The green table is moving! I'll begin posting again after we're all set up in our new home!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Boxing Up the Green Table on Trinity Sunday

It's official.  And it always happens this way.  You'd think I'd learn by now. 

I fail to trust, but God provides.

After two years of whining, yes, and even crying, we are set to close on the sale of our condo!

I'm starting to realize how much I'm going to miss it.
This is the only home our children know.
We've held Easter egg hunts in the side yard.
We've set our Christmas tree in the living room corner.

Even when you want to move, even when you need the space, even though you should be blissfully happy, moving is still difficult.

The green table and all of it's friends are in the process of being boxed and shipped. 

As a further test to my patience, I'm not even sure where it will end up relocating!

We, however, will be living at my parent's home until we secure our new house, likely in Estero, FL.  Or maybe in Bonita. Or, maybe in north Naples.

Buying a short sale is the pits.

I fail to trust, but God provides.
How is it that I lived in the neighborhood NEXT to Avonlea?

Fleur-des-lis: 3 in 1

Our current neighborhood is filled with fleur-des-lis.  Since Adelae was a little infant in a stroller we've hunted for this symbol of the Trinity together.  (Don't you love it when the world employs Christian symbols without really know it, and you can use them to teach your children the faith!  It feels so sneaky!  I just love it!) 

In preparation for Trinity Sunday, we took one last walk, now with Pete in the stroller and my big girl walking along side, hunting for fleur-des-lis.

3 in 1 (Rev)
How can you celebrate Trinity Sunday without reading 3-in-1 by Joanne Marxhausen?  It's one of my very favorite books!

Apples are pretty good moving food.

I fail to trust, but God provides.

This is my last post until the green table has a new home!  Happy Trinity Sunday!  Eat apples!  Hunt for fleur-des-lis - or triangles - or crosses! At worship, say the Athanasian Creed with gusto! Will you say a prayer for me and my family too?

In a world full of change, it's good to be part of the timeless body of Christ, forgiven, once and for all by the blood of the Lamb. 

I fail to trust, but God provides.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Celebrating Pentecost!

We are going out of town this weekend and will miss celebrating Pentecost at home with the children. Instead of my usual festival day posting, here is a little list of 10 fun things to do with your family as part of your Pentecost celebrations.  Like always, some are old traditions, some are new, and some are old made new with a few tweaks!

1) Wear something red.  A red hair bow is especially nice!  White is also a color associated with Pentecost, also called Whitsunday, because of the white garments worn by those baptized at Pentecost.

2) Set a red votive at each place setting. Include extra candles for those you wish could be with you on this special day.
3) Make a descending dove from craft foam or paper.  We like to fold a piece of white paper in half and trace a small child's hand, fingers splayed, on to the paper, making sure the base of the palm is touching the crease. With the paper still folded, cut out the hand, adding a little point coming off the side of the thumb as a beak. Cut a length of red ribbon, sandwich it between the palms of the cut paper hands, and glue them together to make the body of the dove.  Bend the fingers to form wings!  Hang! 

4) Flambe! Be careful!
5) Serve something red.  Make red velvet cupcakes, salsa from tomatoes, onions, and orange peppers, or a fruit salad with cherries, strawberries, and cantaloupe.

6) Hang silver, gold, and red ribbons or streamers from the ceiling fans.

7) Scatter red hots or cinnamon disk candies on the dinner table.

8) Drape garlands of red roses.  This is a very old tradition of the church, meant to look like flames dancing on the congregant's heads.
Adelae, preparing rose garlands for Pentecost 2011

9) Set out a fire pit or tiki torches in the yard. Drape red ribbon or garlands from torch to torch.  Host a Whitsun Ale, another old social tradition of the church.

10) Go to Pentecost worship! Read God's Word for the day: Acts 2:1-11

Pentecost, as always, is also an important day to remember your baptism! "He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior"!  Titus 3:5-6

Pentecost Prayer, from the Lutheran Book of Prayer
Lord God, we praise You for the gift of Your Spirit, whom you poured upon fearful men to make them bold witnesses of the mighty acts You accomplished through Your holy Son Jesus, the Christ.
Give us the power of Your Spirit that we may serve You without fear. Regenerate us by Your Spirit that we may live each day as new persons in Christ.  Fill us with Your Spirit that we may reach out in love to all men. Work in us with Your Spirit that we may always do your will. Help us to see our baptism as the seal of the Spirit and the pledge of greater gifts to come.
By Your gracious gift of faith enable us to walk in the Spirit and to live in hope. Seal us in Spirit that we may be Yours eternally.
We pray through Him who promised that You would send the Spirit in His name, Amen.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Celebrating Esther Day!

On May 24, the church remembers Queen Esther and so do we!  I'm posting old pics here to provide a few ideas for celebrating Esther day along with us tomorrow! 

Our post-Christian culture lacks heroes. I hope that by celebrating the great women of the Bible and the church on their commemoration days will provide my daughter with a cloud of witnesses and timeless kinship with these fallen and redeemed role models. 

Celebrating Esther's day is one of our very favorites of the year because remembering Queen Esther begs for a spa day complete with playing dress up like a royal queen! 

Esther prepared for King Ahasuerus with six months of beautification, including cosmetics and skin softening treatments using oil and spices. Our take is a simple sugar scrub made by whisking together white sugar and olive oil.  It's also fun to stir in some vanilla or herbs, such as dried lavender.  The sugar scrub works to exfoliate and as a moisturizer.  We just play with it in the bath tub, gently rubbing it on arms and legs as I tell the Esther story, and then rinse it off in a warm shower. 
What is a spa day without cucumbers for the eyes?  Adelae, here only 3, was sceptical at first!
Soon she found it great fun, and the most memorable part of the day!
After beautification, it is time to dress like a queen, and Adelae is the queen of dress up! She is obsessed with Snow White and Cinderella. I'm not completely anti-Disney princesses, in fact I'm currently writing a piece about the outstanding Gospel connections hidden in many of the fairy tales, but the Queen Esther alternative provides a real story of great richness.  Cinderella teaches us to be moony; she's saved by a bibity bobity fairy godmother.  Esther displays bravery and is saved by God's mercy!
A few other fun ways to celebrate Esther's day is to read the text, straight from the Bible, not a baby Bible, as your little one is ready to take a nap.  When the King in the story couldn't sleep, he was read to, and it turned out to be the turning point in Esther's story!

Another idea, and we are likely going to save this one for a year or two because it's fun for little boys too, is to make noise makers.  When the Jewish people celebrate Purim and read the Book of Esther, they use noise makers, like boos and hisses, to drown out the name of Haman, the story's villain.

Purim celebrations are also my inspiration for our annual Esther lunch.  Cookies, called Hamenstashen, or Haman's Ears, are made in Jewish homes for Purim.  Instead, we made little triangular sandwiches that look like the Purim cookie.  To make the sandwich, or the cookie, you must start with a circle.  A warmed tortilla would work beautifully, but last year we happened to have some soft white bread.  Adelae rolled it flat, and I used scissors to cut it into a circle.
Spread your favorite sandwich filling on the tortilla or bread and fold up three sides to form a triangle. Fruit fillings are traditional for making Hamentashen, so last year we made peanut butter and jelly.  Maybe this year we'll try beans and cheese on a corn tortilla, or hummus on flat bread with red pepper strips on the side.
As a former resident of Esther Dorm at Concordia University in Ann Arbor, I can tell you - there is no God in Esther!  While not mentioned by name in the book of Esther, the story reveals how God was working to preserve His people and the line of Christ.  The trinitarian shape of these sandwiches serves as a reminder that our triune God is ever present and working in the lives of His people, even when He is hidden.  

Friday, May 18, 2012

Celebrating Ascension Day!

I was really, really hoping our tomatoes would be ripe by Ascension Day.  Some time ago, I read about an old tradition of blessing the first fruits and beans on Ascension Day.  I'm guessing this tradition has something to do with the Rogation Days of blessing the fields throughout the week leading up to the Ascension. 
As I saw our little green fruits growing larger and larger each day I began to hope they'd be ready for us to enjoy by this festival. Sadly, they are still very green!  We started them from seed, so I'm just thrilled that we have so many little guys to expect in the next few weeks.  Instead, I'll use canned tomatoes for our Ascension meal!

Another reason I was rooting for ripe tomatoes by Ascension day is because a few weeks ago I tried a new recipe, featuring tomatoes and cannellini beans. We enjoyed it so much, and with white beans and our first ripe tomatoes, I knew it would be the perfect dish for Ascension Day.

I forgot to photograph our lovely White Bean Stew until it was almost gone! Here's a little peek at my half devoured plate!

White Bean Stew 
2 T olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 onion (preferably red), chopped
2 medium zucchini, diced
1 14oz can diced tomatoes, drained
2 14oz cans white beans, rinsed and dried
1 t salt
1 t pepper
1 t Italian seasoning or fresh herbs
1/2 c almond meal
1/2 c grated Parm

Preheat oven to 475F

Heat the oil on medium-high heat.  Add garlic and onion.  Stir until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add zucchini.  Stir until until slightly soft.  Add tomatoes, beans, salt, pepper, and herbs.  Cook until heated through.  Transfer into a baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Combine almond meal and cheese, and sprinkle over the beans.  Bake beans until the top is golden and crisp, about 10 minutes.  For even tastier results, make the base ahead of time and store it in the fridge.  When you're ready to eat, add the topping and heat it up in the oven, for about a half hour at 350F, then increase the temperature to 475F for the last few minutes. 

I adapted the recipe from Dr. Gott.  To me, it's really more of a casserole than a stew, but I think stew sounds a lot nicer than casserole, so I'll stick with his verbiage even though I made the recipe my own.
Adelae and I also had fun making Meringue Clouds as part of our Ascension Day celebration. I love to have a captive audience with my busy-handed children, and beating egg whites until they form stiff peaks allows for just enough time to review the Ascension of Christ with a four-year-old. This is how Adelae explains Ascension Day, "Jesus goes up, up, up, up, up to heaven.  He goes there to pray for us and get ready for us to come too.  Jesus is with us, but we can't see Him. We will see Him in heaven."  Pretty good summary, don't you think?
Meringue Clouds
3 egg whites
3/4 c sugar (or 12-15 drops stevia)
1/2 t cornstarch
1/2 t lemon juice

Separate the eggs.  Keep the whites and set the yolks aside to make something else.  Whisk the egg white to stiff peaks, that is until it stands in place and looks like fluffy clouds.  Add your sweetener a little bit at a time. Whisk in the cornstarch and lemon juice.  Don't over beat. 
Cover a cookie sheet with parchment. Measuring and cutting the paper is also a great job for little hands.
Squeeze the meringue into cookie sized swirls using a piping bag.  If you don't have a piping bag, fill a plastic bag and cut off the corner to pipe, or just plop free form clouds. Bake 250F for 30 minutes, then turn off the oven and let them hang out for another 45 minutes. 
We served our Meringue Clouds with fresh berries. I wish I would have had time to make some lemon curd, another yummy addition, but that will have to wait until next year. It's a very light dessert, but don't forget about the Ascension Day cotton candy! (Click here to learn more!)

"...He was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight" Acts 1:9

"Why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Acts 1:11

Pete is pointing up to the balloon with Jesus!

Adelae spelled "UP" and drew a picture of Jesus in cloud scribbles next to an empty cross.
Besides cooking, Adelae also did a good job illustrating the Ascension.  We began memorizing the First Article of the Apostles Creed on Earth Day.(Earth Day is about celebrating the Creator, not worshiping His creation, right???) The Ascension of our Lord was the perfect day to begin memorizing the Second Article.

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell.  The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into Heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty.  From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Ascension Day Traditions, Old and New

Forty days after Easter the church celebrates Ascension Day, the day Jesus ascended into heaven.  Sadly, it's a festival that is often over looked by many Christians.  Perhaps it's because it's celebrated on a Thursday, maybe only remembered the following Sunday.  Maybe it's because we isolate the event of the day and think only of Jesus going up into the clouds, a rather gloomy resolution if you forget to tell the whole story - that He is still bodily present with us in the Sacrament of the Altar. 

Some of the historic traditions for celebrating the Ascension of Our Lord include processions up a hill for worship, extinguishing the paschal candle, and even hoisting a figure of Jesus through an opening in the church roof!  As remarked in one of my old resources, The Christian Year by Edward T. Horn, the idea of lifting Jesus up by a pulley, the rope bound to get stuck along the lift, will yield nothing but laughter from a congregation in modern America.  Still, for children, these traditions of the church can be educational and memorable traditions in the home - especially when reinvented with a modern twist and a little sugar.
There are no hills in Naples, Florida for us to climb, but tomorrow we will light our white Easter candle one last time, and after dinner put it on the shelf in the pantry, up again until next year.  The children are also challenged to find the highest possible location in the house.  With a boost they set a cross as high up as it can be placed.
Instead of hoisting Jesus through the ceiling, we like to find Sunday School sticker of Jesus and place it onto a silver Mylar balloon. 

Candy is a special treat in our house, reserved only for feasts and festivals days. Ascension Day begs for cotton candy! 
We tape the balloon ribbon to a silver charger, and place a cloud mound out of the spun sugar on top!
After the Bible reading, Acts 1:1-11, we launch the balloon and watch Jesus go up, up, UP, high above the clouds. 

I love that even though the balloon goes up, it is still tethered to our green table. "Why do you stand looking into heaven?"  Even though we can no longer see Jesus - He lives and is with us even now, today!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

MOMs are sweet, chocolate treat!

Moms are sweet!  God made mommies to love, protect, teach, and care for His children.  Mommies get to tell their babies about Jesus, not just by bringing them to church, singing hymns, and sharing God's Word, but by modeling unmerited forgiveness and compassion.  As God's children we too are given life, and garner unmerited mercy, love, and forgiveness through Christ Jesus, our Savior.

For Mother's Day, our Itty Bitties, and their mommies and daddies, reflected on the blessing of mothers, motherhood, and our babes.  We learn so much about God through these vocations, even as we are mere fallen shadows of His perfect love.

I'm thankful for all of the daddies who regularly attend our Itty Bitty Sunday School classes, and this week we put the dads to work!  Daddies cut as out little ones folded and glued to make a special gift for our sweet mommies! 

You'll need:
Small baking cups
Glue Stick
Green Paper
Plain M&M's

Count four baking cups and them fold in half.  Daddies, cut fringe all along the fluted part of the cup, down to the base.
 Layer the cups in quarter turns, gluing them together as you build the flower.
 The four cups together form a circle.
Cut a leaf out of green paper.  The leaf makes a nice place for a love note or gift tag.
Print and cut out an O for the center of the flower, and glue it in place.  I used a neat set of over sized typewriter stamps to make the Os, and I love how it mimics the type on the M&M's packaging.
Cut a ruffle around the circumference of the flower and tousle to fluff.  Tape the flower over the &; place it nice and low to reveal as much of the M's as possible. Strategically place the leaf to cover the little M&M's guy.
Now the candy is properly labeled: MOM's!
While little hands were busy, we discussed a charming passage from Luther's The Estate of Marriage.

"Now observe that when that clever harlot, our natural reason (which the pagans followed in trying to be most clever), takes a look at married life, she turns up her nose and says, “Alas, must I rock the baby, wash its diapers, make its bed, smell its stench, stay up nights with it, take care of it when it cries, heal its rashes and sores…?

What then does Christian faith say to this? It opens its eyes, looks upon all these insignificant, distasteful, and despised duties in the Spirit, and is aware that they are all adorned with divine approval as with the costliest gold and jewels. It says, O God, because I am certain that thou hast created me as a man and hast from my body begotten this child, I also know for a certainty that it meets with thy perfect pleasure. I confess to thee that I am not worthy to rock the little babe or wash its diapers, or to be entrusted with the care of the child and its mother. How is it that I, without any merit, have come to this distinction of being certain that I am serving thy creature and thy most precious will? O how gladly will I do so, though the duties should be even more insignificant and despised. Neither frost nor heat, neither drudgery nor labor, will distress or dissuade me, for I am certain that it is thus pleasing in thy sight… A wife too should regard her duties in the same light, as she suckles the child, rocks and bathes it, and care for it in other ways...These are truly golden and noble works."

Doesn't Luther have the best vocabulary!? 

Enjoy the stench of those diapers! God, with all his angels and creatures, is smiling - not because that father is washing diapers, as he should be on Mother's Day, but because he is doing so in Christian faith.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Breakfast Cookies for Mommy

For the last few nights, as I've tucked Adelae into bed, she has whispered, "cookies for breakfast mommy?"    

Fortunately, I recently pinned Chocolate Covered Katie's recipe for breakfast cookies on my Pinterest board. 

Correction, I have recently pinned many of Chocolate Covered Katie's recipes on my pin board - and they've all been wonderfully nutritious and delicious! Andy likes her Carrot Cake Milkshake.  Pete swims in her Chocolate Oatmeal (sans chocolate chips) each morning.  I love her buttery, crunchy crusted Oatmeal Muffins.  Adelae can't get enough of her Chocolate Chip Breakfast Cookies!

Imagine my delight when Andy suggested making me breakfast for Mother's Day!  You guessed it.  Sweet Adelae suggested her new favorite, breakfast cookies.  Lucky for Andy, the recipe is a snap. 

Here's my variation from Katie's original recipe. Most of her chocolate covered recipes are often a single serving and need to be doubled or quadrupled for a family.

Breakfast Cookies
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup almond butter
1 mounding cup oatmeal
2T homemade chocolate chips (click here for the link)
4T dried apricots, diced
2T unsweetened coconut flakes (I like to buy them from the Fresh Market)
dash of salt
splash of vanilla
2T granular stevia or sugar (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350F
cream the applesauce and almond butter
add the rest of the ingredients, stir well
drop small mounds onto a greased cookie sheet
bake for 15 minutes
makes 2 dozen small cookies

As a bonus - for the first time ever - Andy brought me a cup of coffee, just the way I like it - iced (it's Florida), with lots of milk - in bed! I got to sit in bed, researching and sipping coffee for a luxurious hour while Andy and Adelae made breakfast! Along with my cookies, they put together a pretty fruit salad of green apples, blueberries, and blackberries.

Mother's day isn't a church festival, but mothers and the vocation of mother are a blessing from the Lord.  Love, joy, compassion, patience, forgiveness - God mercifully gives us many good gifts through mothers.  Here is a nice little prayer from the Lutheran Book of Prayer.  I love the first paragraph best!

Mother's Prayer
Dear Lord, I am grateful for the gift of motherhood.  I do confess, however, that my many duties and cares for my family often leave me weary and worn out at the end of the day. At times I become irritable and fretful.  I do not seem to have sufficient time for rest and for the relaxed association a mother needs with her husband and family.

Give me strength and health required to perform all of my obligations as a Christian mother. Fill me with deep affection for my husband and children.  Grant our family Your Holy Spirit, so that we grow together from day to day in Your love and that we order and shape our lives with wisdom according to your will.  Make me a worthy example of a Christian mother, and let many see in our home the joy of a family in which father, mother, and children dwell together in Christ.

Continue to assure me of Your grace through Christ, my Lord and Savior, who honored His mother in the very hour in which He gave His life on the cross for me and all men.  Thank you, Lord, for the gift of children and motherhood.  Amen.

Happy Mother's Day!