Cranberries

I don’t know why, but I love the Cranberry books. Cranberry Christmas, Cranberry Thanksgiving, Cranberry Easter, we even have a Cranberry Halloween book while my family doesn’t really even “do” anything for Halloween. I just love the stories, the characters, the artwork.

But I also really love cranberries: they are just a delicious, pretty, little tangy fruit. Ha! I remember loving a particular cereal when I was a kid that had cranberries and walnuts in it. It felt like a very grownup thing to enjoy, and I thought it was super special when my mom would let me put a box in the cart when wandering the grocery aisles with her. (Have I mentioned that I am a second generation homeschooler? I did ALL the errands by my mom’s side, and sometimes we were even bold enough to run errands before 2pm… that was our kind of brazen rebellion back in the eighties and early nineties of California living.) My mom was big into country style shabby chic arts & crafts… and for a handful of years she partnered with a friend to do a Christmas market they called Cranberry Corner. I’m not sure I have ever asked her exactly why she chose that name. But I still remember it! And I remember the ambiance of that annual event, the pungent smell of cinnamon & a tart sweetness. Perhaps it was a cinnamon-cranberry candle burning in the back! My mom was also keenly into potpourri at the time. It was the nineties, after all.

I also have always loved my mom’s homemade cranberry sauce. Nothing particularly unique about it: just fresh cranberries with sugar, water, and some kind of orange flavoring – usually zest. She also occasionally made cranberry muffins and put dried cranberries in our trail mix or granola. I was never a big fan of raisins, but I sure enjoyed their cousin, Craisins. Yummers.

So here I now find myself continuing to love cranberries. But my kids don’t have the same affinity for them. So I’m trying to find ways to incorporate some cranberries into my kids’ holiday traditions. This year, I made a cranberry-pecan coffee cake for Thanksgiving Day morning. It paired perfectly with a side of crispy bacon and a hot latte… well, the kids had milk, but the latte is my favorite. Anyway, that is definitely a recipe we would enjoy again. We have had homemade cranberry sauce twice so far this season (including once when I added a splash of frangelica liqueur, which was a lovely touch). But I still want to try something else.

I think I may need to whip up a batch of cranberry orange muffins to start our Saturday with some zip. And then to pair with a pork loin roast tomorrow evening for our second Advent dinner, I think a cranberry apple chutney might work really well. And if I have any cranberries left that make it without getting gooey in the fridge by next week, I would love to try a cranberry balsamic chicken with cranberry brie bites on the side and cranberry apple upside-down cake for dessert.

It’s time to plan and prepare some more meals. It is just more part of the joyfully domestic life as a full time keeper of home, with seven people living here full time. There are no fewer than twenty-one meals a week which need planned and prepared to some extent. Perhaps breakfasts are mostly haphazard scavenging by the children on most days, but I need to be sure we have muffins or eggs or cereal or oatmeal available. That in itself takes some level of planning on my part. Lunches are often quick things to cook or compile, often just the heating up of leftovers and adding a side of fresh fruit and a cup of milk. But dinners can honestly be the bane of my existence sometimes. I go through seasons of loving the dinnertime routine… but often it is a rotation of cookery that simply feels like work without the pleasure. I know my people need fed well, so I do my utmost to use healthy ingredients and prepare tasty meals. But it honestly CAN get to be a bit monotonous and predictable and uninspired. Sometimes I ask a friend for new ideas. Or I will even just call my sister-in-law and ask, “what’s for dinner?” A friend of mine had dedicated a category of food for each day of the week (Tuesday is tacos, Wednesday is chicken, Thursday is soup or salad depending on the season, Friday is pizza, Saturday is leftovers, Sunday is takeout, Monday is meatless…) just to have a starting point. When I was preparing for my fifth child’s arrival, before I even knew that bedrest was looming on the horizon, I compiled a list of our family favorite meals and posted it on the fridge. So if I ever felt too sick to come up with ideas based around food myself, I could just have a family member glance at the list for inspiration and we would move forward with it… sometimes with Mommy sucking on peppermints while trying not to smell anything meat-based or heated and seeking to avert my eyes from certain things because they would absolutely turn my tummy just on sight. (Honestly… blackberry jam and ground beef are pretty much ruined for me for life.)

But so much of holidays are based around foods. So how do we maintain beloved traditions while not letting the grow stagnant? How do we make holiday meals our own? How do we incorporate our children into the planning, the preparation, the cooking, the work AND the delight?

For my part, I take what I loved from my childhood and mix it with what my husband tells me he loved from his childhood. And we take a few things from each… then we try out different things on our kids like guinea pigs. I try to log what is delighted in while tossing aside what wasn’t anyone’s favorite. Sometimes you know it is an instant hit (like when Grandmama makes homemade donuts for everyone after cutting down Christmas trees on family property… and all ten grandkids devour them, declaring it to be a new annual must), while other times it takes a couple of tries to know that it has made the cut (like hosting weekly Advent meals… not because of any particular recipe, but because the energy of a mama wavers & wanes from time to time thanks to motherhood and hormones and any number of other things).

So I am learning. Growing. Trying. Often succeeding. And praising the Lord for the lot of it. He is good. I am only fourteen years into my own specific homemaking, but I helped my mother before that, so I might be a couple of decades into it. And honestly, sometimes He gives me something as simple as a cranberry to remind me that this is good. From stories to memories to recipes ~ these are the things of which memories, traditions, cultures are made.

Gather

I feel like I’ve never wanted a big old “gather” sign on my wall more than I do this year. It’s like our eyes are all opening to all kinds of things. Like covering coughs with elbows rather than hands- or washing your hands on the regular to remain sanitary- or that we actually do believe corporate weekly worship is important and needs to include singing. Other things I learned this year have included things like: my babies adore my parents, and ought not be kept from them- staying home for twelve weeks in a row can actually be an enormous gift- hugs & handshakes are not scary nor death-sentences- and welcoming people into our homes for various hospitality can not be taken for granted.

If you have ever had family drama surrounding holidays and extended relatives… that whole rubber band type stretch of how much you can fit in, or whose year it is (as though time spent with your family were a bargaining chip or hot commodity rather than an undeserved gift)… well, I’m pretty sure 2020 took the cake AND the icing on top.

So how about that “gather” sign, hmm?! I keep thinking I just need to rearrange some things on a wall or two… but then again, there are timeless options that I really want even more than that… because solagratia.co has this gorgeous option. Actually, let’s be real: they have LOTS of gorgeous options that would bless your home as well as mine. Consider that my unapologetic advertisement for a shop I love, as well as a resource I am saving pennies for myself!

All pithy pleasures aside, gathering for Thanksgiving this year was splendid. And because my family as well as my parents all have immunity to the bug that is trying to take over the world (tongue is in my cheek…), we felt zero guilt or shame in joining my brother’s family for the day. Honestly, we are basically just one big family anyway. They were in our pod from day one (literally! March 14!), and our kids are actually cousins but love each other (& treat each other) an awful lot like siblings. If there is a cousin-sibling hybrid out there, I guess that’s what these ten munchkins are.

I was happily assigned baked goods for the family feasting table. I made sourdough rolls plus six pies (pumpkin, pecan, and chocolate chess). A week later, we are finally licking clean the last of the pie plates. Of course we followed Thanksgiving up with two Advent meals for hospitality & celebration… so we have not been dieting our way through the pie plates.

But here is the real point of the celebrating, the abundance, the joy, the feasting, the hospitality, the pies that are decadent down to the last crumb: Christ has come to make us new, and He is coming again to finish the good work He began. He proclaimed on the cross, “It is finished”! And this is the best news for us as His people. Because it is finished, because He lived & died & resurrected & ascended, He will come again in glory! And from now until then we aren’t just waiting around for the good part of the story. We aren’t just wondering how to endure this life until we reach the life to come. No indeed, may it never be. This life in the meantime is a gift! It is our participation in the early/middle chapters of the story. It is our opportunity to imitate Him, to practice worship through work, to learn abundant grace by abundant giving, to learn immeasurable joy by immeasurable gratitude.

Gather. Feast. Sing. Show your gratitude through gifts like thanksgiving and gratitude-gifting. This is what Christ equips us for: good works. Let your hands get to work. Sweep the floor, make some food, fill the bellies of neighbors and strangers.

Be overcome with abundance. Because that’s exactly what you are.

Fireworks Day

The Bible is worth all the other books ever printed.
-Patrick Henry-

Julyfourth2

My children love “fireworks day.” And this year was no exception. With the specific delight of getting to gather with our church parish group for a cookout and fellowship, followed by meeting up with my parents at a small town fireworks display not too far from our home, there was no end of joy and excitement.

This is all the inheritance I give to my dear family.
The religion of Christ will give them one which will make them rich indeed.
-Patrick Henry-

True to our bibliophilic family’s constant obsession, we began the day with books.
I read to my children about the history of Independence Day.
I read them the Declaration of Independence.
We looked at facsimiles of the document.
We sang a couple of patriotic songs.

Although the eyes of my sweet little gingers well nigh glazed over during the reading of the Declaration of Independence itself, they really loved Alice Dalgliesh’s book on the subject. What other books have you read and loved about America’s beginnings, founding fathers, liberty, & independence?

Julyfourth1

Resistance to tyranny becomes the Christian
and social duty of each individual…
Continue steadfast and,
with a proper sense of your dependence on God,
nobly defend those rights which heaven gave,
and no man ought to take from us.
-John Hancock-

But, as expected, it was really the fireworks that took their breath away.
Enjoying the snuggles with grandparents while some watched through the sunroof, wrists wrapped in glowstick bracelets, covering ears when it got super loud, even counting bats that flew by nearby & overhead in the pine trees beside us.

Julyfourth3

These are moments of memory-making.
I too have memories of Independence Day… my mom throwing pool parties, with buntings and streamers along the deck, patriotic-colored food, even tablecloths made of sewn-together flag handkerchiefs. I remember huge glass bowls of trifle with blueberries and strawberries and fluffy white cream. I remember going to a nearby theme park to watch incredible fireworks with friends and family, and the seemingly-eternal drive to get home through indescribable traffic jams.

And now, here I am, on the other side. Helping my own children to enjoy holidays, make memories, and learn little bits about the seriousness behind the excitement. But let’s be real: it will be a while before my children call it Independence Day, because the star of the celebration is truly the pinnacle of the night – and thus it shall be called, for the foreseeable future, Fireworks Day.

I congratulate you and my country on the singular favor
of heaven in the peaceable and auspicious settlement
of our government upon a Constitution
formed by wisdom,
and sanctified by the solemn choice
of the people who are to live under it.
May the Supreme Ruler of the world
be pleased to establish and perpetuate
these new foundations of liberty and glory…

Thank God, my country is saved
and by the smile of Heaven
I am a free and independent man.
-John Hancock-

IMG_3611

Then join hand in hand,
brave Americans all!
By uniting we stand,
by dividing we fall.
-John Dickinson-

Holy, Lowly

FullSizeRender (62)

Christmas swept into our midst again in its quiet, slow, lowly way. It began to seep in around the edges right after Thanksgiving, as it does, and it simply grew – the days more pregnant with glory and hope and sparkle and holiness after each subsequent night. Advent was minimalistic for us this year, out of happenstance rather than purpose, but in its own lowly way that too showed us the beauty of Christmas Day itself and the glories of this holy week following that holy day. With simple chocolates each night and reading Advent Scriptures & stories when I managed to sneak them in, with a small amount of baking and wrapping of gifts little by little – suddenly it was Christmas Eve. Worship on Christmas Eve morning was bright and sweet, joyful and peaceful. Being on this side of the story gives so much joy even in the here-but-not-yet atmosphere of a day like Christmas Eve. We know what follows on the heels of the Eve.

We spent the day with our church family, eating pizza and cookies and popcorn, ice skating on a hilltop in a backyard rink that made something simple utterly glorious. That evening came with our annual “webcam Christmas” of opening gifts and sharing joys across the miles through the gift of modern technology, followed by watching a movie as a family and flitting around accomplishing last minute touches on food and gifts for the following day.

FullSizeRender (65)

Once I had four little ones tucked into bed with books and flashlights, and strict instructions not to leave their beds until 7 o’clock the following morning, we filled stockings, sprinkled chocolate coins around the coffee table, and piled festive gifts around the base of our Christmas tree.

FullSizeRender (68)

The tree that is topped with a star, reminding us to follow the light of Jesus wherever it leads. The tree which reminds us of where our story began with Adam & Eve, and where our story will end with the Tree of Life. It reminds us of the fig tree, of the cross on which our Lord was crucified. It shows us so many things. The abundance of pretty packages simply a tiny foretaste of the abundant grace our Holy God pours upon us each day as His lowly children.

FullSizeRender (63)

And in the morning: cinnamon roll bread, reading, singing as a family (in three part harmony!!), opening gifts, sharing joys and generosity with one another, words of thanks and humble gratitude spilling everywhere, innumerable hugs and indomitable laughter.
When we said that it was time for presents, and our two year old ran to the tree and started grabbing for gifts and handing them to his siblings, Steven and I looked at each other: there is holy glory here in these joyfully lowly moments.

FullSizeRender (64)FullSizeRender (66)FullSizeRender (67)

I am a rich woman, given tremendous treasures. I am a lowly steward of incredible jewels. There is a holiness here as we celebrate the birth of our King, as we recall one of the earth-shattering events in history that God used to alter both time and creation. The dichotomy of holy and lowly, glory and gore. In a conversation with our children on Christmas morning, we mused about the idea of delivering a baby in a stable… the place where animals lived, ate, shed, and made all imaginable messes. No wonder Mary chose the feeding trough for the baby’s bed! At least it was only the animals’ mouths that frequented that spot! But even our little children, when thinking about it conversationally, could see the lowly humility Jesus willingly enfleshed. The Word Himself, going to sleep in the manger after growing within the body of a human girl and pressing into the world of oxygen through all the pain of a birth canal.

Our Jesus.
Our King.
The Holy Baby.
Savior and Servant.

Lewisquote

The Printed Word

The five hundredth anniversary of the Reformation in Europe is kind of a big deal right now. As in, I feel like I have seen it pretty much everywhere online, I attended a conference themed on it, I know local churches with Reformation Day parties this year (even ones that wouldn’t normally have gone to the trouble), etc. It is pretty amazing. Now, while I was trying to focus on United States history with my kids this year, for a two week period (last week and this coming week), we are putting it all aside and replacing it with a unit study on the Reformation. What a great time we have been having! Our focus in this Reformation unit is primarily art and literature, which necessarily includes copywork and theology and singing and other such wonderful things. Yesterday my children and I sang David Erb’s version of Psalm 46 (which they had learned at music camp in the summer), and then Martin Luther’s famous Mighty Fortress. And I think, especially for the big boys, it really meant a lot to them, having known more about the history of the music and the words and the musicianship represented there.
We are essentially jumping in deep with these books for our unit:

FullSizeRender (50)

I introduced the subject, era, and keynote people with ABCs of the Reformation and some excerpts of The 100 Most Important Events in Christian History. And the kids each had books on Martin Luther they read on their own. But as the kids asked questions about the “whys” behind the Reformation, we ended up leaving the theological men and their stances of the mid-1500s behind and stepped further back into the world of Johannes Gutenberg. We very much loved Fine Print and are currently enjoying Ink on His Fingers as well, plus some other little snippets on him, his life, his work that have simply repeated & filled out what we found in those books.

FullSizeRender (49)

Undoubtedly the most stunning thing we realized, though, is that my family has a unique bookcollector right next door… my father collects old Bibles… he has studied them, loved them, researched them, worked with other collectors, learned some dying craft of mending pages and bindings, and he has even traveled in order to acquire or restore Bibles. So I asked him if we could take a peek at one of his early copies. Not only did he allow us to take a peek at it, but he dropped it off so we could fully explore its pages at our leisure. What a gift! This particular copy was printed in 1549, using the sort of mechanisms, leather-over-wood binding, goldleaf, moveable type, handmade ink, etc. that Gutenberg himself created and implemented.

FullSizeRender (51)

The kids took turns gently turning pages, smelling & feeling the cotton paper, examining the old inks, following worm holes through sections of pages, fingering the thick embossed leather on the cover. This particular copy was not printed until 1549 (let’s be honest: that’s pretty old!! And to have it in the family, where we don’t need to wear special gloves or keep it under glass, etc. is a special gift we don’t take for granted), so the kids wanted to figure out if someone like Martin Luther or John Calvin could have touched this book. They wanted to know if this would have been chained up to keep it from being stolen; if it would have belonged to a church, a common family, or an elite; they wanted to know about the gold leaf & the leather – where would they have come from? While I don’t have specific answers to most of those specific questions about this specific copy of God’s Word, it was really fun to talk about and imagine and ponder. Who else has held this book and read its pages and had their soul fed in the last 468 years?!

FullSizeRender (53)

We then spent an hour over lunchtime yesterday watching this video, where Stephen Fry walked through a lot of Gutenberg’s footsteps and recreated his craft and science and system of creating the printing press which changed the world. It has been really fun to learn, through books and the video, about the process of setting the type. I love the odd spellings and letters in the old English copy here!! I read Psalm 23 to the kids, which even Evangeline knows by memory in the ESV, and had them all follow along with it in this book… which doesn’t even have verse designations… and they were impressed by the difficulty of discerning the words because of the spellings and the spacing and such. The video really touched on that too, so that was a helpful nuance.

FullSizeRender (52)

What a contrast I noticed… little Simeon had just received his own little tiny pocket-sized Bible this week… which I picked up for 49-cents when I was grabbing another armload of used children’s books at Goodwill… and this little thing has no real monetary value, no big dramatic story behind it, it was probably printed with very little effort along with thousands of identical copies… yet it is a treasure to this tiny boy who now walks around with it tucked in his arm, and sets it beside him while he plays (such as here, below, when he was playing in the little toy kitchen)…

FullSizeRender (54)

And it is the Reformation that makes this kind of thing possible. Where there was chaos, God brought order. Where there was unrest, God brought peace. With a family so deeply in love with books and written words, this is a unit study that hits home deeply. It makes me speechless and just boggles my brain. The world had only manuscripts reproduced by scribes and owned only by the truly elite. The “paper” (vellum from calf skins) was even hard to come by, let alone inks and reeds, and then the immensity of time it took to copy it all! Wow. It’s utterly phenomenal how God brought Johannes Gutenberg to the apex of art & science to bring us the printing press.

I guess I’d say personally speaking, the internet and the printing press are the two biggest things that I think God created through mankind to change the world. And while I am not ready yet to wrap my head around studying the history and creation and implementation of the internet with the kids, I am absolutely stunned by the breathtaking world of the printing press’s creation.

The printed words brought us the printed Word.
What better gift could the Reformation have brought us?!
And then, because this 1549 copy of course is in English, we have so very much to be thankful for in the Reformation fight for Scripture in the vulgate too. We get to worship in our native language, we get to have more copies of the Bible than we even need (and we even carry it around in our pockets, thanks to places like OliveTree!).

The Reformation was a tool our King used to give us these gifts.
As for me my household, we are grateful.

FullSizeRender (55)

 

Two Years Old

God’s amazing hand in our life by granting us His gracious gift of Simeon James two years ago is just astonishing on so many levels. I can not believe the adventure of his entrance into the world of the oxygen-breathing was two years ago. My little boy loves so much and so well. Books, tea, turning anything & everything into a phone, taking rides on Great Grandpa’s lap in the wheelchair, snuggling with his parents after the big kids have gone to bed, singing at the top of his lungs, talking up a storm, exploring with flashlight in hand, zooming around on a tiny balance bike with epic skill. This little boy has a big life ahead of him; he is embracing it with both hands already. We couldn’t be more thankful for God’s evident grace in his life, and the faith Christ continues to grow within him.

Happy Birthday, sweet little benediction.

FullSizeRender (46)

IMG_9584 IMG_9602