Saturday, March 28, 2015

Lemon cheese cake

Nearly every important day in my life has included a lemon cheese cake.

(Turning 9 with lemon cheese cake)

For those of you who enjoy, say, NPR, it is six perfectly light, crumbly, white layers of cake with a lemony, tart glaze between each one and dripping over the top.

For those of you who prefer such works as created by L.M. Montgomery, it is an airy concoction that tastes just like the first, fresh wind that feels like spring.  It is as bright and tart as sunshine and dreamily sweet.  Bright yellow icing streaks through crisp white layers that, with ones eyes closed, taste like perfect happiness.

(That smile on my face...and even on Allison's...only for lemon cheese cake)

 Ma made one nearly every time we came to Alabama.  Birthdays, Easters, Christmases...always a lemon cheese cake.  When we moved to South Carolina, I realized that this cake seems to be a regional recipe.  In the twenty years we have lived here, I have met one other person who knows about lemon cheese cakes, and she was from southeast Alabama herself.

This cake is not for the faint of heart.  And thankfully, neither are all the people that guided me into adulthood.  They are people who enjoy the process.  Enjoy producing with their hands.  Which is good because this cake requires separating eggs, sifting, slicing layers of the fussiest cake known to man, grating and juicing lemons, watching for translucence in the icing and fiddling with cornstarch.  Not to mention the directions. They are vague and leave much to an experienced eye.  If you don't have one of those...you are short of luck.

And yet.


(Ma always made everyone's favorite desserts for Christmas at her house.  Lemon cheese cake (top right) was always the one she made at my request)

And yet every special day, and even quite few very ordinary ones, Ma and Daddy alike have filled their day with lemon cheese cake prep because I love it so.  Ma would always cut the first slice for me and then hover, worrying that it wasn't right.  She always worried that it was going to be too dry or that the sugar in the icing would be gritty.  They were always perfect.

 (Lemon cheese cake birthday, 2011 ed)

I went to a baby shower today.  Gifts filled the room alongside the sweetest decorations.  We all exclaimed over the tiny outfits, handmade treasures, and handy gifts picked out just for a wee one we've never even quite met but already love.  Isn't it something to be loved before you are even fully known?

I know just what it is like.  And if that feeling were translated into a cake, I am certain it would taste just like lemon cheese cake.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Celebration and mourning

Almost two years ago, my parents came home from another spring break adventure with lifelong friends. Weeks later, hard news hit our family when Mrs. Karen got the shocking diagnosis of Stage 4 lung cancer.   There were so many hard battles to fight. And Mrs. Karen fought.  In the hardest season of my life, Mrs. Karen helped me preserve hope. She maintained faith when it was impossibly difficult.  She overflowed with grace given to her by the Spirit.

Then?  

She won. She beat that cancer for good. 

Mrs. Karen didn't give in to anger, bitterness or fear. She fought for joy. She fought for peace. She fought to show the faithfulness of Jesus in every step she took. 

And she did.  Cancer can eat up your body, but it can also eat up your soul. Mrs. Karen didn't give cancer even an inch where it counted. 

So the school district here is shutting down today for students, teachers and administrators to pay respect to a teacher loved by a whole town. 

Thousands, and I don't think that is any exaggeration, of us mourn today. We are so sad to miss our friend. Devastated by the gaping hole she leaves. So angered and saddened by the brokenness of this world that has things like cancer and suffering and death. 

But we also rejoice. Mrs. Karen is an evidence of what Gid can do with a life totally given over to Him. We rejoice in her healing and her complete joy.  We rejoice in the gifts Mrs. Karen poured into our lives. 

And we live in His Spirit with joy. Because Mrs. Karen would hope for that the very most. She told me more than once that every day is a free bonus. A gift we aren't to take for granted. 

Mrs. Karen, the boy mom I emulate. The contagious smile I hope for. The giving spirit that I strive for. 

My other mom. My friend I'll miss so much. 

Mrs. Karen's obituary 


Monday, March 9, 2015

Coloring outside the lines

I say sometimes that my life is full.

Full to the point that there isn't any margin.  Every minute filled, every ounce of energy depleted by the end of each day, every inch of brain space occupied with a waiting list dragging into 2017.



Sometimes that feels exhausting.  It feels like I need some space/time/energy/sleep.

But.

When I was in kindergarten, we started each morning coloring.  I remember going up to show Mrs. Callaham my picture and asking if I "could be done."  She would always point out white space, telling me to keep coloring until the whole page was filled with color.


I'd sit my eager-to-please self down and rinse and repeat the process until every bit of that white paper was filled with waxy, Crayola color.  Of course, I know now that it was good fine-motor practice and a good discipline of working at a project in a seat for a length of time to improve focus.  But also?  The pictures were nicer when we filled all that white space.


There aren't many white spaces in my life.  Not a lot of margin.

But?

It is full.

Bursting with colors.

I'm doing holy, sacred work that I love.  I am sharing life with dear people.  I love so deeply it hurts and heals at the very same time.



I'm not sure that I want to die well-rested and still.

No I'd much rather live all the life that will fit in the margins,



Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: A Celebration

I am so grateful.

Another year of life.

I have been hemmed in.  Before and behind.

Held securely.

I have tasted and seen God's goodness.

No matter what comes, in two birthdays or twenty, I can laugh.  Laugh, knowing that no matter what comes, God has promised Himself to me.  Laugh, knowing that I could never guess what will come.  Laugh, knowing that the fullness of my joy is behind and before me.  Unchanging.  Never stopping.  Complete.

Today, I celebrate.  29 years of life.  What a precious gift I have been given.


















Monday, March 2, 2015

Ella: 8 months

Carter at 8 months
Samuel at 8 months

Wisps of hair, swirling around your chubby cheeks and eyes always laughing.


Lips smacking all the baby food we will send your way, filling you out just shy of 20 pounds.


Furrowed brow and stretching fingers, grasping all the Cheerios you can find.


Smiles.  So many smiles.


Giggles when we toss you in the air.


Rest when we rock you.  Even when we just put you in your crib these days.


Razor sharp baby teeth poking through your bottom gum.


Tiny voice saying "mamamamamama" all day long.


Puckered lips blowing kisses my way, as long as no one is there to witness it.


Stretching big into 12 month pajamas.


Too-long baby hairs, trimmed to match the length of the rest of your hair.

You are so lovely, joy-girl.
You are a good, good gift, and I am so grateful for all your smiles.