Warming up the Long Nights

October 18, 2014

 

I decided a few weeks ago that I wanted to have something fun and relaxing to brighten up the long, dark nights of fall and winter.

 

Inspired a little bit by one of my most favorite movies, and a lot by a desire to master a new skill that would be of great benefit, I decided to make this my year of becoming a pie maker.

I’ve made pies before, but almost always purchased the crust from the store. Which was okay, but not great.

I was given this cookbook a couple of years ago, and LOVE it. But still hadn’t ventured into making my own crust (unless it was a cookie one).

So the plan that formed in my head was a concentrated effort on mastering production of a perfect pie crust. Then from there I can branch out into exciting varieties of pies.

 

Last week was my first attempt. I followed the all butter recipe from my beloved cookbook, dumped in fresh apple pie filling straight from my mom’s orchard, and ended up with thrilling results.

 

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Not perfect  by any means, but pretty and edible which was huge. The last time I attempted pie crust was years ago and it looked a bit like a wrapped up mummy by the time I got it all in place.

This one held together perfectly. It was a little on the chewy side, but I know from years of working to master buttermilk biscuits that this was probably due to overworking the dough. Which is just the way it goes until you get the “feel” for it. 

I hope to have the feel down by winter. 

Then maybe someone can buy me this cookbook for Christmas (*hint hint), and I can really branch out into glamorous pie making.

 

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In the meantime the aim is one a pie a week. Which my husband is thrilled about. 

It gives me something warm and cozy to do on the long dark nights, and because I love pie, the end result is wonderfully satisfying.

If you’re looking for a fun diversion this fall and winter, you should join me in the quest to become a fabulous pie chef!

I recommend having a quart of heavy cream in the fridge at all times to whip up when your pie is ready to be served. :) 

 

 

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There’s More to Africa Than Just Problems to Solve ::: (We just spent a month studying Africa for school, and I was captivated by all the unique and beautiful parts of the culture throughout this diverse continent. It made me stop and think about how there’s another side to this place that I’ve often only associated with poverty and suffering. I was glad to read this article by someone who knows first hand to confirm that this is true.)

 

 

On the First Day of Fall

September 23, 2014

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I remember how exciting and beautiful it was to encounter the incredible flood of birdsong when spring came to the forest this past year. 

It seemed so fitting to have this audible celebration marking the entrance into the season known for new life. The anticipation of long days of sunshine and the feeling of subtle warmth creeping up into and through the cold air is indeed a worthy cause for excitement and rejoicing.

 

This morning as I walked down the stairs into a new day, I felt a similar build of anticipatory excitement. Not the same, but comparable. 

 

Now perhaps this rumbling excitement was simply due to the fact that I was waking to a CLEAN house – which is a rare and near-miraculous event that will definitely evoke a state of (temporary) bliss.

But I don’t think that’s all it was.

 

After the cleaning spree last night I pulled out the box full of fall decor and spread it around the living room. Waking up to it this morning made things feel new. And newness always brings a taste of exciting. 

 

When breakfast was finished this morning, the littlest girl and I made our way to the seat for two right outside the front door. Our spot for her morning reading practice and a breath of fresh air to energize us for the day.

As she began to work her way through chapter 6 of B is for Betsy (a book we are enjoying very much) I noticed something and asked her to pause.

 

In the quieting of her voice we were able to fully hear what was surrounding us on this crisp first fall morning of the year: birdsong.

Not like the singing of spring. A different kind. Less chaotic and “twitterpated”, more controlled and steady. But still it carried the sound of excitement.

 

We sat and listened, wondering aloud what the birds might be saying to each other. 

Were they feeling the fall chill too, and bustling around with the anticipation of winter on their minds?

Or were they just driven to song by the feeling of change that was in the air?

 

I certainly won’t pretend to have any idea what the true motive was behind the birds singing this morning.

Maybe they were only rejoicing that it was a clear sunny day.

But their songs got me thinking. About seasons and what a gift they are. All of them.

 

Like I said, I’ve never had trouble seeing the cause for joyous excitement at the first signs of spring. 

New life and what feels like the whole world around you waking up for the first time in a long while… it’s a beautiful thing.

 

And spring gives way to summer which is life in the fullest – gloriously long days full of endless activity and freedom for those of us who find our days more restricted during the school year.

 

It’s always hard for me to let go of summer and step into fall. To go from overflowing life to slowly fading into darkness and rest. It doesn’t always appeal to me.

But today it felt new and fresh and like a welcome change. The slowing down, the order in our days. The anticipation of long dark nights that I am slowly learning year after year not to dread, because they can be filled with beauty too.

 

Seasons in our year and in our life can often be hard to transition through. When I find myself in a season I love, I cling to it desperately, wanting to prolong every last moment I can get out of it because I wish it could be forever. But of course no matter how hard I try, I have never conjured up the power to change the firmly fixed reality that seasons come and go. And despite how it may feel undesirable on our end, I think if we take a step back and really look, we can’t help seeing that seasons are a good and perfect gift from the hand of a loving Father.

He has promised to use all things for our good, and I am learning that seasons (literally and figuratively) are one of the finest tools He has for harvesting good in and around us.

 

I think of how the Bible tells us that all creation speaks His glory, and I find myself imagining that this is the reason the birds sing on this first day of fall. Because these creatures have written into their very being the truth that we have to battle through our own minds to see: that waking up to a new season is always a good gift. Even if it’s not the particular season you were looking for.

 

And on a different, but completely related note, I want to make mention of something. For my own sake. And maybe for someone else out there reading too.

 

First a little peak into my world…

Whatever that part is in your brain that stores sights, sounds, smells, etc. and attaches them to memory… I got an extremely overactive one of those. I’ve always known this about myself, but an experience awhile ago really opened my eyes to just how powerful it is.

I was walking through the grocery store, in the middle of the produce section, subconsciously breathing in and out as we all do.

One moment I was there passing the onions and looking for bananas. 

The very next moment my body was still there, but in a fraction of a second my mind was years away. In a hospitable bed with noisy sheets and that plastic-sterile smell. My body contracted with the remaining shudders of being beaten from the inside out while my chest ached with the flood of new milk for the tiny in baby in the clear bassinet beside me.

 

What in the world?

 

I honestly had no idea how my mind had just taken this trip backwards almost a decade, and stepped right back into every tiny little sensory experience of that time.

I looked around me in the middle of the store trying to figure out if I was just a little bit losing it, or surely there must be some reason… and there it was.

A display of the same pinkish lilies with the intense perfumey smell that were always a featured centerpiece in the flower arrangements sent to congratulate me on my new baby’s arrival.

 

Big sigh of relief that it all made sense now. And big crazy wow at the way one absent-minded breath in could carry a smell that carried so much.

 All that to say my memory and it’s associations are mind-boggling in strength.

 

Back to fall.

 

Several years ago, there was a period of weeks in my life where everything got really hard and really scary. In a way I had never experienced before, and probably one of the most traumatic I’ve experienced since.

And guess what? Those weeks landed right smack dab in the middle of fall.

 

Here’s where my memory’s powers became my enemy.

That cool feeling in the air, the slant of the sunlight as the earth’s tilt shifts, the crunchy fall leaves, the early darkness, the apples and pumpkin and everything beautiful and homey that was swirling around me during those weeks of unbearable hard… it all got tangled up together.

And every year after that when fall came around my memory was right there not letting me forget with every scent and sight and color what the hardest of hard felt like.

 

I came to accept the fact that this was just the way it would be. Worked at ways to counter it as much as I could. And just mostly resigned myself to the fact that fall would always feel this one hard way.

But then last year our whole world turned upside down. And there was the excitement of new and different and it captured my attention in a way that consumed me.

It was wonderful.

I was so grateful for a year of reprieve from all those hard memories every fall.

I assumed it was just a one time thing though…

until today.

 

Today when I stepped into fall my mind didn’t go to all that hard as it did for so many years. It went to all the new and excitement I felt last year. And I felt that all over again.

Sure those old memories are not erased and no doubt will have their moments of creeping back in. But the feeling of them was tamed. Quieted and pushed to the back instead of the front of all the memories. What a precious gift to realize that these memories and associations can change.

 

The truth I must remember from all of this (and that I think you should remember too): don’t ever believe the lie that the hard thing that is in your life at this moment can never change. It’s just not true. And it is a hurtful, damaging lie. Believe the truth that every day is new and that the One with all the power is making all things new. That even if that hard thing never changes, maybe God will give the gift of changing you and either way it will never always be the same as it is right now.

 

And the most amazing part about today… this joy and excitement for fall is so big and so wonderful because of those years of it being so hard.

So that promise that in the right hands all things will be for good- it can be trusted.

 

 

Summer in the Forest

September 1, 2014

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I can hardly believe we’re nearing the end of our first year of life in the forest.

Each season has been such a thrill to encounter and take in.

 

I admit I wondered how I would feel about summer in the forest.

I was afraid my expectations of my favorite season and the drastic differences in this new landscape just wouldn’t quite go together. 

 

But there was nothing to worry about. Summer in the forest has been blissful.

The deer still visit. Just the last couple of weeks they are showing up accompanied by fawns. So, so fun.

  

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The sunsets are unspeakably breathtaking.

 

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And all the monsoon storms seem to move right in over us and decide to stop and sit. 

This is the most summer rain (and hail) I’ve seen in years.

Other than a few too dark days (in my opinion),  and the lightning that seems drawn to strike right outside our door over and over (something our girls could do without!), all the storms have been so refreshing.

 

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The pretty colors that have shown up here and there following all the rain have been such a treat.

 

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This particular afternoon when rain came pouring down from a bright, sunny sky gave the forest such a fairy tale feel.

 

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And though not a natural wonder, this little place of respite in the middle of the trees has been our home away from home all summer long. 

We’ve now gone from one to three competent swimmers. Such a thrilling milestone!

 

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There’s something about the way the light glows off of the trees in the evening that is just beautiful to me.

 

 

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More beautiful color.

 

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Deer aren’t the only visitors we get around here.

The javelina are not quite so welcome, but on this day they showed up with a baby so it was hard not to swoon over cuteness.

 

 

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The forest is full of all kinds of surprises. Slick mushrooms and creeping vines in one spot. Thriving cactus in another.

 

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The creek that runs below our house became quite a treat with the summer rains. 

The loud rush of the water that we could hear all night was a new kind of soothing I’d never experienced before.

 

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This weekend we drove up the road to a nearby lake and enjoyed an evening outside.

I am sad to see the winding down of this favorite season of mine.

Especially since it has proved to be as equally enchanting as all other seasons in the forest.

But I am excited for the change of seasons and the re-invigorating surge of life that always seems to stir in me.

 

I am so thankful for this year of experiencing the beauty of the forest.

And even bigger than that, this year of finding out one beautiful day at a time that sometimes those unknown places we are leery to go can end up holding all kinds of wonderful treasure.

 

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