Friday, November 27, 2015

When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin

So it's Thanksgiving. Our first in a while (last two years either Gideon was in hospital or we were homeless with a newborn) and lovely at that.

While I was a bit cheeky about my blessings around the table today (not getting lost in the woods during our ill-fated turkey trot, survival pic above), what's been most on my mind is a scripture from Isaiah: 

"Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand."

I have been struggling with the same trial for a time- several years in fact. I have asked in prayer for help but haven't been able to do much more than lamely ask for simplistic deliverance, so great was my pain and denial. 

Finally, this week I received an installment. When praying about how to ask for help in this regard, the bolder portion of the quoted verse instantly came to mind: I needed to ask the Father that Christ's soul be considered the offering for my pain and weakness such that I could be healed and find rest. 

The power of that imagery stayed with me- of Christ acting as my sacrificial offering ala Old Testament times-on the altar of the New and Everlasting covenant, or the sacrament table. In this way, both the power of Christ as an offering and the meaning of my weekly sacrament experience became saving and real. I could feel the power beyond my own begin to sink in.

On this day of days, I am grateful for the lightening of burdens and healing that comes through making Christ the offering for my pain and accepting his grace in return. It is making all the difference. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A New Hampshire Secret

Imagine original recipes, onsite or locally-sourced eggs, potatoes, bacon, maple syrup, vintage surrounds, family style eating, and a vintage playground, petting zoo, hayrides and pony rides thrown in for good measure, and you have a destination pancake house in the wilds of New England.

Enter Heritage Farm Pancake House.  Run by two families of five children each (with one on the way), the family charm exudes and touches all aspects of the work: a vintage toy corner in the attic dinning area allows adults to eat while children play with the owners' two year old tot, teenagers work the griddle, and a senior in high school helps to busk your table.

The food was absolutely delicious - sometimes a pancake is just a pancake, but their white raspberry, pumpkin, and lemon berry pancakes were just about the best I've ever eaten, including even Eastern Market's bluebucks in Washington, DC (with better variety).  Gideon's gluten-free pancakes were even delectable.  The pig that the bacon came from must have been slaughtered the day before, and my heavens the eggs were surely laid that morning.  Only teeny tiny critiques: the butter could have been room temperature, more maple syrup please (but those little bottles are delightful), and for heavens sake, get a frothing machine so you can serve real hot chocolate!!

All that said, I envision trekking to Sanbornton on a regular basis to enjoy breakfast and a morning play and, occasionally, one of your catered special dinners.  I also want that hayride -or perhaps once the snow sets in, we can get a sleigh ride!!

Had the first snow fall while we were there - a magical place to watch it.  We were cozy inside and from the attic window by our table, I was able to teach Gideon about snow - his first.
Why will I never learn to feed G *before* we arrive at a restaurant?  Distractions, including and especially toys, are so much cooler than food to this kid.  Someday he'll discover it.  

Esther playing in toy corner. I put the kids in the car in their jammies, packed their clothes in a bag, then summarily left it by the door! Oh well - at least she was warm!
Rachel Swain, one of the owners.  Quite the ham, a great cook and manager, and (obviously) totally down to earth.

Their families own most of the surrounding land.

Gideon loved playing with the big tractors outside and in.  The only way I could pry him away was to promise him one for Christmas - Poppy and Wowie, can you oblige??? 

Can you see the fruity pebbles donut??

Leftover breakfast is never wasted, though I don't think they quite appreciated the lemon berry pancake!

Hi blue eyes!!
Small Wonders

* "I'm struggling," said Gideon matter-of-factly as he had a hard time hoisting himself into the car one morning.
* One day when Lance was upset, Gideon told him "Just calm down, daddy."
* I have not taught him it, but am very encouraging of Gideon when he says, "No thanks."
* Gideon's been a bit ill and grumpy recently.  He emphatically told us at one point, "I want something!" not knowing what it was but wanting to express that he was thinking of a demand.
* Esther's personality is really coming through.  It's clear that she is a tease and a ham, and will do almost anything to get you to laugh.  Often she will do naughty things just to get attention, and squeal with delight when found out.  Recent episodes include splashing in the toilet bowl, finding G's special blanket, crawling into his sleep tent, and rolling around with it clenched in her mouth to the tune of delicious laughter.

Pretty please pretend these aren't blown out!! Why didn't the camera light sensor work, eh?

Reading to the library dog

Sorry it's sidewise - spent way too long on this blog already! - but had to document G's creativity and resourcefulness.  I told him that if he got three stickers a day for being obedient, he could get a tractor for Christmas (yes, I'm milking it).  Well, he was all into the sticker chart, but then wanted a tractor after getting one sticker.  I explained he needed lots and lots of stickers before he got a tractor.  Right mom, I got this one.  He promptly disappeared and emerged with a chart full of stickers.  "I get a tractor, please!"  At lest he's not dumb.  (and yes, those are essential oil stickers!) 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Simplifying Sunday

Sunday shenanigans - a parent-of-infants form of delighting - in our London garden
[The following was my talk in church yesterday.]

"If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:

"Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it." (Isaiah 58:13-14)
How do we call and make the Sabbath a delight? 
Exactly three months prior to his becoming president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), then Elder Russell M. Nelson posed this question.  Since assuming his leadership role, making the Sabbath a Delight has been a center point for the church.
But how is it done?  
As with most commandments, obeying them with any degree of success begins with loving the Lord.  To obey Him, we must first want to follow Him. This desire is a gift from God and begins with feeling the love of the Lord. 
If you have not yet or do not now feel the overwhelming love of the Lord in your life, if you do not feel "to sing the song of redeeming love," and Sabbath-keeping seems a drudgery or duty, I would ask for your particular attention.  
Put aside lists of to-dos and thou-shalt-nots for Sunday as you listen today.  There are two principles I want to emphasize that have helped me to look forward to Sundays and delight in the Sabbath. 
Let's begin at the beginning which, as Maria Von Trap says, is a very good place to start. 
I. The Sabbath is synonymous with rest and is an eternal principle 
Creation Story - 
"Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 
"And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. 
"And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made."
A little note on resting.  The LDS edition of the KJV notes that the Hebrew term translated here to "rest" is the verb shavat; the noun shabbat (or the English Sabbath) means a stopping or cessation.  So a seventh resting period is synonymous with "Sabbath."
And resting every seventh period is an eternal principle.    
Although in Abraham (5:1-3) we learn that the design of resting on a seventh day was the counseled decision by the Gods and "noble and great ones" who formed the earth,  I believe we can conjecture from the pattern identified here and elsewhere throughout scripture that the observance of a Sabbath, or one in every seven time periods, is an eternal principle:
-  In Old Testament Times, the seventh month and year were sanctified to the Lord, debts forgiven, and the land allowed to rest. (Bible Dictionary).
- The earth will rest and receive its paradisical glory in the 7th thousand year (Doctrine & Covenants 77:12
Gods observe a Sabbath, the land of the ancients was permitted Sabbath rotations, and the earth itself will receive a Sabbath.  An eternal principle if ever there was one.  
To me, this means that in this life and the next, no matter how hard the work gets, I will always be able to rest on the seventh day or time period.  
This became meaningful to me when, as a student at Brigham Young University and serving in student government, we were visited by then Elder Eyring, recently called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and still Commissioner of Church Education.  I had a heavy credit load, was volunteering roughly 30-40 hours a week, and maintaining an active social life.  I often slept on a 3-3-6 hours of sleep rotation over three days (this ruined my health).  He said if you think you are busy now, just wait: it only gets worse.  
This was staggering to me, and I looked forward to an ever-increasingly busy life.  I also knew that work for the faithful doesn't end with death: there is so much to do on the other side of the veil!  But I clung to this principle: if I could rest every seventh day for the rest of eternity, perhaps I could do it. 
G and E in their Sunday best in Wisconsin
II.  The Sabbath Was Made for Man
In the New Testament, we learn that Christ is continually breaking the Sabbath, or, more specifically, the rules established for Sabbath-keeping by church leadership.  He heals a 38-year-old infirmity at the pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath -- and urges him who was made whole to break the Sabbath by taking up his bed and walking (John 5), makes clay to heal the blind (John 9), and "harvests" corn with his disciples on the Sabbath (Mark 2).  
When criticized for the latter offense, Christ's response was to recite an accepted historical example of rule-breaking of King David to meet necessities.  He the King of all, was also meeting a basic need and summated by saying, "The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath."  
In explicating the meaning of the verse, Elder Nelson related, "I believe [the Savior] wanted us to understand that the Sabbath was His gift to us, granting real respite from the rigors of daily life and an opportunity for spiritual and physical renewal." 
This concept - that the Sabbath was made for our benefit - and Christ's example of breaking lower laws to live a higher - can be coupled with the scripture in Isaiah to help complete the concept of delighting in the Sabbath.  
Let us stop seeing the Sabbath as a lower-order list of "thou shalt nots" and start to see its higher, divine purpose: a period set aside for us to rest from our labors and be rejuvenated by the Lord.  We are called, as Martha, to stop being busy and troubled about many things, and instead, focus on the needful, better things that will give us rest: sitting at the feet of the Lord with our family and feeling of His love.
That's all that the Sabbath means - creating space in our lives to partake of the emblems of the Lord's suffering - to feast upon them and get them inside of us as we literally do with the bread and water - so that we have rest for our souls and prepared for the coming week.
Elder Nelson related that as a young man, he made lists of Sabbath shalt nots, which he abandoned in maturing and instead focused on experiencing the Lord's joy and the symbol his conduct demonstrated.  He also looked forward to the physical rest for his hands, constantly being scrubbed in preparation for surgery, and his mind in a demanding surgeon's position.  
I once this taught this as a work principle to a young, brilliant but overworked and exhausted, often sick employee - resting every seventh day from work would rejuvenate her.  She lived it and learned of its value, opening the way for greater health and career success.  
When Lance and I briefly lived in Libya, it was wonderful to see work colleagues and others observing the Sabbath on Friday.  I loved witnessing the gathering for meals, religious services, and calls to prayers on that day.  
In London, we had to get creative in creating space to feel of the Lord.  Lance was bishop and our church experience began at 7:00 and involved packing up our handcart (family cargo bike), kids, multiple meals, church books for the kids, and anything Lance had been sent during the week that needed to go to the church.  Meetings, naps, and eating for the day was all done at the church, which we left at about 3:00 when the kids woke from naps.  Although I used Saturday and other days to prepare for this Sunday adventure and make it as calm as possible, it was always a hectic day.  To create quiet Sabbath time, one of us rode the bike the five uphill miles to church (usually Lance) while the other took the bus.  We switched in the other direction.  What this permitted was a sacred 30 minute window on the bus for each of us, when we had moments of calm all to ourselves.  I used the time to prepare for the Sacrament, plan my week, and do a little Sunday scripture reading.   We also used help to clean up the house while we were gone.
When I miss the Sacrament and sacred Sunday time, whether from traveling or motherhood or life, I miss it.  If I have not spent at least some of my Sunday "wrapt in the arms of the Savior's love" as the Primary song goes, I miss it.  My soul is not as grounded and my week much more hectic.  I need the quietude of Sunday; I need my rest.  It was designed for me- a gift for me to "be still, and know that I am God."  If I miss it, the Lord understands, but I miss out.  I am grateful that I have an eternity of Sundays to look forward to.  If I can rest every seven days, I can continue to work with a happy heart.
I challenge all who are consumed and put off by Sunday thou-shalt-nots to create space in your lives to sit at the feet of the Savior and partake of his emblems and love on Sunday.  I know your life will be blessed and enriched because of it, and you will find rest.  I leave this with you in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.  
Small Wonders

* Gideon has begun to ask us in the mornings, "How'd you sleep?"
* When he is frustrated, Gideon will say "Man, man, man!"
* On the few cold mornings we have had this fall, Gideon will say, "It's too cold.  Warm it up, mommy!"
* One of his stall tactics at night is to ask for songs about various favored things: "How 'bout a jeep song?"
* The other morning when Lance wasn't well, Gideon told him, "I need a hug.  Ok, daddy, go to sleep!"
* We finally saw a specialist for Esther's GI problems.  The morning of the appointment, she woke up hurling, the first time in four weeks (she did it again yesterday).  Seems it is a milk problem - American dairy has an added protein that has made her sensitive to all milk.  We've gotten her off of it now - Goats included - and will build up her probiotics/internal environment for the next couple of months and see how she is does.  Hoping to get an always-happy baby back.  It is so hard to watch her struggle and to witness a shift in her personality.  Let's hope this clears up all her issues, which do all seem to be related.
* Esther's vocabulary now embraces "Amen" (as of last night - so cute!), and "Gideon," which unfortunately sounds more like "Gid."
* Esther easily will go to any happy face.  She is trusting and is delighted to get attention from any who will love on her.  The doctor said she is much more engaged than her contemporaries.  I'm guessing it won't be such a good thing in her teens!

The last little beauty of fall splendor

That's a sad face.  G hasn't been feeling well this week.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Local, Rural, Easy

In cosmopolitan cities like London (and New York, DC, Philly, Boston and Sydney!) in which I've lived, familiarity with your farmer seems a pipe dream, a romantic notion and nostalgia that is only attempted and never reached by places like Whole Foods, your local green grocer, Fairway, Founding Farmers, and the like.

In New Hampshire, you are maybe two steps removed from your farmer.  If you push it, not even that.  Farms are mostly small here--they must be by necessity, surviving, as in England, decades of subdivision by rite of inheritance.  That makes it tough to maintain a livelihood off the land.  Most farmers, like that I met running Gould Hill Farm neighboring our little soon-to-be farmlette, maintain one, two and three side jobs just to keep their agrarian dream alive.

Most locals here know at least where to get (and pick) their favorite apples.  A smaller subset have their favorite farmers' stand or store, or belong to a farming co-op to support local farms.  An even smaller subset know the best goat farmers.

Thus, thanks to the local, rural tradition and flavor of New Hampshire  (and possibly of the wider New England region?), we stumbled on solving Esther's inability to keep down her cookies.

Esther's been having tummy issues ever since we moved across the pond.  Try as I might, I could not figure out the cause.  Endless amounts of crying, interrupted sleep (for all of us), and carpet cleaner led us no where.

Of course I prayed about it.  We couldn't get a specialist appointment for three months (which turns out to be this next week).  Finally, someone I met at Barnes & Noble mentioned that a lot of babies with allergies could drink goat's milk just fine, and I could buy it from the A Market 'round the corner.  Turns out goat milk was the ticket - no more pukes.

But I was paying $9 for a half gallon, and my chunkster little girl drinks 2 1/2 gallons a week.  The math wasn't pretty.  So I began poking around and called up the closest store in Manchester that sold goat products.  No, they didn't sell milk, but had I heard of Millcreek Dairy?

Again, while grocery shopping later that week, an employee that has become a favorite of Gideon's recommended the dairy to me.  So I rang them up.  Jeff, the farmer, answered the phone.  He could work me a deal, and the kids could meet his "girls" that would be nourishing Esther.

After a wonderful visit to his small farm and 70~ goats he knows each by name (he bottle fed all of them), we decide on $6/half gallon plus free weekly delivery till we move to Hopkinton.  Thereafter, a friend in Hopkinton would take on the delivery.

I couldn't be more thrilled.  Happy goats, happy farmer, happy baby, happy mamma.  Thanks, New Hampshire!

Gideon kissed maybe half a dozen goats that day.

cat profile

Jeff was incredibly gracious with his time and all his animals.

of course G found the tractor

Goat soap

Our weeks' supply.
Small Wonders

* Esther can now say "dad," "car," "cat" and "all done," maybe more on a good day.
* Whenever I leave Esther for a bit - as I did yesterday when we visited the temple, Esther will greet me by hugging me very tightly and giving me at least three giant kisses.
* G overheard in the kitchen while eating his toast: "I love you SO much, butter.  So much."
* Gideon has been asking to go back to the temple ever since we first visited in July.  He often thinks libraries or pretty, old buildings are temples, and I explain the difference.  When we were finally there yesterday, he and Esther were so excited to play on the grounds - the smiles below are genuine.  Then Gideon asked to go inside.  We did, just barely, as the workers all raised up, curious and slightly alarmed.  I told Gideon that that was as far as we could go, but that he could go further some day if he made good choices.  The Spirit was incredibly strong and made me falter a bit.  I was grateful he could feel it - would have been hard not to.  We talked about it later, and he seemed to convey as much.

We went to Carter Hill Farm again

We had 70F weather!

And saw a giant turtle crossing the road.  I was the first to se it and stopped traffic. Another passer-by donned gloves and helped him on his journey.  G was really scared when it started snapping at its rescuer!

We visited Robert Frost Farm.  Many a yellow wood, and many diverging paths.  The shop and house were closed, but we had a glorious time exploring the trails and grounds.

Lance's fav pic of the week.

Apple, we will see you again, regardless of whether I need/you want me to again!