It Was Our Anniversary

Birthday season for our family will begin in two days, so I’ve been thinking a lot about celebrations.  The anniversary of my wedding was a little over a month ago.  The Sunday before my anniversary, God started sending me messages about gratefulness.  First our pastor spoke on how drastically different our outlook would be if we focused our attention on God and all that he has done in our lives, rather than on the things we think we are missing. Later that same week two separate friends called sharing almost identical messages they had received during worship and prayer time.  I knew I should start preparing my spirit  for what was coming because the messages were obviously being confirmed.  I needed to keep gratefulness in the forefront of my mind.

My expectations for the weekend had been building.  This would be our third anniversary in Georgia.  We had not been on a date for our anniversary since the move.  I was determined for this year to not be a repeat.  The weekend before our anniversary we went out on our first date in almost a year.  We had such a great time, I really wanted time alone with my husband again.  I tried desperately to find a babysitter so we could go out for a nice dinner, but had no luck.  I was crushed.

In my prayer time the morning of our anniversary, I asked God to let the focus of the day be on my gratitude for what he has done in our lives, and not on my expectations of what the day should be.  I had spent the day before in a pretty bad funk because of my  realization that we would not have a date for the third year in a row. I didn’t want my attitude to ruin another day.  I asked that my focus be more on him than anything else because I knew I really needed Him.

That morning I prayed for God to help me to release my disappointments so that I may simply enjoy the husband, children, family, and life he’d given me that day. “Today creating time alone together may not include dressing up and going out with just the two of us, but whatever it includes help me to be thankful. Help us to celebrate your work in our lives today.”  I decided I would treat the day like any other day and make the decision to be happy with whatever happened.  I told myself it didn’t matter what we did as long as my attitude was right.

I went to choir rehearsal that morning after cooking and enjoying a  big breakfast with my family. God’s spirit showed up at rehearsal in a powerful way.  It was a wonderful time of praise and worship. I was so thankful God had prepared my heart before I entered the building.  The joy that was in my heart I couldn’t even really describe.  I thought to myself, “This was the gift of me focusing on him.”  My expectations for the day began to grow.

After rehearsal, we all went out for lunch.  We had a great meal, but had to head home because my toddler needed a nap.  Once at home my middle child headed to his room and my husband camped out to watch college football.  My oldest, my sweet sensitive daughter, started asking if this was all we were going to do for the day.  “It’s your anniversary! You can’t just sit around all day.  We have to celebrate!”, she said.  I assured her that we would figure out something else to do after the youngest finished her nap, but I kept telling myself, “Remember this is just another day.”  No expectations, no disappointments.

By the time my toddler woke up from her extra long nap, our day had devolved into a mess.  The older two were at each others throats and I was tired of being asked, “What are WE going to do? Aren’t we at least going to go out to dinner? It’s your anniversary!” The tone was not nice.  I was tired of the arguing. I was tired of the attitude and pouting.  I was tired of the questions. They were seriously messing with my good, low key vibes.  I finally snapped after all the tension and told them to be quiet, and I told her to back off because she didn’t get married that day_ I did.  If anyone was going to be upset about sitting home all afternoon doing nothing it should be me, not her. And yes, now I was upset!

Now I wanted to get out of the house.  I told everyone to get their shoes.  I was planning to take them to McDonald’s so they could run off steam and leave me alone. The grateful attitude I had been trying to hold onto was gone. I was not happy just doing nothing anymore.  I was going to leave without my husband.  He could do whatever he wanted to do and I could breathe for a moment without everyone complaining.  I was no longer thankful for whatever happened that day. Now I was just irritated.

As I tried to usher the little mood killers out the door, the littlest one started whining that she didn’t want to leave.  She was hungry and wanted to eat.  Then the second child started in, “I’m hungry too!  I want to stay if she stays.”  Ugh, really?  I told them they could stay with their dad and eat.  Then the third, “Where are we going anyway?” So, now you care where we’re going?!? “I thought you just wanted out of the house”, I thought to myself. I threw my hands up and let my husband feed them leftovers, while I retreated to the comfort of my KitchenAid.   All of a sudden everyone was calm and they too, wanted to crowd around my mixer.  I didn’t want to let them in on my little party, but everyone became so excited and nice, I relented.

I spent the evening of my anniversary without dinner, baking a cake, and watching American Sniper with my husband after the kids went to bed.  Not at all how envisioned the day_not even my worst version of it.  But after all it was just another day, right? The next morning I woke up irritated with my husband.  I was also irritated with my oldest for not allowing me to go along with my “No expectations” attitude.   “Why did she have to make such a big deal about the day?”, I thought.  I was doing fine without her pouting and disappointment.  When I woke up I went straight to my prayer closet.  My heart was so heavy about my irritation.  “Why am I so bothered by her attitude from yesterday?”, I asked.  As I sat in his presence, he revealed to me that I couldn’t appreciate her disappointment because my life experience was so different from hers.

My parents were not together when I was growing up.  It was just me and my mother.  There were no anniversaries to celebrate, or anything about marriage to get excited about. He reminded me that for my children it’s a completely different reality.  I spend time telling my children how fortunate they are to have two parents.  I spend lots of time talking to them about God’s order, design, and plan for marriage. We talk about the beauty of marriage and the blessing of family.   Our family started the day God joined their dad and I in marriage all those years ago.  Of course they would want to celebrate marriage.  I should not have been upset with her, but with myself for trying to say it was just another day.

Over the years, we’ve seen a number of marriages fall by the wayside, yet by God’s grace we are still together.  My oldest was right. We should have been celebrating.  Maybe we couldn’t celebrate the day with grand romantic gestures, but to try to pretend the day God joined us was not important was wrong.  It wasn’t just about celebrating us.  It was about acknowledging and celebrating what God has done.

Through this union God has been working to draw out our selfishness and refine the selflessness.  He is trying to make us holy, instead of us always focusing on happy.  I want the work he is doing in us to all be for his glory.  We are far from where we should be, but by his might and grace he has sustained us for 17 years and he’s far from finished with us. There is a legacy my children will inherit from seeing us value and appreciate marriage. But they have to see us value and appreciate our marriage.  I was wrong.  That is reason to rejoice!

Yes, that time in God’s presence turned my attitude around.  I had a new appreciation for my daughter’s sensitive spirit and a renewed thankfulness in my heart for our marriage Sunday morning.  We enjoyed a great service, a great lunch, a great afternoon with the kids, and in the end great time alone with my husband reflecting on all God has done over the years.  That day 17 years ago we made a promise to God.  We walk in covenant with Him and He continues to keep and guide us through all our human mess.

It will never cease to amaze me how much God teaches me through these amazing little people he’s placed in my charge. Our Anniversary is not any ordinary day.  It is a day to rejoice.  So grateful she and God reminded me what it really meant to celebrate OUR anniversary.

“…She is your companion and wife by covenant.” Malachi 2:14

“A joyful heart is life itself, and rejoicing lengthens one’s life span.” Sirach 30:22

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Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup

Fall 2014-K 087

Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup @ HillLove

When the weather cools down it’s hard not to want a  big bowl of soup to warm you up.  My kids and I get really excited when we see butternut squash in the grocery store in the fall.  We LOVE butternut squash soup on it’s own, but I grew up on LOTS of sweet potatoes in Louisiana,  and combining the sweetness of the two just works.

This soup has some Asian flavors, which are always a hit with my gang. There are a few steps, but this soup is super easy to put together.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large butternut squash, cooked
  • 2 medium – large sweet potatoes, cooked
  • 1/2 c- 1 1/2 c water
  • 2 Tbsp butter (To keep this recipe completely dairy free, use all olive oil instead of butter)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp powdered ginger (fresh is fine- you only need about 1/2-1tsp depending on your taste, but I keep powdered on hand.)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • salt  and pepper to taste
  • 32 oz of chicken broth
  • 1, 15oz can of coconut milk
  • chopped green onion for garnish, optional

How to:

There are two ways you can cook the veggies. I usually roast my squash and sweet potatoes in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes to one hour, or until they are soft.  You can cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, and place face down in a pan with 1/2 cup of water.  I poke holes in the sweet potatoes with a fork and let them cook whole in a pan.

The last time I made this soup I was going to be out of the house most of the day, so I cooked the squash and sweet potatoes in my crock pot.  It worked out really well.  I just prepared the squash like I would have for the oven and placed it in the crock pot with the untouched sweet potatoes and 1 1/2 cups of water.  I cooked them on low until I returned home which was about 6 hours later.

In a large pot over medium heat melt the 2 Tbsp of butter. Add olive oil.  Add the onions and cook slowly stirring often to let the onions caramelize.  You’ll know they’re done because they’ll have a beautiful caramel color.  Add the garlic and cook until tender and fragrant.

For the next step if you have an immersion blender, you can do everything in the soup pot.  If not, scoop the inside the the potatoes and the squash into your blender.  Add the onion and garlic mixture and the can of coconut milk and blend well. If the mixture is too thick, you may add some of your chicken broth.  You want to blend everything until it’s smooth.

Return the contents of the blender to the pot and continue cooking over medium heat.  Add the rest of your chicken broth and your seasonings (onion powder, ginger powder, cumin, curry powder, salt and pepper).  Stir well and simmer on medium low heat for about  20 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.  Serve in big bowls and top with green onions.

This soup goes well with good crusty bread and salad. To please my meat loving husband I sometimes serve this with chicken satay or teriyaki meatballs.

I hope you enjoy this as much as we do.  Happy fall!

Psalm 95:1-7

A dear friend of mine shared this great “Thanksgiving 30 Day Scripture Writing Plan” on her page.  It’s a pdf file found at http://www.swtblessings.com. Our family already has a few traditions for my favorite time of year, but I loved the idea of purposely copying what God’s word has to say about thankfulness. I saw the post yesterday and my original desire was for us as a family to copy the verses together before starting our regular homeschool work.  Sometimes plans work and sometimes they don’t.  Yesterday they didn’t.

This morning during my devotional time I decided to copy the verse myself from day one.  I’m already 4 days behind, but I didn’t think God would mind.  I just had this desire to start because I did not know what this morning would hold.

O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;  let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!  For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.  In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also.  The sea is his, for he made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed.  O come let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!  For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.  O that today you would listen to his voice!

There is so much truth beauty and truth in this passage!  What a wonderful praise to our Lord. But the part that particularly spoke to my spirit this morning was the last line, “O that today you would listen to his voice!”

For me there is a huge difference in hearing and listening.  I know I have this discussion with my children often.  To hear means 1) to perceive with the ear the sound made by (someone or something). 2) be told or informed of. 3) be aware of; know of the existence of.  To listen is defined as to give one’s attention to a sound.  Lord, let me not only hear from you, but obey your voice when I listen.

I don’t want to just perceive you saying something to me.  Let me listen and give my full attention to your voice.  Let me worship you with my whole being and heed what you are telling me.  Let my focus today be squarely where it should be_on you.  Let me yield myself to your voice and follow your will for me today.  I want to listen to your voice as you guide my interactions with my husband, my children, and anyone you choose to allow to cross my path.  I want to surrender myself to the blessing of your voice.

Amen.