Thursday, 27 January 2011

Bbrrrrrrrr....where's the cotton flannel?

Fresh from the manicure!
     Like two little gophers scampering into their burrows, I shove my hands between the feather pillows encased in cotton flannel.  I have just returned to my flannel sheets, duvet and wool blanket from my nocturnal trip to the toilet.  This trip is made on automatic pilot, and I might still be closer to sleep than wakefulness if it weren’t for the cold water that has chilled my fingers to the bone.  Now all I want is to get them warm again.
     It’s bad enough that I’ve had to depart the snuggling warmth of my bed to attend to the needs of bodily functions.  But sleep and dreams won’t be found until my hands are warm again.   
     To save increasing the gas bill (which fuels the boiler) and conserve water, we don’t turn on the hot water tap just for a 30 second hand washing and rinse.  Yet, I can’t help but wonder where the water company pipes the water from—Scandinavian glacier melt?  Feeling the water on my hands and pouring through my fingers makes even my toes feel cold!  
        Since we practice budget saving practices, I no longer afford the sanitising gel I used to buy for the mid-night trips.  But how nice it would be to buy a gallon of the stuff!  Just think—no clinking of crushed ice as it charges out of the tap with the water!  Simply give two quick pumps which provide lovely, sanitizing gel that needs no drying on the still-damp towel.  
        My Midnight Man—aka Husband—often stays up late studying numbers and such.  Occasionally he will turn off his computer and rendezvous with me on my return to bed.  He seems to delight in putting his cold hands on my bare back and hearing my protesting squeal—not good when I simply want to return to Slumberland.  When I try to return the favour, placing my fingers, tingling with cold, on his warm tummy, he almost purrs, seemingly relishing the coolness against his warm skin.  UGH!  How unfair!  Even so, I won’t complain about his lovely, warm-as-toast skin that quickly dispels the coldness from my hands.   
      The amazing thing about the human body is that it is created to respond to stimuli of all kinds.  So, although my hands hate the shocking cold water I expose them to, the nerves send a message to the brain registering temperature change.  The brain automatically tells the blood vessels to open wider and increase blood flow—which brings with it warmth.  It never takes long for the fingers to register the delight of increased temperature s and I relax in the softness of the flannel and drift off to the entertaining world of my dreams. 

Serving Jesus, Author of our Faith

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Many children not my own

                        I sat quietly reading.  As a barber waiting in my shop for customers, I was just hanging out with God.  Though I’d fallen in love with Jesus as a teenager, I’d never read all the way through the Bible.  I was hungry to learn how to hear God’s voice, to know for myself the promises of God.  As a sole proprietor, the time I sat waiting for customers was mine to spend as I wished.  An Amplified Bible was my version of choice and on that sunny afternoon in my Indiana hometown I’d discovered the book of Isaiah.  The books of Daniel, Ezekiel and Jeremiah were all a bit surreal to me.  Though a prophet, Isaiah spoke on a more practical level to me.  As I read chapter after chapter, I marvelled that certain verses created a ringing within my spirit; My Heavenly Father was whispering to me—these verses were specifically meant for me. 
                        Being about 24 or 25 I was praying for a husband, believing that God would give me the desires of my heart.  I never intended to remain single through my child-bearing years.  On that afternoon as I came to Isaiah 54 God spoke—but it wasn’t a message I wanted to hear, understand or accept.   
        “Sing, O barren one, you who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who did not travail with child!  For the [spiritual] children of the desolate one will be more than the children of the married wife, says the Lord. (2) Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; spare not; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes, (3) for you will spread abroad to the right hand and to the left; and your offspring will possess the nations and make the desolate cities to be inhabited.”  Isaiah 54
        As I sat there reading a command (Sing, O Barren one) and a promise (spiritual children will be more than that of the married wife) I remember the Holy Spirit whispered into my heart:  “You will be the mother to many children who are not your own.”  Still young, I thought  surely God meant that I would get married, have my own children AND also have lots of spiritual children.  But here I sit almost 30 years later, and I see that God was preparing me then for what would be reality in my life.
        It wasn’t that I didn’t try to make matters different.  At the age of 28 I got engaged.  He needed “fixing.”  My mother and half my church family saw the danger of the man who lacked true Christian commitment and had a problem with anger.  No one said anything to me:  they all prayed.  The Lord clearly showed me that I needed to “disengage” from this troubled man.  
        “(24) Make no friendships with a man given to anger, and with a wrathful man do no associate.  (25) Lest you learn his ways and get yourself into a snare.”  Proverbs 22 
        After we parted company, I realised my motives for wanting to marry him were not about being with him, so much as I wanted to get married and have children.  I was to learn in subsequent years that this man became an abusive husband and father.  
        In 1988 I went to England to attend a Discipleship Training School at Holmsted Manor in West Sussex, England. http://www.ywamholmsted.org/   Part of YWAM’s policy for the Discipleship Training Schools is “No Dating” during the  three – to – six months of the programme.  This was a time to focus on getting to know God and allowing Him to address issues of that heart that needed “spiritual surgery.”  It provided time for me to begin the healing process of the broken relationship.
        After I returned home in 1988, I eventually took a job and got “stuck-in” with my home church.  And I renewed a friendship with a young man—who was five years younger than myself.  He is a Christian, and we had a good friendship.  After about five months of spending time as friends, we examined our feelings and approached the “What If” question.  We went to counselling to see if we were compatible.  Eventually we got engaged—and I was 34—wanting to have children and thinking we could make things work.  Reality was we had different views on money, life callings and ministry, children, what each of us considered appropriate entertainment and even pets.  All of these major issues separated us. 
        During the years of my 30’s I struggled a lot with being single and childless.  I wanted to experience a life growing inside of me, to know the feel of a baby nestled and nursing at my breast.  There were times when I’d go home to Mom, pouring out my heartache with hot tears rolling down my cheeks.  Yet, Isaiah 54 would ring through my spirit:  “Sing O Barren one....Many will be your spiritual children.” 
        In 1994 God surprised me—I learned about the School of Writing through YWAM’s University of the Nations.  He opened the doors after speaking to me late at night in November, 1993.  “I didn’t call you to be a missionary.  I called you to be a writer.”  Three and a half months went by quickly and I applied to join the staff of the writing school.  I was accepted after completing an internship in 1995. 
        It was the beginning of the fulfilment of God’s promise—mothering many children who were not my own.  From 1995 through 1999 I served Jesus through Youth With A Mission.  Thanks to Facebook and e-mail many of the students who became “My Children” are still in contact with me.  It was while I served in YWAM that I got my first Mother’s Day Card.  
        When I went back to university in 2000 (at the age of 42), I lived in the dorms with the 18 to 24 year olds.  They accepted me.  It probably helped that I didn’t try to mother them, but was just there for them.  It was fulfilling to be around these young people. 
        In 2001 the “Surprise of My Life” made himself known—through www.crossdaily.com.  Through marrying Midnight Man, I have been blessed with a stepson, three step-daughters, plus their spouses/fianc├ęs and 14 grandchildren.  God has truly blessed me as all of my step children are kind, generous and loving towards me.  
        And through Hillsong Church London, I’ve been blessed with “Spiritual Daughters”.  
        So, although my womb has borne no children, I am not barren.  My life is fruitful.  And I have seen God keeping His promises.
Serving Jesus, Author of our faith.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

The last of the left-overs...

        Another box to the recycle—the one that held two layers of Christmas Chocolates—we finished the last ones.  Enjoyable while they lasted.  We have a couple boxes of deep-filled mince pies remaining from our celebration month.  We are close to finishing the rest of the left-over Holiday season food.  I have less to finish—as John found three bottles of wine the other day.  I’m a teetotaller, and like it that way.  January equals facing the consequences of choices made during the feasting season—eating all those foods we usually don’t have access to, or otherwise choose to avoid.  But this blog is not about changing eating habits...aren’t you glad? 
        The topic is the left-over stories from our Christmas season.  This is the last instalment of “The Grandsons M & K Week Adventure.”  Now, you may ask, what could I possibly have to say about that this in the 2nd week in January?  Simple—gingerbread.  Had the boys been coming for a day or two, the project of preference would have been rolled out sugar cookies.  But since we were extending the length of stay, I gave the situation a bit more consideration.  
        It was from a childhood interest in Germany and German traditions that the tradition of gingerbread houses rose to the surface in my brain.  This seemed like a bigger project that would require longer.  With this in mind, I went to Google and typed in Gingerbread houses.  This led me to:  http://www.gingerbread-house-heaven.com/  This website is a great resource with all kinds of recipes, instructions, templates, photos, videos and competitions.   
        It turned out that the Gingerbread House project was a three-day affair for us.  One day for making the dough; one day for baking the houses, and one day to construct and decorate them.  Although chilling the dough for an hour would have sufficed, most instructions I read said it was better to keep in refrigerated overnight.  And it broke up the activity so their anticipation was higher.  
        I also baked three more houses—one for Midnight Man’s three daughters and their families.  The houses were my gift to the families—as it was the most economic approach for us time wise and financially.  After all, something made by hand is an expression of love. 
        My first attempt at royal icing failed and the houses were not sticking together.  So, sending the boys out to burn off some energy, I retreated to my computer to research the process of making icing into a glue-like consistency.  Well, I simply hadn’t let my Kitchen Aid mixer run long enough.  It required 15 minutes.  Victory!  So I not only learned about Royal Icing (recipe on the website listed above), but I also learned how to make icing piping bag from grease-proof paper.  http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/videos/1056/making-a-piping-bag  Needing to supply the boys and myself for the project, I became more than proficient at making royal icing, making and filling piping bags.  
        Once the icing was the right consistency, the lounge looked like a miniature construction site as we used up all the candy we’d bought to decorate the houses.  Even Midnight Man was volunteered military style* to be part of the project.  He was assigned the job of making carrier boxes for the houses.  
        *Military Style Volunteer:  Commanding Officer—“I need a volunteer.  And YOU are it.  Now get busy.”
        Now the boys are ready for next year.  And my other grandchildren want a turn too.  Hmmm...maybe I’ll need to camp at their house next year!    I hope you enjoy the photos!

Serving Jesus, Author of our faith.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

A Prayer of Preparation

Reader:  Prepare the way for the Lord,
Congregation’s Response:  Make straight paths for Him

Father, You sent Jesus away from heaven to earth.  Before He came, You clearly told us to look for Him.  Many people spoke your message to prepare the World for His coming. 
There was Isaiah who said:  “Behold, the Lord God will come with might; For a child has been born for Us, the Gift of God’s son—for us.”

Reader:  Prepare the way for the Lord,
Congregation’s Response:  make straight paths for him

There was Simeon, in the temple, full of prayerful expectation.  He said:  “With my own eyes I've seen your salvation; Salvation is now out in the open for everyone to see.” 
There was also the prophetess, Anna, who full of worship, rejoiced when her hope of seeing salvation was fulfilled.  Father, help us to make our hearts a place of anticipation of our Coming Savior King.

Reader:  Prepare the way for the Lord,
Congregation’s Response:  make straight paths for him

Father, teach us how to be like John the Baptist, The Voice of One crying in the Wilderness.  By sharing with our family, friends and neighbors how to give forgiveness, be generous, do more that what is asked of us, we teach them how to make room for Jesus.  Lord, give us words and actions to this end.

Reader:  Prepare the way for the Lord,
Congregation’s Response:  make straight paths for him

Father, we remember those suffering in the world:  disease as a result of earthquakes, floods and volcanoes; those who are suffering with hunger due to famine; those whose only home is a cardboard box on the dirty streets of big cities. We ask you to show us practical things to help them.  May our hearts burn with Your prayers.  May our hands and feet be Your hands and feet.   Help us to find a way to touch them with your message.

Reader:  Prepare the way for the Lord,
Congregation’s Response:  make straight paths for him

Father, Your message is “Comfort My People.”  Send us to the people who are sad, lonely, hurting—in body and/or mind.  Give us words of hope and healing so that they can clearly understand that You can and will heal them.  Help us to comfort others as we have been comforted by You.  And by so doing, we clear the way for others to open their hearts to you.

Reader:  Prepare the way for the Lord,
Congregation’s Response:  make straight paths for him

Glorious and Gracious Father, thank You for this time of year as we prepare for Christmas.  Teach us how to give You time each day to prepare us for what we need to hear from you.  And when we have heard from you, help us to show others how to make a path straight to You.

In the Name of Jesus—the Coming King.  Amen

Passing things along...

I've been finding new blogs to read by clicking on the blogs my friends read.  

I'm in the mood to give...The first thing I want to share is is a "Give Away Something Handmade" project.  One of the blog writers I have just started following is sending a handmade gift to the first five people who write a response on her page for today's posting--Saturday, 8th January 2011.  Part of the stipulation of receiving the handmade gift is that I also post this offer and send something handmade out to the first five people who respond on my blog.  

      "The only rules are that it must be handmade by you, and it must be sent to your 5 people sometime in 2011." Those are her instructions.

So, if you post a comment, I will send out your handmade gift.  I believe that before you comment, you must have a google account.  It's pretty simple and there is no obligation with the google account.

For the sake of a child:  The second thing I want to pass along is a story about adoption.  A missionary couple are working to adopt a child named Moses in Ethiopia.  I want to help, because I believe adoption is a part of our Christian faith.  Whilst John and I are not in a position to help this family financially, we can pray for God to provide.  And I can share this need.  I hope you will add your prayers and do all that God puts on your heart.  


Serving Jesus, Author of our faith.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Apron strings and other "ties that bind."

     Apron strings often get a bad connotation because people refuse to cut them.  Is it the fault of the Apron Strings?  No--apron strings just help you keep your apron on.  And let me just go on record as saying, as messy as I get in the kitchen, those strings are very important! I have one functional apron right now...so I guess I need to get organised and put my sewing machine to good use.
Grandma Cox

     One of my favourite aprons was made by the Grandma Cox from an old cotton flour bag--a single piece of material with four rounded corners, a hole in the top, so that the apron went over the head and the back ending at waist level, a button on either side with which to fasten it.  She had appliqued flowers on the front, sewn on two pockets and trimmed it with purple edging.  It is very clear there were no strings from which to detach one's self.  ;-)  However, each time I wore it, it connected me with my heritage, reminding me of someone I love dearly.  
      Part of growing up--at least for my sister and me--was spending time with our grandparents over the summer,  during our school holidays.  An annual tradition began in the year 1970; we both spent a week in Bloomfield, Indiana with Grandma Cox--my mother's mom.  

Granny (Shilkett) Hildebrand
After a couple of weeks at home, we spent another week at Gramps and Granny Hildebrand's--my father's mother and step-father.  They lived in Rantoul, Illinois.  As we got older the visits lengthened to two weeks long--and each of us girls going by ourselves.  
     
     Grandma Cox had limited mobility--so I can remember washing windows, running the vacuum, and doing things she couldn't.  But Grandma was a really good cook--and she taught me how to make pie crust, home-made egg noodles and let me experiment in the open-plan kitchen.  As we sat on her back porch, looking out over the neighbours houses, the train tracks and the old ice house, I'd ask her about her life growing up as an orphan.  She was raised by her Grandmother Russell.  We built a relationship--and history wasn't a subject for school--it was living, fascinating.  
     I spent a lot of time wearing aprons at Grandma's house.  And I brought that home with me...growing to love home-making, cooking, sewing and crocheting.  These "emotional apron strings" didn't "tie-me-down", but rather bound me securely to my sense of identity, heritage and created the confidence I needed to become the person God created me to be.  
     By the time I'd had my "second 18th" or 36th birthday, I realised that my game plan was to marry a man who'd already had children and then become a grandmother.  And that is exactly what happened.  So, although I was dubious about having Grandson M & K for a week (18th-24th December 2010), I was also looking forward to continuing a tradition from my childhood with my step-grandchildren. 
     I thought back to the things that I did with my grandmothers, hoping to determine how to best spend this opportunity with them.  From times in the past when they'd stayed over-night on weekends, I realised that having a focus and planned activities was important.  My first few Christmases here I'd made an effort to have the grandchildren, who were old enough, over for a day of making Christmas cookies.  The purpose was to make memories with them, spend time with them--getting to know them and not only make them feel special, but make Christmas special too.  
     Though I didn't immediately recognise it at the time, this week-long opportunity was a gift to me.  Another  dream was coming true--spending time with some of my grandchildren the same way I'd spent time with my grandmothers.  We put aprons on...until the smaller apron's string  ironically broke!  Grandson M even prepared butternut squash soup for dinner one evening, with me supervising.  He's 13 now...and so he's at a good age for learning life skills that will serve him later as an adult.  
    More than once during our week together, I felt a lump rise in my throat.  I wasn't in Slough, but rather back in Bloomfield, Indiana, cooking with my grandmother.  The love I felt for my grandsons was being braided into the "apron string" that linked me to the love my grandmothers had for me.  I was investing into them those skills and experiences that had been invested into me.  I felt a supernatural sensation of timelessness--the present moment and eternity all in a single moment.  
     Not all apron strings are bad.  Sometimes those strings need to be picked up and passed onto the next generation

Serving Jesus, Author of our faith. 
    

Monday, 3 January 2011

     White Christmas?  Yes we did.  White New Year...no we didn't.  On 17th December Berkshire finally got a taste of what the rest of the Scotland, Northern England and Northern Ireland was experiencing...snow.  Between the 17th and 18th of December, Slough received eight inches of the powdery white stuff--the largest amount of snow on record for this area in memorable history.          
     Whilst this crystal powder managed to hamstring traffic, interfered with the running of the buses, prevented shopping in the High Street on the last weekend before Christmas, the snow actually served John and me well.
     Grandsons M & K  rode the train up from Wareham, England, accompanied by their Mum, T-Girl and little sister, Shi.  It was about a two hour journey, as the trains were also challenged by the snow.  None of them had ever seen so much snow at one time.  Midnight Man had walked the two miles into town, to do grocery shopping and meet the T-Girl and company.  T-Girl and Shi got back onto the train to return home; Midnight Man and The Boys marched off to Tesco to collect the shopping.  Since the buses were keeping a very limited service, a wait was required for a very necessary ride; carrying home 10 bags of shopping in the snow, at night was just not on. 
     The December sunset was at 15:51 hours on that Saturday afternoon.  I kept looking out the lounge window to see any signs of three bag-laden males slogging through the white stuff.  Knowing they'd be cold, hungry and tired when they got home, I'd prepared a pot of chili soup for dinner.  Finally about 19:00 hours I spied the first of the trudging trio.  Looking further across the park, I managed to see the other two plodding along the snow-covered walking path.  I hustled down the stairs to the front door of our block of flats to open the door for them and help get the bags upstairs.
     As we ate dinner, I asked M & K what they wanted to do in the coming week.  Before they could answer, Granddad piped up:  "Play in the snow!"  The boys quickly agreed!  I think had they been allowed, they would have gone back out that evening.
   On Sunday all four of us bundled up and tramped to church.  Since M & K are apprentice bell-ringers, Midnight Man took them to the church early for practice while I cleared up after breakfast.  
     My walk was solitary.  I drank in the silence caused by the white, muffling snow that hung on tree limbs, stood on brick walls and covered roofs and lawns alike.  The bells rang from St. Mary's Church of England as I approached and I couldn't help but smile at a robin flittering from tree to tree in the cemetery.  Pleasure rose from deep within as I enjoyed this taste of "real" winter.  I even stood still for a few minutes to savour the crisp cleanness of the air, the pristine atmosphere.  And, this chilled landscape gave hope of a white Christmas.
     Walking home in the afternoon, M & K reveled in experimenting on the icy public path--charging away, sliding on a slick smooth spots.  WhilstMidnight Man and I ambled along behind we had to chuckle at them making snow balls and flinging them at each other.
     Boys are by nature rambunctious and seem to have a difficult time concentrating on cerebral projects until some of that build-up energy is released.  Daily, it seemed that by late morning during their week-long visit, I'd have to give the instructions:  "Okay, get your out-side clothes on and go out to burn off some energy!"
Looking out my studio window.
     Grandson K soon found out that fingerless gloves might be cool to look at, they were pointless toGrandson M found out that putting plastic shopping bags over athletic shoes only works if the bags are large enough and don't split!  They also learned that building a snowman takes longer than anticipated--and if the objective is a life-sized adult snow-person--well a ladder is needed. The great thing about playing in snow is that a person gets wet--but not necessarily dirty.  If the snow is deep enough, and the ground frozen--mud is avoided.  
    So, the snow served Midnight Man and me well by providing new experiences for our two oldest grandsons.  I'm sure they hope it will snow a lot next winter.  
    Ironically, whilst I was enjoying being in England for a cold, snowy-white Christmas, reveling in "actual" winter weather, John was dreaming of a sandy-white beach in Florida for Christmas.  Oh well, I guess we all have our winter dreams!

Serving Jesus, Author of our Faith