Tuesday, August 31, 2010

beauty is in the eye of the beholder..

photo by Shaun O'Boyle...one of my
favorite photographers ever.

I know that I have life
only insofar as I have love.

I have no love
except it come from Thee.

Help me, please, to carry
this candle against the wind.

Wendell Berry, Leavings

* * *

And you can visit Shaun O'Boyle's blog at Fresh Fish.

Monday, August 30, 2010

where it all started.

A week from this coming Thursday I will be leaving for my long-awaited trip to Belgium. While there we will also be visiting Paris, France and possibly London, England as they are both just a short trip away from where we'll be based. Paris is a couple hour train ride and London, apparently, is just a 30 minute ferry ride! Who knew? (Um...I should have...but apparently I didn't pay very close attention in my Geography class...ahem.)

Looking at this map I see all of the countries that my family came from...Italy, Portugal, Ireland, Czechoslovakia....all right there on one continent. Interesting to think about my ancestors migrating to the United States...especially as I'm continuing to read A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove. They worked so hard to get here. And they worked hard once they arrived. They were poor. They didn't have much at all. Noni told a story of the traveling "salesman" passing through selling new leather shoes and beautiful stockings...new dresses and shiny new pots and pans. Her family was poor...and her shoes were always worn and her stockings always had holes in them. So when the "salesman" passed through...it was a big event. I say "salesman" because apparently, as Noni learned later in life, the goods he was selling were very often stolen.

Papa called the other day...said he was "waiting on those beans". I make pinto beans. With a ham hock. And I use my Noni's recipe. So Papa likes them. He called about a month ago to ask if I'd made any lately. And...if I had made them...did I have some for him, too? And I happened to have some in the freezer so I took them over to him. My mom was there caring for him so we ended up all eating dinner together...beans and bread...it was nice. I told him I'd make more soon and bring him some. That's why he called...wondering where the heck those beans were! So later that afternoon I ran them over to his house.

He was napping...but asked his home health aide to wake him when I got there. That made me feel pretty special...he does like his naps. But...I guess that means he likes me even more. I stayed to visit a while. We talked about my upcoming trip...and some of his travels while in the Navy. Then we got onto the subject of life when he was a kid. His father was a coal miner as well as having the duties of running their small farm (with the help of Papa's mother and all of his siblings...11 of them, I think). They grew their own food and milked their own cows. Papa was in charge of giving his siblings haircuts and he knew how to make their shoes! He told me how it was his job to get up early in the morning and get the fire going. His mother would be up getting breakfast ready...leftover polenta, leftover bread, etc.

He told me about one breakfast that was one of his favorites...he would go out early in the morning and gather the button mushrooms from a nearby meadow. Then his mother would turn them into a breakfast of sauteed mushrooms in a thick gravy. They'd eat that for breakfast with leftover crusty bread for dipping. He said it was delicious! Not what we would think of as breakfast food...but when you don't have Cocoa Puffs or Frozen Waffles to slap in front of your kid, you feed them what is available. Talk about eating seasonally.

I have to admit. It was not my intention to talk about heritage or my grandparents. What was on my mind when I began this post was all that I still have to do before I leave for Belgium. My intention was to list it all out here...bullet-points...but it evolved into something else. And I'm glad that it did. I love my grandparents...and love hearing about their lives as children. I told Papa about the book I was reading...and how it seemed to me that, although life was hard and the work was hard and families were poor, it seemed to me that life was a lot simpler in those times. And...to my surprise, he agreed. He has fond memories of his childhood...gathering berries for his mother's wine...building a room onto their house with a dance floor for his sister's wedding...reciting the Lord's Prayer to his mother each morning in Russian. Life was hard...but it was also simple and good and honest. 

Sounds good to me, Papa.

Friday, August 27, 2010

making a short story long.

OK...so you may have noticed that I haven't been posting photos on my blog for a while. Some people have asked...and wondered...and inquired...saying they miss my photos. I miss them, too, I have to admit. I love taking pictures. I love my camera. I love sharing with you what I see through the lens. But...I ran into a problem a while back.

my beloved...
You may remember that I had computer trouble a few months ago...the computer died.And when the computer went, it took my photos WITH it. I have some saved to Flickr and Shutterfly...but not ALL of them. And...since I didn't listen to my husband when he said (multiple times, I will add), "Stop putting all these pictures on the computer...load them onto your external hard-drive that you HAD TO HAVE...and that way, if anything happens to the computer, you've still got your stuff."


Can you guess who didn't listen to her husband?

So the computer died and we rushed out and got a new one because I was in the midst of taking three online college courses. (I'm sure you remember this...I cried about it every other second.) Anyway...we got a new computer that we really couldn't afford. But with school, I couldn't afford NOT to...you know? So we got the computer...but couldn't afford to pay to have my photos retrieved at that time. So there they sit...on the dead computer...waiting patiently to be rescued!

As far as this computer...and taking photos...and storing and loading and editing...I don't have any software on this new computer yet to do the uploading and editing. And I have been too lazy to DO anything about that. Or maybe too busy. Or lazy. Or don't want to figure out loading it and setting it up and choosing defaults...blah blah blah. I have a love/hate relationship with computers.

So...the computer dies...no editing software...no time...no inspiration...and this equals no photos. But it's only temporary...

In the meantime, I'm getting ready for my trip to Belgium. I think I've mentioned that a time or two, oui? (Practicing my French for the trip...je ne parlez francais, un petit peu...je mal a la tete...ou...ferme ta bouche!...a sampling of what I DO know...courtesy of 9th grade. Bad.)

Anyway...so I'm going to Belgium. And you can't go to Belgium and NOT take photos. Right? That would be insane. Especially for someone like me who LOVES to take photos. It would be a lifelong regret...I know it. So all this time I'm knowing that I have to take my camera...and I have to take pictures...but I'm worried, because my camera is heavy...and bulky...and awesome and wonderful...but not conducive to travel. But, still, I'm planning on taking it...and I'm planning on taking photos..many photos...copious amounts of photos...it's what I do. (When I'm not paralyzed by the thought of loading software to my computer, anyway)

Wow...I am really making a very simple story extremely complicated. It's also what I do. Stay with me...I'm going somewhere with this. Really! I am!

Many years ago my husband bought a guitar amp. A large, bulky, old, crusty, wonderful (in his eyes) guitar amp. When I met him, I met the guitar amp. It was a package deal. Well...a few months back he decided it was time to let the amp go. It was time to sell it. Trade it in for a newer model. (Hmmm...I better be careful! If a man can trade in his beloved amp for a newer model..who's to say...um...nah...!!) In all seriousness, he's been getting a bit more serious with his music and felt he needed something easier to transport.

So he put the amp on eBay...and eventually, it sold. And because it was so old and crusty...it was actually awesome and vintage. Handmade. With a signature. From England. Super cool. Even I was intrigued.

In no time at all...the amp sold. He was blessed to make a bit of money by selling it. And he was blessed to be able to get a new amp...just the one he wanted...as well as a few other musical items he'd been wanting. And...come to find out...there was a little extra left over...and because my husband is the sweetest ever, he wanted to share the extra with me and the boys!! He gave each of us a budget...to buy whatever we wanted.

The boys each chose to get brand new yummy baseball gloves. You should have seen them when they arrived in the mail. Almost as good as Christmas!

As for me? I didn't really KNOW what I wanted to spend my money on. I could think of lots of things that I wanted. But I felt like I needed to really spend the money wisely...make it count. I didn't want to just piddle it away. So I just waited.

And then it came to me...Monday morning. A camera. I want to buy a new camera. I know, I know...I have a camera. And a really nice camera. But I didn't have a small, easy to carry and travel with camera.

Mr. Adventure
A few weeks earlier I was able to check out my brother and sister in laws little camera...the Nikon s8000. And I was instantly impressed. Don't let the size fool ya! Ashton Kutcher is telling the truth... It has got some power for a little thing! Amazing zoom. Amazing clarity. And...it's small. And light. And perfect for a certain someones trip to Belgium!

Yes. That was it. I wanted a new camera.

So I called Chris and told him that I had decided what I wanted to spend my money on. And he was totally on board and said he'd get it ordered later that night! And he did...it should be here in a few days. I am so excited! This little gem is going to enable me to take amazing photos of my trip...and I'll hardly even know I'm carrying it! And it'll be great to take to baseball tournaments, too! (In case you didn't know...we attend a few of those now and then.) It's going to be a great travel camera. And I know I'm going to love it!

Don't get me wrong...I will always love my Canon. She is my beloved...another gift from my husband for my birthday a few years ago. He's such an encourager of my hobbies and interests...always has been. The Canon is perfect for stills...for the everyday shots I take for creative purposes. And even for family portrait type stuff. She will not be cast aside. And honestly...she's a bit of a homebody anyway...she's not big on travelling and she packs way too much when she does. Going somewhere with her is like going somewhere with a baby...too much stuff! So I think she's secretly glad that little Mr. Nikon came along...now she can stay home guilt-free while he goes out and does the adventurous stuff!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wednesday in the Word

Psalm 68:3

3 But may the righteous be glad
and rejoice before God;
may they be happy and joyful.

~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~

Happiness is...

fresh tomatoes
good kids
a purring kitten
a ceiling fan
organic peanut butter
good eggs
 sun tea
the smell of fresh laundry
my Dr Pepper t-shirt
hummingbirds at the feeder
clean sheets
silly text messages
a new camera!

Today I am feeling happy. It started while I was watering the garden this morning. Not that I was UN happy before that. I don't think I was necessarily anything...just sort of beginning another day, like any other day, without really paying attention. But when I was in the garden...I looked around and thought, "You know...life is good." I was watering the plants...with plenty of water. I was gathering fresh, organic vegetables...that I grew my self. I had just fed the chickens and they were contentedly clucking away while enjoying their treat of yogurt. At that moment...all was well. The animals were content...the plants were quenched...the air was warm...and I..felt good. Content. Therefore I will rejoice before God. I will be happy...and joyful.

Thank you God for this day...and for all you've blessed me with. Amen.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

taking time...

In between getting ready for Belgium...and getting ready for the women's retreat at my new church...and every day living, I've been stopping here and there to read bits of an interesting book I borrowed from the library, A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove. 

If you like history...and food...and cooking...I think you will really enjoy this book. It's amazing to see how far we've come in regard to food. In regard to how it's obtained...how it's prepared...where it all came from. I guess I should say, it's amazing to see how far we've come FROM food.

This book is definitely going on my list of  "books to watch for at the used book store." It has great information and interesting historical recipes...some that make you cringe a little and some that just might be worth a try sometime!

Monday, August 23, 2010

putting things in perspective.

I wanted to share with you two blogs that I've come across over the past several months. They are written by women...young women...who are living their lives to the fullest. They are written by young women who are living their lives for others...for God...for the bigger picture. The first blog is The Journey. The second blog is Be the Hands and Feet. If you want to be inspired...moved...convicted...then take some time to visit these blogs. Maybe even take some time to give...an encouraging comment...a bit of money (Renee is currently in need of new transportation)...prayer.

The stories of these women and those that they are living for are amazing. And moving. And REAL. To read about what they see on a daily basis...the lives that have been forgotten about, cast aside...really puts things in perspective.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wednesday in the Word

Psalm 118:24

This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

I'm living ahead of myself. I am thinking ahead. Planning ahead. Moving ahead. Living for plans I've made and things that need to be done. This is nothing new. We all do it. It's life, I think. But...in the process...it seems I am missing out on what's right in front of me. And that something is...this day.

So...on this day...I am going to be thankful. I am going to be in the now...at work...at home...with my family...while I'm making dinner...and even while I'm doing the laundry. And I will be glad. I will rejoice. I am going to thank God for this day. There are no guarantees, right? So if I really think about it, today is a gift. Each breath I've taken...each time my heart has beat one more time...is because God has seen fit to give me the gift...of this day. Thank you, God...I pray that You will show me great and unsearchable things today as I focus on You...and on this day.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

slowing down.

Summer is over....school is in full swing...and I am feeling like I need to slow things down a bit. Life has been moving in fast forward...it's time to press pause! I leave for Belgium in less than a month on September 9th. And I am feeling like I just need some time to sit...to rest...to think clearly...and to gather my wits.

So...to do that...I've decided to take a few weeks off of work. This alone relieves a huge amount of stress. Not that my job is so stressful or anything...it's just that it's one more thing, one more responsibility, one more thing tugging at me, requiring my attention and my brain power. And lately, the brain power is LOW. I need to store up all I can for my trip!!

Over the next few weeks (that will fly by, I'm sure!) I have to finish getting ready for Belgium. I need to purchase a few clothing items...cook good food to freeze for Chris and the boys to heat up while I'm gone...gather the rest of my funds (for those of you who requested donation letters...they went out yesterday...thank you!)...wait patiently for my Passport...and dial in my notes for when I speak.

More important than all of these physical aspects of getting ready for a trip...I am feeling like I need to ready myself spiritually. I feel like I really need to press in to God and make sure that He and I are on the same page as far as this trip is concerned. Yes, I get to go to Belgium and see the sights but it's really about the people I encounter...and the message I bring with me...the message of encouragement and hope. And now that the boys are in school, being off of work will allow me to use my days focusing on God, spending time writing...praying...reading my bible...listening to worship music...or just sitting in the quiet. Imagine that...stillness.

Thank you for your continued support and encouragement...I can feel your prayers for me and I appreciate them very much. xo

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wednesday in the Word

Isaiah 55

Invitation to the Thirsty

* * *

1 "Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.

2 Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.

3 Give ear and come to me;
hear me, that your soul may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
my faithful love promised to David.

4 See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander of the peoples.

5 Surely you will summon nations you know not,
and nations that do not know you will hasten to you,
because of the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel,
for he has endowed you with splendor."

6 Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.

7 Let the wicked forsake his way
and the evil man his thoughts.
Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

8 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,"
declares the LORD.

9 "As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

10 As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,

11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

12 You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.

13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the LORD's renown,
for an everlasting sign,
which will not be destroyed."

I have a busy day ahead of me...I pray you are all well and that these words bless you. I pray that you go out today in joy...that you are led in peace...that the hills sing for you and the trees clap their hands.

Can you Imagine?!!

I bet if you listen real close...you'll be able to hear it.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Wednesday in the Word

Jeremiah 29:11-14

11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you," declares the LORD, "and will bring you back from captivity.

Each time Wednesday rolls around, I pray and ask God what scripture He wants me to share here on Give a Girl a Fig. And lately...this is the scripture that comes to mind. Week after week, Jeremiah 29:11 pops into my head.
But...then I think, "But...I've already shared this one...several times. I need something NEW, Lord. Something FRESH. Something...else."

And the reply? The same scripture...Jeremiah 29:11.

Then I think to myself..."Again? But you always give me this scripture." And you know WHY He keeps giving me this scripture? Because I haven't GOTTEN it yet. I haven't allowed it to penetrate my thick skull and my busied mind. I haven't allowed those words, for I know the plans I have for you, to really sink in. I haven't allowed them to penetrate my heart...my soul...because to do that would mean relinquishing total control to God. It would mean trusting Him fully. It would mean waiting. And really...why should I have an issue with trusting God? Hasn't He always taken care of me? Hasn't He always provided the best for me? Hasn't He always had me in the palm of His hand? Hasn't He? Yes. He has. So...why is it so hard to just settle down...and sit back...and wait?

Maybe because I'm spoiled. And impatient. And I want what I want when I want it. And like Veruka Salt, I want it now.

So...here I am...another day...another week...another Wednesday in the Word...and another sweet whisper, "for I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future. Pray to me. I will listen to you. Seek me...you will find me..."

Monday, August 2, 2010

The time is drawing near...

Before I know it I will be boarding a plane headed to Belgium! On September 9th I will be heading to Belgium for a 10-day trip. I can't believe it's already August for crying out loud! We will be facilitating a women's conference at the church we're visiting. We'll be helping out at several different homeless shelters in the area. We'll be helping behind the scenes at a youth conference being organized by the youth team that is traveling with us. And...we'll be doing whatever else the host pastor asks us to. It's going to be a BUSY week! We'll also find some time to sight see...including a day-trip to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower! (Speaking of which, I've got a meeting tonight to start our crash course in French! Thank goodness I remember a little bit of it from junior high...ou est le bain?)

Suddenly, I have a little more than one month to finish up the notes for my message...write a small devotional...and gather the rest of my funds. This means I need to send out my donation letter...SOON. It's written. I have nice paper to print it on. I have envelopes. Now...all I need to do is print it out and send it out!

I have to say...God has provided SO MUCH of what I need already...and completely by FAITH. When I first learned I was going to Belgium, it was stressed to me that I needed to send out a giving letter right away. I mean, you can't travel overseas without funds, right? But...I never felt any sense of urgency to get it written. And honestly, whenever I did try to write it, it sounded like a 2nd grader had written it! The words just wouldn't flow onto the paper. (And if you've been visiting me long...you know my words flow...sometimes TOO much! Lack of words is not as issue I deal with often...ahem.) So...after much frustration and a few tears I just didn't send a letter out.

Instead, I made prints and cards using some of my photos and put them up for sale. And people, in support of me, bought them. I took part in an art show...and people bought my wares...in support of me. I even went so far as to place a "Donate" button on my blog...something I was NOT comfortable with at all...but felt like it was something that God wanted me to do. And do you know that the very next day I was gifted a very generous donation by a friend far away who wanted to help?! I was blown away!

Then...I began receiving money in the mail. People would email me and ask for my mailing address so they could send me "a little something". Next thing I know I'm receiving money in the mail in support of my trip to Belgium. And then I get an envelope at church. It's full of 20 dollar bills and simply marked "Michelle...for Belgium". Another gal at my church set aside $50 for me out of her fixed income...because she wanted to help. Family has given...generously. Friends have given...generously. It just kept happening...as I least expected it...someone would hand me money or a check...for Belgium.

When I didn't feel that sense of urgency to send out a letter at the beginning of all of this, I didn't force it. And after a while, I just really felt like God was wanting to show me HIS provision. It was like He was saying, "Watch Michelle...watch what I can do...for you." So...I watched. And He showed me. He showed me His provision...through you. By faith...through generous friends and family (and even a few strangers!)...God provided everything I needed for my airfare as well as a bit of spending money. And I am grateful.

Then, as if the a year has gone by in a flash...I'm leaving in a month! Suddenly, I'm feeling down to the wire. I still have roughly a thousand dollars left to raise. When the trip was first being planned it was thought that we were not going to have to pay for a place to stay. That has changed. We will have to pay for our rooms. It was also thought that we would have access to a kitchen to prepare many of our meals ourselves. That...has changed. We will now need to purchase many meals out. I also recently learned that sometimes you have to PAY to go to the bathroom!! If you want clean facilities, that is. (And...I pretty much do!)

With all of that being said...please consider this a humble request for support. If you would like to donate to the Belgium fund, there are a couple of ways to do so...

One...I can send you a donation letter in the mail. Email me privately with your mailing address and I will get it sent out to you. The letter is good in that it can be used as a "receipt" for tax purposes should you want to write it off.

Two...if you would like to donate but don't need a letter, I still have the Paypal Donate button in place in the upper left corner of my blog if you'd prefer to contribute that way.

And...as always...support me in prayer. Pray that my words are God's words. Pray that I can be an encouragement. Pray for safe travels. And pray that this trip is for God's glory...not our own.

 Thank you so much for joining me on this journey...we're almost there!

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me." - Isaiah 6:8