Unclenching my grasp and breathing peace 

Eight years ago I was balancing work and a newborn baby. My job as a staff-writer for a local community paper allowed me to work from home at times. 

One morning I opened my work email and in place of my signature and work title it read, “I will unclench my grasp and breathe peace in and out.”

The words took my breath away. 

The message was perfect for me at that time in my life, but I couldn’t imagine who, how, or why my work signature was changed to that sentence. I called my co-workers and they knew nothing about it. I logged back in and there was my original work signature as pretty as you please. 

It left me unsettled not knowing how or why it happened, but the message stuck. My co-workers were equally intrigued and so poignant was the message that one had it written in calligraphy on a beautiful note card and framed for me as a gift. That framed message sits on my desk at the Sadie Rose House today and it always seems to catch my eye at a time when I need to be most reminded.  

I never thought before or since to search the Internet for that quote.  

This past year has been one of grasping, clenching, holding, releasing, and growing with two foster children in our home. One has been with us for more than a year now and the tension of rooting for others to get their lives in order while loving their child that feels like our own has driven me to my knees many times. 

My grasp was firmly clenched, the little fingers wrapped tightly around my heart. Releasing this precious child to the process has shaken me to my core. I breathed way more anxiety and fear than peace. 

Another child joined us more recently. Again I find myself loving, grasping, clenching, and holding even though this one will most likely be temporary. 

I have known moments of peace recently, but the reality is that we are barreling through life at breakneck speed and the train is having trouble slowing down. We are fighting fierce battles against hellish addictions and patterns and learned behaviors. At the same time we are fighting stigmas that are coming from the most surprising places. 

Through it all, I have been grasping my own abilities, answers, sanity, and love, clenching tightly to my own strength. There are many days my well is dry. I open my tightly clasped fingers to see my own strength evaporating like a vapor. What little I thought was there seems more like an illusion in light of the chasm of need. 


Now we are here in this season of advent where, as Christians, we prepare for the coming of the Savior. I’ve said it, heard it, read it… Emmanuel, God WITH us. We celebrate a Savior who enters our darkness, chaos, mess, and brokenness, and whose love permeates every broken messed up hellish place of our life. And yet I’ve struggled to feel it in my heart even though I know it in my head. 

Where is this Emmanuel in the broken stories of our foster children? Where is he  in the grief of those whose children, spouse, parent, best friend has died? Where is “God with us”when nations and cities and regions are ravaged by war. Where is he when people are neglected and power abused, sometimes even in the name of this God?


And then today, my dear friend shared a post on Facebook that once again took my breath away. 

“Christmas at Midlife

I am no longer waiting for a special occasion; I burn the best candles on ordinary days.

I am no longer waiting for the house to be clean; I fill it with people who understand that even dust is Sacred.

I am no longer waiting for everyone to understand me; It’s just not their task

I am no longer waiting for the perfect children; my children have their own names that burn as brightly as any star.

I am no longer waiting for the other shoe to drop; It already did, and I survived.

I am no longer waiting for the time to be right; the time is always now.

I am no longer waiting for the mate who will complete me; I am grateful to be so warmly, tenderly held.

I am no longer waiting for a quiet moment; my heart can be stilled whenever it is called.

I am no longer waiting for the world to be at peace; I unclench my grasp and breathe peace in and out.

I am no longer waiting to do something great; being awake to carry my grain of sand is enough.

I am no longer waiting to be recognized; I know that I dance in a holy circle.

I am no longer waiting for Forgiveness. I believe, I Believe.

-Mary Anne Perrone

Via Sacred Dreams”

Did you SEE that?! Did you catch it?! Right there, smack dab on the middle of this beautiful advent poem is THAT VERY SENTENCE! 

“I unclench my grasp and breathe peace in and out.”

When I read my friend’s post, my breath literally caught in my throat. I have been grasping the wrongs things. I have been looking for Emmanuel in a God who comes and makes everything right, (and I believe one day he will.) But I’ve been caught up in looking for “God with us” in leaders and princes and kings and changed circumstances.  

But no, “Emmanuel with us” is right here in our home, wrapping his arms around broken hurting foster children. He is with us in the friend that walks with those in grief, sharing tears and offering shoulders. Emmanuel God with us is working through the lives and hearts of those who are silently and anonymously bringing Christmas cheer to the hurting and lonely. Right here in the middle of our messed up broken hellish lives Emmanuel is sharing coffee and bagels with those on the streets, loving the unloveable through very ordinary broken people just like me. 

Clearly this sentence, “I will unclench my grasp and breathe peace in and out” is timely, poignant, and personal once again. 


I’m letting go of my own abilities, releasing my grasp and relinquishing all to the One who meets us at the point of our need. When my life is fully surrendered to Emmanuel’s love, mercy, and provision, then and only then can I truly unclench my grasp and breathe peace in and out. 

May you also experience Emmanuel God WITH us this Christmas season and in the coming year. 

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Potpourri 

My life in glimpses. That’s how it seems these days. 

I love soap and lotion-making days at our house. The air smells fabulous and my hands feel so soft. No pictures because I’m too busy during the process, but today I made five gallons of laundry detergent, two recipes of dishwasher detergent, and two recipes of deodorant. 

I wish I had a picture of the soap bubbling over the edge of the pot… oops!

All that in between working on a “Christmas Around the World” program for our church and a Candlelight Remembrance Ceremony for the Sadie Rose Foundation. 

I am home with a little one today because the sitter wasn’t available. I ran errands to collect supplies for both of the services mentioned above and then drove to church and realized my keys were at home. I drove home and realized I was locked out of my house. No spare key. Husband had to backtrack thirty minutes to let me in the house. 

Our daughter had her dance recital last weekend. She was beautiful. At 5 years old, lives and breathes dance. 

Every now and then I try to “wipe the cute” off these sweet faces around here. Our little guy must have taken me literally. I had just cleaned his face from eating a sandwich when he came to me with peanut butter on his hand and said, “Mommy, cute, hand, wipe off.” 

I used my mad mud-bogging skills in a mini van last evening on the way to and from music practice. Shhhh… don’t tell the children they were safe puddles on a country dirt road, not really off-roading, but they were delighted to see how high the water splashed up on our van. 

I am finally singing again after recovering from a hemorrhagic nodule on my left vocal chord. There is still a certain pitch I’m having trouble with, but at least I can sing. It has been exactly one year since the hoarseness started and I am just really starting to sing again. 


I don’t really have many pictures to share. I get too caught up in the business of living and forget to stop and photograph the memories. Here is a picture of a poinsettia leaf that fell from our plant and then got rained on. The beauty was breathtaking when I saw it on our driveway the next morning. 

Other than that, I’m busy preparing our hearts and home for Christmas. What are your Christmas traditions? I’d love to hear from you near and far! 

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. Autumn has always been my favorite season. Initially I was going to name this my obligatory thanksgiving post, but there’s nothing obligatory about it. I wouldn’t have to share anything publicly, but I truly can’t help it. There is a well-spring of gratefulness inside me brimming with thanks, and I cannot help but let it spill over. 

I am thankful for all of the obvious things, freedom, faith, family, friends, shelter, food enough, clothing. 

But I’m especially thankful for small things too… 


Like Christmas lights. I hung this string in the boy’s room this evening and haven’t stopped looking at their beautiful glow. I am thankful for these lights and think of those who do not have the ease of electricity.  

And fun in the fall leaves. I love their crunch, their smell, their color, and the endless hours of fun they provide for childlike hearts. I am thankful for fallen leaves and think of those whose hearts are so heavy they cannot find the joy in them. 


I’m thankful for birthdays and feasts. We had a birthday Monday and Tuesday this week in our household, so Tuesday evening I made this spread of meat loaf, hippie loaf (a bean and veggie loaf), stuffing, herbed roasted baby potatoes, Dijon glazed green beans, mushroom gravy, cranberry sauce, and an apple, grapefruit, pomegranate salad. (All recipes except the meatloaf came from the Forks Over Knives App or the Meal Mentor app so everything except the meatloaf and cake were plant-based.)I also made the plant based pumpkin pie and pumpkin cranberry cookies the day before. I seldom cook so much at one time, but this was such a worthy celebration; my husband and our newest foster child whose life and presence is worth way more than a hearty meal. I am thankful for food, for abundance, and think of those who are hungry as we eat. 


I am thankful for frosty mornings. I know most people think I’ve lost my mind when I say this, but I absolutely love a good frosty sunshiny morning. I am thankful for our wood stove, for jackets and coats and a trusty old van with a heater on these beautiful frosty mornings and think of those who are shivering in the cold. 


I am thankful for the beautiful area we call home and that even though I am currently too busy to do much hiking or horseback riding there are scenes such as this that I can enjoy from my van. So often I stop for a five minute reprieve to enjoy the scenery and inhale the fresh air. I am thankful for tranquil places and spaces and think of those who live in fear and threat of violence. 

I am so thankful for the hope and promise of an eternity with God, where all these earthly cares will no longer plague us. I am thankful for this hope and pray for the hopeless. 

I could go on and on and could still never truly count all my blessings. I am bountifully rich in soul and love and even worldly things that to name them all would be an impossibility. 

I will leave you with a link to one of our children’s favorite songs. 

You can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd.

Wishing all a gentle and peaceful day of thanks. 

Facebook Food; dill pickle soup and grilled cheese dippers

Life has been unusually busy for us these past few weeks as we continue to adjust to a new foster placement and maintain our already hectic schedule. 

These are the days I find the morning coffee I didn’t get to drink in the microwave in late afternoon. 


The days I am thankful that an old top entertains four children for long periods of time. 


I am thankful for friends who lend helping hands in so many ways, whether it be for our children, our non-profit, or for our larger community. 

These are the days that pass so quickly, but that I will one day miss and long to re-experience. 

In the meantime, I sit with our littles as they drift off to sleep. To stay awake myself, I read articles and often scroll through Facebook to catch up on friends and the rest of the world. I’ve been saving recipe links my friends have shared on Facebook. Tonight I made a combo of two I was most excited about, dill pickle soup and grilled cheese dippers.

The original recipe for the soup can be found here.  

Since we eat a mostly Whole Foods plant based diet, I adapted the recipe, but I can assure you the original would taste quite fantastic as well! Here’s the recipe with my changes. The whole family loved it! 

Dill Pickle Soup

5 cups vegetable stock

4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into small-ish pieces

4 medium carrots, washed but unpeeled, chopped small

1 cup chopped baby dill pickles 

(I skipped the butter altogether)

1 cup all purpose flour

1&1/4 cup unsweetened unflavored plant-based milk

1&3/4 cup dill pickle juice

Old Bay seasoning

Salt and pepper to taste

Method: Pour the vegetable stock into a large pot and add the potatoes and carrots. Cook until vegetables are tender, about 10-15 minutes. Add chopped dill pickles. Mix the plant-based milk and flour in a gravy shaker and shake well. Pour into soup pot, stirring continuously and vigorously. This will thicken quickly. 

Add dill pickle juice and seasonings. Cook and stir another five minutes. 


Fabulous!!!!! 

The other recipe I was excited to try was the grilled cheese dippers. I know that these grilled cheese include dairy, but we are not a teetotaler Whole Foods plant based family. You can also substitute vegan cheese and butter for these if you’d prefer. I want to try the tomato soup included in the post, but haven’t yet. Grilled cheese and homemade tomato soup have long been one of my favorite fall suppers. 

The recipe for the grilled cheese dippers can be found here. 


I’d love to know if you try these either with the original recipes or my adaptations and what you think. I hope you enjoy them as much as we did. 

Just for laughs 

For some reason my mind was recalling childhood stories this evening and I thought I’d share a few with you. 

1) By 1992, some of the family had strayed from our upbringing and were watching movies and television with friends. This was the year the movie “Wayne’s World” was released and for some reason it was a big hit for my oldest brother. He would walk around the house saying, “Party on, Wayne.”


After this went on for awhile my mom finally said, “I just don’t get it! Why would someone party ON Wayne?!” 

Even after repeated attempts at explanation mom was still struggling with the idea of someone partying ON Wayne. Finally my brother changed the words to, “Continue to party, Wayne.” She got it then. 

I’ve still never seen that movie. 

2) In the lifestyle in which we were raised, it was not unusual for a van load of relatives and/or friends to show up from out of state and stay with a host family. The host family would then drive their guests around for visits with others within the church. 

Even though we all wore the “plain dress,” we could often tell at a glance if someone was not from our area. 

One day myself, my two little sisters, and several neighbor kids, decided to dress up as “Canadian visitors,” and go for a visit. I don’t remember much what the other’s did, but I put powder in my hair to whiten it, pulled it straight back into a bun, and put on my mom’s head covering and bonnet. I also dug out her plainest dress and shoes. I was probably about 12 so to fill out her caped dress, I stuffed tea towels in the top. 

We hitched up the horse and buggy and decided to drive the five miles or so to someone we knew well. I was driving. 

The buggy looked a lot like this one, but had four doors instead of two. The horse was even close the the same color. 
As we drove past the house of someone we barely knew, one of the kids tugged unexpectedly on the horses rein and he turned into their driveway. 

Simple, I thought, we can just turn around and drive right back out. What I didn’t anticipate was a dog barking ferociously that would spook the horse. 

I handed the reins to one of the boys and jumped out to manually turn the horse around, but the dog was awfully suspicious of me, too. Maybe he smelled the baby powder in my hair. 

The dog started after me so I began circling the buggy to jump back in. The kids in the buggy were scared and had closed the door so I was out of  luck. Meanwhile, the matron of the household was standing at the door with a puzzled and somewhat horrified look on her face as the tea towels started falling out of the bosom of my dress. I was never so thankful for a disguise in my life. 

Eventually we got the horse turned back around and I landed safely back in the buggy, along with the tea towels that had tried to escape. We did go on to visit our friends and were so well disguised that we had them fooled until they saw us close up and heard us talk. 

I don’t have pictures because we didn’t have cameras. What I wouldn’t give to have that scene caught on a cell phone video.

For all that was hard in our lives, we sure did know how to have a great time! 

The gift of routine 

I’m sorry I haven’t posted in awhile. I have a great recipe post in the works, but in the meantime, I’ve been ruminating on the gift of routine. 

We recently added another youngster to our home through foster care. (That would explain my lack of posts because we’ve been getting to know one another.) 

Sometimes as adults we feel stuck in a routine rut. We get up, we go to work, we come home, we navigate evening activities on the schedule, and so on, and for the most part it can feel pretty mundane. For children who’ve never had that consistency, routine can be one of the greatest blessings we can give them. 

All children (and most adults if we’re honest) want to be reassured that life has routine and rhythm. We want to know that when we go out for the day (or night if we’re working night shift) that our humans are going to meet us back home at the end of the day. We want to know that when we leave home, we will return after whatever work or activity we are attending is over. We have a familiar places we frequent, places we pass daily, patterns, routines, that make up the big picture of our lives. 



While breaking out from routine can be healthy and necessary from time-to-time, never discount the security these rhythms give us, especially our children. 

More than we can handle

I’ve never subscribed to that tired worn-out cliche that “God won’t give us more than we can handle.” We WILL at some point or other go through more than we can handle, (whether it comes from God or not is perceived by the individual,) and we WON’T be able to get though it on our own. 


But when going through more than I can handle, I am amazed again and again at the empowering of God’s Spirit and Amazing Grace. 

That doesn’t mean I don’t feel overwhelmed at times, or that I don’t want quit. I’m human and I’m real. Giving up, quitting, hibernating until “it” gets better, are all options that dangle in front of my eyes like candy to a toddler. 

But somehow, with God’s help, we can not only make it through the trial, but find the redemptive work of grace within it. 

Whatever you are going through today, I pray you can sense God’s presence and power within and through you.