Flannel Jammies Farm

...praising God on our 1/5 acre of suburbia

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Gift of Pure Joy

This Christmas I received a gift that has filled me with such joy... even now when I think of it my heart swells and the tears come freely.

We gathered together... this congregation that has loved me and my husband through so many challenges and dangers and happy moments, too... sharing the light, telling one another again, "He has come!  God with us!," on Christmas Eve.  But there were new faces.  Faces never there before to share the light and the good news of Christmas.

Our son, Robert, and his lovely wife, Alison

Our sweet daughter, Trista
This year, for the first time, we gathered together as a family, whole, complete, to share the light.  

You see, our children have allergies, lots of allergies.  And one of those allergies is to poinsettias.  Poinsettias are very high in pollen, and many churches fill their sanctuaries with hundreds of them each Christmas season.  Many shops and schools and even doctors' offices do this as well.  All in an effort to decorate for the season, to spread some cheer with large, colorful blooms.

What this has meant for our family is that we don't go into restaurants or shops or museums... or even our church... during this season of anticipation and celebration of the Christ child.

But this year, our church took a leap of faith and purchased faux poinsettias.  These blooms were just as colorful, just as cheerful.  These blooms will be just as beautiful when they are brought into our sanctuary next year, and for many years to come.  This one choice, made by our family of faith, allowed me to invite my children to come, to share the light with us. 

These dear children, knowing what it would mean to me, came on Christmas Eve with loving smiles and tender hearts.  They listened as their father played to our King with handbells.  They greeted kind folks and they sang each carol.  As the elements of the Lord's Supper were passed from my elder husband, to me, then to Trista and Robert and Alison, and later the candle's light was passed in the same manner, my cup overflowed with joy. 

Here we are, among the poinsettias on Christmas Eve

Monday, December 19, 2011

Counting the gifts today...

This morning started with eyes glued tight and swollen shut, exhausted from so many to-doings and wondering if I should leave the warm comfort of my bed.

Then I started to count.  Not 'sheep'.  Not 'things to do'.

The gifts.  The generous gifts, the abundant gifts, the take-my-breath-away gifts, the tiniest of gifts, the hard gifts, the gifts I never expected.

And the greatest of them is Jesus.

Today I give thanks for...

- a husband working tirelessly on his days off to finish for me a dream on a piece of paper

- a church family showing such love that it overwhelms me

- work for both hands (and a few of my toes!) to keep me busy serving instead of busy grieving

- abundant food... so much that I have to think about what I 'feel like eating'

- clean water

- friends lifting me in prayer

- friends holding my hand and hugging my neck

- friends reminding me of His faithfulness

- friends delighting with me over the small gifts

- Christmas joy and wonder and awe

- moments of peace to ponder God's amazing gift

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!
2 Corinthians 9:15


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Thoughts and Images...

This Christmas finds me...
working at two churches
working through grief and guilt
working on renovating a master suite
working on upcoming obligations
working on my physical health

This Christmas calls me to...
wait expectantly for the Christ Child's arrival
live in a state of genuine gratitude
seek His face
envelope my life in the Word
rest in His care 

This Christmas I need to dare to let go and...
breathe in the sacred moments
breathe out praise and thanksgiving
allow Him to enter in, make room for Him, receive Him

Join me?
Providence Presbyterian

Providence Presbyterian Chrismon

Glitter and joy at Providence's Advent Workshop

Our Christmas tree

Second Presbyterian nativity

Second Presbyterian Chrismons

Second Presbyterian's Chrismon tree

Sanctuary at Second Presbyterian

In Providence's Enrichment space

 Advent wreath in Providence's Enrichment space

Providence Chancel Choir

Spritz snowflake cookies

Bells of Providence (cute guy on the end is my husband)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Counting on...

Oh, the gifts!  Autumn joys and twinklings of light and smiling love.  In the midst of pain and loss, so very many gifts arrive to restore me.  Thank You, precious Lord!

- my heartbeat, my love, my umbrella shielding me from the worst of the storm

- so many to-doings keeping me busy

- stuffed acorn squash

- photos, windows into each memory

- the truest care from the truest friends

- turkey, a glorious bird from a sweet local farm family, a bird that was nurtured and not manufactured

- cinnamon ornaments filling our home with a wonderful aroma

- preparing our hearts, anticipating His arrival

- blue skies and fiery leaves

- waking rested and smiling for the first time in a long time

- a set-aside day for giving thanks... a whole day just for counting the gifts... a whole day to offer up gratitude to the God of gifts

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Images of Autumn

For the beauty of the earth
For the glory of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies.

Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Apple Butter

So... remember those lovely Virginia apples pictured in my last post?  They've been canned!  (Not like 'fired' but put in jars as apple butter; some of them, at least)

I got out my trusty mini canning kit, found a recipe for apple butter, and got to work!  First I had to weigh the apples...

Then there was the peeling and chopping and cooking.  As the apples cooked down, our home filled with the spicy aroma of Autumn. 

Once cooked and blended, the hot apple butter was put into 1/2 pint wide mouth jars.  The jars were sealed and put into the water bath, and came out beautifully.

Apple butter is one of my favorite things.  I love it on toast and English muffins and biscuits.  But my favorite thing, when I slip in a little naughty non-vegan item, is a cottage cheese and apple butter sandwich.  Pure delight! 

Here's the recipe...

Sweet Apple Cider Butter

4 1/2 lbs. apples, peeled, cored, and quartered
1 1/2 cups apple cider
2 1/4 cups sugar (I used less)
1 1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/8 tsp. ground cloves

1.  Combine apples and apple cider in a large stainless steel saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring occasionally, until apples are soft, about 20 minutes.
2.  Transfer apple mixture to a food mill or a food processor fitted with a metal blade, working in batches, puree just until a uniform texture is achieved.  Do not liquefy.  Measure 9 cups of apple puree.
3.  Combine apple puree, sugar, cinnamon, and cloves in a clean large stainless steel saucepan.  Stir until sugar dissolves.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently.  Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens and holds its shape on a spoon.
4.  Prepare stockpot/canner and jars.
5.  Ladle hot butter into jars, leaving 1/4" headspace.  Remove air bubbles, re-measure headspace.  If needed, add more butter to meet recommended headspace.   Wipe rim, center lid on jar.  Screw ban until fingertip-tight.
6.  Process filled jars in boiling water for 15 minutes.  Remove stockpot/canner lid.  Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool, and store.

This recipe is from the Ball Beginner's Guide to Canning & Recipe Booklet.  
This recipe made 8 half pint jars for me, with a bit left over for supper that night!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Autumn Fun...

Wanting to feel like myself again, I told my husband about the Fall Festival at Five Points Community Farm Market and traveled to Norfolk for an afternoon of fun... a time to let go of the mourning for a bit and breathe the crisp, clean air of Autumn.

We saw so many delicious local and organic goodies, listened to a talented ensemble playing beautiful instruments, sampled Virginia wines and beers, savored a warm and yummy lunch, and just enjoyed being together.  Here are a few of the sights...
Saunders Bros. Virginia Apples

Breads from Sugar Plum Bakery

Bright Beets

A Little Music with Lunch

Cookies, Brownies, Marshmallows... yum!

Five Points' Get Fresh Cafe was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives!

Virginia Wines

Tom had the Pot Roast, I had the Acorn Squash