Sunday, July 29, 2007

Meditation on Philippians 4:6-7

I wrote this a while ago in my journal. I just came across it recently and thought I'd share here. One of the blessing of keeping a journal, in my opinion, is being able to look back at different times in your life and remembering what God was teaching you at the time.

I love these verses in any version, but for a while there I was just kind of chewing on them from the Message and envisioning how the Apostle Paul might have explained them to me in person. (I can be kind of thick at times, so Paul might have had to be pretty blunt with me!)

Don't fret or worry. [You know what you do. You obsess about many little things. Some things haven’t even happened – you just assume someone’s upset with you. Or that you’re going to have a bad day at work. Or that you won’t get everything done.]

Instead of worrying, pray. [Okay, well if you can’t quit cold turkey, how about trying something else instead? Something that really works. Like talking to God about things.]

Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. [Are you still having a hard time understanding? Here’s what it looks like. Picture a potter at the wheel, a wet, slippery lump of clay before him. The one hand petitions. It asks of the clay. The other hand praises. It affirms what is good. That’s how you need to view your worries, as an inanimate lump of clay that is powerless to control you. Instead of allowing your worries and fears to control you, remind yourself of what God has already done in your life and the lives of those you love. And then lay your heart out before God. He already knows what is going on.]

Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. [Sooner or later, you will start to realize that you can take God at his word. You can trust him with the little details of your life, as well as the big problems. Christ would like to be in control of things and he would do such a better job than you are. Will you let him? Something happens when you acknowledge your brokenness to him. You invite him in. He won’t force himself on you. But when you let him, he can pull things together for you in ways you never imagined.]

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Vacation "No's

So where've I been? Oh yeah, supposed to be working on some new posts while on vacation, right? Not happening! In the meantime, here are some things the absence of which makes vacation a whole lot more fun:

  • No makeup. This summer I haven't even been wearing foundation, just eyeliner, mascara, powder and a bit of blush if I remember. And lipstick when someone at work asks if I'm feeling alright! But vacation week I'm lucky to get some eyeliner on each day. I so love going sans makeup!

  • No alarm clock. But I think I have the same internal alarm clock my gram did, because I wake up every day no later than 6:00 am anyways. Out of courtesy to my sleep-loving husband, I try to be still until after 7:00 am but that's easier said than done when there's a nice long walk or bike ride calling my name!
  • No blogs. My growing Google Reader list is up to almost 40 new posts. I'm pretty proud of myself for refraining from my typical blog-reading addiction this week, with the exception of the blog containing notes from the Sunday message. Believe me, I miss you all but there will be plenty of time to catch up next week.

  • No laptop. I know my husband finds it hard to believe but I didn't bring my laptop Lizzy with me this week. Kind of freeing, you know. Although my goal to stay totally unplugged only lasted until sometime Tuesday, I have managed to keep my computer time to a minimum.

  • No bedtime. Yes, I have a bedtime. It's basically whatever time my husband starts heading to bed. He's big on getting eight hours sleep - go figure! But on vacation . . . no alarm clock and no bedtime. Reading until 1 or 2 in the morning is totally sanctioned while on vacation!

  • No Weight-watchers. Although I reached lifetime status several months ago, I still try to adhere to the better eating habits I learned while on the program. Until we crossed the PA-MD stateline. And it's been a week of just eating whatever and kind of fun too. Although I still crave vegetables and salads most of all.

  • No snoring, sniffling, sneezing, whining, farting dog in bed with us! :) Although we love our dog dearly, I at least enjoy reaching over with my feet and feeling other human feet instead of fur!

So now what's next, you ask? A Vacation "Yes" post? Nah. Too predictable I think, given that this was a big family vacation! Maybe a book review or two is in order, since I've already finished several great books this week.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Let the Vacation Begin!

At exactly 5:30 pm today I walked out of work, leaving my laptop behind and knowing that I wouldn't have to face it or the problems it threatens, for more than a week! We're off to the lake Sunday afternoon, spending a week with the in-laws. Thankfully we have a rented house that should be big enough to keep us out of each other's hair . . . two almost eighty-year-olds, a sister and her two kids, a brother, and my husband.

But I'm already doing vacation things here. I baked all evening - giant peanut butter cookies and chocolate biscotti. Am planning to get a few must-dos in tomorrow in between walking and who knows what else. I've already been packed for a few days now - easier to just put stuff in the suitcases here and there, and other than a few errands tomorrow, I think we're ready to go.

The best part about vacation? Well, for one thing, they're all mostly late sleepers. My FIL might get up around 10 or so and he'll putz around the kitchen making himself egg-beaters with green pepper onion, and perhaps a few strips of bacon on the side. My BIL gets up at a decent time, handy to run for a cup of coffee with or even an early morning bike ride. Other than that, I'll have the place to myself, and peaceful mornings to read and relax (yeah, I'll probably write a bit too!)

The other great thing: a huge kitchen! I know my husband views it as work but I really love to cook for the family when we're on vacation. The only thing - I don't load the dishwasher. I've done it before, with both his family and mine. Someone promptly proceeds to reload it the correct way. Hey, I don't have a dishwasher - what do I know. I'm content to cook and let them be the flunkies - LOL!

I can't wait to check out the biking trails at the nearby state park. This is the first time we've gone to a lake, rather than the beach. I can't say I'm going to miss the ten hour drive . . . we'll leave around 2:00 pm and be in our place no later than 4:00 pm. That works for me!

I don't plan to blog but am not going to beat myself up if a post slips out here or there. I'm really hoping to disconnect from technology for a few days though. But you know I'll be "cooking" up some new posts, so check back after July 29th . . .

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Friend Indeed

If you read my friend Katrina's blog today, you were surely blessed by her post "Flood Friends." As I read, I thought how thankful I am for the friends God has put in my life. One in particular comes to mind.

I met V at church when she invited me to work with her and her husband in the midweek children's program. Occasionally we'd go out afterwards and talk. She was in my wedding, and I'll never forget the beautiful shower she helped coordinate for me, with so many special touches.

Through different seasons of our lives, we've prayed together about many things. I remember one especially trying time when we'd walk and pray about decisions both of us, along with our husbands, had to make. How wonderful it is to look back and see how God has indeed answered those prayers, far beyond our expectations.

I've been blessed watching her grow in her walk with God and often she challenges me in my daily walk. Not too many days pass without us instant messaging each other, just to check in and see how things are going. I know I can vent a little to her when I'm having a rough day and I'm pretty sure she feels the same. Recently she became a mom for the first time, after more than a decade of marriage without kids, and I'm so proud of the wonderful job she's doing in this very new role, as she allows God to continually mold her.

The scary thing is, I almost threw this beautiful gift away during a particular rough time in my life. Instead of letting hurt drive me to my friends, I backed away. I'm just thankful that she wasn't willing to let that happen. I think our friendship is stronger today and I know I cherish it more than ever.

Love ya, V!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Thank You for Being There

Tonight my husband paid his respects to the family of a dear friend who lost his battle with cancer. I'm proud of the way he was a friend to this family over the past years while his friend struggled. He was just there for them.

How many times have we thanked a friend for just being there for us? They may not even have said a word. We were just glad they were there. Their presence came as a cherished gift.

I'm trying to remember that, in the same way, Jesus is always there for me. Sometimes it's so easy to forget to acknowledge his presence. I tend to be of the mindset that I somehow need to get to him, when in reality, he's already with me. The other day in my journal, I wrote "thank you for being there for me" without even thinking. Sounded like something I'd say to a dear friend. And then it occurred to me, that's exactly what he is to me - a dear friend.

I'm not sure but perhaps the key is not spending more time with God, but rather becoming more aware of his constant presence in my life. What would that look like?

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. Psalm 139:7-10

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Lil' Phantom

When we were kids, we lived next door to my gram but otherwise pretty far from civilization. I'm serious. Not a pizza shop within delivering distance. To "run down the street" for a few groceries literally meant a 20 minute drive. And we also lived pretty far from the school where we attended, and were often out late due to school activities.

Needless to say, my mom found it hard to keep up with cooking etc. Did I mention we lived next to my gram? Well, time after time, we'd come home from school to a beautiful meal, sparkling kitchen and a reorganized fridge full of sustaining goodies. And this was often accompanied by a note "the Phantom struck again."

So I've been playing Phantom tonight. Decided to shop and do a few make ahead meals for my sister who's expecting baby #5. Due to my "where's the beef" episode and the resulting need to chill out with Monk and a bowl of ice cream, I didn't get started until after 10:00 pm, but shortly after 12:30 am, the kitchen was clean again and the fridge full of stuff to take up and stash in her freezer tomorrow. I couldn't believe it only took me that long so I decided to share my plan here, knowing some of you struggle to keep ahead of things with a houseful of kids. So here you go:

20# extra lean ground beef (I bought 3 - 6# packs at Costco's)
4 - large jars of spaghetti sauce (2lb 13 oz ea.) I usually make my own but come on!
2 - 4 cup bags shredded mozzarella cheese.
2 cups grated parmesan cheese
2 - large containers ricotta cheese
3 packs frozen chopped spinach
2 - boxes no-boil lasagna noodles (i prefer the ones with ridges)
1 dz. eggs
1 pk. deep dish foil lasagna pans
1 pk. 9x13 foil pans

The plan:
1. If using spinach, thaw in colander while you take in an episode of Monk!
2. Using your two largest skillets, brown 3 lbs. ground meat in each.
3. Drain each in colander in sink. Optional: rinse cooked meat with hot water (takes a lot of the grease off. run a bit of dish detergent down the drain afterwards).
4. In two large bowls, mix cooked beef with 1 jar spaghetti sauce. Add a bit of water to jar to get all the sauce out (the extra liquid helps cook the noodles).
5. Clean skillets and immediately begin cooking appr. 3 lbs meat in each again.
6. In each of 2 large bowls, mix 1 container ricotta cheese, 2 cups mozzarella cheese, 3/4 cup parmesan cheese and 3 eggs (I also add basil and parsley).
7. Finish cooking ground meat, rinse and return to large skillet to cool. Set in fridge eventually.
8. Open 3rd jar of spaghetti sauce and spread 1 cup or so of sauce in each of 2 deep dish foil pans. (I suggest setting the pans on cookie sheets for stability while you assemble the lasagna. Don't ask me how I know this!)
9. Layer in the following order: noodles, cheese mixture, meat sauce mixture - noodles, cheese mixture, meat sauce, spinach and noodles. Finish with plain sauce, mozzarella and parmesan cheese.
10. Cover with plastic wrap (you want to tuck it around the edges) and 2 layers of foil. On 2nd foil piece, I write these cooking instructions: "REMOVE PLASTIC WRAP. Bake at 350 for 1-1/2 hours. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving. Stick in fridge or freezer.
11. Wash your dishes now. You will have some cheese mixture left over which can be frozen or used to make stuffed shells. You'll also have meat sauce left over which can be frozen for another meal.
12. In each of two large bowls or pots, mix appr. 2-3# of uncooked ground meat with breadcrumbs, eggs, and whatever it is you like in your meatloaf. NOTE: I do not touch the meat! I use a potato masher to fold the meat over and mix it. If you like picking ground beef out of your fingernails, be my guest and mix it by hand!
13. Place in each of two foil pans. NOTE: I prefer to use baking dishes instead of loaf pans, as the meat cooks more quickly and evenly.
14. Cover with plastic wrap and foil as noted above. Be sure to include baking instructions, usually an hour at 350. Don't forget to a note to remove the plastic wrap!!!
15. Place remaining cooked ground meat in resealable freezer bags. Lay these flat in your freezer, they will thaw very quickly and be handy for chili, tacos or your favorite beef recipe.
16. Do your dishes and empty your trash! You'll be glad you hung in there for this final step!

If you're the kind of person who likes to have meals on hand for others when the need arises, these come in handy. Less than 3 hours and less than $100 gets you at least 8 meals, not including leftovers!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Crying Over Lost Meat!

Welcome to my Friday night pity party!

After what was an exceptionally long and draining work week, I stopped at the grocery store and picked out a nice fat Delmonico steak for myself - a once a year treat. My non-meat-loving husband is off camping with some buddies (THAT's a whole 'nuther story!) and so the perfect opportunity to indulge in some red meat. I also purchased a ton of stuff to make some meatloaves and lasagna to put in my sister's freezer, as she is expecting the arrival of baby #5 soon and I wanted to give her a hand with some cooking-ahead.

Anyways . . . have you guessed it by now? I got home, unloaded the groceries and man!

Where's the beef?

RATS!!! Let's just say the cow didn't come home with me tonight. I am so bummed and yet somehow all I can do is laugh. It is the perfect end to this week. I'm just glad it's the weekend.

Does anyone know of any place that delivers something besides pizza or pasta? Sorry, there is absolutely no point to this post. I guess when all else fails, just blog about it! Eggs, anyone?

update: I'm better now. I really am. I'm comforting myself with a bowl of reheated grilled vegetables, and - don't laugh. New socks! I was saving them for vacation but there's nothing like brand new cushy socks to lift one's spirits. Unless it's the start of a new season of my favorite TV show, Monk! It's all good, people!

update #2: I found the meat in amongst the pizza boxes. That's what I get for not putting groceries away promptly! eggonmyface!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Fellow Traveler

I've been enjoying a new CD by a new-to-me artist (God keeps bringing new people, new authors, new ideas and new challenges my way). Ginny Owens reminds me a lot of Sara Groves, in that a lot of her songs are more personal reflection and almost conversational. Anyways, I heard this song and it struck me as being especially descriptive of the blogging journey and I just wanted to share it.

Fellow Traveler

You can't change who I am
Or the way that i think
I won't change how you live
Or the words that you speak
But neither of us is a stranger to joy or pain
No matter how we're different
We're very much the same

Fellow traveler let me take you to a place where Ive found rest
Fellow seeker let me show you where I've found true happiness
Fellow beggar I have good news, I know where there is bread
(I'll show you where there's bread)

I don't know where you've come from
Or where you've been along your way
But I can tell you what I've lived through
And how I made it here today
Let me share with you the story of hope I've come to know
A love that's always for me
And a peace that frees my soul


So if you are hungry come to the table with me
And you won't go hungry ever again

Monday, July 09, 2007

Sharing the Goodness

I have no thoughts of my own to share but have been inundated with good thoughts from around blogdom and some from my personal reading that I couldn't resist passing on to my blogging friends.

First, I am starting to work through Ephesians this summer and just loved this from Eugene Peterson's intro to the Message:

"What we know about God and what we do for God have a way of getting broken apart in our lives. The moment the organic unity of belief and behavior is damaged in any way, we are incapable of living out the full humanity for which we were created."

Then Tami at The Next Step posted these challenging thoughts today about the relationship between our need to feel needed and how we get connected in church. Tami's blog has been a breath of fresh air to me this summer; I hope you'll take the time to visit her blog and be refreshed.

Keri Wyatt Kent is a new-to-me author I've been enjoying recently. Her book, Listen: Finding God in the Story of Your Life, is next up on my summer reading pile. And she recently wrote a great post, Flowers on My Desk, about taking care of ourselves as women. You gotta go check it out and be blessed! (And yes, in case you were wondering why I'm hanging out at a Boomer Babe's Blog, I am one . . . born in 1964, made it just under the wire. Call me a lil' boomer, I guess!)

And lastly (well, the last one I'm going to point out tonight), my sweet, humble, and transparent friend Bev (a FIRL - yes, we met at church!) posted about taking those necessary steps and overcoming our fears, whatever shape they may take. Pay her a visit and be challenged!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Soul Hospitality

One thing I do love about our house is it's conducive to entertaining, which I happen to enjoy doing. I remember the first picnic we had, our first spring in this house. It was so much work. I had Friday off work, and labored all day Friday and Saturday and much of Sunday in preparation for a get together Sunday afternoon. Needless to say I was exhausted.

We're having people over this evening, as we've done at least every other week this summer. His family. My family. Friends. Here it is high noon, and here I sit, blogging. What gives? I had to stop and think - why am I so relaxed? Honestly, I feel like I can throw a party without batting an eye anymore, in comparison to those days when the preparations far outweighed my enjoyment! (That said, I am not the kind of person to be busy while I have company, it was just the preparations that got me!)

Is there something to be said for making hospitality a routine? As I'm reading Sacred Companions again, I'm reminded of this idea of soul hospitality . . . being able to make a place in my life for others as well as the Spirit of God. The author, David Benner, points out that if we can't offer hospitality to the Holy Spirit, we have nothing really to offer others. And yet, should it be a frenetic laboring effort . . . this soul hospitality? Perhaps it might be at first, until we get comfortable with the idea that the Spirit of God requires nothing of us in preparation. We don't need to clean up our act or get out attitude right before we can welcome him into our lives. When we acknowledge his presence, he will gently nudge us in the direction we need to go. He wants to be a part of the preparations, as well as the party.

Friday, July 06, 2007

A Heart Disturbed

I'm not generally in the habit of praying prayers written by someone else, and yet of late, I seem to run across some in my reading that seem to help put into words the longings of my heart. This one is by John Baille, from a Diary of Private Prayer:

I, a pilgrim of eternity, stand before Thee, O eternal One, Let me not seek to deaden or destroy the desire for Thee that disturbs my heart. Let me rather yield myself to its constraint and go where it leads me. Make me wise to see all things today under the form of eternity, and make me brave to face all the changes in my life which such a vision may entail: through the grace of Christ, my Savior. Amen.

The other night I came across a book with the title Holy Discontent. I'm not planning to read the book (not right now, anyways), but I can't get that title out of my mind. I know we all have times when we're frustrated or, as I said in my previous post, feeling out of sorts. Between the above prayer and the title of that book, I've been thinking that perhaps I ought to stop and listen to what God may be saying to me. Novel idea, huh? And yet I know my tendency is to seek a diversion from that feeling of discontent, rather than delve into it. Sometimes doing so means I need to face something about myself. Something God may be wanting to get my attention about. Not exactly sure but if he used the heat of a burning bush to get Moses' attention, and if he woke the boy Samuel up in the middle of the night to speak to him, perhaps I should learn to listen when I'm feeling "discontent" about something.

Lost and Unaware

I've been a little out of sorts lately and unable to figure out why. Until yesterday.

A few weeks ago, my car was vandalized (rear window bashed in). The police believed it was the extreme temps we had that week, but the clear outline of something round at the point of impact convinced me otherwise. It wasn't much of a showstopper however. Before the day was over, I was sporting a brand new rear windshield. THAT was behind me. Or so I thought.

A week later, I got in my car to leave for work and my first thought was, "I wonder if Mike was in here looking for something." The contents of my glovebox and console were everywhere. I quickly realized I'd left my car unlocked overnight, although this time it was in my driveway. Apparently someone was looking for some quick cash. As far as I could tell, they only took my phone charger and a CD wallet. Wouldn't they be surprised when they found it contained only downloaded music and messages!

So anyways, that's behind me. Hadn't given it much thought since. And yet, I've had that feeling like something's missing but I couldn't put my finger on it. Until yesterday morning when I finally realized . . . my planner is gone! I'm no organizing junkie, but I do love my lists! And the sick feeling hit me - I've been leaving it in the car at night. "They" must have taken it. Ugh.

It's nothing irreplaceble, and I wasn't dumb enough to fill out the info section with all my personal information. I can only hope it ended up in the trash somewhere. I've gotten in the habit of keeping my calendar on Google, and just using the planner for lists and notes and a place to keep so-called important papers. If I went an entire week without realizing it was missing, how important was it, really?

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

God Bless America?

Many of us will sing this anthem tomorrow as we celebrate the birth of our nation. In light of the study I'm participating on the Beatitudes this summer, I couldn't help ask myself this question: What exactly am I thinking when I ask God to continue blessing America?

  • Allow me to continue living in my comfort zone, oblivious to those around me who are unaware of your blessings?
  • Keep me from getting embroiled in any uncomfortable political controversies?
  • Allow me to continue worshipping as I please, regardless of whether or not my worship pleases you?
  • Keep our nation free from and unaffected by the poverty that plagues much of the world today?
When I read the word "blessing" in the Beatitudes, it's usually accompanied by a not so comfortable idea:
  • being dependent upon God
  • learning to truly mourn and how to comfort those who have lost something or someone dear
  • learning to be content with who we are
  • caring about others
  • being a peacemaker . . . introducing others to the peace that only Christ can offer
So maybe my prayer as I sing God Bless America over the next few days should be a little different. (okay, I'll probably just hum!) How does God really want to bless America? How does God's idea of blessing differ from mine? And perhaps most importantly, how can I be part of the way God truly wants to bless America?

Sunday, July 01, 2007

He Knows My Name

I had a delightful experience at Starbuck's yesterday morning. The girl who took my order asked for my name to put on the cup. Didn't think much of it until I was standing off to the side, lost in thought, when a voice called out, "Dianne, your decaf skim 2 pump mocha 2 pump raspberry latte is ready." (Okay, I indulged a little yesterday!) But it was soooo cool that they called my name! I swear it made the mocha taste even better!

It brought to mind this song I've been listening to lately:

I have a maker
He formed my heart
Before even time began
My life was in his hand
He knows my name
He knows my every thought
He sees each tear that falls
And hears me when I call
I have a Father
He calls me his own
He'll never leave me
No matter where I go
He knows my name
He knows my every thought
He sees each tear that falls
And hears me when I call
(Tommy Walker) Copyright ©1996 Doulos Publishing

He knows your name . . . Sometimes it's all you know and all you need to know . . . .