Thursday, November 30, 2006

Home Updates

It's that time of year again... Today is the last day of November. Where has the month gone?By the way, have you seen my house lately? We've been decorating up a storm. Even though we are going to DC for Christmas, I knew that it would be incredibly depressing to arrive back in sunny Phoenix without a shred of Christmas cheer to welcome us home. So I went to work. Here's a picture of from our recent Christmas decorating... I still have a few more projects, like stockings for Travis and myself for over the fireplace and I am finishing my drapes in the dining room. But we decided to set out a festive table by the fireplace to make it homey and festive. Maybe it will help sell the house...

The decorating story begins with an early morning Saturday. All the other stores were quiet. They hadn't even begun their preparation for post-Thanksgiving madness. Their inventory was quietly awaiting normal Saturday morning shoppers strolling casually through their lanes.
I was not.
I was at Goodwill's 50% off Saturday Sale. People line up at 6:30 in the morning for a store opening at 7:00. Now, we're not talking regular shoppers. We're talking a different clientele. What would draw me you might ask? 50% off all the Christmas decorations. But I also found a couple hidden treasures like a replica of another Van Gogh that I reframed and appointed to the middle bathroom with the other Van Gogh's. I just need one more print to complete the collection.
I am a new home-dweller (not quite an owner) and this being my first holiday preparation season away from the resources my parents and I had gathered for years, I needed some supplies. What better than to get fake greenery for $1.00 here and .50 cents there? I brought all my treasures home along with a new filing cabinet for Travis for, get this, $26 dollars. That's what my brother, Peter, would call "chump change". I agree.

Can you find the hidden picture within a picture?

Monday, November 27, 2006

Thanksgiving Reflections

One of the other reasons to give thanks is for the unexpected blessings I received this week. One of those was my new family. This was my first holiday away from my family and it turned out being very special, very interesting and wonderfully "home".

I had previously met my husband's extended family at his grandmother's 80th birthday party last spring. But this time we got to visit. Very different meaning, especially when you're Dutch. Everyone has their ethnicities. I have a cultural ethnicity that was imparted to me early on from my father's mother, Cobie. Through the years I was educated as a granddaughter in what it meant to be Dutch, such as the following:
  • Cleanliness is next to godliness. Really. It is not okay to skip the dusting.
  • Gardening is aerobic exercise.
  • Expensive shoes are essential. Clogs were only the beginning.

And last but not least, one of the most important lessons in Dutch heritage I received was through food traditions.

My Oma always participated in my Grandmother's (my mother's mother) thanksgiving. They were great friends and since my Oma expected our presence at Christmas, her children were free to do their other family responsibilities on this holiday. So our traditions for Thanksgiving strengthened around the Dahl holiday table with Dutch treats.

When I anticipated Thanksgiving, I was suddenly filled with dread, thinking thoughts like, "What if there is box stuffing? What if we don't have fresh cranberry relish? What if there isn't any Pumpkin Chiffon Pie?".... the thoughts multiplied...and fear was brought down like the house of cards that it is.

Aunt Bette (should I say Tante?) brought the EXACT same cranberry relish my Oma made every Thanksgiving that I can remember. Then Aunt Jean and I swapped tips on making bunket, a Dutch pastry. And we spent hours playing "Dutch Bingo". It is a game where you talk about your relatives and find out how you are connected or related among the "Dutchies". Aunt Bette Bosma knew my Uncle Bruce when he was in Michigan teaching. That was 25 years ago. I was so blessed to meet my grandmother-in-law's brothers and sisters. They are all in their spry young 80s; one just remarried and was wonderfully affectionate with his new bride, Jean, and the others told wonderful stories of their hiking adventures. What an inspiration and joy to be around such wonderful people.

Not only does this show that you can never go far without finding a kindred spirit, but that I couldn't go far without finding someone else who was Dutch. No matter how far I've moved, there have been many new friends and, now, family that I find reason to be grateful for. Even for simple things like fresh cranberry relish brings joy to my heart.

(Ps. I have a huge stash of the relish in my fridge that I made tonight so that my mother, sister and I can carry on the tradition of eating it straight through from Thanksgiving to Christmas, when we make our second batch....)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Pie and Projects

Are you still working on your pie? I hope everyone is very thankful for the past week. Especially the leftovers. I know I am. I have not only feasted but had a wonderful rest with less work, my husband home, and my brother visiting for the week.

I had come up with a "Brother-Do" list before Brett came out ...and we tackled most all of it. Thanks to him my closet doors now work and my cabinet pulls are all tight again.

We also did some creating... Brett worked on frames for my birthday present. Brothers at their best--Peter provided the credit card at Home Depot and Brett the skills.

In the meantime, I finished a long-overdue project called "curtains". Brett asked, "Why didn't you do some of this stuff when you moved in?" Yeah. Thanks for the reminder. But curtains are expensive and time consuming. The one pictured below is courtesy of the great Uncle who provided fabric extraordinaire. I found some other perfect grey velveteen at (shhhh....don't tell anyone) Goodwill that offsets my dining room perfectly. More on those wonderful discoveries later....

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


It's time!
My rooster crowed for me at 5:30 am sharp ....
It was his first vocalization as a full-grown male...
he must have got the news...I am one year older...
The year has gone by so fast. Here is the Scripture that I have read for most of my life; it graced my highschool announcement and it has been in a frame in my room for almost ten years now. Nana gave it to me in a card last night at the Shank family night, where we started off the celebration early. It was my meditation for this morning and it spoke great faith into my heart as a prayer for the coming year. I am praying for wholeness in my heart and life as I walk out the good plans God has for me and my husband.
Jeremiah 29:10-14
"For thus says the Lord... I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me. When you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you..."

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Family Visits

My brother Peter
My mom and dad

The girls Me & my grandmother

Here are recent pictures of the family from a weekend trip to DC. There are no pictures of Brett, because he was busy studying chemistry; and, he is going to be here for a visit TODAY! I've got my "honey-do-list" of projects for him to work on around the house. And we are hopefully going to build some bookshelves. We'll keep you posted on the progress... We'll see how much two little workerbees can accomplish in a few days. The list is growing as we speak! But I'm ready for it... I hope he is!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Pictures as Art?

This post is in honor of Aunt Nel... don't these look like pointilism? They are the epitome of "home" visions and warm fall feelings for me.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Meet the Author

Does anyone have any favorite authors? How do you find good books to read? This age of television and internet being more popular than any other medium means there is little time invested into the reading of great literature. My mother turned me into an early, avid reader when I was 4 1/2 by tempting me with words from The Little House on the Prairie. She couldn't read as fast as I wanted to know what happened to Laura, so before she had finished it, I had picked it up enough to read it on my own. Now, it's all suddenly making sense. This is probably why I've always wanted to have a farm.

One of the best resources I have found for compelling fiction and inspiring writing is a catalog I get in the mail, Bas Bleu. My grandmother, an avid reader, refered to me this amazing wealth of the written word. Everytime this catalog comes in the mail I pour through it for new recommendation. When I was younger, my mother would take us to the library and we would inevitably try to check out more than the maximum number of books. The habit has stayed with me, and was one of the first things I did when I moved. Now, I just tap into my library online to find which books they own. (This is obviously the cheapest way to get great fiction.)

My most recent book was Madeliene L'Engle's Two-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage. I was so inspired by this book because of her deep faith and creativity as a woman and a writer. I met Madeleine when I was about 12 when my mother read out-loud to us A Wrinkle In Time. Her books quickly became favorites and ever since I have re-read that series several times. Since then, I have been fascinated by her novels, but never searched out her other material. Back when we frequented Montgomery Public Library, there was never anytime else in the children's section under that author's name. (You have to understand it is one of the highest volume libraries in the there was always a shortage of good books.) As an adult however I still like reading children's fiction and try to stay up by reading all the Newberry Award Winners.

To say the least, I was deeply touched by the story of my favorite author's marriage and her faith in the face of the death of her husband. But I was also, I must confess, just as excited when the front page listed about 20 other books by her that I have never read!

I have decided that one of my new life goals is to first read all of her books, and then collect them all!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Welcome Home, Part Two

My friends Jon and Jenni lost their son, Chase, last week after only four short hours of life. We believe Jesus welcomed Chase home with open arms.
Jon and Jenni are heroic. They challenged current perspectives by carrying the baby to term. Then under what can be the crushing grief of losing a child, they throw a different kind of hope in our face. They challenge us on their blog not to waste Chase's life. People often use this phrase, but they set the bar even higher. They remind us that neither should we waste death. This throws us right back to the foot of the cross where the power of the gospel can completely change our egocentristic perspective. Who, except Jesus, would have the power to change not only life but redeem death?
Paul deeply knew the value of this lesson. He writes in 2 Timothy 1:8-14

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.

What rich truth! What hope! It is because of the mercy of God and through his great Love that we believe He redeems and restores that which, without His death, would merely be suffering without purpose.

Yet grief is a real part of the process, where we learn to take the suffering we experience and recognize God's purpose despite our pain. He draws us close. He "stores our tears in a bottle". "Surely He has borne our sorrows." Different seasons of grief, beginning early on in my life, at age 2 with my Opa's death, have carved deep channels into my heart, avenues of grace in grief that have made me face how God can still be good despite loss. I grieved over his death, only to see my uncle die and leave behind five cousins. My mother's miscarriages and then my other grandfather's death at first made me question God's good sovereignty.

Now I see how they were preparing me to face other trials and suffering. They taught me early on that suffering is to be expected in this life. But here's the secret: The Gospel makes all the difference. Because I know that real and lasting joy is not in this life, but in the life to come. I love what I read the other day about grief and this process of acceptance. Madeleine L'Engle writes:

"Now I am setting out into the unknown. It will take me a long while to work through the grief. There are no shortcuts;it has to be gone through...A couple of years ago a friend called me from her hospital bed, demanding, "Madeleine, do you believe everything that you have written in your books?"
I said yes then. It is still yes today.

But grief still has to be worked through. It is like walking through water. Sometimes there are little waves lapping about my feet. Sometimes there is an enormous breaker that knocks me down. Sometimes there is a sudden and fierce squall. But I know that many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it.

from Two-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage

White's Ferry Crossing, Maryland

Monday, November 13, 2006

Painting a Picture: Images of Home

Everyone has an image in their mind of what a home should look like. Madeleine L'Engle says about her home in Connecticut:
"There is mystery to all love. Why does this one man so move me? Why does this a small corner of our planet make me feel that I am home? We live in an uprooted society. During the long years of my father's dying my mother was uprooted. When he died she returened to her roots, to a Southern town where almost everybody was kin, where her childhood friends still lived. I used to love to read Louisa May Alcott's Eight Cousins, her story of a wonderfully warm and variegated New England family, and Mother told me that her Southern family was very much like that. Almost all of her friends and playmates were cousins. One of the best things about this present, difficult summer is that I have felt rooted. I am in the house that Hugh and I have loved for forty years. During the brief times that Hugh has been home, rather than in the hospital, I have dug in the garden; sometimes he has been up to sitting in a garden chair watching as I have planted, weeded, plunging my hands into the rich earth. Amazingly, the vegetables have flourished, despite the inevitable neglect. The forty years of our marriage are deeply rooted in Crosswicks.
In a chest of drawers in the attic are children's clothes which are still passed
around as needed, especially the beautiful little smocked dresses my mother gave
to my daughters. Even the pots and pans are part of the rootedness. This double boiler was given me early in our marriage by my beloved Mrs. O, who loved me without qualification until she died in her midnineties, and whose love I believe is still with me. This old-fashioned rice cooker came from my grandmother's kitchen in the South. This rebound Bible belonged to my great-grandmother Madeleine L'Engle, after whom I am named; her hands turned and marked the pages I read; her tears spotted them. When I walk the dogs at night I walk on land that has been familiar under my feet for forty years. It may be because I was a city child, born and raised on the asphalt island of Manhattan, that the actual feel of grass, of earth, is something of which I am acutely, joyfully aware. Above me the stars are part of the rootedness, stars which are patterned in the sky in a particular way in this corner of the planet. I am blessed in being rooted with my family, with Bio and Laurie making their own roots in this house which is well over two hundred years old... Food is part of the rootedness, food and water. Our water comes from our own artesian well. We know, as much as can ben known nowadays, what we are drinking. Much of what we eat comes fromt he garden and the evening meal is a special part of the rootedness, when we linger at the table, lighting candles or oil lamps as the sky darkens. We have consciously eaten well this summer, knowing that this quiet time of relaxation and pleasure is important, for we are weary, the body/spirit worn by all that has been happening. We eat the first young corn, which Hugh planted and now cnanot eat. Fix a platter of sliced tomatoes and green peppers, sprinkled with basil and chives. At night I go upstairs to a bed that is generations older than my marriage, a high four-poster bed in which Hugh and I have made love, and in which others before us have made love for more than two centuries. There is a good feeling to the bed, as there is to the house. Life has been lived in it fully. There are no residual auras of anger or frustration, but a sense of the ordinary problems of living worked out with love and laughter... A friend came by this afternoon to visit with Hugh and remarked that his unhappiness with the world of the yuppies is that their rootedness is only in money--money not as that whcih makes it possible for us to buy bread and milk and a roof over the head, but as a symbol of transitory vanities. Was he being too harsh? I'm not sure. But it reminded me that my own rootedness must be expressed in and through symbol and sacrament or it not rootedness at all. When I dig in the garden it is God's earth, given us to care for and noursih. It is all undergirded by the understanding of what "a goodly heritage" I have, and this gift is one I must honor in all that I do and all that I am."

Welcome Home

My dining room decorated for the fall.

After an intensely busy past month, I am finally home again.
This is my one day off after the West Women's Regional Conference before a full week of work again. Brett comes on Saturday(we can't wait, Brett!) and then comes Thanksgiving...then we have two weeks before we head back east again for the Christmas holidays.
But... I have a little catching up to do on the blogs. So this week is dedicated to the updates from this fall season.
Travis and I have a new morning schedule. We get up at 5:30 together, have devotions and prayer, then I get the computer for an hour while he works out. So, I am typing away on the couch while I hear the weight clinking and changing in the office. I am wrapped up in a quilt with the morning light behind me coming from my front window. The oatmeal in my bowl is half done and my coffee is probably cold. It's a beautiful fall day. The temperature last night probably reached the lower 40s (although I can't tell because I need a thermometer for outside...hint: my birthday and Christmas are around the corner!)
I am recently inspired from Isaiah 61 and Psalm 65 with their wonderful rich images of the fall time splendor that reflects the Designer:

Isaiah 61:11 For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and raise to sprout up before all the nations.

Psalm 65:9-13 You visit the earth and water it; you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide their grain, for so you have prepared it. You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth. You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with abundance. The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy, the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy.

There is so much bounty to give thanks for. All the details of our lives, the stories, the adventures are so rich with the provision of the Lord. I hope the stories from this week remind us all as we approach Thanksgiving, that in, through and about every event in our lives, God is working to reveal his great Splendor.

Saturday, November 04, 2006


Hello from Maryland!
I am visiting my family in the beautiful fall season for my girl's weekend. Every year for the past 7 years? (we're not sure when we started) we've gone on a "shopping trip" to copy our dear friends, the Mahaney girls. However, we have discovered that we prefer to eat rather than to shop. When we first started, we went to the outlet mall down in Virginia called Potomac Mills. We only did that twice. Now, we go to Leesburg, Virginia, nose around in the antique shops (our favorite being the Dutch antique shop called Ekster), and then go to lunch at our favorite girl's weekend spot, called Lightfoot Restaurant (go to the sight if only to hear the great piano music.) We have had the same waiter for 6 years running, but this time we broke our streak... so we had to do without our favorite white haired waitor, Gus. Then we proceed to the outdoor, upscale outlets at Leesburg Premium Outlets, so that we don't suffer from mall-induced suffocation. I know that it's a plot, to get people de-oxygenated in malls, so that their defences and coginitive reasoning are less.
At the end of our day, we stood in line at a Starbucks booth, only to witness a hysterical event. A woman in front of us told her order to the international gentleman at the register; she said, "I'll have a triple skim macchiato". The gentleman got a confused look on his face and so she expounded, "It's three shots with skim foam, like a very dry cappacino". His friend, the barista, a very vocal New Jersey-like accent, piped in and said, "What is that?" She repeated herself. The gentleman then asked her, "What size would you like?" She said, "Its a double tall". He asked her "Would you like a tall?" She finally gave in and said to him that he could put it in whatever cup he would like. Then the barista tried to confirm the order, "That's three shots, right?" She agreed and then the gentleman asked her, "Is that a cappacino?" in order to ring it up. So then the barista and gentleman did their best to add the different components of her drink together to figure out how to ring it up. Then the barista asked this lady if she would like it with whole milk. She said very affectively (without emotion, while we were just dying laughing) "Skim milk". Then, my mom whispered to me "Could I come back there and make it for you?". She finally got her drink and my mom stood up bravely to the counter and said, "I would like the same thing that lady just had but with two shots decaf and one shot regular". Bravo, Mom. Way to have those preferences.
Last night we returned from our shopping expedition across the river, to settle in around the fire as a family for a late dinner. We nixed all the popular restaurants one by one due to family preferences. Then we decided that we should made a classic Thai favorite, since there aren't too many good Thai places around here that we frequent, called pad thai. It was delicious and the company even better.
We got to talking about preferences, which is one of my father's endearing qualities. We told them the coffee story, and then my mom piped in with one of her iniquisitive moments. "I wonder if people use the same stall when they go to the bathroom. I would like to do a study and see if people use the same stall every time." We laughed at her and asked her what the application of this research would prove. Then an anonymous member of my family said, "Of course, because some of the units at work spray. And some of them have the toliet paper on the right, instead of the left." Wow. The world never ceases to suprise us.