She works with willing hands.

Peace That Surpasses Understanding

Several weekends ago, just prior to receiving my MS diagnosis, a few of us Supper Club gals went to Avalon, New Jersey for an overnight. It was a hurriedly organized 24-hour trip. We set off for the shore at rush hour, and got tangled in heavy Philly traffic along the way. By the time we reached our friend’s family house, it was cold and dark.

After settling in and enjoying a gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free dinner (lovingly prepared by my girlfriends, who carefully accommodated my newly restrictive diet), we wrapped up in sweatshirts and blanket scarves, and walked one block to the beach.

The moon was full and bright, lighting our path as we headed over the dunes. Because of the MS, my feet had been numb for several weeks. What little sensation I did feel was tingly and uncomfortable. Once we reached the fine beach sand, however, I slipped off my flats and dug my toes into the sand.

And I felt the cold.

It was incredible.

I walked down to the biting water, stepped in, and wept.

moonlight

Overcome with emotion, I stood in the moonlit waves, my dear friend Karen by my side. And through my salty tears, for the first time in many weeks, I felt peaceful.

beach-at-night2

As the sea water rushed over the cuffs of my pants, I think I tasted a sliver of the breadth and length and height and depth of God’s love for me, and it was overwhelming.

We sat on the beach for hours, my friends and I, cold feet in the icy sand. We talked, and laughed.

moonlit-beach

Our time on the sand was interrupted by heading to the house for only a few winks of sleep before returning to watch the sunrise. And a glorious sunrise it was.

sunrise1

sunrise2

sunrise3

sunrise4

sunrise5

As the sun emerged over the horizon, we read from chapter 38 of the Book of Job, and I was reminded of God’s enormity, and my smallness.

me-walking

I walked the beach, delighting in the sensation of the soft sand between my chilly toes.

me-on-sand

me-on-sand2

toes-in-sand

I collected shells and a beautiful silver fish that the tide pushed on shore.

collecting

tiny-fish

It was nearly translucent, and looked as if a skillful craftsman had deftly painted thin silver and black pinstripes down its side.

Everything about that time was beautiful, serene, and lovely. It felt as if the cold sand, the mighty sun, and the delicate silver fish were telling of the glory of their maker.

I don’t know exactly why, but that 24-hour trip to the beach was transformative. I arrived in Avalon a sad and fearful woman, and I departed with peace.

Today, almost six weeks after my diagnosis, I am mostly peaceful about having MS. Although I don’t like the diagnosis (and I will do everything in my power to improve and maintain my health) I know that nothing in my life happens outside of the providence of God. The one who made the sand, sun, and silver fish also made me, and he planned each day of my life. I believe that MS is part of his plan for me. I don’t say this to sound like a spiritual rock star. In fact, my own pet tendencies are anxiety and worry, so I know that this peace I have is not of myself. I know that the peace I feel is a gift from God, and I will rejoice in him.

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7).

feet-in-sand

Photography by my gifted friend Lindsey Calabretta Clark.

lcc2

When Life Gives You Lemons…

After a long hiatus this summer, I’m happy to say…I’m baaaaaaack. I continued writing this summer, but just in other places and ways. I hope to share all of that with you when the time is right. But in the meantime, let’s talk about one of my favorite things – Supper Club!

This was me last night, fully embracing August’s Supper Club theme, “When Life Gives You Lemons.”

lemons

Lemon drop in hand, checking out my girl Erin’s fab greenhouse, my calm appearance belies the fact that I have a raging summer head cold. But when life gives you a summer cold, what do you do? You make a dish containing lemons and go to Supper Club. It is one Friday night of the month not to be missed.

I’ve written about Supper Club in the past. We are a group of nine friends – wives, moms, and children of God – who share a passion for community and food. One Friday each month, we gather at one of our homes to share dishes that are meaningful to us, while we talk, laugh, and discuss life – both the sweet and the sour parts. There is always a theme, chosen by the host, and each of us brings at least one dish to share.

Our suppers are not about perfection or showing off for each other. Kitchens are often messy, toys decorate living rooms, and sometimes we help each other salvage recipes that went a little south. We aren’t all awesome cooks, and it doesn’t matter, because that’s not the point. The point is to open our doors, push together our tables, pull up the mismatched chairs, and thank God for our relationships, and for the messy imperfection of life lived in community. The point is to live life together, through both the sour and the sweet.

Don’t let your desire to be perfect prevent you from throwing open your door. Just do it! Love the people around you, in their own imperfection. Love them right where they are. (This is Jenn, looking beautiful. I love her so much.)

jenn

Last night, we started off with a quartet of hummuses prepared by Karen. They were beet & lemon, spicy carrot, garlic, and herb with sweet potato.

hummus

They were light, fresh, and delicious.

Then there was this:

lemon basil butter

Maggie prepared this lemon & basil butter, and if no one was looking I would have eaten the entire roll myself. It was INSANELY yummy.

Lindsey made citrus sangria.

citrus sangria

citrus

How pretty is that?

Before we gathered at the table, Maggie set out these amazing little lemon sorbets as palate cleansers:

palate cleanser

They were such a gorgeous little treat.

That’s us.

assembled

We laughed until our bellies were full,

e&j

and then finished the meal with lemon cheesecake, and one of Amy’s famous bundt cakes. (This was her gluten-free lemon poppy seed version.)

Amy's bundt

Our night came to a close around the fire pit, where we spoke about joys and struggles, and sought advice from each other. We comforted each other, and reminded each other that we’re not alone in this life.

fire pit

As women in our mid-thirties, we’re beginning to comprehend that all of us, without exception, will taste the sourness of life’s troubles. Collectively, we have faced health problems, miscarriages, marital conflicts, familial estrangements, career transitions, financial hardships, and parenting challenges. We understand that life is hard, and trials are many.

But life is made much sweeter in community, and through our shared hope in Christ. We point each other to Him, and to the promise of the Gospel, which has the power to change the sourness in life into the sweetness of a relationship of reliance upon God.

Without question, life will hand all of us lemons, but what will we do with them? Will we close our doors tight, and avoid the imperfection of relationships? Will we fail to love each other? Will we refuse to be known? Or will we throw open our doors, and our hearts, to each other, and to Jesus – who has the power to turn lemons into something much sweeter than lemonade?

fire

Many of the photos in this post were taken by a woman that I love like a sister, Lindsey Calabretta Clark. As a camerawoman she never gets much face time, so here she is, in all of her sweetness (making me laugh, like she always does):

LCC

When It’s Messy

Y’all – I have to tell you the truth – being a Christian isn’t always easy, pretty, simple, or uncomplicated.  Sometimes it’s really hard, and really messy.

Just like an artist dirties her hands with her paint, dripping pigment on her clothing and splattering the drop cloth at her feet, creating a mess at the same time she creates a masterpiece, so too is the walk of the Christian life.  Sanctification is a messy business, but it is the process by which all Christians become more like our savior, and it is for our good.

And we are not sanctified in isolation.  You see, God calls a bunch of sinners who are stumbling around in darkness and says, “You are mine.  I’ve redeemed you and I love you.  I am light, and I’m putting my light inside of you.  Now be the light of the world.  Glorify me, and serve each other.”  And that part is awesome, supernatural, amazing, and sweet.  That is the Gospel.

But then he also says, “Now live in community with other believers, obey my Word (that is, the Bible), and love each other.”

And he means it. 

He doesn’t say, “Love your sisters in Christ, as long as they are loveable.”

He doesn’t say, “Love your brothers in Christ, as long as they never offend you.”

He doesn’t say, “Love each other…until it gets too messy.”

He says love each other.

In John 13:35 Jesus says, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  This means that when we love other Christians, it is evidence that our profession of faith is real.  It confirms that God’s light is inside of us, and that our hearts have been made new through a genuine and saving faith in Jesus.

1 John 2:9-10 says, “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.  Whoever loves his brother abides in the light.”

This means that hating a fellow Christian is incompatible with being a follower of Christ.

This is major, friends, and it should cause all of us believers to pause, and search our own hearts.

God takes a bunch of messy sinners, with our imperfections, personality quirks, baggage from the past, and cultural differences, and then says:

Love each other as I have loved you.

That is a weighty command, and of course we cannot do it of our own strength.  On our own, we are unable to muster the strength necessary to love the sister in Christ who hurt us deeply.  On our own, we will fail every time that we try to love the fellow Christian who seems unloveable, or the one who annoys us, or the one who speaks a different language, or the one who wears the skirts that are a little too short for our liking.

So we look to Him.

And we ask Him, with humble…and needy…and messy hearts, “God, please give me the strength of your love so that I can love my sister in Christ, as you have called me to do.  Please open my heart to her.  Please give me the kind of love for her that comes only from you.”

So we love each other…and sometimes it’s really hard, and really messy.  Sometimes sanctification hurts.  But we persevere for the glory of our Maker, and we find that in the end he meant it all for our good.

Full-On Tantrum Mode

Friday night Baby Girl was fighting me.  She was overtired from a busy week that included too many late nights for a two-year-old.  She was exhausted, and in full-on tantrum mode.  As she screamed maniacally and stiffened her tiny little body into a board-like state, Jersey Boy and I wrestled on her pink polka-dotted jammies.  She clenched her wee fists, face ablaze in a crimson hue, and pushed away our tender hands as we attempted to dress and soothe her.

Through her wild thrashing, we firmly held her close, gently reassuring her, “You’re just super sleepy, sweet girl.  Let Mommy and Daddy put on your PJ’s and you’ll feel better in the morning.  We love you so much.  Don’t cry.  Shhhhhhhh…”

I gently pushed back her hair.  It was wet and sticky with hot tears and snot, and looked terribly uncomfortable plastered to her sweet little face.  But just as soon as I removed the caked tendrils, she angrily reached for her hair, and pulled it right back over her eyes.  Stubborn and angry, she resisted even my best attempts to soothe her.

In that moment, as her parents, Jersey Boy and I knew what she needed – pajamas, comfort, and her bed.  She was just too upset to understand.

There in her darkened baby girl room, with glittery turquoise butterflies floating above our heads, and favorite baby dolls already asleep in their beds, I couldn’t help but think about how often I fight God in the exact same way.

How often am I like an exhausted toddler, angrily thrashing, snot in my hair, pulling away from the very hands from which I receive comfort?

How often do I scream and kick, clenching my hands into fists, rather than extending my fingers to the one who made them?

If God is my Father, and I am his child (as the Scriptures tell me is so), how often does he firmly hold me close, showing me love and tenderness, even as I resist his embrace, and stubbornly rail against that which is best for me?

When I find myself close to full-on tantrum mode…tired and angry, and sick of being pummeled by the storms of life (which will invariably batter us all), I am reminded of a great truth.

God is sovereign.

This means that the God of the Bible (three persons in one – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) has supreme power and authority over everything.  He brought this world and all that is in it into being.  It is all his handiwork, and his will reigns supreme in all ways, big and small.

“I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things” (Isaiah 45:7).

Scripture teaches us that God’s supreme authority is interwoven with his character.  He is a holy God, full of love, mercy, goodness, righteousness and faithfulness.

“The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness’” (Exodus 34:6).

He is a good God, and his sovereignty can be relied upon and trusted.  He has a plan for all of eternity, and that includes a plan for me.  As his child, he intends good for me.  “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

So I find great comfort in God’s sovereignty.  It means that when I’m overtired from a week of service to my family, or a storm of life gets the best of me, and I want to clench my fists and scream like an angry two-year-old railing against her parent, God is not surprised by my tantrum.  When I resist God’s plan, and angrily pull my hair back over my eyes like a stubborn toddler, he knows what I’m feeling.  And as my Father, he knows what I need, even when I’m too upset to understand.

Father God,

Thank you for your sovereignty over all things in my life.  Thank you for loving me and comforting me like a patient parent tenderly soothes an exhausted toddler.  You are a good God, and you want good for me, even when I’m too upset to understand.  I am so thankful that I am yours.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

Supper Club

grandmas table

Last Friday evening was Supper Club!  Spearheaded by my gal Jaime, a small group of us church girls recently started gathering monthly to eat, talk, drink, share, pray, laugh – and EAT.  Based loosely on Shauna Niequist’s cooking club from her fab book Bread & Wine, we take turns hosting, and select a theme for each gathering.

We’re a mismatched group of eclectic women – all so very different in backgrounds and interests – but with common threads that unite us.  We all love the Lord, and we’re all doing our best in this messy business of motherhood.  Oh, and we all adore food, and everything that life around the table represents.

As Shauna Niequist so aptly writes, “Something extraordinary happens when we slow down, open our homes, look into one another’s faces, and listen to one another’s stories around the table.”  I couldn’t agree more.  The time spent with these women nourishes my soul, much like their dishes nourish my belly.

This month’s theme was “dinner at grandma’s table.”  Lindsey was our gracious host, and we shared stories of our grandmothers’ recipes while seated ’round the table Lindsey inherited from her granny who passed away exactly seven years ago (almost to the date of our supper).

Like all well loved items, grandma’s table shows her age.  But much like grandma herself, she’s not self-conscious about her frailty or imperfections.  She’s lived a good long life, and she’s full of beauty and tales of meals spent with family and friends.  She even surprised us by losing her center support legs near the onset of our meal.  But it was nothing that a few resourceful mamas couldn’t rectify with a of couple of screws and some belly laughs.

table legs

table legs 2

With a few Italians in our group, our meal was deliciously heavy on pasta and red sauce, and Lindsey fried up some ridiculously thin and superbly yummy chicken cutlets.  Serenaded by the rich and scratchy sounds of grandma’s old vinyl records, we filled our bellies and laughed like we haven’t in months.

I made my grandma’s No Crust Coconut Pie, which reminds me of holidays spent ’round the table.  I’ll post the recipe soon, and I hope you’ll love it as much as I do.

As the meal concluded with a traditional Italian shot of Sambuca (to aid digestion, of course), we scurried to clear grandma’s table and clean the dishes (many hands making light work) before heading to our own homes filled with husbands (one each) and small children asleep in warm beds.

Until next month, Supper Club…my belly, and my soul will be waiting…

Photography by Lindsey Calabretta Clark.

The Pull of Busyness

Back when I was practicing law (and before I had children), one of my female colleagues had a friend who was a stay-at-home mom.  From time to time this stay-at-home mom would exclaim to my colleague, “I’m just so busy!  I have so much going on!”

I can vividly recall standing in an office with a few other female lawyers and mocking that woman.

“What on earth is possibly making her so busy?!” we jeered, contemplating our own brutal sixty-plus hour work week.  “What is she doing?  Playing tennis and volunteering at her kid’s preschool?  She needs a reality check.”

Her claims seemed patently absurd to a group of young overworked attorneys.  But today, as I stare at my old fashioned paper planner, covered in ink scribbles marking play dates, doctor visits, soccer practices, exercise classes, science fairs, lunch dates, supper clubs, AWANA club, teaching Sunday school, leading bible study, and preschool volunteer obligations (all in this week alone), I find myself in the peculiar position of being the very woman I mocked.

Busyness has a powerful pull.  And if I’m not careful, my life will pass me by in a hyper-scheduled, distracted blur.  It doesn’t matter if it’s due to a demanding career or my life as a stay-at-home mom.  I will fill up my time.

But consider the story of the sisters Mary and Martha from Luke 10:38-42:

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village.  And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.  And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.  But Martha was distracted with much serving.  And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?  Tell her then to help me.”  But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.  Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.

This passage of Scripture contains a warning about busyness.  Martha was busy.  And the things she was busy doing were good things.  She was “distracted with much serving,” attending to the needs of the people visiting her home.

When I was a young lawyer, I had a good job doing sophisticated work.  And now as a stay-at-home mom, it’s good things like volunteering and teaching that keep me busy.  But what is the cost of my busyness?

For Martha, the cost was missing the opportunity to sit at the very feet of Jesus and learn from his teaching.  God in flesh was in her living room and she was too distracted preparing the antipasta tray to be bothered.  In fact, she complained to Jesus that Mary wasn’t busy along with her!

But how often am I like Martha?  How often do I deceive myself – believing I am serving others, when in fact I am so often serving myself through my own prideful works?  How often am I distracted by my own busyness when Jesus wants me to choose the good portion.  Yes, God wants me to serve – but he wants me to serve him – by being transfixed by Christ.

Father God,

I want to choose the good portion.  Please help me stop when you want me to stop, rest when you want me to rest, and sit at your feet daily, immersed in your Word, submitting my heart to your will.  I don’t want my life to pass me by in a hyper-scheduled blur.  Please give me a listening, worshipful spirit.  Please help me resist the pull of busyness.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen

Five Things I’d Like To Tell The Teenage Me

1. Remember that guy who made you cry when you were waitressing?  He told you that your face is pretty and asked why you wear so much make-up.  He said you should go wash it off, and you were so embarrassed.

He was right.  You wear too much make-up.  You are a girl, and you’ll look mature soon enough.  Stop cheapening the natural beauty God gave you.

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” (Psalm 139:14).

2. Remember when you won that big writing contest in sixth grade?  You love to write, and you’re good at it.  Don’t let people tell you that creative writing lacks value and you must choose a more practical profession.  Don’t be persuaded that making buckets of money is the ultimate goal of education.

God gifted you with an affinity for the written word and the art of creating it.  You believe that words matter – and you’re right – they do.  So write.

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,” (Colossians 3:23).

3. Stop giving yourself to that boy.  You’re not going to marry him, and he doesn’t value you as he should.  You are a treasure created in God’s image – treat yourself as such.

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?  You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.  So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

4. I know that being a teenager is difficult and confusing.  It is for everyone.  I know that people are mean (don’t be one of them!) and teenage heartache is aptly named because it actually hurts your heart.  Sometimes life is hard…but this too shall pass.

“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

5. People will hurt you – terribly.  But God will not.  You are so loved by him.

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

All is calm…all is bright.

Ahhh…now I can breathe.  This Christmas season was a true whirlwind.  And a true joy.  Surrounded by people who love us, my littles, Jersey Boy and I delighted in celebrating the birth of our Savior.  We hosted our first Christmas Eve open house (with lots of guests), and then we traveled to visit family on Christmas day.  It was a lot of work – and a lot of fun – all wrapped up in one big Christmas package.

And then today we did nothing.

Well…nothing except this:

potty training V

Today we potty trained our third (and probably last) child.

I’m not sure how I feel about being a diaper-free house, but it marks a new chapter of sorts for our family.  No more babies.  I don’t know whether to cheer or cry.

So instead of doing either, I cracked open this bottle of wine:

good jersey wine

And boy, is it good.

A Christmas gift from a friend with good taste, it’s a blend of Riesling, Pinot Grigio, and Gewurtzraminer.  I looked it up online and it has won some fancy pants awards.

And look where it’s from.  Try as I might to deny it, I have a thing for Jersey.

So tonight Jersey Boy and I toast (with our lovely fancy pants wine) to the calm of our post-Christmas whirlwind, to the bright joy of celebrating Jesus’s birth with loved ones…and to no more diapers.

Merry post-Christmas to you and yours.

xo,

Unbored Housewife

Lake George-ing It

I hope y’all had a Happy Thanksgiving!

Jersey Boy, the littles and I had the pleasure of spending our Thanksgiving holiday on the banks of glorious Lake George, New York.  It was our first time there, and wow, is it gorgeous.

We stayed here:

Photo via http://www.thesagamore.com/.
Photo via thesagamore.com.

That’s the Sagamore – a historic island resort that’s straight out of the movies – with idyllic lodges right on the water, a 10,000 square foot indoor rec center featuring all manner of entertainment, and an Italian restaurant where the chef cooks a mean short rib.

It was a family reunion of sorts, hosted by Jersey Boy’s generous uncle, and wow, did we feel spoiled.

I didn’t wash a single dish, cook a single meal, or scrub a single pair of grass-stained pants.  And I spent nap time each day in front of the fireplace with my nose in this (a gift from a friend):

breadandwine

It was positively glorious.

Thanksgiving dinner involved a ridiculous spread, the highlight of which was a chilled mountain of crab claws, ginormous shrimp, and raw oysters.  The seafood was so yummy, in fact, that I barely touched my turkey.

The following day, while Jersey Boy played half court basketball with his much younger cousins (doing his best to show them that thirty-seven-year-olds still have game), my eldest climbed the walls (true to form).

wall climbing

How much do you think I’d have to pay someone to install one of these in my family room?  He needs all of the energy-burning activities he can get.

We got all hopped up on sugar during the gingerbread house making event.

sugar3

sugar1

sugar2

Gum drops can do some crazy things to a kid.

And we even got to see the big man (his wife, too).

santa

It was a Happy Thanksgiving filled with extended family, rarely seen friends, decadent food and abundant thanks.  I wish we could do it all again already.

adios lake george

Thanks for the memories, Lake George.  You were gorgeous.

Today I Am Thankful

Today I am thankful for the piles of crunchy brown leaves covering my lawn – begging to be raked and bagged – because it means I have a yard where my kids can run.

Today I am thankful for the mountain of shoes, jackets, backpacks, papers and books that adorn my mudroom – strewn about and begging to be organized – because it means my kids have everything they need for school.

Today I am thankful for the dishes that sit unwashed in my dull sink – longing to be washed, scrubbed and shined – because it means my family has full bellies and fresh water.

Today I am thankful for the chip in my manicure – reminding me that even the gel polishes only look great for a few days – because it means I have the time and means to afford small luxuries for myself.

Today I am thankful for my imperfect belly and stretch marked hips – telling me I’m less than perfect – because it means my body grew to accommodate three full term babies.

Today I am thankful for a husband to argue with – making me feel like we still have trouble communicating after all these years – because it means I have a dedicated spouse with whom I have the opportunity to share my life.

Today I am thankful for tense relationships with extended family members – discouraging me when things aren’t easy and perfect – because it means our loved ones are still alive.

Today I am thankful for my strong-willed child – challenging me daily with his boldness and energy – because it means one day (I pray) he will be a man of strong character.

Today I am thankful for this imperfect nation with its partisan politics – frustrating me every time I read the news and ponder America’s future – because it means today I am still free.

And above all, today I am thankful for my all-powerful, all-knowing God – who sent his son to the cross to suffer a brutal sinner’s death in my stead – because the Gospel “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).