Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Generations of Recipes

My mom is an AMAZING cook. We always rave about the holiday celebrations at her table. I have blogged about it before. This Christmas we were discussing the fact that I did not know much about where some of her favorite recipes came from. My Aunt Pat has come to the rescue with all sorts of information. That pumpkin bread recipe that I thought was a sure family secret - well, it wasn't. I am shocked! But that best ever banana cake that I love to make is actually from my grandmother's grandmother, my great-great Mamaw Phillips. So, if I can get my kids to cook it they will be making a recipe that has been handed down for six generations. Pretty cool, don't you think? And my aunt dished up info on other family recipes - some I know and some that I am excited to try. We specialize in pineapple upside down cake (cooked in a cast iron skillet), banana pudding (mmmmmmmm!!) and lemon ice box pie (which I just made for Thanksgiving!). But now I can look forward to trying a five generation carrot cake recipe and fried apple pies from my great-grandmother Lyons. So many thanks to my Mom and Aunt Pat for filling me in on something I love and hope that my kids will grow to love, too.
I leave you with a few pictures of banana cake goodness! Happy Baking!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Quotes from Hannah Coulter

I promised some of my favorite quotes from my favorite book by my favorite author. So here they are.

[If you aren't tempted to read this book after these posts, then that is just sad for you. :)]

From Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry.

Mr Berry perfectly describes how I feel about my children:
"I have this love for Mattie. It was formed in me as he himself was formed. It has his shape, you might say. He fits it. He fits into it as he fits into his clothes. He will always fit into it. When he gets out of the car and I meet him and hug him, there he is, him himself, something of my very own forever, and my love for him goes all around him just as it did when he was a baby and a little boy and a young man grown."

He says what I feel about my mom and the things she taught me:
"As I went about my work then as a young woman, and still now when I am old, Grandmam has been often close to me in my thoughts. And again I come to the difficulty of finding words. It is hard to say what it means to be at work and thinking of a person you loved and love still who did that same work before you and who taught you to do it. It is a comfort ever and always, like hearing the rhyme come when you are singing a song."

He says what I feel about my husband:

"What I was reaching toward in him was his gentleness that had been make in him by loss and grief and suffering... the gentleness I knew in him seemed to be calling out, and it was a gentleness in me that answered. That gentleness, calling and answering, giving and taking, brought us together. It brought us into the room of love. It made our place clear around us."
and also,
"But you may have a long journey to travel to meet somebody in the innermost inwardness and sweetness of that room. You can't get there just by wanting to, or just because the night falls. The meeting is prepared in the long day, in the work of years, in the keeping of faith, in kindness.
The room of love is another world. You go there wearing no watch, watching no clock. It is the world without end, so small that two people can hold it in their arms, and yet it is bigger than worlds on worlds, for it contains the longing of all things to be together, and to be at rest together. You come together to the day's end, weary and sore, troubled and afraid. You take it all into your arms, it goes away and there you are where giving and taking are the same, and you live a little while entirely in a gift. The words have all been said, all permissions given, and you are free in the place that is the two of you together. What could be more heavenly than to have desire and satisfaction in the same room?"

Saturday, November 20, 2010

New Favorite Story

I love books. I have had many favorites. When I was in high school it was Tale of Two Cities. Then in college I was captured by biographies and loved Through Gates of Splendor. When I was pregnant with Victoria To Kill A Mockingbird became my favorite (I finished it in the hospital when she was born!). In the late nineties I became obsessed with Jon Krakauer and Into Thin Air (a must read for all non-fiction fans) and read all of his books and went on to read anything about Mount Everest that I could get my hands on.

I am usually a non-fiction girl. But around 2000 I started rereading some of those books that I had been assigned to read in high school... you know, the ones you just couldn't like because that wouldn't have been cool - to actually like homework. So I began to devour John Steinbeck's books. East of Eden is one of the most amazing books I have ever read. It is long, dark, and distrubing but but billiantly crafted. His imagery of the land still stirs something deep in me. Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday are highly enjoyable.

And it would be just wrong to omit Jane Austen. Pride and Prejudice is a smartly written book about a witty, intelligent woman and how she views society around her. It is a must read along with Sense and Sensibility.

While exploring a bookstore in my hometown in Kentucky I came across the Memory of Old Jack, a Wendell Berry book. Wow! I proceeded to read Jayber Crow immediately. Mr. Berry's words, thoughts, and descriptions have change many of the ways I see life. My previous definitions of selflessness and faithfulness were altered. Mr. Berry spoke of fidelity. That is an old word with a very relevant meaning - the idea of loyalty, steadfastness and constancy to a person, to a community, to a standard or commitment. I cannot recommend enough his short story entitled Fidelity, in the book by the same title.

My all time favorite book is now Hannah Coulter. Every person should read this book. Immediately. Now. Go directly out and buy a copy or check it out at the library!. Hannah tells the story of her life. It is her "giving thanks". Here Mr. Berry shares his feelings for a day gone by. Not that he or I want that time to return. But that time should be examined and good gleaned from it. Love is spoken of and celebrated. You will be moved.

I will post some of my favorite quotes in the near future.

So - those are my favorites. What are your favorites?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Thoughts on paradise

Yesterday I picked the last few ripe tomatoes of the season. Tomorrow I will bring in the last of the peppers. While doing this I have been thinking about paradise. Not what we picture as heaven, but what was created in the beginning... the Garden of Eden. I have always imagined it in all its beauty. According to Merriam-Webster, paradise literally means an enclosed park. Reading Wendell Berry this week left me with a new sense of Eden. My thoughts on this paradise are slowly changing. Maybe it was beautiful because it was separated from the rest of creation - separated from something outside. Consider this poem:

Enclosing the field within bounds
sets it apart from the boundless
of which it was, and is, a part,
and places it within care.
The bounds of the field bind
the mind to it. A bride
adorned, the field now wears
the green veil of a season's
abounding. Open the gate!
Open it wide, that time
and hunger may come in.
(from A Timbered Choir)

Maybe Eden was perfectly beautiful not because the whole world was new and unspoiled, but because it was separated from the whole world and cared for by Adam and Eve. It was fenced off from the rest (at least I have always assumed this because they were put out of the garden and there was a gate.) A farmer looks at his field and loves it for what it is, but also for what he has made it to be. God separated Eden from the unbounded world and created a caretaker to cultivate it. Did God help Adam to dream of what it would become as two farmers surveying their land? Did God show Adam how to sow the seeds that would grow into produce that would adorn his fields? My father walks his land and plans and cares and tends it. It is beautiful. And it is surrounded by wildness. The wildness is beautiful, but not tended, not cared for. My father's land is full of wonderful bounty. His gate does open and begs my family to come and eat. Was Eden a place for Adam and Eve to come and satisfy themselves? So often I think of Adam as a herdsmen or zoo-keeper, not a farmer. But his garden was paradise. He was enclosed in something set apart for him. Now we have a small, weed filled glimpse of what he had. I look forward to the day when God will open wide the gate and say "Come. Eat. Be set apart forever with the Lamb that was slain. There will be no more hunger or thirst." Or weeds!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Turning 42

Today I turned 42. There was a time in my life when turning 32 was depressing, much less 42!. But I must admit, since turning 40 I have learned to love my age.

In my twenties life was crazy. Steve and I got married very young and the process of having my rough edges rubbed off was painful. Then we had three children before turning thirty. That changed life to say the least! Good changes, but God can really use your kids to push on things in you that need to be transformed to be more like Him. In our thirties Steve and I grew three kids and followed where God was leading. Not easy things to do.

Now, in my forties, life seems so different. I have more freedom - but still have three kids who are home and for the most part want to be with me. I have an amazing husband whom I love with my whole heart. We still have some of those rough edges remaining, but they fit together a little better and are not so painful. Steve and I could not be more different. But we have learned to work together and to glory in each other's differences. It is a good place to be. And it is better than when I was twenty or even thirty. I look back at that woman who struggled and fought and matured. I don't envy her. Now we have children who are growing into amazing adults who love the Lord and are a blessing to us. We have been married longer than we haven't been married (if that makes sense!). The woman I am now is nothing like what I imagined I would be. But this woman is more dependent on Christ than herself (though not every day), more thankful, a little more confident, a lot more community minded, and more in love with her husband than she could have thought possible. Yes, we have hard days... but life at 42 is good. I love my life. I thank God for His graciousness and mercy to our family.

Story of our new building

Tonight our church met in its new location. There is a story. But Steve can tell it much better than me. And he has pictures. So check out his blog:

Homecoming 2010

Last night the girls went to the Edwardsville High School Homecoming. We had the parade on Wednesday and the football game on Friday. They looked beautiful.

Victoria Hope

Esther Catherine
Steve and I are so proud of the beautiful women they are. We love them!

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Stories My Table Tells

I must admit that I have an ugly dining room table. It was given to us by an older woman in the church we were attending who was moving. It is from the 50's. It looked beautiful for a while. But we are a busy family who apparently knows how to damage furniture. We scuffed the top and left water marks. Soon enough the wood absorbed moisture and the surface became bubbled. It is wretched looking.

But, I cannot tell you how much I love this table. When I think of all the meals we have had here. There have been romantic, candle-lit, Valentine dinners for five. There have been meals with people we did not really know. There have been large, laughter filled Miller family gatherings and Mizel-from-California celebrations. We have cried with friends at this table. We have had angry conversations at this table. It has seen joy and sorrow. It has seen love and even a little hate. It has seen newly married couples and on-the-way-to-divorce couples. It has seen lots of teenager parties and groups of boys eating home-made french fries and milkshakes for birthdays. It has heard dreams of future love and anguish of dashed hopes. It has heard prayers of thankfulness to God and cries to Him for mercy. It has seen some come to a new faith in Christ.

It has been a tent. It has been a homework desk. It has been a work bench. It has been a nurse's station. It has been a pastor's conference table. It has been a painter's easel. It has been a gardening bench.

This well used table has seen some of the best food on the planet. My mother has served her famous food from it. (Italian Cream Cake or Red Velvet Cake or home-made salsa or Fonya Potatoes). We have eaten freshly picked corn from the garden or just-delivered-from-Kentucky burgoo and mutton. Mmmmmmm. It has held some of my very own food disasters, as well. But each dish has been served with love.

The purpose of my table's life is community. In a sense, it is at the heart of our home. We have lived and loved and mourned and celebrated with family and friends and neighbors on its ugly surface. It has been used by our family and community for over ten years. We have bought new chairs and new table cloths. But somehow, I just can't see parting with it and all of it's beautiful memories.

Looking back I can see that this is handed down from my parents. Their table has very much served the same purpose and I am grateful for all the times that I have sat there and been loved and fed. I also saw my mother's mother do the same. My grandmother had a huge table in her kitchen that served many meals to many people. I look forward to some day sitting at the tables of my children. Sharing meals together has been a gift passed down from generation to generation. Sharing meals is sharing life.

Here's to hoping that your table has its own beautiful stories to share. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 26, 2010


I have struggled with how much story to tell. There is so much. Wendell Berry says: "Telling a story is like reaching into a granary of wheat and drawing out a handful. There is always more to tell than can be told." I can never tell a story as good as Steve or Victoria or Esther... but I have a story. Let's glory in the story of God working in this place.

It starts like this: "I have made plans enough, but I see now that I have never lived by a plan. Any more than if I had been a bystander watching me live my life, I don't feel that I ever have been quite sure what was going on. Nearly everything that has happened to me has happened by surprise. All the important things have happened by surprise. And whatever has been happening usually has already happened before I have had time to expect it. The world doesn't stop because you are in love or in mourning or in need of time to think. And so when I have thought I was in my story or in charge of it, I really have been only on the edge of it, carried along. Is this because we are in an eternal story...?"

As always, the words of someone else (Wendell Berry again) tell my story in a way that I cannot. They speak to my heart - they speak from my heart.

The story will continue...