Intentional Observance of Lent

“…and thank you for our family.  Please keep us safe and healthy.  Please watch over PaPa and make his body strong again…”

Mama, don’t forget about my bike.

“…and thank you for Ike’s bike…”

And the trashcan.

“…and thank you for the trashcan…”

And Nat’s finger.

“…and thank you that Nat’s finger is all better..”

And the semi.

“…and thank you for the semi…”

That’s all.

“…in Jesus’ name, Amen.”

This is an excerpt from the bedtime prayers I helped my son, Ike, say last night.  It is pretty much the same every night.  Sometimes it takes quite a long time because his list of thank yous and concerns goes on for seemingly ever.  His innocent and sincere gratitude for even the most trivial (to me) things me makes my heart happy.  Ike’s immediate reaction to thank God for everything in his little life that he loves is so sweet to hear.  A real life example of “Praise God from who ALL blessings flow…”

As the sun is rising on this Ash Wednesday, I have the prayers of my children on my mind.  Rather than simply giving up sweets in observance of Lent as I have done every year since I can remember, I want to concentrate on praying the way my kids pray; constantly, consistently, unabashedly.  The sacrifice of sweets will just be a reminder to pray, an outwardly sign of an inwardly faith.  I want to emerge from this season of penance, reflection, and fasting with a new habit of continually saying “thank you” for the many, many blessings that surround me and often go unrecognized.

“Pray without ceasing.”  1 Thessalonians 5:17

How will you be observing Lent?

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Perfect Poppers

Good Tuesday Morning!

With Superbowl XLVI fresh in my mind, I have a confession to make.  I am not a huge football fan.  Now don’t get me wrong, I do love the idea of being a football fan but sitting down and watching a game from start to finish is just something I haven’t gotten the hang of yet.

But I am a huge fan of game day snacks!  One of my all time favorite things to eat, football game or any other day of the year, is jalapeno poppers.  Oh, even thinking about the tasty little bites makes my mouth water!  Unfortunately for popper lovers everywhere, these dudes are a pain in the neck and time consuming to make.  Here’s a quick tip to help get you from a pile of whole jalapenos, blocks of cream cheese, and raw bacon to the pure bliss of a perfectly prepared popper in record time.

Quick Tip #2:  Use a grapefruit spoon to remove the seeds and ribs from jalapenos when preparing poppers.

 

Did you know that all the heat of a jalapeno resides solely in the seeds and ribs?  So remove all of these parts and, presto, you have a jalapeno that even kids and adults with touchy taste buds can enjoy in mass quantities.

Back away from the paring knife!  The grapefruit spoon is the perfect tool for scraping out as little or as much of the seeds and ribs in order to make jalapeno poppers of your desired heat level.

Jalapeno Poppers

24 jalapenos

2 8oz. blocks of cream cheese

24 slices bacon (halved crosswise)

Slice jalapenos in half lengthwise.  USE A GRAPEFRUIT SPOON to remove the seeds and ribs.  Stuff each jalapeno half with cream cheese.  Wrap halved slice of bacon around the jalapeno and secure with a toothpick.

Place on a broiler pan or rack inside a rimmed cookie sheet.  Bake at 275 degrees for 1 hour or until bacon is crisp.

Enjoy!

One Foggy Morning

I woke up this morning with an earful of baby slobber and a kink in my back thanks to a sippy cup lodged under my shoulder blade.  I glanced at the clock.  Five fifteen a.m.  Bleh.  “I do not want to get up and go running,” I thought to myself.  It had been a long night of musical beds between all three kids’ rooms. I finally wimped out and brought the littlest one to our bed in hopes of a few minutes of rest before the alarm buzzed.  But restful isn’t exactly how I would describe the hours from 2:00 a.m. on.

In the predawn darkness, I let my mind wander through a myriad of excuses of why I should stay in bed.

However, the coffee was percolating merrily in the kitchen and its life-giving, caffeine-laden aroma was enticing.  I knew quite well that going running before the kids woke up and before Brandon headed out for the day was my best shot at getting a run in at all.  I pushed all the excuses aside, rolled my snoozing little boy out of the crook of my neck and slipped as quietly as possible out of my warm bed.

Even in the dark of the morning, I could tell that it was very foggy outside.   A glance at the thermometer informed me that it was a frigid 19 degrees.  Yuck.  The excuses flooded my mind again.

I would really love to sit on the couch with a warm blanket and enjoy another cup of coffee and another few pages of the Southern Living magazine my mom gave me but…

I reluctantly pulled on my shabby winter running gear which consists of track tights left over from high school (emphasis on the TIGHT thirteen years later), layered unflattering sweat shirts, a fleece vest, a Carhartt stocking cap, and mismatched roping gloves.  Wow.  I’m sure I looked like I came straight from the most recent issue of Runner’s World.  But I was dressed and ready to brave the icy morning so I gathered up the technological components of my get-up only to realize that my cherished Ipod was dead.  My desktop computer is in the shop and there was certainly no time to install Itunes and charge the little dude on my laptop so for the first time in a long time I headed out the door without Dave Ramsey, 90’s rock, or an audiobook to distract me.

The first quarter mile or so was miserable.  My legs were heavy.  The freezing air was burning my lungs.  My fancy minimalist shoes weren’t doing much of anything to keep my toes warm.  But then, I got over the hill and found myself enveloped by the fog.  I could only see about thirty feet on all sides of me.  There was no wind.  I couldn’t hear anything except the sound of my feet crunching along the frozen ground, the pitter-patter of my dogs behind me and the huffing and puffing coming from my mouth.  No distractions.  It was weird and wonderful all at the same time.

There in the fog that blotted out the rest of the world, I mulled over the events of the last few days.  We celebrated my daughter’s fifth birthday.  FIFTH birthday!    Although the party had been a joyful event, I hadn’t been able to shake the uncomfortable thought of the years blazing by as I struggle with the day to day laundry, cleaning, cooking, changing diapers, keeping the kids happy and healthy, etc., etc.

I am the mother of a FIVE YEAR OLD!

Where has the time gone?  She will be going to kindergarten soon!  Have I taught her everything she needs to know up to this point?  Have I adequately documented her five years on this earth?  Have I hugged and kissed her and told her I love her enough?  Have I paid enough attention to each milestone in her life?

I know that I am not the only mother who is haunted by these types of questions as their children grow up.  I am reading a book called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  The author proclaims “The days are long but the years are short” to be one of her “Splendid Truths”.  Ouch.  That is exactly how I am feeling as carefully pick my way through an iced over mud puddle.

Rubin also addresses the obvious fact that we can’t stop or slow down the progression of time.  If that were the case, as my dad says, my sisters and I would all still be seven years old.  According to Gretchen, the only way to combat the years whizzing by is to make every effort to be “conscious in the moment” with your children.  A little psycho-babble-y, yes, but true nonetheless.

I pounded my way along the ruts in the frozen two track road and realized I had reached my turn around point.  I hollered to the dogs who had ventured off into the blanket of fog ahead of me and then I about-faced and headed back in what I knew was the direction of home even though I still couldn’t see a blessed thing beyond the thirty foot radius around me.

I played a mental slide show of the last five years.  The day we brought Natalie home from the hospital.  The four day power outage when she was a week old.  Her first steps.  Riding her pony.  Splashing in the mineral tub “pool”.  The pride and joy she takes in being a big sister.  Learning to skip rocks.  Her first ballet recital.  My eyes burned with tears.  Yes.  These last five years have been a blur but what a happy, beautiful, and delightful blur it has been!

I finally trudged through the back door of my house and was greeted by three sleepy-eyed, pajama-clad kids with early morning craggy voices yelling “Mama’s home!  Mama’s home!” and a smiling husband who only looked slightly impatient.  Despite the obvious need to change the baby’s diaper and my sweat soaked clothes, I made sure to hug them all soundly and tell them good morning rather than rushing right in to the daily rigmarole.

I suppose the answers to the guilt-ridden, and perhaps overly anxious, questions plaguing my mind during my thoughtful run do not exist or are at least not relevant right now.  All that really matters is that I am doing my very best to be “conscious in the moment.”  Thanks Gretchen.

I am going to make running without my Ipod a regular part of my workout routine.  I can’t say that I will always go au natural because it took me a good bit longer to run my scheduled three miles without something in my ear to quicken my step but it was a very interesting exercise in ‘being in the moment’ and one that I would like to repeat.

I also know that it will be difficult if not impossible to cherish each moment with my kids but I want to make a conscious effort to improve the ratio between moments I appreciate what is happening RIGHT NOW to those that I am pushing the kids aside or distracting them into leaving me alone to grind out another item on my to-do list.

In fact, I’m starting right now as Ike has been snuggled on my lap watching me type the last three paragraphs.   Now Natalie is going to push the final ‘save’ button for this post.  Even though I can hardly reach the keyboard because of my lapful of kids, I know that the days of them asking to sit in my lap are numbered.  The days are long but the years are short.  I’m loving this moment in time.

Relish the small things

Think big thoughts but relish small pleasures.  ~H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

My mind has been racing since I first opened my eyes this morning.

I have been wondering how to start this blog.  I think of it day and night.  I want it to be perfect.  I want it to convey my passion.  I want it to be entertaining and useful.  I have so many ideas that I don’t know where to begin. 

So I’m going to start small.  I mean really small. 

This is going to be my first step towards spiritual fitness.  Relish the small things. 

When my husband and I were first married and moved to the ranch, I worked by his side most every day.  Now that we have three kids, all under the age of four, he doesn’t ask for my help much anymore.  Hmmm, I can’t imagine why.  So I am out of the habit of day to day outside chores.  But Brandon has been away at a horse sale for a few days so the kids and I have chore duty.  

Don’t tell Brandon, but most mornings this week I have grumbed never-to-be-mentioned words under my breath as I wrestle the kids into their, coats, hats, and boots.  However, through my self-produced rose colored glasses, today’s morning outing revealed many little things that I have not taken the time to relish lately.

Here goes…

 1.  Warm December weather

No ice to chop!

2.  Enough work to build character in a whole army of kids.

My daughter helping me feed the horses

My big kids opening a gate for me

3.  Little creatures

My youngest son

My kids' main man, Coo Coo

A newly weaned colt

Our first customers racing to the feed pickup

4.  Local radio station Coyote Country 96.5 so that we can sing “Two-Step ‘Round the Christmas Tree” at the top of our lungs as we make our morning feed route.

5.  The fact that my kids think that the feed pickup is one of the most comfortable places on the planet.

Pure relaxation

Everybody in!

6.  A job well done.

Last pasture fed

Getting the mail signals the end of our morning's chores

So there you have it. 
Thinking big thoughts but relishing the little things.
Have a wonderful day!
Becky