Blueberries – What’s Not To Love?

Friday, June 29, 2018

We had the best time with friends who came over for dinner last night.  Somewhere in the midst of conversation over Chad’s fantastic grilled fajitas and homemade guacamole, it came up that one of our guest hated blueberries to which Chad and I both shot each other a glance, then started laughing!  Izzy and I had just finished baking our favorite Blueberry Strudel Bars to serve for dessert!!

Our poor friend graciously tried to backpedal, and we did our best to make him feel terrible for the comment!  LOL!
But, when it came time to dish out dessert to nearly a dozen sweaty, tired kids who’d been playing soccer in the yard, our friend insisted that he did want to try dessert.  I offered repeatedly to pull out chocolate cookies from the pantry, but he resolved to be a martyr and try to stomach our blueberry creation.
Lo and behold, he loved it! (and promised he wasn’t faking!).

This one is a total crowd pleaser!  If you’re in the Greenville area, Aldi has blueberries on sale right now, so go stock up!  We double this recipe to feed our tribe.  I may or may not have served leftovers to the kids for breakfast this morning.  Fruit and oats….basically like a granola bar, right?

Blueberry Strudel Bars

Combine Together:
1 1/2 C. rolled oats
1 1/4 C. flour
2 C. cornflakes
1/2 C. brown sugar

Once you have all your dry ingredients mixed to gather, add the following:
1/2 C. melted butter
1/2 C. vegetable oil

This is your crumble.  Separate 2/3 of this mixture and press it into a 9×13 pan.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 12 minutes until golden.

While it is baking, mix the following:
2 C. blueberries
2 t. flour
2/3 C. jam (raspberry or black currant is best!)
1 t. lemon peel

Once the crust is removed from the oven, spread the berry mixture over it.  Top with the remaining crumble mixture.
Place back in oven for 20-25 mins.

This is more like a crumble, than a bar.  We scoop it out and serve in bowls.  Best when served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top!!

Marriage Takes Grit and Grace

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

 

The words of our pre-marital counselors have rung in my ears for nearly 2 decades now….
But for the grace of God, your marriage doesn’t stand a chance“.
John and Leeba, our mentors, were straight shooters and Im so grateful they were!

Let me offer a qualifying statement here.  They were not saying that we shouldn’t get married or advising us to break up.
They were communicating the immense level of commitment we would need and analyzing that each of us were entering marriage with some baggage, which would require a lot of grit and grace for our marriage to thrive!!
And they were absolutely, positively right!
We’ve laughed before contemplating the fact that we’d never have met on a dating website because, we’d never have passed an algorithm that would deem us “compatible”!!
Truly, opposites attract and while we are still madly in love, we drive each other mad too!

But for the grace of God, 17 years later, we would not have thrived.
We would not have survived.
And I dont say that lightly.
All cliche’s aside….there have been moments of wanting to quit and seasons of intense hurt.  This has not been an easy path, but one we choose…daily….taking each other by the hand, committing to not look back at past mistakes but to continue pressing on together knowing the view from the top will be worth the climb!
We still make some of the same, juvenile mistakes.  We communicate poorly.   We react.  We inflict hurt with unmeasured words.
But we can glance back and see growth too.
My silent treatment game isn’t as strong as it once was, and God has chiseled out some sharp edges of Chad’s personality.

Some seasons are smooth sailing.
This has not been that season.
We’ve been in another cycle of hard work recently in this thing called marriage.  Before my mother or mother-in-law reads this, yes, we are fine!!
(…and when I say FINE, I don’t mean Freaked out, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional!) 🙂
We are in a good place, but this season of transition, a major move from overseas, reverse culture shock, role re-definement, job adjustment, lifestyle change, financial strain and children’s needs through the uprooting have been taxing factors on our time and relationship.
Someday, we’re gonna be a cute, doting, old, wrinkly couple who have “made it” and it will be easier then to talk about the hard days that are in the past.  But for anyone else in the trenches, we hear ya and we’re there too!!   Falling on grace every day as we thank God for this mirror of marriage that exposes our need of Him!

Chad and I are both quality time people.
We require a lot of communication, conversation, and uninterrupted engagement to be in a healthy place.  Add seven children to the mix and you have a lot of competition for that time.
We were somehow under the false assumption that time time together would be easier when our kids got a little bit bigger.  We’re there now with teens and realizing the opposite is true.
Our quality time used to be a matter of putting all the babies to bed at 7:30 and having a couple hours every evening that was “our” time.
Now the teenagers are putting us to bed and we have to be creative to connect over the chaos.  We steal away to the back porch for a drink after dinner.  Or run together early in the morning when our sleepy summer-schedule crew are still snoozing.  It takes flexibility, but finding time for ‘just us’ is paramount!

I got to accompany Chad on a trip to CA last month for some meetings.  This was the first time we’ve been away from the kids for more than a night in years!  And it was so good for us!!
A reminder that someday, it will just be us.
Much of the conflict that we wrestle through is not directed at each other.  It’s the circumstances of life.  Someday the needs of children and voices and expectations of friends, family and in-laws won’t be as prominent and there will just be us.
And as we biked the golden gate bridge with no tagalongs, we remembered that we really do love us!

There are a few practical exercises we’ve found benefit us and remind us to extend grace when we’re consistent in implementing them.

Pray together.
There is something about bringing your brokenness to the Lord together that begins a healing process that cant be expedited through any other effort of restoration.  Its a posture of humility.  Before God, we are both sinners.  We’re both at fault.  Pretense and self-righteousness just dont hold up in front of a Holy and Just God.
Our walls of indifference, resentment and grudges are deconstructed by God as we lay down our right to be right and invite Him to heal.  There are times I’m so angry that we cant talk, but Chad will take my hand and start praying.  There is a short wrestling with God (with whom I am no match)…. and then tears.
Prayer together moves us from fighting with each other to fighting for our marriage.  Confessing our sin and taking ownership.  Opening the door again to communication with one another through a Mediator who forgives us and filters our failings and gives us grace for one another.
Im saddened by the number of friends who tell me they cant pray with their husbands either because their husband won’t, or because they’re not comfortable being that vulnerable around their husband.  If you’re in that place, start by praying alone, that God would give you two the ability to come together in prayer and that He will build spiritual intimacy.

The kids come second.
We women tend to respond to whatever cries the loudest, (and typically, that’s not our husbands.)  There are a dozen things vying for our attention, affection and time on a daily basis and we juggle the duties of chauffeur, nurse, tutor, cook, cleaner, counselor, mom, friend.  And sometimes, the role of “wife” gets pushed to the back burner.  Or even if we are aware of it, we forget that “friend” and “playmate” are part of the job.
Chad has n0 tolerance for interruption when he and I are having time together.  That means when the little ones come wanting a snack or interjecting in our conversation, we dont engage them.  They are reminded that this is mommy and daddy time and that they can wait until we are done.
Confession: Im not good at this.
But Ive cut too many conversations short by defaulting to the other needs that aren’t necessarily “needs” and allowing interruptions to derail our conversation.   Children who grow up with the stability of knowing their parents commitment and love for one another will be able to rebound from any damage done by a delayed snack!
And your bright young rambunctious toddlers will not be permanently stunted by you letting the TV babysit them for 20 minutes to give you and your honey a few minutes to debrief their day!

Date your spouse.
We all hear it, but the excuses range from financial to logistical!  This doesn’t have to be a hire-a-babysitter and make reservations on a Friday night expensive date.  We’ve had to get creative over the years.  When the littles were young (and we never had a babysitter). it was a regular thing for us to get wine and cheese and have a candlelit “dinner” after the kids went to bed.  During the school year. sometimes it made sense for me to meet Chad for lunch or coffee.  And thank God for a back porch and adorondak chairs in this season of life right now!  We retreat there regularly.
The gesture of time carved out that is just yours gives something to look forward to and reminds us that all pressure, routines and stresses of life aside, this is us and grace has gifted us each other!

I think if we were all honest, we could identify with the same truth our marriage counselors not-so-subtly told us.
“But for the grace of God, your marriage doesn’t stand a chance.”
But for grace.
But for God!

Sweet 16 x 2

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

We spent last weekend in Atlanta.  A big-kids-only getaway to celebrate our twins turning sweet-16!  We told them to pack a bag and kidnapped Tristan and Abi for two days of fun at a teenage playground – Six Flags over Georgia!

These two are team players and being the oldest siblings means they get asked to help out….a lot.
We had the best time getting to do a little mini vacay at their pace.  Say yes to their every whim.  No little peoples naps to work around or schedule to keep.  We played hard, stayed up late, laughed a lot, screamed our heads off and hit as many dizzying rides as we could!!

Chad and I realized somewhere standing in line for the iconic Scream Machine, that we were at least 15 years older than everyone else there.  We may be cool parents, but we are not as young as we once were, evidenced by the fact that I ended up sick in the bathroom after one too many high thrill adrenaline charged loop-de-loop roller coasters!

Here’s to these two who made us parents!  I will never, ever, ever forget the moment 6 months into our pregnancy, finding out in the middle of an ultrasound that there was not one, but two little babies swimming around inside of me!  Ive got these two to thank for stretch marks after being a self-contained minivan for 40+ weeks, but this wild ride of parenting has been one-million times worth it!

Happy Birthday to our twins!  We are so honored to get to parent you and blessed by the integrity we see characterizing your lives as you both seek to grow in your pursuit of Christ!
We love you!!

Sweet