My Girl

Happy birthday, daughter.

Today is the day. You’re fretting about getting older. Looking for a fine line around the eyes. Thinking about a new skin product. Examining your waistline. Daring to try on a swimsuit.  You might even let a tear slip, but no one will ever see it. Not you.

But I just might.

Most everyone (at least here in the south) is quick to attribute their maturity, wisdom and spiritual growth to their parents. And truly, mine get lots and lots of credit. But it was you that had a major impact on who I am today and especially who I am spiritually. You came into this world on your own terms – reluctant. Even with lots of coaxing, you weren’t coming out. That was your first act of defiance. “If you want me, come get me.” And it certainly wasn’t your last.

As a newborn, you flatly refused to nurse. I nearly starved you for 2 weeks and the doctor kindly said, “Forget nursing. Give her a bottle.” And you gladly agreed. Meals were difficult to prepare when you were a toddler because you always wanted to be held. As a pre-schooler you still insisted on being rocked to sleep even though your infant brother would lie down and go to sleep on his own. (Good thing.)

During your preschool years and your teen years, the days seem endless and the challenges never-ending. Pushing the boundaries, testing the limits, seeing how close you could get to the edge of the cliff instead of how far away you should I stay. That’s my girl. But graciously there was a respite. Those elementary school days were, do I dare say, “easy.”

I wanted to do all the wonderful things with you and for you that my mother did for me. But I knew it was impossible. My mom is truly a ‘natural at motherhood.’ I’ve seen her calm another mother’s screaming colicky baby by simply holding her. I’ve seen her stop a raging tantrum with a mere look. I’ve heard her threaten a prowler that she’d shoot him when armed only with a broom. My mom actually had freshly baked cookies or doughnuts waiting on me when I arrived home from school each day.

I knew I couldn’t compete with that. So, I tried to do the things that were ‘natural’ for me. We walked and we talked. Each day, as often as possible, we’d walk down the road to the creek or to the barns and we would talk. You would talk, ask questions, ask more questions, then ask some more questions . . . And I would listen. Other days, I would talk. Trying to use my childhood experiences to teach some valuable life lessons. I told stories of working on the farm with my dad. How those experiences shaped my work ethic. I encouraged you to read. I talked about the excitement of going to college. And yes, the subject most parents dread – the opposite sex.

Those were the moments  I treasured. Those were the moments in which mothers thrill. All my hopes and dreams, my goals and desires for you were funneled into those talks. My dreams weren’t fame and fortune or lofty careers. My dream was for you to be you, and more importantly, for you to find happiness in you. Contentment. Peace. Fulfillment. Truly knowing that you are, ‘fearfully and wonderfully made.’ What more could a mother want for her child?

Those years flew quickly and before I knew it, you were a teen. That independent, demanding, single-minded toddler re-emerged only this time in the body of an adult. Scary. But I don’t know who was more scared: me or you. The high school and early college years were rough. Really rough. Some days (actually nights) I didn’t think I would survive. But, those were the years that I grew, and grew, and grew in my reliance upon God.

Your teen rebellion forced me to dig deeper in my faith than ever before. No longer did I pray shallow prayers, but I came to understand what it meant to be unable to put into words my needs but the Holy Spirit interceded for me. I came to understand that I WAS NOT, nor ever had been, IN CONTROL. Of you or anyone else. You challenged me to challenge my faith. Was it deep enough, strong enough, bold enough, audacious enough to walk me through the fire. We never know the depth of our faith until it is truly tested. And test you did.

My prayer journals increased exponentially. Night after night I prayed, searched scripture, cried, prayed, searched scripture. And night after night, God met me and provided me comfort, hope and assurance that we would survive.

But we didn’t survive.

We thrived.

Because even in the midst of your most obnoxious days, she was still there. That little girl. My girl. The one that made me smile, delighted me with her curiosity, amazed me with her creativity and thrilled me with her love. So, I survived clinging to those moments. But I thrived because of the relationship I was developing with Christ. And as cracks began to develop in your shell of independence and autonomy, that curious girl would seek answers. She would ask questions. She would search the Word. And she began to thrive.

Honestly, because of your tenacity and determination, I really expected that you would be a high-powered professional totally focused on her career and her salary. I couldn’t imagine you managing a household or raising children; it seemed too restrictive, too limiting for your independent spirit. I was wrong.

Can I say it again? You thrived.    14225385_10207208352309435_4245006266000043830_n

Today you hold two professional licenses. You are a loving and super-devoted wife of 13 years. (Thirteen years???) And most importantly, the rock-star mother to four, yes, FOUR children. The youngest two babies are less than one year difference in age.  The eldest child was born with a chronic disease that requires intensive daily treatment and therapies. But from all outward appearances (and the expectations of her mom) – she’s just like every other kid. And the other child, well, let’s just say, “the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.” She’s a lot like her mom, high-spirited, independent and fiercely loyal to friends and loved ones.

So, can I say it again. You have thrived.

Day by day I see you growing, changing and becoming an independent woman that is dependent on the Lord. A woman that is becoming even more beautiful on the inside than she is on the surface. (And that’s really purdy!) A woman that wants her children to treat others with kindness, respect, dignity, compassion and love. A woman that makes her mother very, very proud. You reached my goal for you; for you to find happiness in you. Contentment. Peace. Fulfillment. Truly knowing that you are, ‘fearfully and wonderfully made.’

Happy birthday. And thanks for making me grow.

Love, Mom

aka “Mimi” to my five grands!

Magic Moments

Yes, it’s been a while since we’ve chatted. June was an eventful month.

Our son’s birthday.

My Dad’s birthday.

Father’s Day.

Baby Shower.

Our oldest grand’s eighth birthday.

VBS Kick-Off for Joyful July.

Each of these events resulted in some wonderful magical moments. I have to share a little magic from the baby gift tea.

Our daughter is expecting her third child (our first grandSON!) in 9 days! Her aunt and cousin graciously offered to host a Gift Tea in his honor and what better place to have it than  . . . HERE! You have a magical beginning when you are merely providing the location and someone else is doing the lions’s share of the work. My contribution was cupcakes and a favor bag of cookies. The hostesses did the rest!

The real magic began even in the planning stages. Aunt K. is a talented graphic artist that has never met a challenge she didn’t embrace. Throughout the pregnancy my daughter has referred to baby boy as “SONshine.” That was all the inspiration needed; the theme was set.  20150620_104054A simple but fun menu of “Sonshine” themed foods included Sunshine Fruit Salad, Habanero Due Date Cheddar Wafers (thank you Mary, Home Is Where the Boat Is) Home Is Where the Boat Is,  Baby Hub Cupcakes, Individual Veggie Cups and the expectant mom’s favorite – Chicken Salad Croissants!

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The guests arrived with beautifully wrapped gifts for baby Hub which continued the colorful sunshine theme, but the real magic was in the interactions among our guests. Much talking, laughter, sharing of wisdom and encouragement were magical and inspirational. Guests from age four to 80+ mingled and embraced the opportunity to celebrate the coming arrival of a precious new baby. One guest exclaimed as she left, “This has been SO much fun!” It was fun. No stress, no fuss, just a wonderful morning of fellowship and SONshine.

Enjoy some of the magic.

20150620_103848 20150620_103901 20150620_104059 April 2014 042With a nod to the nursery colors; gray, turquoise, yellow and orange were the predominant colors. The use of galvanized metal enhanced a more “masculine” look.

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A framed invitation was placed beside a tray of SonShine Cookies for guests to take home as a token of our appreciation. “You’ve brightened out day. Please take a little sunshine with you!”

One of my favorite elements was the serving table centerpiece. A vintage toy dump truck (lovingly used 30 years ago by Aunt K’s son) was filled with succulents. 20150620_105042

Food, fun, fellowship and beautiful treasures given by loved ones for anxiously awaited baby Hub made the day truly magical.  Thank you to the two gracious hostesses that helped make this a delightful day!!

A celebration of the “abundant life.”

In His grace,

Mimi

More to Celebrate

June is banging on the door of May crying for attention!

20140615_101016A glance at my June calendar tells me it’s going to be another very busy month. Three birthdays, Father’s Day, a baby shower, swimming lessons, overnight guests . . .  and those are just the things currently scheduled! But I love it. Since there will be a lot of celebrations at my house I thought it was a good time to share some of our earlier celebrations.

Last year was one of those milestone birthdays for my Dad. Lest this post dissolve into a teary sentimental tribute to the most totally awesome, dedicated, hardworking, loving, faith-filled, believing, honest, sincere, loyal dad on the planet; I’ll just share some of the pics from our low key, not too flashy celebration at church. Dad is not an attention seeker. He’s not big on public recognition. So to honor him in a manner fitting with his character, we chose to do our public celebration at his favorite place – his church.

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The decor was kept very simple with a nod to Dad’s agricultural roots (no pun intended!) Even at the age of 80 years he  works continuously on his farm. It was only recently that he sold the agricultural equipment dealership and actually officially “retired” from business. Retiring from farming will be an entirely different story.

After scouting his workshop, barns and treasures stashed away in his storage sheds we discovered a gold mine of containers; antique tool boxes, wooden nail crates, watering cans and more. Too much to use; but the hunt was more fun than antique shopping. We dressed the serving tables with a few of these items and planned a simple cupcake reception with coffee and southern sweet tea as beverage choices.

No receiving line, no speeches, no big announcements. The grandest overture was my two sisters and I sang a lively hymn during worship service – a treat for both my parents since we’re only together once or twice each year. We invited folks to snack and visit for just a moment during the transition time from worship service to Sunday school class. And it was great.

We focused on his favorite cake flavors and created cupcakes reflecting his tastes: German chocolate, strawberry, and coconut. I took on the challenge of the coconut cupcakes because two of his favorite desserts are coconut cake and coconut cream pie. I was determined to make a coconut cream filled cupcake and after about 2 tries, I was satisfied!64820140615_101016Red and blue bandannas, burlap table runners, baskets and wire containers, sturdy disposable coffee cups trimmed with burlap and twine completed the serving table.20140615_100935

A few weeks prior to the reception, we distributed memory cards designed and created by my graphic designer sister. We asked friends to recount a favorite memory on the card and return it the day of the reception. The cards were placed in one of his various wooden boxes discovered on the treasure hunt. Reading these cards and recalling the memories was the highlight of this celebration. Today they remain in that same box beside his favorite chair where they can be enjoyed again and again. 20140615_101106

Since the coconut cream cupcakes were a hit, I’m sharing the recipe – which is a combination of about 3 different recipes. But it works!

Coconut Cream-filled Cupcakes

1 (18.25 oz.) package French Vanilla Cake Mix

1  1/4 cups buttermilk

1/4 cup butter, melted

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

6 oz. softened cream cheese

1/2 cup sugar

Vegetable cooking spray

Coconut Frosting (see recipe below)

Sweetened flaked coconut

Cream Cheese Filling (see recipe below)

Cupcake Prep: Beat the first 6 ingredients at a low speed with an electric mixer just until dry ingredients are moistened. Increase speed to medium, and beat 2 minutes or until batter is smooth, stopping to scrape bowl as needed.  Mix together 6 oz of softened cream cheese and 1/2 cup sugar then add to cupcake batter being careful not to overmix.

Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove cupcakes from pans to wire racks, and cool until completely cool.

Cream Cheese Filling

8 oz. Cream Cheese, softened

1/2 cup confectioners sugar

1/4 cup milk or cream of coconut

Mix thoroughly. Makes approximately 1 1/2 cups. Using a cupcake syringe (or scooping out the middle of the cupcake) fill each cupcake with the desired amount of filling. Spread filled cupcakes with Coconut Frosting.

Coconut Frosting

1/2 butter, softened

3 oz. cream cheese

16 oz. confectioners sugar

1/4 cup cream of coconut

1 teaspoon coconut extract

Combine ingredients until smooth. Spread cupcakes evenly with frosting, and sprinkle generously with sweetened flaked coconut.

The process isn’t nearly so tedious as it sounds and they are well worth the effort.

Celebrations are our way of honoring those we love in a way that is pleasing to them and reflects their character and personality. As we look around us, the blessings that have be showered upon us, the provision of our Heavenly Father; honor someone you love. Remind them that they are “fearfully and wonderfully made,” and that your life is richer because of them.  Put your hands to work in service to others.

In His Grace,

Mimi

Let the Sunshine In!

sunshineAfter what seems an interminable winter, the sun is breaking through. I suspect it is no small coincidence that Easter is celebrated just as we are transitioning from the dreariness of cold, gray and gloomy skies to the beauty of freshly emerging wild violets, dogwood blooms and apple trees laden with fragrant blooms. Truly all of earth proclaims the Resurrection of Christ.

As the days begin to warm and the sun shows it face more like a family member than an infrequent visitor; I throw open my windows. On the first days of that newly introduced fresh air, I can almost hear my home breathing deeply and sighing, “Ahhhhhhhh!” Just as our hearts are heavy after a period of loneliness, sickness or grief; the cloistered odor of winter lingers in our homes waiting to be banished by the presence of fresh air and sunshine!  The cure for our hearts, Son shine. The cure for our homes, sunshine.

The arrival of spring (not just according to the calendar but the actual weather) sets me to thinking of new menus and recipes. Although I dearly love the comfort of soups, stews and chili during the colder days; the arrival of warmth brings a craving for freshness. A newly discovered favorite is Lemon Blueberry Bread. It is sunshine in a loaf!

My friends at LiveWellBakeOften.com shared this scrumptious recipe and after discovering it – I can’t stop baking it! (Or eating it.) The true testament – my hubby loves it and he’s a bit picky about “breads.” This one is sweet enough for a dessert but not so sweet to compete with your morning coffee or tea. It literally bursts FRESHness into your mouth! And it is pretty. Blueberry and lemon is a hard combo to beat. So give this recipe a try and get ready for the coming blueberry season. And I can guarantee success; it is a no fail recipe by simply following the directions as written.

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So, open up your windows and let the sunshine in, the fresh air flow and the lemon blueberry bread bake! Spring is here.

Open your windows and your hearts.

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