Journeys

the-path-gooseberry-falls-mn

Gooseberry Falls State Park, MN

There are days when blogging inspiration is hard to come by.  Today is one of those days. It seems small seeds of ideas pop into my brain and scatter before they have a chance to take root.

I am not sure why this is an issue today. Maybe it is because I was already a day late with my Monday post and my brain just can’t quite reset to the normal blogging schedule. It is hard to get my thoughts back on track.

Much of life can be like that.  You find a perfectly good path to take (at least you think it is a perfectly good path.) and before you know it…..your good path has taken twists and turns that you never expected.

What starts out as an easy hike quickly becomes a test of endurance and perseverance. I find when those paths starting getting a little iffy; it is good to remind myself to stop, breathe and take a look around.

It seems to me, that the hardest paths tend to have some of the most beautiful sites to see along the way. Maybe the flowers just appear to be more beautiful when the way is hard. Maybe it is compensation for life taking a difficult turn. Or maybe it is the promise that no matter how tough it gets there is hope to be found.

In the next few days our thoughts will turn to the past year and all the paths that we have had to travel…..the smooth ones and the rocky ones.Then we wonder what the year ahead will look like. One thing I know for sure – there will be some easy trails. There will also be those paths where the end cannot come soon enough.

Enjoy the easy days to the full….without worrying when the hard ones will show up. Take heart on the difficult days.  Stop and look around. Appreciate the small things…..the smile of a grocery store clerk, the way the sun shines and makes patterns on your living room floor, the smell of the woodstove as it warms your home, the hugs from a loved one…..

There is much beauty to be found if we only look. There is much goodness to be found if we give those around us a chance. There is much joy to be had if we just open our hearts and let it in.

May you be blessed…..wherever your path takes you. And may you be a blessing to those who travel with you.  “The joy is in the journey.” (Glen S.)

 

Yet, the strength of those who wait with hope in Yahweh will be renewed.
They will soar on wings like eagles.
They will run and won’t become weary.
They will walk and won’t grow tired.

Isaiah 40:31 NOG

 

Christmas Reflections

glory-to-god

Sometimes it is a blessing in disguise when the winds are gusting cold and brisk at 45 miles per hour.  It forces us to just relax, retreat into the house and reflect on the highlights of the day before.  Monday was such a day.

My husband and I were given the opportunity to sit and reflect on the highlights of Christmas day. Just sitting here now, thinking about it, brings a smile to my lips. I can close my eyes and replay certain scenes in my head and enjoy them all over again.

The day started early with getting the turkey in the oven and the woodstove fired up for the day.  Once that was accomplished my husband and I sat in the dark living room waiting for the rest of the household to wake up.

The two grandkids were first, of course, and came sleepily into the living room, dragging blankets and stuffed animals behind them. They snuggled in close. It is a wonderful thing to sit in a semi-dark living room with a lap full of grandkids, and the warm glow of a woodstove and the lights of a Christmas tree for company.

It did not take long and we were joined by their parents. After that the busy day began.  We did take time to enjoy a hot chocolate party before the rest of the family arrived. (The hot chocolate party was an effective Grandma bribe to get them into bed the night before.)

img_2884-hot-chocolate-party

Once everyone else had arrived, hugs exchanged, and Christmas greetings given, it was decided to open gifts before we had dinner.  No one was really too hungry anyway, after spending the morning snacking on Christmas cookies, cinnamon rolls and hot chocolate.

Opening gifts is always a bit of a challenge due to the gift labeling system we use in our home.  It has become a tradition that instead of names on the labels on our gifts, we have random stamped images. This started years ago when our sons were small and could not (or would not) leave their gifts alone.

With this system I have my notebook in hand, with corresponding stamped images and names so that everyone gets the correct gift.  Once my sons got older, got married and moved into homes of their own; I thought I would be able to start putting the names on the gifts….not so.  They voted to stay with tradition and the stamped images of leaves, penguins, trees, etc. continues.

Gifts were opened, dinner was enjoyed, rousing games of foosball were played. Naps were taken (not by small children), lego sets were built, cookies were consumed (in mass quantities by small children), books were read, and the day was liberally sprinkled with laughter, good-natured ribbing, and an amazing dose of love that was so tangible that you felt you could reach out and touch it.

 

The only thing that would have made the day any better would have been to have my other daughter-in-law here. She was back home with the stomach flu.

The day was a blessing and was bathed in that love that comes from shared joys, shared sorrows, and shared lives.  it was the joy that comes from being with those you love and that love you back no matter what.

It was the sense of family that is rooted in a deeper truth that there is One who loves us even more than we could possibly love each other.  The love of the One who came to earth so long ago in human form as a baby and gave His life so we might have life eternal.

May the joy of this season remain with you longer than this season is celebrated. May you be blessed by the One who loves you so much.

I am going to leave you with a less than serious ending to this post.  It just seemed fitting that as the Chicken Grandma, I should somehow involve the “girls”(or at least their cartoon counterparts) in this Christmas post.

And may you even be blessed by the silliness of chickens clucking Christmas songs! They may not deserve a standing ovation but they are pretty fun!

Time was with most of us, when Christmas Day, encircling all our limited world like a magic ring, left nothing out for us to miss or seek;
bound together all our home enjoyments, affections, and hopes;
grouped everything and everyone round the Christ

Charles Dickens quotes 

Read more: http://www.searchquotes.com/quotes/about/Family_Christmas/2/#ixzz4U4lj9wzH

 

 

 

A Little Taste of Christmas

Christmas Program.JPG

My husband and I had the pleasure of attending our grandson’s school Christmas program this past week. I say it was a pleasure because it really was. Four days later, the thought of that program still brings a smile to my face and a feeling of contentment.

We enjoyed watching a large group of 3 – 5 year old preschoolers sing their love of Jesus. It was Wigglers.JPGso much fun watching them do actions, wave at their parents and grandparents, sing, wave some more, do some more actions (not all that belonged to the song) and yes wave at their siblings and parents…….

I was a little fearful that the back row of kids were going to fall off the risers and vanish, with all the squirming, twisting, turning, waving and peering around that they were doing. I thought the teachers showed great insight when they stationed themselves behind those risers and would steady the wiggling masses every now and then.

I discovered that little girls in their sparkly dresses, velvety hair bows, and shiny patent shoes were just as mobile as the small boys were. There was a lot of energy bouncing around on the risers that night.

Somewhere in the middle of all the waving, bouncing, and twisting; those little kids told the amazing story of Christmas. Maybe it was the innocence of children all dressed in their Christmas best….  Maybe it was the atmosphere of excitement…..Maybe it was the gathering of everyone in that gym who came because of love….I am still not totally sure, but somewhere between the start of that program and the ending; the real meaning of Christmas kind of washed over me.

The feeling stole in unnoticed and was covered by the sound of children. Perhaps the sound of children was part of it? All I know is by the time we finished that program and all sang Silent Night from memory there were tears in my eyes and I had the feeling that I had just made a visit to that stable in Bethlehem with a group of preschoolers as my guide.

I am convinced that children are some of the world’s best messengers when it comes to the Christmas story.  Their pure delight in praise, their uninhibited display of joy, and the love that lights up their eyes when they find their family in the crowd all testify to an unconditional love.

It was also a lot of fun to watch my grandchildren after that program.  The school served cookies, coffee and juice afterwards. I had to laugh when those two wee ones would look around to see if their folks were watching and if not, another cookie would quickly disappear into their mouths.  They were chewing as fast as they could.

Our weekend with our family passed way too quickly. It did not take long and we were on our way back home again. The morning we left we got to enjoy the seasons first snowfall with them. (I should say their season’s first snowfall.)

Our grandson woke us up that Sunday morning by running into our room and asking  if we had looked outside. I told him no we had not. In a voice filled with wonder he announced, “It snowed.”

It did not take long and the scrambling for snow pants, boots, mittens and hats started. They sat on the deck and made little miniature snowmen, complete with twig arms, raisin eyes and carrot noses.

After warming up with a cup of hot chocolate it was time for us to get in the car and make the long drive home and for them to head for church.  (fortunately for them, their church has an early and a late morning service.)

squirrelI do wonder if the raisin eyes and carrot noses on those snowmen survived till they got home from church…..their backyard is home to a lot of squirrels.  I have a feeling if they do disappear; it will not be a problem.  The energy and optimism of a three and a five year old will just go ahead and build some new snowmen.

Hope springs eternal in the hearts of children. Magic is to be found in every snowflake and life is something to be danced to like it was music…….and maybe it is……we might have to just listen closely with the heart of a child.

May we take the time to look at the coming week with the heart of a child.  Take time to dance and find the magic.

The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree:
the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.

Burton Hillis quotes 

Read more: http://www.searchquotes.com/quotes/about/Kids_Christmas/1/#ixzz4S2CPMeAY

Tale of a Tree

the-boxelder

Our farm place is home to a tree that our children have deemed an eyesore for a very long time. I do have to admit the old boxelder is a pretty sad looking specimen as trees go. It stands alone between the barn and the corn crib surrounded by tall grass. It does kind of get in the way of our view of the river.

It is a pretty typical boxelder tree. They are a variety of maple tree that does not seem to be able to decide if it should be a bush or a tree. This particular tree has also struggled for years with deciding if it was alive or dead…..It has lots of dead top branches and some shoots growing near the bottom that leaf out every year.

My husband always told the kids that when all the big dead branches fell off the top he would let the tree go and take it down. He told them that would be happening in God’s time so they could talk all they wanted about cutting it down; but the talking would do them no good.

I do kind of like that old tree. In the years we have been here we have enjoyed watching families of squirrels being raised in it’s hollow core. That boxelder has been home, not only to squirrels but also to wood ducks, starlings (not my favorite!), woodpeckers, flickers and more.

It has been the roosting spot for hawks of all kinds, screech owls, great-horned owls, and eagles as they follow the migration of ducks and geese each spring and fall. We have even had a Canadian goose decide it was a great place to set and take a rest.

resting

It has been great (and cheap) entertainment to grab the lawn chairs, your favorite beverage (tea in my case), and sit in the middle of the lawn just watching the tree. It is amazing the variety of critters that have called it home for one season or many seasons.

Just the other day, the last, large branch fell off when a strong breeze came through. My husband happened to be looking out the patio door as it happened. I think it kind of stunned him. He knew it would happen sometime….he just figured it would be in the middle of a big windstorm.

I asked him if the tree was going to be coming down since the main branches were now gone. I was told that, yes, it would be coming down but he would be needing time to grieve. He smiled as he said that, but I am sure there was some truth to his reply.

There were and are lots of lessons to be learned from that scrappy looking tree. Lessons like being useful when everyone else thinks you are way past your prime. Lessons such as beauty is in the eye of the beholder. There is a strange beauty in the things that are rugged and scarred by life. There is a truth in the fact that you may be rugged and scarred but you have withstood storms that may have left others to beaten to go on. There is a contentment in the acceptance of the brokenness and a peace that comes from finding a new purpose for what life looks like now.

I have no idea how old that tree is but I bet if it could talk it would have some great stories to tell. Tales of families living on this place, tales of love, joy, tears and heartache. Stories of children climbing in it’s branches and beautiful golden days standing in the sun. Stories of leaves rustling in the wind as a million stars shone overhead and being serenaded by the frogs in the creek, the crickets hiding in the long grass and the slap of the beaver’s tail on the river.

There would also be the stories of hail storms, sideways rain, blizzards and choking dust on windy summer days. I can only imagine the history that has happened as that boxelder tree silently stood watch.

I can only hope that as I get older, I weather life with as much grace and dignity as that old tree…..standing strong, bending, sometimes seeming to break, but coming back to life with each spring season. I would hope to be a silent witness to God’s faithfulness and the beauty of perseverance.

 

Stand firm, and you will win life.”
Luke 21:19 (NIV)

 

Peanut Butter Bars

Peanut Butter Bars

I have been having some issues with my blog site.  I am not sure why but it might be just the way this week is turning out.  Sometimes life just piles extra stuff on to what a person has planned.

I knew I would be spending 3 days in the hospital with a family member who had surgery. I knew that would take up my days as it was a 1 1/2 hour drive …. one way. I didn’t realize how tired I would be just sitting there!

What I did not know was that I would also be washing machine shopping (see Monday’s post). I also did not know that my blog would be having technical issues.  It would not let me into my drafts, it would not let me leave comments on those blogs I love to follow (now you know why there has been a looming silence from the Chicken Grandma), it really would not let me do anything. I do love technology …… when it works.

I will give you a little report: Surgery went well, I have my machine picked out (not many “bells and whistles” on it and that is good with me), and obviously I am back up and running in the blog department.

I should learn not to get frustrated when this stuff happens. I have learned ……slightly…..when I just walked away from the computer Wednesday and muttered, “all righty then – no blog post today.” I must admit I don’t think I was muttering graciously.

Today’s post is going to be quite short due to all the above-mentioned items and sweet corn ripening in the field that urgently needs picking and freezing. What I do have for you today is a recipe for some delicious bars.

These are some of the best bars…..I think it might be the frosting. It is the creamiest, smoothest frosting and tastes wonderful due to the peanut butter in it. When eating these I try console myself that they do contain protein in the form of peanut butter…….it might be a delusion but I am sticking to it.

Peanut Butter Bars
1 Cup white sugar
1 Cup brown sugar
1/2 Cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup oleo
1 Cup creamy peanut butter
1 Lg. egg
1 Tablespoon vanilla
2 Cups flour
1/2 Tablespoon baking soda
1 Teaspoon salt
Cream sugars, shortening, oleo, peanut butter and vanilla for  minutes.
Add eggs and mix 2 minutes.
Add rest of the ingredients.
Bake at 350° for 25 minutes
Frosting
3 1/2 Cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 Sticks oleo
1/2 Cup peanut butter
1/2 Tablespoon vanilla
1/3 Cup milk

OOPS!!!!!   Someone called to my notice that I forgot pan size. I use a jelly roll, cookie sheet, bar pan (whatever you call it) approximately 11×15 pan.
and it works really good if you do not spread it all the way to the edges as it tends to expand a lot.

And now I am wondering what do you do when life throws you some things that you really think are one to many at a time?  I am personally working with myself on the verse below. I have to say it is not always easy….especially when it involves my laptop!

  Whoever is  slow to anger has great understanding,
but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.

Proverbs 14:29