The Best Gifts in Life are Simple

I made a quick trip to visit my parents and get some vitamin D sunshine this week. I love where I live in Washington State, but to get some warmth and sunshine in the rainy season is worth the travel.

It’a amazing how comfortable you feel when you step back into your family. The family that raised me, the loving Mom and Dad that nurtured, provided, loved and encouraged and shaped who I am. It was my beginning and the family God gave me, a gift.

It is good to go back to the beginning sometimes and treasure the simple joys in life. I arrived and my mother had over on her dining room table, a birthday cake all ready for me, chocolate cake with rich dark chocolate frosting. It was a family project, my sister made the frosting while my Mom was at bible study. My birthday isn’t until tomorrow and yet she had it waiting for me a few days early, so we could enjoy it through the visit. That’s just like my Mom, it’s her gift. She loves to be hospitable and she does an amazing job through loving people with her culinary delights. Simple gift but oh so yummy! I felt loved.

The next day we went to Coronado beach and walked around. We laughed, we shared memories of pictures and Mother’s Day Brunches at the famous Hotel Del Coronado. Again, simple gift, but oh so memorable. We stopped on the way home and shared a tradition, In-N-Out Burger, messy, gooey, but oh so yummy. As we licked our fingers and wiped up the mess, we smiled, told stories and we laughed. Another simple moment and yet a gift to share friendship with two people who have given so much to me. I smiled inside and in that moment was perfect happiness, to be loved and feel like you belong, accepted wholly and without hesistation, is truly a gift. It reminded me of the phrase in Les Miserable in the lyrics, “To love another person is to see the face of God.” To be loved unconditionally is to experience heaven on earth and a touch of how much God loves me, and oh so much more than I can fathom.

We came home, took a nap and then had cake for dinner! I love that about my parents, they aren’t too rigid to color outside the lines and have cake for dinner. Why not?

Today I woke up and found at the end of my bed a note that said Dad wanted to take me out for breakfast. When I saw the note I smiled and quickly got ready. This was tradition, a date with my Dad and time to listen to his stories and musings over a generation and world I can only imagine. One more memory on this trip but now I am feeling so overwhelmed (in a good way), again more gifts.

So now guess what? My Dad is in the kitchen and it’s time for more cake and more memories. I better get mine before it’s all gone! Simple joys, simple gifts and for me the best birthday!

Seeing in the Dark

I was driving home from Seattle the other night and had one thing missing. My glasses! I had forgotten them at home but didn’t discover it until I was already 50 miles into the journey. I was bummed because now that meant I would have to leave much earlier and forego a coffee date with my oldest son. I don’t see well at night and my glasses are an essential part of my ability to drive in the dark.

I ended up leaving a bit later than I planned but it was still light and the sunset was way off in the distance. Road signs were somewhat fuzzy but manageable. When it started raining it complicated things a little but I kept my eyes straight ahead.

Soon the sky turned to dusk and darkness descended. Okay, now it was more challenging. I was headed through the winding part of the small mountain pass, and it was DARK. I followed the taillights ahead of me and kept my eye on the white line. I never knew stripes could be so helpful, I am beginning to appreciate those bright orange construction workers who are the artists of the highway. I was almost to civilization now with street lamps lining the rest of the interstate. It took most of my concentration and with no time to be distracted by music, I turned the radio off. Nearly two hours later, I pulled in the garage and breathed a thankful prayer that God helped me navigate home without incident. I vowed I would make sure that it didn’t happen again.

When I crawled into bed that night, I thought about the verse I had learned as a child, “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” Psalm 119:105. It was one of my first bible memorizations as an 8 year old Pioneer Girl earning my winning badge attached to my sash. Now years later, it still resided in my memory and surfaced as I thought about the drive home and how I struggled to see in the dark with limited lighting, or should I say blurry lighting.

As I snuggled deeper into the covers, it hit me as that Bible verse of my childhood reminded me of steering my car in pitch black with less than 20/20 vision. It’s in the darkest of nights that I need the light to see how I can take the next step. You don’t need a light in the daytime, in fact I probably wouldn’t see it much because the sun drowns it out. I don’t even think about seeing just right ahead because my eye can see clearly far into the distance. But in the dark is when I really need a light.

In the troubled times when I can’t find my way, God’s word is my lamp, my light, my illumination that spills onto the path. I also noticed that it says it is a lamp for my feet, which means right where I am stepping at that very moment, not three strides ahead, but in the present. The lamp shines around my feet exposing the place to go so I won’t fall or trip. That is the promise of God’s Word, it is everything in the dark and everything to stay on the path. Without it, there is no certainty and no assurance of heading in the right direction.

As I drifted off to sleep I was reassured to know that my anxiety doesn’t have to get so whipped up because I can’t see more than a few steps ahead of me. God’s truth promises to guide me with just enough light to keep walking in the right direction toward home.

Lemon Curd Cheesecake and Fasting

Sunday was the breaking day for my 40 day fast from all sweets and desserts. I had been plotting for weeks just which lucious dessert I would be able to eat on Easter. So I read and leafed through my favorites. And then it arrived in my mailbox, an issue from Southern Living Magazine with this lovely lemon temptation on the cover of the magazine, Lemon Curd Cheesecake. The recipe said it takes about 22 hours from start to finish. I decided it would be so worth it!Lemon Cheesecake

So in the midst of Easter egg hunts, dinners and family I baked  and set it aside for the sacred ceremony on Sunday afternoon. When most of the family left and the guys were upstairs watching a game, my lovely daughter-in-love Brittany, matched my enthusiasm to break the fast. We sat in the corner by the window and indulged, it was so yummy!! But as much as my tastebuds were relishing each bite, it was rather anti-climatic and I was well, kind of sad my fast was over. Sounds kind of twisted doesn’t it?

You see, each time I decide to deprive myself of something in order to lean in and hear God more deeply, I find myself wanting more, more of God that is. In my wimpy way of trying to be a big girl spiritually by feeling good about fasting, I still fall short. I realize for the five hundredth time the same truth over and over again, I NEED GOD AND I NEED HIM DESPERATELY, every second of my life.

I can’t explain why giving into morsels of treats seem to comfort me when I’m stressed or eating a handful of chocolate chips make me feel better when I have a melt-down, but I am learning it is never enough no matter what chocolate delight is drooling down my lips.

I’m really just a rookie, like I said a wimp at fasting. But I’m finally learning that when I’m lost in those vices  believing they calm and soothe me, how easily I can transfer my affections away from God and become distracted. This is not a good thing! I guess what I am trying to say is, I am grateful for these past 40 days. It was, if I am honest, quite difficult at times but re-entry with my sweet tooth has brought a new awareness and  I think God is smiling!