkin Cake

Bonus: If you're looking for more recipes for healthy-ish sweets, here's a great recipe for pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. It already calls for whole wheat flour; I use olive or coconut oil instead of vegetable oil and sucanat instead of sugar. Yum! (And if you ever get tired of banana bread...another great use for overripe bananas is Banana Oatmeal Power Cookies! from the same blog.)

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Also Enjoying the Leaves

In keeping with my practice in years past for NaBloPoMo, I plan to both lighten my posting load and satisfy those of you who want more pictures by putting up gratuitous photos of my favorite subject on Sundays. I've been enjoying Sundays as my day unplugged, away from the computer--so I'll pre-schedule photo posts and stay offline, you get to look at my cutie-pie, and everyone's happy :)

A couple of Sundays ago, the weather was gorgeous, so after our post-church naps, Steve raked up leaves in our backyard for Elijah to play in. It was his first experience playing with leaves, and I think he had a good time. It was funny to see the look of serious concentration on his face as he plowed through the huge pile of leaves again and again. I have about 30 pictures from this series (and that's seriously whittled down from how many I originally snapped) are just a few favorites:

Is he getting big or what?

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Surfin' Saturday: Passionate Homemaking

"Surfin' Saturday" was a little blog feature I invented last year or the year before during NaBloPoMo. It relieves the burden of posting on the weekends, and it gives me an opportunity to point to other websites or blogs I find interesting and/or helpful.

First on my list this month is an incredibly informative and overwhelming blog called Passionate Homemaking, written by Lindsay Edmonds. Her tagline is "Loving simple and natural living on a budget," and her blog is a wealth of knowledge. Here you can find information on things like soaking whole grains, using natural sweeteners, or deciding which fats to use; you can read reviews of (and recipes for) natural cleaning and body products; you can get "frugal and nutritious" meal ideas; and you can read inspiration for glorifying God as a wife, mother and homemaker.

I can easily get lost in the archives of this site. It makes my head spin--Lindsay is much further along in the journey toward natural living than I am--but it's a great place to learn and be motivated to take the next step.

Toward a Healthier Lifestyle
"Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants."
Baby Steps

Friday, November 06, 2009

To Be Like Jesus: Singing the Fruit of the Spirit

I still remember the fruit of the Spirit by mentally humming a couple of lines from a song I learned in Vacation Bible School way back when: "You gotta have love. Joy. Peace, patience, kindness / For this is the fruit of God's Spirit! You gotta have goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control / For this is the fruit of God's Spirit!"

But now I've found some fruit of the Spirit music I like a WHOLE lot better. It won't help me remember the list in a catchy way--but the songs are much cooler :) And more importantly, they remind me HOW the fruit of the Spirit grows in my life.

There's not much hope in "you gotta have love, joy, patience, self-control"--as though I must add these difficult character traits to the long, guilt-inducing list of things I am failing at. In contrast, Sovereign Grace's newest kids' CD, To Be Like Jesus, approaches the fruit of the Spirit from the gospel perspective I expect and so appreciate with Sovereign Grace Music. From the album description:
"Through these songs kids will learn that Jesus is our perfect example of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. More than that, they’ll discover that we can’t be like Jesus unless we trust in the power of his cross to forgive us and the power of his Spirit to change us."
YES! There's hope in that. I've "gotta have" love...but I don't. So I sing along with this confession in "Because You First Loved Me":

That's a love I haven't got
It’s me I love a lot
Stuck here I’m tied in knots
I need a Savior
Jesus, set me free to love You more than me

I've "gotta have" gentleness...but I come up short there, too. So I pray with the song "Gentle Like Jesus":

Help me be gentle like Jesus
For He was humble
Spirit come soften my heart
Help me be
Gentle like Jesus

I've "gotta have" self-control...but, well...nope. Again I sing:

Lord, I’m needy
So I’m pleading
Come and fill me
Help me to be self-controlled
I think Mama needs these lyrics much more than Elijah at this point! We borrowed this CD from a friend (thanks, Lydia!) and the more I listen to it, the more I like it. And Elijah likes it, too--he has started picking up one or two words in the chorus of a couple of the songs. Definitely will be adding it to his Christmas wishlist. These gospel-centered songs are the kind I want my son to grow up singing--the kind that point him not to his own strength, but to the grace of God in Christ. He, not we, can produce the fruit of the Spirit in us!

You can buy the CD here for only $12--and it's an enhanced version that includes accompaniment tracks, how cool! Or, the mp3 download set is only $9.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Thankful Thursday, Take 139

Thanking God this week for...
  • motivation to blog more intentionally and frequently
  • Elijah's adorable, inexplicable love for David Crowder Band's Remedy album
  • homemade granola (and the way it makes the house smell AMAZING)
  • warm weather perfect for long walks
  • a bonfire, complete with s'mores, last Saturday night
  • the delight of seeing our super-cautious son be brave and enjoy going down the slide all by himself (over and over and over and over...)
  • hand-me-down clothes for Elijah
  • fellowship with a family from church last Sunday night
  • the ability to read His Word in my own language
  • inspiring words from wise women
  • enabling me to remember every single item on my grocery list, despite leaving the list at home
  • His patience with me
  • His unwavering commitment to remake me in His image

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Where to Buy Cello Silke Pens

or, "The Story of a Crazy Woman and Her Pen Obsession, Part 2"

I really didn't want to give the pen back. So at first I rationalized. It's a *pen.* Surely Elijah's teacher didn't even miss it. She probably isn't crazy like me, doesn't have a pen obsession. And, in all honesty, I wouldn't even think about it when she was here anyway. Then I started to feel convicted. It was just a little pen, but it was stealing, really, and I needed to return it.

In the meantime, I was a woman on a mission. I HAD to find more of these pens. And buy a lifetime supply.

The first logical place to look was Google, of course. But a search of "Cello Silke pens" yielded only a handful of Wiki answers pages telling me what I already knew: that this cheap little stick pen was awesome. One page said the pens were available at Walmart, but that was over a year ago, and my local Walmart didn't have them.

I searched and searched. What kind of 21st century company doesn't have a website? If they had one, it wasn't coming up. I'd never heard of the brand--and neither had Office Depot, Staples or Office Max (yes, I actually went so far as to call each one and ask if they carried or could somehow order these pens).

Finally I got somewhere: Cello is an Indian company, apparently not savvy in things like search engine optimization. I excitedly flipped through the product list on their Silke. No Silke by another name, even. Rats.

So this is my crazy pen obsession: I actually emailed the company. I asked them if they still made the Silke, and how I could get my hot little hands on more of those fabulous pens.

The very next day, I got an email from a nice man named Kapil:

The Cello Silke is now available in Big Lot stores under the name Cello Smooth as well as in Office Depot stores under their own brand name. In Office Depot too it is available in blister packs of 24 under SKU# 788685 and SKU# 788700.
Jackpot. I can be at Big Lots in five minutes.

OK, I'm not THAT crazy. I didn't immediately jump in the car and take off. I retrieved my toddler and strapped him into his carseat first.

KIDDING, I'm kidding. But before long, I dropped the best two bucks I ever spent on pens, for a beautiful 20-pack of Cello Smooth pens. They aren't as cute as the purple one, but otherwise, they're identical. I have one clipped to my journal and one permanently on the kitchen counter, one in my purse, one in my sermon-notes notebook...a drawer full of extras...and 40 more in the closet. Oh yes I did go back and buy two more packs.

You'll be relieved to know I also confessed my theft to Elijah's teacher, and gave her back her pen plus a couple of new ones.

So, if you care about pens even half as much as I do (probably none of you are nearly this neurotic), head to Big Lots and get yourself a 20-pack of Cello Smooth pens for $2.00. (I cannot vouch for the Office Depot ones. I checked there out of curiosity a few days later...they did not look the same.)

Mystery solved. And I am once again a happy (if slightly insane) writer.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Story of a Crazy Woman and Her Pen Obsession

So. A few weeks ago, Elijah's early intervention teacher left her pen at our house. It was just a basic stick pen (though a pretty purple color); I didn't think much of it.

Until I started using it.

This. pen. is. awesome.

See, I have this thing about pens. I have kept a journal very consistently since I was about 12. So I do a whole lot of writing--and when you write a lot, you tend to care a little more than the average person about your pen. Anne Shirley understands what I mean, even if you think I'm a little nuts.

I've gone through various favorite-pen phases...for a while it was the skinny blue-ink Papermate pens, white with a blue cap. I hated how they glopped ink occasionally, but they wrote so nicely otherwise, and the cap was so great for chewing (I know, ew...I outgrew that habit). Then it was black-ink Bic pens--again, just the basic stick pen. I've used and enjoyed more expensive pens, but when you go through them like I do, who wants to drop the big bucks?

Then a while back I got this idea that I wanted BROWN pens. Why is it always blue or black? I like brown. And I didn't want a brown marker; I wanted a brown ballpoint pen. Lo and behold, UPS makes brown pens--two different varieties, and both are prevalent on eBay. So I ordered a whole box of 100. I'm not a fan. The brown is fun, but they just don't write smoothly.

Anyway, I digress. (Surprise, surprise.) For a while now I've mostly been trying to be frugal and clean out the giant collection of random pens Steve and I have amassed over the years. Instead of being choosy, I'm just using up one pen after another. Most have just been average; some have been particularly crappy.

And then I got a hold of this pen. Oh, Cello Silke, how I love you.

I can't believe I'm going to write two posts about pens...but I've gone off rambling, and now this one is too long already. That's just how crazy I am. Tomorrow: My ridiculous quest to get my hands on more of these pens--and how you, too, can own the world's best stick pen.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Contemplating Beauty

By the grace of God, I am awake this fall.

I enjoy the changing colors every autumn; in fact, I think it's my favorite season. Each year I welcome cooler breezes, football games, apple cider and all things pumpkin; I love to retrieve jeans and sweaters from the bottoms of drawers. But this fall, I just can't get over the beauty.

I think I could live to be a hundred and never tire of the endless variety and combinations of fall colors. Day after day as we walk around the neighborhood or drive down tree-lined highways, I can't help but breathe reverently, stunned by our Creator God. Beauty is right outside my door, if I will only slow down and look up. These last couple of weeks, I have been looking up--and I have been amazed.

There's so much sovereignty, so much faithfulness to see in this beauty. Every year the leaves turn, fall, die...the trees stand exposed, blown through by cold winds...they survive, they bud...and everything is green and new again. Fall brings out the contemplative in me, and as I take walks with Elijah, enjoying the gorgeous weather as long as we can, I ponder. I remember: it's death that is beautiful.

Yet I also keep thinking that death is not the end--only the means to the end. The trees would not be beautiful if they were truly dead. A dry branch, cut off and lying on the ground, isn't glorious at all. These branches of blazing color are beautiful because they are rooted and grounded. They die for a season...but they will live!

(photos from our neighborhood color show: brilliant blue sky--these are all SOOC, not color tweaked at all!; sun flare behind a tree seen in our backyard; one of my favorite orange trees in the neighborhood; red leaves captured last fall--because I had to include some red :)

Death and Beauty
Part of the Whole
Compelled to Capture Beauty

Sunday, November 01, 2009

NaBloPoMo 2009

Hard to believe it's that time of year again: National Blog Posting Month!

This will be my fourth (also hard to believe) year participating in the challenge. It's pretty simple: post on your blog every day for a month. Keep it up for all of November, and you have a chance to win some awesome prizes! I'm hoping this will be my year.

So, get ready for a flurry of posting starting this week. I've got a list of ideas and I'm hoping I'll be hit with plenty of inspiration along the way. In the meantime, I'll throw out a question for my readers: What's something you'd enjoy reading about here at Lavender *Sparkles*? I can't promise I'll take the bait, but I'd love to hear what you're interested in hearing from me.

Let me know if you're joining in--it's a lot of fun (mostly) and a great way to discipline yourself to write more.