Friday, August 30, 2013


It's Friday and time for Five Minute Friday. I didn't get any other blog writing done this week, so I'm grateful for the commitment I've made to FMF each week. Today's word prompt is worship.

What does worship look/sound/feel like for you? The worship style of a church can draw people in, cause the old-timers to sit with crossed arms and a frown, or send someone running out of the building as if the roof is on fire. I feel compassion for worship leaders -- how do you keep the hymn lovers satisfied and the millenials engaged without losing all those who find them somewhere in between?

I think we too often, me included, distract ourselves from worship by focusing on the medium by which worship is encouraged in a church service. The music is too loud, too fast, too slow, too repetitive, too old, too new, too whatever. In our church, our worship style is well-balanced with the right (in my mind) mix of fast and slow, loud and contemplative, old and new. That could change and then what?

But worship isn't about the music or the style or the tempo or the volume. Worship isn't about sitting in the pew or folding chair or on the ground on Sunday morning. Worship is about focusing my heart on God. The rest is just wrapping paper. For me, worship is quieting my self and my non-stop mind. That can happen within the walls of a church building, in the early morning quiet on the beach with my toes in the sand, watching the sun set behind the mountains, sitting around the campfire, in the company of others or all alone.

I don't want to put worship in a box. I want it to be the underlying current of my being.

Friday, August 23, 2013


It's Friday and it's a great day despite the fact that my e-mail isn't working. But Comcast says the issue should be resolved by 11:54 (so precise!), so we'll see if they achieve their goal. In the meantime, I'll keep on with my own 2013 resolution to write Five Minute Friday each week. Today's word prompt is last.

Today is the last day of summer vacation for our school district. It's been several years since we've done the back-to-school routine and usually I pay little attention to the start of school, aside from timing my morning walk to avoid the schedule of the school buses. But this year, I'm more attuned to it, most likely because this start of the school year means big changes in the lives of friends.

First there are the Four Next Door. How can K be ready to start high school? The first time I met her, she was nine and appeared on our doorstep bearing brownies mere days after we had moved in. She's grown into a beautiful young lady with a lovely heart and is a fabulous big sister. And now she's entering the crazy ride that is high school. With her that day, was J, who is now a seventh-grader who's growing into quite a young man, and E and Z, who were just babies in the stroller. Those babies start kindergarten on Monday. How can that can be? I fear that in a blink of an eye, they'll be starting high school! I will always remember the gift of those brownies and how special it made us feel.

Today, a friend takes her youngest to school in the Big City. She worries about daughter moving into the city but knows she needs to let her birdie spread her wings and pursue her dream. This mama will need lots of coffee dates and moral support in the coming weeks.

Another friend has a high schooler for the first time this year and will be spending every.Friday.night at high school football games watching her son in the marching band. Oh, I remember those days of Friday night football, living a little bit of Friday Night Lights in a small town.

The last day of summer vacation brings the anticipation of something new, a fresh start, new beginnings. My hope is that as the last chapter of summer vacation 2013 closes, the chapter of a new school year will be full of adventure and promise.

Friday, August 16, 2013


It's Friday and time to keep my New Year's resolution to write Five Minute Friday each week in 2013. So far, so good. Here we go. Today's word prompt is small.

Sometimes it's the small things that matter the most, isn't it?

The words thank you.
The mosquito bite's irritating, continuous itch.
A baby's smile.
The flower among the weeds.
A paper cut.
A pill containing powerful medicine.
The pennies' difference that won't let the account balance.
Enough ... or too much ... salt.
A touch.
One degree on the thermostat.
A breath.

Our days are made of up millions of small things that either make us celebrate or cause us to sigh in frustration. The small things can cause the biggest fights or the most exuberant joys. Embracing the joy that comes from the small, sometimes overlooked moments is how I want to live my days. Letting go of the minor irritants that can ruin my day is something I continue to strive for while living this amazing life I've been given.

What is a small thing that has made your day lately?

Friday, August 9, 2013


Linking up today with Five Minute Friday, where we write for a (supposed) five minutes on a given word prompt. Today's word prompt is lonely.

She stared out the polished window of the penthouse, watching the crowds below scurry like ants in a colony, going about their days, rushing from one place to another. On the coffee table, her smiling face stared up at her from the latest magazine spread. Haunting eyes betrayed the beauty of perfectly styled hair and a carefully chosen outfit. She'd come so far from her small-town roots, at least that's what the media would have you believe. She sighed and took another sip from her wineglass.


She pushed up the hill, struggling under the weight of the water jug, toward the steady beat of life in the village. It was his village, really. She'd moved here as a young bride, just months ago. Since he'd died, it was different. Every day required immense effort to put one foot in front of the other just to survive. Her place in the village was hard to define. The looks the others cast her way told the real story.


She slumped in the pew, idly reading through this week's bulletin as she waited for the service to begin. In a church this size, you'd think it would be easy to find a way to connect. Around her, families and groups of friends chatted about lunch plans, outreach activities, life in general. She longed to be part of one of the groups, but no one seemed to notice her and she didn't have the courage to interrupt. She had no husband, no kids, no easy way to transition into one of the many predefined groups in this community. She sighed.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Would I?

I recently read a pastoral resignation letter in which the pastor explained his reasons for leaving his current pastorate. Including in the letter was a question he and his wife had been pondering: if we only have five or 10 years left, how do we want to spend them?

His question stems from surviving cancer. I believe any individual who has fought and survived a serious illness has a very different appreciation for life and time here on earth than the rest of us. As I read the resignation letter, the question stuck with me and a thought has been bouncing around my mind ever since: isn't that how we should all live on a daily basis?

How different would our lives look, would my life look, if we were fully living in the understanding that life is but a breath and there may be 40, 15, 5 or one year left? Would I be slower to speak and quicker to listen? Would I give more and take less? Would I invest in the lives of those around me with less thought to what I want or need? Would I take steps to heal relationships that need mending instead of putting it off or ignoring it because I don't want to open the emotional Pandora's box that could be waiting? Would I write a book?

A friend recently said, "Life is fragile." She spoke the truth.

In the past four years, I've lost three friends and an aunt to cancer. I hate cancer, but that's another topic altogether. Walking through cancer with people I love has changed my life in a thousand ways and multiplied my faith hundreds of times over. It has taught me two things: I don't fear death, at least not to the degree that I might have before, and I need to embrace the life I've been given because it can change with one phone call, with one careless driver, with one (fill in the blank).

I don't fear death because I know God has numbered my days and I believe that eternal glory awaits after this life is over. Some days I embrace life well; other days I waste more time than I should. Some days I listen well and intently; other days I'm impatient and careless with my words and forget that the person across from me is a gift.

B and I don't have a lot of big dreams and honestly, we are generally able to pursue the ones we do have. Last year, we went to Alaska for his 50th birthday. Why? Because he's always wanted to go and we know that we don't know what tomorrow holds. I'm not advocating reckless abandonment of common sense, but we realize that embracing life fully (which is different than selfishly) is paramount to how we want to live our lives. It's still far too easy for us to get caught up in the minutiae of the demands of daily life, but we strive to remember that we want to live our lives well.

Tim McGraw's song, "Live Like You Were Dying," is one that sticks with you. It particularly sticks with me because B dreams of going skydiving and my vote is still a pretty firm "no" because, well, that seems to fall in the aforementioned category of "reckless abandonment." But I digress. We should live like we are dying because we are. I don't mean that to be macabre, but we're not getting younger, time doesn't go backward. We should be looking to live in ways that fulfill our purpose here on earth, honoring God and loving others.

Ann Voskamp ( wrote about approaching a milestone birthday. She said, "Your choice is either receive your life or reject your one chance at living and you can ask all you want where does the time go, but it doesn’t get stuck under the couch. The point is that your life is meant to be spent. The point is that your life is meant to be used up and every wrinkle means you are wringing out the good of the wonder of this thing called life."

Let's go forth and embrace our lives. And create a few wrinkles while we're at it.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Legacy in a Box

I'm linking up today with Bloom (in)courage Book Club, which just finished reading bread & wine: a love letter to life around the table with recipes by Shauna Niequist.

I opened the box. I don't remember why - looking for my tried and true zucchini bread recipe to use some of the season's bounty? Searching for inspiration for dinner? I suppose it doesn't matter why I opened the box, what matters is what I realized when I opened it like I'd done hundreds of times before.

I had recently finished reading bread & wine, and while I thoroughly enjoyed the book, I came away feeling a little inadequate, wishing I enjoyed throwing my doors wide open, scaring up innovative seating for spontaneous guests and being more innovative in the kitchen. It's a minor struggle ... learning to exercise the gift of hospitality that comes so easily to others in my life.

But as I flipped through the cards, I realized that there is a treasured legacy residing in my recipe box. A community of the heart built one relationship and one recipe at a time. The women who have shared recipes with me through the years each represent a special part of my heart and life around my family's table.

There are recipes from my childhood in my mom's handwriting, written on the back of data cards recycled from her stint at the U.S. Census Bureau. These recipes include molasses crinkles and raggedy robins. I remember making Japanese teacakes with her, most likely as part of earning a merit badge for GAs at church. The teacake recipe still resides in my recipe box, written in my elementary cursive.

And then there's the recipe for Aunt Rosie's coconut cake. We lost Aunt Rosie to pancreatic cancer just last month, but I will always be glad I have her cake recipe. Perhaps it's time to make it in her honor.

Two women who have probably had the most influence on me in the kitchen are Pam and Natalie. Their contributions to my life, my family and my recipe box are significant and many. Pam always went out of her way to make sure my husband had some combination of peanut butter and chocolate for dessert, so my recipe box contains a number of recipes for delightful concoctions. The most treasured recipes I have from her are e-mailed recipes dated November 07, 2000, just weeks after I became a Mrs. She e-mailed me her recipes for beef vegetable soup and chicken corn soup. I think that's when our almost-annual tradition of Soup Day began. She and I would cook soup all afternoon while the guys watched the game or worked on a project and then we'd share dinner together. Sometimes we'd try new soup recipes, but we always included one or both of these stand-bys. It's been several years since our last Soup Day and while she's no longer on this earth to live and laugh beside me, I'm so grateful for the memories we made and shared together in the kitchen.

Like Pam, Natalie is a gifted, gracious hostess. We have shared thousands of escapades during our friendship, and some of the best have been in the kitchen. I used to be her sous chef, but a few years ago, she told me I'd completed my apprenticeship. Ha. Nearly 20 years ago, after separate trips to New Orleans, we decided to throw a Mardi Gras party to help break up the long, dreary, Pennsylvania winter. That was our first attempt at making gumbo and it was gone so fast, we didn't get to have more than a taste ourselves. (That party was also the time we thought we'd seriously miscalculated how much food we needed and purchased extra frozen appetizers for back-up. Lesson learned: It's better to have too much food than too little.) Since then, we've perfected our version of gumbo and have deemed it Natalie and Elizabeth's Gourmet Gucci Gumbo, since it's our creative take on the traditional version you would find down Louisiana way. We've missed a few years, but try to make it together every February or March.

King's Hawaiian French Toast is one of my favorite breakfast recipes. The story goes that my cousin's husband cooked up a big batch and was boasting about it being a secret family recipe, not to be replicated. Some time later, my uncle picked up a loaf of King's Hawaiian bread and found the not-so-secret recipe right on the back of the bag. My family's been enjoying it ever since.

Cajun pretzels remain a crowd favorite nearly 20 years after a co-worker brought them into work. I've included the recipe below, but beware ... they have a bit of a kick and are addictive! Impossible to eat just one.

Refrigerator rolls from Great Aunt Helen, who was always dressed to the nines and in stiletto heels well into her 90s; chocolate trifle from June, who sets off on a cross-country motorcycle trip tomorrow; chicken enchiladas from Ellen; a "Gotta Try!" party food recipe from Dona handwritten on a scrap of a Pennsylvania map; Heidi's San Antonio quinoa; the list goes on.

I have a recipes board on Pinterest, but it's nothing compared to a few minutes flipping through the cards in my recipe box, remembering life, laughter and tears beside the women who have freely shared themselves, their hospitality and their culinary abilities with me and the ones I love.

Cajun Pretzels

2 lbs. broken beer pretzels
1.5 cups vegetable oil
2 tsp. cayenne red pepper
1 T broiled steak seasoning (or seasoned salt)
1/2 tsp. dillweed
1 T Creole seasoning
1 package Hidden Valley Ranch salad dressing mix (original)

Combine all ingredients except pretzels. Mix well. Put pretzels in large baking pan and pour mixture over pretzels. MIX PRETZELS WELL. (yes, this is written in all caps on my recipe card!) Bake at 225 for 1.5 hours, stirring every 15-20 minutes.

Friday, August 2, 2013


It's Friday, it's beautiful outside and it's time to write on the Five Minute Friday word prompt story.

My grandpa was a storyteller. Lest you envision a grandpa on a rocking chair in front of the fire with a wee one on his lap, my grandpa would peck out his stories on the typewriter in his den. He had four grandchildren and for a number of our childhood years, he would create a story at the holidays, primarily Thanksgiving and Christmas with an odd Easter thrown in. The stories would feature some combination of the four of us and were a special delight to receive . They are packed away right now, but I'm inspired to pull them out and enjoy the priceless heirloom of his typed words.

My grandpa was born in Wales and grew up in a tight-knit mining community in Pennsylvania. He wrote a memoir about driving mules in the Nottingham coal mines. My brother served as coauthor on the memoir. I'm not sure it was ever published beyond family distribution, but it was a window into the early years of his life and important to understanding that part of our heritage. In his retirement, Grandpa would write and submit stories to Good Old Days magazine and to his joy, had some published.

You wouldn't necessarily expect my grandpa to be a storyteller. His career path included coal mining, restaurant management and retail sales. But he understood something I'm realizing more each day -- your life is your story and everyone has a story to tell. These stories, our lives, are the best stories ever and can be shared over a meal, on a walk, in a book or on a screen. Grandpa has been gone for close to 20 years, but I like to think that if he were around, he'd have his own blog. Or else he'd still be back in the den, pecking away.