The Ways I Like Coffee

I need to set the record straight about how I like coffee.  The other day a friend and mentor sweetly informed me that she had studied up on lattes, so that when I come by to see her she could indulge us in my favorite drink.   After doing some research she had found a recipe for lattes to make with her Vita-mix.  This was after our first meeting at our local coffee shop, where I think I must’ve taken her by surprise with my  coffee choice.   While it seems natural to me to choose a latte with no flavorings, (though sometimes I indulge in half the regular flavoring amount), skim milk and slightly less hot than normal temperature, it was a new thing to her, to order beyond a simple cup of “joe”.  So while I have fun with a love of coffee and have even blogged about methods (check out this post if you’re interested), here’s the REAL scoop on my coffee habits.  My favorite thing really isn’t about the coffee, it’s about what that cup of joe, latte, tea, juice, water or whatever the drink is, really speaks.

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My favorite way to have coffee is with a Bible nearby on the arm of my recliner.  It may be accompanied by a devotional book, a Bible study book, Sunday School literature, and definitely a highlighter and ink pen.   Though I put this at the top, it often gets put off until afternoon, due to blurry morning vision.

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This coffee method ranks right up near the top, and occurs when Tony has picked up his FedEx load and comes back through right past our house on the way to his route.  It is a blessing of enormous magnitude to have a few minutes together over a cup of coffee before we embark on our separate daytime roles.  That stern look is only to belie the fact that he spoils me with great breakfast eggs before he rushes on.   It also may be expressing how he feels about me having Hannah take this picture.

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This is another lovely way to drink coffee.  In a chair beside my teens who wish to remain obscure after stumbling out of bed to the couch while they try to make their eyes open for the day by way of a cup of coffee.  This is that time of day that I enjoy bugging my children with conversation.  Sometimes they actually wake up and converse coherently and pleasantly back with me.  And that makes my day.

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This is a great way to enjoy an occasional sip of coffee.  I love to sit on the back deck and enjoy the view while I sing hymns or practice choir or ensemble songs.   Not only does it afford a great view, but it makes my kids happy when I take this part of my day outdoors.  Buck, my Boston, often joins me, and, when I have to hit the high notes, he accompanies me with howling.  I’m not quite sure how to take that, but it’s camaraderie with the dog and worship time together.

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Here is another enjoyable way to have coffee.  Sitting at the computer writing, blogging, or connecting with friends.  Yes, I’ve enjoyed many a cyber cup of coffee.  If the drink cools, which I am not really focusing on, anyway, I may add a splash of  hot coffee from the pot.   If I can connect with friends in person, that’s all the better.

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This is the “siesta” cup of coffee.  Not long after lunch, I often gravitate to a cozy sitting position on the bed with pillows of every shape and variety to support my neck, which often needs a rest.  I love having a lamp on, a Scentsy warmer wafting some favorite or seasonal scent, and a stack of books beside me.   I may even read a chapter or two if my eyelids allow it.  There is usually a prayer list tucked inside the books for this “coffee” time.   The rest of my day may be on  autopilot, unless I get this little break.  During the days of all (or most) of the kids at home and doing their school, I often unintentionally took this little break in a living room chair “while” reading History to them.  They hated it when I began slurring words and nodding and jerking my head.  It is the time of day that may be beyond the reach of a cup of coffee.  Sometimes it’s just better to take a 5-20 minute time out!

Though it may seem like I drink coffee, espresso and precision lattes all day long, that is only a little bit true.  I just like to have a cup of something nearby, even if it has the original morning coffee in the bottom of it and I’ve just refilled it once or twice.  So, please, don’t think I am truly a coffee snob.  I mainly just like all the pleasant habits that I associate with it.  And for that friend who is investing in me, mentoring me, encouraging me, and/or allowing me the privilege of mutual friendship, I don’t even need a drink at all!  It’s just an added nicety any old way you serve it!

Emptying Nest

This month marks the beginning of the end of my homeschooling mom/teacher/superintendent role of over 25 years.  Not to discount my husband’s role of buying enough books over the years to make a library, loading school on the computer for countless years, whisking me away from the mad house on occasion, etc.  However, the emotional changes ahead loom most heavily on me.  While I look forward to some changes, I also hold a little tightly onto a few last times of this or that…chatting with my teens, coffee cups in hand, looking at their art, talking about a book, bugging them with computer techy questions.   They may not like me saying so, but they are my last “chicks in the nest”.   Our cozy times together…well, I want them to linger.

It is hard to believe seven kids have grown up and five have made their way out of the nest.  Here’s to memories of our family nest.   Dedicated to……. Anna (who, before we adopted, started out in her own nest with her dad, two brothers and Olga, and then spent two years with half- sister Carrie) & husband, Matt, and kids,  Julia, Joy, Kristina, Rachel, Maddie, Bethany, Jennaleigh, Alaina; Candace & husband, Dan & kids, Kinsley, Sophie, Trux, Gilly; Caleb & fiance, Daisy, and her kids, Cassie, Ethan & Rilee; Jared & wife, Amber;  Zion,  Jacob, Hannah

Just a few more months of Candace being the one and only little “chick”.

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Family nest growing in Columbia

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Good times in the Rolla house, where Jared joined us.

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I will never forget that moment when Anna left the nest for her honeymoon.  First one out!  Bittersweet, indeed.

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                       Mom and Daddy, Anna, Matt & Julia join us to visit Grandma Brand.  Jacob is a few months from birth!

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Fourth son has joined the gang.  St. Louis zoo wanted to keep some of you guys, but we just couldn’t do it.

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On the ferry in Canada.  Oh yeah, a new chickie in the nest, and it’s a girl!

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With Mom English and  Grandma DeWitt in Michigan

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 Fun times in Bourbon, MO, with nieces, nephews, Julia, etc.

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With Brittany at Mom and Daddy’s house

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Samson, Caleb and Jared at the  Bourbon place with THE granddaddy Maple in the back ground that no one wanted to leave and the playhouse that Dad built for you all

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With Grandpa Williams and Goldie in Ellington

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Fun in Branson

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Kids, dogs and Snowmen at Pine Valley Farm

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Siblings, Cousins and Friends Cellar Meetup

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More family times at Mom and Daddy’s Keysville house with Julia, Candace, Kelsey

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Caleb leaves for the army from Pine Valley Farm.  Second one to leave the nest.  Still not used to this.

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I said you were part Cherokee, so you took the matter into your own hands!

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My rock stars in Wyoming

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Third “chick” out of the nest.  Not sure if it gets any easier.

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But fun times with Dan and Candace eases the newest transition!

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Caleb is on leave from the army and comes home to Pine Valley

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Dad and four kids all driving madly in go carts!

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A very relaxing train ride from Branson into Arkansas

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Sons – Never a dull moment

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Caleb with friends, Chris and Player

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Zion’s high school passions

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POST SPELUNKING – Back:  Jared & Nathan; Front:  Zion, Gabby, Jacob, Hannah, Kara, Courtney, Jesse

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Seriously, sons? At the time of this photo three out of four boys and a total of five kids have flown the coop!

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Lovely Daughters inside and out

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And daughter-in-laws, too!  (Get to update this pic to 5 gals in a week!)

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Some of you have made beautiful nests of your own!

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We love being grandparents!

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Some have flown far from the nest, but are now closer!  Yay!

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Some of you are still across the world.  Can’t wait to see you again!

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Some of you are making your mark in life and still call this home your nest from afar.

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The last little chicks in the nest, who aren’t so little!  Only one left in school.

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And the baby, who will never escape that title (said and meant with all endearment).

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December 14 JoyDare

December 14 – THREE GIFTS STAMPED

I could spend all day going through my “special” box.  I’m fairly certain I should be more creative with these three gifts, but nostalgia is taking precedence and these gifts all came from that box that has the power to cheer me up and take me back in time.

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These top pics are of cards  from special friends who took time to send encouraging and/or funny cards; some with letters.  I took a close up of one particularly fitting one.  My friend’s  husband had dropped her off in Hallmark for her first of several surprise progressive birthday stops, each where she found someone waiting to take her to the next stop.  At Hallmark, she had a designated time to select a stash of cards and said when she saw that one (upper right), she immediately thought of me and laughed out loud.  I have to admit, it reminds me of myself, also.  Scatter brained and needing an expresso pretty much sums me up.  The pear shape is fitting, too; but she kindly did not say that.  The beautiful one in the middle bottom is from a friend who I write and have lunch with at least once a year, and we love catching up with news of our big families.  We have made an art of highlighting the annual top news in an hour or two of lunch and coffee.  The upper right card is from a special friend from church.  Because she is also my pastor’s wife and that role wears many hats, we don’t get to visit as much as I’d like, but we have several special memories behind us of cool things like Beth Moore livecasts, a VOM conference, VBS and Awana events, etc.  All of my friends have been there for me so meaningfully and persistently, even during a few dark valleys  that I will never forget it and them, and I hope that I can always be there for them, even if it’s just with a special card.

1 Peter 4:8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

 Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

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Some say writing cards and letters is a dying art.  Here is a blog about reviving that and encouraging others.  Recently I have been encouraged by a couple writers through blogging, and their words have been exactly what I needed to hear.   I don’t always understand why humble encouraging words don’t come easier to us.  It means so much.  And it can be so depressing to be deprived of needed and gentle explanations for misunderstandings.  Though it can be complicated, I think we would work harder to reduce misunderstandings or resolve them if we applied the extra mile thought to the relationship as we often do in our families.

Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.

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This one represents a whole slew of cards from my very hard working man.  He is ultimately my best friend, here on this earth, and never fails to comfort me when I’m down, and I do the same for him.   Well, except a few off times.  They happen less and less often.  When I am lonely, he is a phone call away, at least if there’s a signal.   He doesn’t judge my sometimes rather emotional state, but instead seeks to understand it.   We pull each other back into balance.  He is my lover and I am his, and our anchor is a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.    Always.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

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This batch of cards represents creative and loving notes and letters from children (now mostly adults and including their spouses), grandchildren, and siblings.  I have seven children (ten, counting three spouses) and twelve grandchildren so far, but those numbers change fairly often.  I love reading their special cheery blessings.  Some of them are extremely artistic and put alot of work into their cards.  They are all so meaningful.

Three gifts stamped – My “special” box is full of them, and I am so grateful for written encouragement, that I can go back and look at again and again.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

December 12 JoyDare

December 12 – THREE GIFTS BERRY RED

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The red berries on this Deciduous holly or possum haw tree just beyond our front porch are a winter treat both for birds and for our vases and wreaths.  This faithful little tree has provided us much entertainment this year due to the consistent appetite for berries a particular pileated woodpecker has.  He announces his descent to the tree several times a day.  Try as I might, I have not been able to get the kind of distinguished picture such a creature deserves.  Partly, because I wasn’t even aware my phone camera could zoom until a couple days ago; and partly because he usually flies off when he hears me open the door to try to sneak out.  I have crawled out the door a number of times  attempting to be stealthy, but he has great hearing and patience, because he just flies off to a nearby tree until I go in.

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Clearly, I will have to update this blog when I finally get a zoomed in pic of him.  He stays on the far side of the tree and has already emptied most of the berries from that branch.  Maybe he will be forced to eat on “my” side of the tree before winter is over.  Regardless, I am thankful for these delightful red berries and all the happiness they invoke.

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“Berry red” may be a push here, because this dear, red book is rather faded.  Years ago, we bought everyone in our large family a hymn book (plus some extras) when we used to go to a home church and everyone brought their own hymn books for our hour long a capella singing time.  Our kids all wrote their name in their own book so they could mark their favorites.  If I remember correctly, a couple favorites of my kids were “The Trees of the Field” and “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee”.  A couple of my older kids wrote their favorites in the front and have now (as adults) asked for their hymn books.   I have so many favorites depending on my mood, I would hate to even name one.  A special friend recently told me, when I was disappointed with nearly everyone around me(I know that is telling about ME)…sing.  Just sing all day long.  Great advice.  Whether it’s by getting the old hymn book out and singing, or by turning on the radio, or Pandora, or singing at church, it works.  What we say (or sing) helps refocus our heart correctly.  But I think the dearest way of all is the old red hymn book, especially when a child is on my lap, or one or more of my kids will join in, or at least take their ear buds out.

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I love this Scentsy warmer.  My daughter, Candace, started selling Scentsy before it was hardly heard of and caught on like wildfire.  Check out her link to see more.  This is one of my favorite boudoir pieces.  It is only fitting that a berry red, heart shaped warmer should be a part of the master bedroom decor, no matter if it’s the only red thing there.  It does a great job of scenting my room with my favorite romantic aromas.   It can waft Scentsy scents or essential oils for relaxing aromatherapy or massage oil.  This charming little warmer also happens to make heart shaped lights on the walls at night.   Did I say I like it?    It really is the little things.

December 10 JoyDare

December 10 – THREE GIFTS ICED COLD

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An iced cold coffee is an excellent post work out gift that I look forward to gratefully!

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The beautiful design of frost on my Subaru windshield is a gift that reminds me of my Designer.  I found a couple cool, (or icy cold!) “frost” poems.  The first one is exactly how I think of frost.  It is used with permission  ©Joan Adams Burchell.  Click to see her website for other beautifully done poems.

Hoar Frost

Branches were dipped in frosting this morn
and the sun cast a fairyland spell;
Each fragile twig looked feathered and white
and beckoned a heart to swell.
A winter treasure – a sight to behold –
while silence augmented the scene;
I wanted to walk through an open gate
to find the artist, supreme.
No gate could I see, the artist unseen,
awe captured my soul;
The canvas would change, as nature intended,
but I’d witnessed her morning’s goal.

The Frosted Pane

One night came Winter noiselessly, and leaned
Against my window-pane.
In the deep stillness of his heart convened
The ghosts of all his slain.
Leaves, and ephemera, and stars of earth,
And fugitives of grass, —
White spirits loosed from bonds of mortal birth,
He drew them on the glass.

Sir Charles George Douglas Robert
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A third ice cold gift is seeing my holly, yucca and other plants resiliently bearing up under the ice .  To see them  remaining evergreen under such conditions reminds me of the work of remaining joyful and thankful even when my conditions are “taxing”.  There’s a grand plan even for the annuals, for in death they drop seeds for the following year.  I have a designer who gave me a way to hold up, also, but it’s a choice I have to make.  It’s a choice I often refuse to make well.   Jeanne Pierre de Caussade, author of “Abandonment to Divine Providence” said ‘You would be very ashamed if you knew what the experiences you call setbacks, upheavals, pointless disturbances, and tedious annoyances really are.  You would realize that your complaints about them are nothing more nor less than blasphemies – though that never occurs to you.  Nothing happens to you except by the will of God, and yet God’s beloved children curse it because they do not know it for what it is.’   That’s me.  A blasphemer.

As Ann Voskamp says in “1000 Gifts” about the hard stuff day in and day out,  ‘how do I tear open tear-swollen eyelids to see through this for what it really is?’  How did Jesus do it, she asks?  In Matthew 14, ‘he looked up to heaven to see where this moment comes from.’  Then he gave thanks.  ‘We don’t have to change what we see.  Only the way we see…You can’t positive-think your way out of negative feelings…The only way to fight a feeling is with a feeling…Feel thanks and it’s absolutely impossible to feel angry….We can only experience one emotion at a time.  And we get to choose – which emotion do we want to feel?…Jacob …looked into the face of his brother, that brother who had wanted to kill him, and he said, “To see your face is like seeing the face of God”…Wrestle with God, beg to see the blessings…and all faces become the face of God.’   There it is again.  Refocus.  Eucharisteo.  And wait on God.  And practice, practice, practice.  Am I willing?  Not always; I should probably say not even often!   But I can look at the icy frost on my plants and see the consequences of my choices.  I can shrivel under difficulties or reflect the Designer and shine.  I have some practicing to do.

December 7 JoyDare

December 7 – THREE GIFTS FROM YOUR SAVIOR

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Babies!  What an amazing gift.  How fearfully and wonderfully made.  Adorable toes.  Innocent eyes.  Lovely hair, even when it’s disheveled or standing straight up.   Sweet, nonsensical gibberish talk.   How sweet to hold, talk to, listen to and get totally stupid with… babies!  To love on children and be loved by them (and especially your grandchildren) is a precious gift.  I think this is my first bathroom pic, and I would like to say last, but I have learned to rarely say never.  I had to ask my daughter how it’s done, though she thankfully shows some restraint in this new photography art.   🙂  Anyway, I had nearly an hour of snugly time with Gili this morning.  We danced, watched “fishies” in the aquarium, and played with the other kids.  To tell the truth I dared not get too close to my daughter, Hannah, so she could take a pic for fear Gili would reach for her delightful and energetic aunt.  Thus, the bathroom pic.  A grandma’s gotta do what a grandma’s gotta do.  What with her mom, dad, siblings, all the aunts, uncles, cousins, great grandmas, (one being  local), the latter who, rightfully, get first dibs, I snatch my chance, shamelessly, whenever I can.  And very soon, I get to hold a couple more beautiful granddaughters who live more than a couple hours away.

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The most amazing gift of all from my Savior is white out.  With his precious suffering and blood, He paid for all the sin in me.  All that is black and can’t be seen by a Holy God is now white as snow and my Savior stands before God as my advocate.  It’s a no brainer deal, really, and nothing like it.  I am so undeserving, but I love it and I love Him.

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I love personal to a fault.  I mean what are friendships for, if they’re not for real and for meaningful.   My Enemy would like me to believe the precious gift of the Word is not personal.  But it is a personal love letter to each of us.  How we can each be the apple of His eye, is way beyond me, but we are.  The Bible is the inspired Word of God and is profitable to us in so many ways, comforting and encouraging, and by the intriguing power of the Holy Spirit, it can speak to us differently from time to time and from person to person.  Because God is just like that and knows what we need each day.  I am so thankful, He meets my deepest needs when I take the time to turn to Him in Bible reading and prayer.

Glimpses of an Eternal Perspective


Yesterday I got one of those glimpses of an eternal perspective.  I had finished a three mile run and while heading back over the bridge into the park couldn’t resist plopping flat on my back into the leaves under a tree by the creek while my nonno was still playing into my earphones.  The David Crowder band “Come Awake” song was asking if we are left here on our own.  Watching the leaves sail this way and that on their way down and the clouds speedily floating by overhead, very visible now through the near naked branches, I thought of the works of my life sailing this way and that. Just as the dying leaves serve a purpose long after their peak, so do our lives.  Maybe the “Come Awake” lyrics “night is weighing heavy now” refer solely to dying and the promise of eternal life and, if so, there is ample promise and meaning in that alone.  But for me, they also hold meaning for the here and now.  Night may weigh heavy from time to time, but when I wait quietly for His voice, after that last breath of “me” is out of the way, He brings me back to life and shines His light and love on my way.  Watching the clouds overhead remind me that Jesus is preparing a place for me up there.  It won’t be that long in the big scope of things.  I want my life to count for something for Him.

The difficulty is getting the “me” out of the way.  I want to do anything God would have me do.  I read in “Anything:  The Prayer that Unlocked My Soul”, that you can usually tell that something here has become an idol “because you have an extreme reaction when it is threatened.”  I might try to excuse my reactions as not extreme, but the bottom line is:  Is God pleased with them?  Are my reactions balanced with the realization that this life is just a vapor?  There is so much I can deal with for just this little while.  The heroes of faith that God holds up for our inspection in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews had this one great thing in common:  they considered themselves temporary residents and lived according to promises that their eyes could not see – aspiring to a heavenly land and keeping their eyes on the reward.  How many times have I fastened my eyes on some pitiful, temporary excuse of a reward; often one that would mess with my eternal focus!

I want to daily refocus my spiritual eyes to what really matters.  I am physically near sighted and that’s ok, but I don’t want to be spiritually near sighted!  I want to do anything God would have me do.  My “anything” is likely different than yours.  I doubt two “anythings” for God are alike.  Yours may be mission work in a foreign country.  Mine may be tackling my household chores with cheerfulness and a song in my heart and on my lips.  Yours may be a physical handicap or a possibly terminal diagnosis, and somehow bringing glory to God through that ongoing and frightening trial. Mine may be honoring my husband.  Yours may be giving away all your possessions.  Mine may be practicing frugality and transparency with the budget.  Yours may be adopting needy kids, maybe even similar to Katie Davis who gave up all her dreams in her youth to mother 13 girls in Uganda.  Mine may be keeping busy at home according to Titus 2:5 (and homemakers, don’t let anyone make you think this is not an important mission)!  Yours may be taking on the sexual trafficking industry (as Sarah McReynolds and others are doing).  Your call may be to let go of all your earthly comforts, or it may be to help create and sustain them for a stable, happy environment for your loved ones. Yours may be blogging or journaling about happy family life, overcoming addictions, coming back from failures, homeschooling your kids, teaching your kids about God day in and day out through your words and your actions and reactions, teaching in public school, being a witness in the school system or outside of it, being a prayer warrior, encouraging others, and on and on.  It may involve learning to be lonely so you can press into the real Lover of Your Soul.  But it needs to cost.  There should be a continual death of self in the process, because self will resurface even during sacrificial pursuits!  Luke 14:33 says “So therefore, anyone of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”

The hardest or most important things we do in life should empty us of ourselves and put Christ in instead, so that God can be glorified.  These sacrifices do not leave us empty and sad, however, because God is pleased with them, and He fills us with all joy and peace as we trust in Him.  No, we are not left here alone!  We get glimpses of Heaven and eternity often in life through worship, scripture reading, Bible studies, moving sermons, deathbeds, funerals, childbirth, weddings, hanging out with children, star gazing and such things as laying on our backs under the trees watching the clouds.  These experiences aren’t rare at all.  Hanging on to the perspective they give us, however, is the challenge.  2 Cor. 4:17…”Look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transcient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”