Selfies, Parenting & Walking on Water

Last Christmas, the only family picture we ended up with was a selfie with, as you can see, heads cut off, my grandbaby not looking, and my husband half hiding behind my hair. But the photo made me happy, and I wished my Facebook friends a Merry Christmas with it anyways! Sometimes the best photos are simply that candid look of unplanned moments—when someone reaches out their hand to take a picture and captures happiness.

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I once heard that it takes about 12 pictures to get a good one, so it’s still totally legitimate to take a couple dozen and keep the one that works! I do this all the time with photos of my garden, my family, and especially that little beauty on the bottom right of the photo above. I’m constantly deleting pictures on my phone to free up space for the next unexpected opportunity.

I used to be a “school parent.” I homeschooled my daughters Melissa and Jenna for several years and then enrolled them in a Christian school where I drove every school morning for eight years until they each graduated. For many of you reading this, that’s where you are today. You get it…how when we’re parenting kids, there are so many of those “save-able” moments, the ones we absolutely want to keep!

But then those other times. Those times when, looking back, we wish it were possible to hit a little button and permanently delete. I imagine you know exactly what I’m talking about. Yelling when we’re running late to school, exasperation when homework remains unfinished and it should be bedtime, impatience which really stems from our own lack of sleep rather than what our kids are doing. (And, Jenna says I can tell you about all our fights over the little rubber bands for her braces…but I almost don’t want to.)

I had PLENTY of those moments when my kids were growing up. (I still do.) So I’m thankful that although we might not get actual, complete “do-overs” in parenting, we definitely get re-starts—possibilities to begin again, to reach out a hand with another opportunity to know our kids better, love them, and be the best we can be for them.

It’s hard. Yes, it’s hard. I recently read a Facebook update about a parent facing unexpected pre-Christmas surgery for her daughter. I know more than one parent going through an illness of their own. Moms and dads wondering where to find the money for just a little Christmas shopping. Parents who are hurting deeply because their children are hurting.

To me, that was pretty much the worst.

have these words hanging in my office: You call me out upon the waters. Maybe you know the song Oceans by Hillsong which tells the story from Matthew 14 of Peter being called by Jesus to get out of his boat and walk on the water towards Him.

Wow. What would you have done?

I wonder, would I step out of a boat and try to walk towards Jesus on top of deep water? What kind of faith does this take? Where does that courage come from? I’m still learning that it means looking only to Him to do what, humanly speaking, would not be possible. Peter did step out of the boat, but when he temporarily lost faith and started to sink, he desperately looked up to Jesus to rescue him.

I’ve been thinking this season that maybe God calls us to step out of the boat and into the water more often than we think—and the only stipulation for success is to keep our eyes on Him. Moms and dads, if you feel like you’re failing (sinking!) more than you’re succeeding, if you’re needing do-overs more than savoring picture-perfect moments, let me tell you that God’s grace abounds in the deepest waters!

Even if you’re familiar with this song, consider listening to it again with your role as a parent in mind. Let God speak to you about looking above the waves and finding Him in the mysteries and challenges of parenting—and of life. Then why not think about doing something fabulous with your kids this holiday season, completely unrelated to giving them a tangible gift? Something unexpected, where you listen, you laugh, you do what they want, eat what they want, but mostly where you’re all there and all in…for them.

You might not end up with all picture-perfect selfie moments with your family this Christmas, in fact there might be some you just want to throw away and forget. But step out in faith anyway. Keep your eyes above the waves. Walk on the water to Jesus—and then let your kids see your own real faith and love for Him.

Keeping the tree up for awhile…

How long does your Christmas tree stay around?

I always get this feeling around the 28th of December. This ambiguous, undefined longing to quietly enjoy my tree one more time before I blink and it all goes away.

One more time. One more time. It’s like a magnetic pull. Go over and click on the Christmas lights. Make some coffee and sit down. Look at the sweet ornaments again.

Christmas treeBecause, you know, it all has to come down soon.

It’s like a set rules: Move on. Take the tree down and box it up. Take advantage of that invigorating feeling of starting off a new year with everything fresh. Go ahead and be motivated or slightly obsessed with heading back to work in January with your home, closets, life, and mind in order.

Truth be told, that was me last year, and the year before.

Growing up in our family of six, our tree was traditionally put away by New Year’s Eve before the company came over, to make a little more room for the crowd descending on our living room. Like the rest of the world, it seemed, in those days between the 25th and the 31st, my young mind and mood shifted from the giving, the gifts, the tree—to the party hats, the blowers, and in my house, the pots and pans for banging at midnight.

Well, I am my momma’s daughter, and at our house we’re putting together some New Year’s plans of our own for later this week. We’ll be making some noise at midnight, too. But for today, and tomorrow, for a few more days, I’m letting Christmas stay around. Peacefully. Beautifully. Without that need to box it up, clean it up, and not leave a trace…

And I don’t just mean the tree.

The excitement, the anticipation, the hope of Christmas…I’m purposefully letting it stay awhile.

This past weekend I told my family that Christmas isn’t over, and we’d be extending it throughout Monday or Tuesday at least, possibly into Wednesday or Thursday. Even if we’re back to work.

My announcement didn’t get any verbal reactions, but I’m pretty sure everyone’s hearts were silently smiling at this official extension.

#keepthetreeupalittlelonger #christmaspastthetwentyfifth #celebratingthehopeinjesus

Come Grow a Tomato with Me

My first vegetable garden was on my apartment patio in plastic containers bought at Home Depot. The vegetables never received any direct sun and did poorly from the start. I eventually replaced the wilting tomatoes with flowers which also received no sun. They looked pretty for my mother-in-law’s visit but died soon after she left.

My second vegetable “garden” was on the kitchen counter in Solo cups as part of my daughter’s homeschool project. To her delight, the green bean plants grew quickly—but then never produced any more than a hint of a bean.

For the next decade I stuck to silk plants inside and a single flower pot by the front door. But again and again, as I replaced those potted seasonal flowers (if I could afford it), that gardening itch kept returning. Finally in my early 40s, I decided it might be time to get it right. With a little more planning and a lot more effort, vegetable garden number three was the charm.


As a Christmas gift that year, my husband surprised me with all the elements needed for my first backyard vegetable gardening experience, including several bags of beautiful black soil, a must-have in our sandy Florida yard. (Don’t judge him for that; he also gave me a necklace!) The next week I methodically positioned my first plants in the 4×8 raised bed he built. I began to faithfully water my six cabbage plants, three tomatoes, and a few herbs. I watered and waited, watered and waited—and hoped for the best.

Crazy thing, but everything actually began to grow! I mean, I knew that was supposed to happen, but it had just never happened for me. I can’t even tell you how much fun I had watching those plants reach taller, expand wider, and start showing signs of real, edible food.


And then came the day I realized it was time to snip off and use a couple sprigs of the herbs, harvest that very first cabbage, and start eating the tomatos. I felt like I’d become my dad during our Illinois summers in the 70s when he would come in from the garden completely delighted to cover the kitchen counter with his homegrown produce.

During the next year, my husband caught the gardening bug, too, and our joint efforts resulted in non-stop tomatoes for months and months, even after all the leaves were practically dead on the stems.


As the tomatoes kept coming, I began to sympathize with my mom’s consuming efforts of trying to keep up with all the zucchinis my dad grew. I personally didn’t grow zucchini, but I felt like I was bonding with her in a new way, realizing her mix of gratefulness and frustration with so many homegrown garden delights. By the end of that second season, I had eaten so many tomatoes I became allergic to them.

Tomatoes on hold for me, and with the extended gardening season in South Florida, Greg tried planting peppers, onions, and carrots. Then one afternoon I walked around our backyard and realized he’d dug up yet another area—to plant carrots.

See, I told you he’d caught the vegetable gardening bug. Then he started planting fruit trees, and even brought home a baby avocado tree for me on Valentine’s Day.


In the next couple years, we learned how easy it is to grow pineapples, if you’re super patient, that is.


Of course, along the way, we had to brighten it all with some some orchids, another low-maintenance gardening beauty.


Admittedly, the perennials I planted around the yard helped during the times the veggies died off and weeds overtook the gardens. During those times, this red shrimp plant just kept showing off its colors.


After all this time, we’re still planting, watering, and watching things grow. It’s been a decade-long adventure of seeing up close the wonder of God’s artistry. I love it how during at least three seasons of the year, His intricate creation supplies us with fresh fruit, fresh veggies, and produce for juicing, smoothies, and salads.

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I don’t claim to be an expert on backyard farming, nor am I a photographer (except with my phone). But with those disclaimers, I invite you to join me here on my blog. Along the way, if you get the urge to dig a hole in your own soil and grow something edible (or just simply pretty), I’d love to hear from you.

My blog won’t always be about gardening, but you can be sure I’ll be returning to the backyard again and again in my writing. So go ahead and subscribe to Beyond (left of screen) for future ideas, photos, stories, successes, bloopers, and how to be part of this fun and fulfilling “farm to table” and flower-filled living.

(And one last thing. If you love essential oils, they’re going to pop up here, too. What do they have to do with gardening? Stay tuned. Because I’m rarely in my garden without them.)


Coffee Traditions, One Shiny Pot at a Time

I woke up every morning of my childhood, it seems, to the permeating aroma of Maxwell House coffee and the distinctive gurgling, swishing sound of my mother’s percolator. I loved walking out to the kitchen to pour my cereal and instinctively take a peek at the coffee’s rise and fall in that clear-glass-bulb-thing at the top of the stainless steel pot.


But then, as far as the coffee maker memories of my life go, at some point, in some way, there was no longer a percolator in our kitchen. Without any family discussionand certainly without consulting mea drip coffee maker showed up on the counter. I would guess it came from Sears, like all the other new gadgets which entered our home in the 70s.

Instead of gurgling and burping and swishing and steaming, the new machine just dripped. This coffee dripping did nothing for me on my school mornings, not to mention there was no longer that glorious rise and fall of coffee in the glass bulb. But mom seemed fine with the modern fraud of a coffee maker, and that was that.

Although I loved the smell of coffee, I didn’t start drinking it until the winter of 1990 when Jenna was born. My mom spent a lot of time pampering me on those cold days I lived with her while my husband was overseas. Mom made me coffee, raspberry cream coffee to be exact. With the raspberry flavor significantly overriding the coffee flavor, she lured me into her coffee world one small cream-diluted cup at a time.

I spent the next two and a half decades making coffee every morning in my own kitchens everywhere we lived, and I can’t count how many drip coffee makers I went through: cheap, semi-cheap, and my favorite Gevalia which sadly only lasted a year. Then came a birthday gift, my beloved Keurig, the best thing that ever happened to my morning schedule. I couldn’t have been happier, coffee wise, until the day I sat in my friend’s kitchen a few months ago and spotted something shiny on her counter top.

Is that a percolator?

Yes, indeed. A real, live percolator, the first I’d seen up close and in person in a lifetime. Honestly, my heart jumped a little, and at home that night I googled the price. Would it be wrong to buy myself a present for no special reason except nostalgia?

I thought about my possible purchase for two weeks and finally ordered a Farberware 12-Cup Percolator on Amazon. I paid $66.96, two-day shipping included, to bring a little piece of my past into my present. For those who care, here is my non-scientific analysis:

1. The coffee tastes better, seems hotter, and feels smoother, to me at least, but I know I’m partial.

2. The production isn’t as quick as with my Keurig, but I can make six cups in less than seven minutes. Yes, I timed it.

3. That gurgling, swishing, steaming sound is as mesmerizing as I remember.

2015-04-19+15.39.16It’s amazing how a simple, shiny coffee device could make me smile morning after morning. Hindsight, I kind of wish I’d bought a percolator with a glass bulb on top, like my mom had back in the day. Yet, if I close my eyes and stand still for a moment, I can see the rise and fall of the percolating coffee I remember so well from our kitchen in Lombard, Illinois.

Proverbs 14 tells us that a wise woman builds her home. I’m just continuing this building process and preserving the Yarrow-Pirrie coffee tradition, one shiny pot at a time.

Are you turning your own prized memories into traditions?