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Focus

eyechartLast week our daughter visited the eye doctor, we thought she had an infection but it was simply an irritation, no big deal. I don’t normally go into the exam room with our girl anymore because she is old enough to communicate her needs at this point, but I was invited this time. Georgia has exceptionally poor eyesight, not able to recognize any one or any thing without her contacts or glasses. I learned years ago to say very little to her when waking her in the morning, because it’s so disorienting to her to not be able to see, and yet be expected to communicate. First thing in the morning.

So, the eye doctor had Georgia remove her glasses so he could examine her, but began asking her questions with his back turned to her. I watched as my daughter went from a vibrant, focused young woman to a limp, empty little girl in that chair. She simply looked down and off to the side, away from anything and flatly answered questions. The doctor examined her and eventually had her put her glasses back on. Instantly, she was smiling and making eye contact; it was like the difference between being asleep and awake. I asked her about the encounter as we were leaving and she said it’s not worth it to try so hard to focus on anything when she knows she cannot see it, so she just gives up.

Instantly I understood how she felt. Oh God, forgive me for so often taking my focus off of You, for removing my glasses and losing sight of what’s truly important, for being so quick to simply give up.

I am thankful for the fact that my daughter lives in a time when her weakness can be made strong, someone with her vision a few generations ago would be regarded as useless. I’m also thankful for the reminder that my weaknesses can be made strong if I just keep my focus on God.

Homemade Beef Stock

roast-beef-stock-940x600I may appear way more industrious than I really am with this recipe, just know that there is a good reason why I am taking the time to make my own stock. We have some joint and ligament issues in our family, and it has been suggested to provide my people with gelatin, a natural part of bone marrow. Apparently, previous generations didn’t have the problems we do because they ate from the whole cow, or the whole bird, and not just the choice cuts. The gelatin inside the bones of animals is a vital ingredient missing in our American diet. So….I am roasting bone marrow pieces and then simmering them for hours, and grossing my vegetarian out in new ways. I lifted the recipe straight from Bon Appetit, and even the picture because my stock doesn’t look this appetizing. I am counting on it to enhance our stews and soups with flavor and gelatin this winter!

 

Homemade Beef Stock

5 lbs. beef marrow bones

4 peeled carrots

4 celery stalks

2 halved peeled oninons

1  halved head of garlic

parsley

thyme

2 bay leaves

peppercorns

 

  • Preheat oven to 450°. Roast marrow bones (have your butcher saw them into pieces) in a roasting pan, turning occasionally, until browned, 25–30 minutes. Cut carrots and celery into 3” pieces; add to pan along with onions and garlic. Roast, turning occasionally, until vegetables are brown, 25–30 minutes.
  • Transfer to a large stockpot; add cold water to cover. Pour off fat from pan, add ½ cup water, and stir, scraping up browned bits; add liquid to pot along with parsley, thyme, bay leaves, and black peppercorns. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 4 hours, occasionally skimming foam and fat from surface and adding water as needed. Strain.
  • DO AHEAD: Stock can be made 2 days ahead. Let cool; cover and chill, or freeze up to 3 months.

Or see it here: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/roast-beef-stock#

Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should

beanOver the years our children have stretched our thinking in so many areas, and in these last few months we have had another opportunity to view life in another way. Our daughter is no longer going to college. We weren’t shocked this summer when she came to us and suggested taking some time off; she had had a great first year but was feeling like she was supposed to be doing something more. As her parents we wanted to encourage and support, but struggled with our role in the decision-making. My guy had similar doubts twenty five years prior, told his parents and was informed that basically he needed to get over it and get back to the grind. But this is our strong-willed, mission-minded girl who sees the world differently than most. I had the feeling that forcing her to go back to school would be an exercise in futility. And a waste of time and money. I have no doubt that Jessica could play the game and earn a degree and be a stepping stone closer to whatever it is that we are all working towards. But is that the point? She is learning that just because she can go to college doesn’t mean she should.

My generation has been sold a story that when our kids hit that last year of high school, they should have a plan and a scholarship to a major school. As parents we need to remember that colleges are for profit, a commodity sold to so many people who don’t really need it. Universities were originally built to educate the finest minds only, and over time have been made available to anyone who is willing to pay for them. I firmly believe that this next generation will question the validity of their educations against the amount of the school debt accrued, and begin to look for creative ways to get what they need to succeed in today’s environment.

Recently she told me that when someone asks her how school is going and she informs them that she’s not there anymore, the response is normally a knee-jerk,”Oh, that’s okay” from whoever she is talking to. Funny, they feel a need to give her permission to do the unusual. But she’s not looking for permission – from her parents or from anyone else. She’s looking for her way. And her way is probably going to be very different than most. Maybe she will end up on another continent helping the vulnerable. Perhaps she will serve others here. My part in this is not to get too caught up in what society says she should be doing, and encourage our girl to seek God’s will for her future. As long as she does that, it’s way more than ‘okay’, it’s perfect.

 

What is That to You?

tribeI spent some time on the phone with a dear friend recently, she’s a member of my tribe, one who truly speaks into my heart and life and lets me do the same for her. We were talking about the difficulty of living with intentionality in all things. We also touched on our thought lives – you know, the words we say to our selves that really guide our emotions and allow them to get away if we’re not careful. My friend told me that she has placed a post-it with a simple question in her kitchen to remind her of both these issues:

What is that to you?

It’s a question that begs to be answered all day, everyday and could be even further boiled down to: So what?

When fear pulls the very breath out of you regarding one of your children, what is that to you?

When the fog of doubt permeates the air regarding your spouse, what is that to you?

When that worn out message of ‘you’re not good enough’ invades your heart, what is that to you?

Each of us has a choice in what we do with these thoughts. We can allow them to slow us down or even paralyze us, or we can intentionally capture them, examine them and make a decision not to entertain them. I’m thankful for a friend who understands my heart, and can give me a reminder of the way I need to be thinking, because it dramatically affects the way I am living.

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.2 Corinthians 10:3-6

 

My Name is Jennifer and I am a Manipulator

manipulatorI wasn’t always this way. Okay, maybe I was. Honestly I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t able to influence others to ultimately get my way. According to Strengthfinders, I am strong in the area of Strategy, meaning I am able to look ahead and see the easiest, most efficient route to the goal. This could be a strength when used in many fields, but I have learned that it can also be a weakness, particularly in relationships.
When my guy and I were dating and ultimately engaged, we fought a lot. That may not be totally accurate, because there wasn’t much fight left in the poor guy after going a couple of rounds with me. We joked that I could probably murder someone and convince him that he had done it. I would go for the jugular every time, and if I saw that my argument was going to nowhere, I could change the trajectory slightly so that I always had the upper hand. Honestly I saw it as a weakness in him that I could always win the argument.
And then we broke up. For almost three years. Apparently it’s not very fun to always be wrong in a relationship. It was the first time in my life that I couldn’t get my way, no matter how hard I tried. He closed down and shut me out. Suddenly he had the upper hand, all the power.
During the years that we were apart I found myself in a relationship with someone far more advanced in the art of tearing down arguments and for the first time, felt the hopelessness of not being heard, only defeated, in a relationship. I also leaned into Christ more than ever, and began to see that although I had some skills in the area of arguing, I was no expert in strategy. Turns out winning every battle doesn’t mean that you win the war. Having all the power in a relationship means being willing to hear the heart of the other and to try to come to an agreement.
Over time, God brought my guy and me back together. I learned that God had been working on him too, and my husband started to push back and show me boundaries. I realized I had been like a child, craving rules and consequences because how else do you know that someone really loves you? I needed boundaries to feel loved and he needed to be heard.
I wish I could say that today I am free from manipulation. But like an alcoholic, I will always have this weakness; if I am in an argument or a power struggle, my fight reflex kicks in to win at all cost. I can usually see every step to take to be declared the winner, but that’s not really the goal, is it?
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. Proverbs 18:2

Seeing Clearly

necessaryI am one big step closer to wearing reading glasses. Recently my daughter talked me into trying some on in a cute boutique, and we found some that were palatable. Sigh….how did this happen? She then explained to me the biological reasons for my fine tuning fuzziness, in an effort to make me feel better and realize this happens to everyone. It got me thinking about the other things that come along with reading glasses, and they aren’t so bad:

There was a long time in my life when I questioned God on anything that happened that didn’t fit with my time frame/goals/vision of the way life should be. I have now been on this earth long enough to trust that God really loves me and wants the best for me, and very often that means something outside of my narrow ideal.

I have been around long enough to see the cycles of our society, the swings of liberalism to conservatism and everything in between and no longer worry that the sky is falling.

I have watched so many endure hardships, and have witnessed the truth in the adage that time really does heal, if we allow it.

I feel the groans of our growth and our deterioration as a whole, and know better how to pray.

I am not in the hurry that I once was, understanding better the importance of the simple passage of time.

The intense passion that I felt for and against many things has leveled off, being replaced with loyalty and respect.

I now know that I can learn something from everyone I come in contact with, and sometimes I even take the time to try.

Every now and then I am asked for advice, not because I am smart, but because I have lived longer and learned something along the way.

I’m not rushing out to buy those glasses, but I am more willing now to accept the fact that it is time.

Curtains

Photo (58)My friend Kristy came for a visit this weekend, it was her birthday and we haven’t had a minute alone in several months, so her guy sent her to me for a few days! We ate an entire birthday cake with very little help from anyone else, had massages and caught up with each other on all the little details that don’t get said when you have several hours between you. It’s so necessary to keep your friendship alive and current, and it takes time and intention. And cake.

Something that I love about my friend is that she is brave in a way I doubt I will ever be. I told Kristy that I had some ideas of things I wanted to do on the main floor of our house, curtains and art and more color. I’ve never purchased a curtain in my life, and certainly never put any up, which is a product of moving every few years; you learn to adapt to whatever is already there and keep the house neutral enough to sell again soon. In very little time, we had shopped, chosen and purchased the curtains we needed and then my friend didn’t hesitate to get started putting them up. She calculated the math, pulled out all the hardware and power tools and climbed the ladder. My job was to hold the drill and tape measure while she worked. The end result is some beautiful curtains in my living room, balancing the space and softening it at the same time. Probably something few would ever notice, but I love it.

This morning I was enjoying my newly framed room and thinking about our whirlwind visit. My friend does a whole lot for me; she has the ability to come into my life, hear what I’m wishing for, encourage me to push forward and go for it, roll up her sleeves and do some (or all!) of the work, and the result is a balancing and a softening – a refinement in me. I’m so thankful God has given me such a friend, I waited a long time for her and she was worth it.

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