Monday, December 14, 2015

The Illumination of the Menorah: Then and Now

As the sun sets this evening and closes out the 8th day of Hanukkah, the festival of lights and miracles, I close my eyes for a moment to try and connect all of the information I've read...and studied...and gathered...and read some more this past week.

I have to take a moment to step back and marvel at how the Father works in my heart in season. How this celebration of Hanukkah seems to mirror the picture of Havdalah, which daily impresses on my mind the significance and importance of making the distinction of light and dark in this world, and choosing the holy over the profane.

The book of the Maccabees is commonly read during this time of year, but the paragraph below (with a little context included) shined especially bright into my heart...

“…Mattathias … said unto his sons, ‘Now therefore, my sons, be ye zealous for the law, and give your lives for the covenant of your fathers. Call to remembrance what acts our fathers did in their time; so shall ye receive great honour and an everlasting name.
Was not Abraham found faithful in testing, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness? Joseph, in the time of his distress, kept the commandment and was made lord of Egypt. Phinehas, our father in being zealous and fervent, obtained the covenant of an everlasting priesthood. Joshua, for fulfilling the word, was made a judge in Israel. Caleb, for bearing witness before the congregation, received the heritage of the land. David, for being merciful, possessed the throne of an everlasting kingdom. Elijah, for being zealous and fervent for the law, was taken up into heaven. Hannaniah, Azariah, and Mishael, by believing, were saved out of the flame. Daniel, for his innocency, was delivered from the mouth of lions. And thus consider ye throughout all ages, that none that put their trust in Him shall be overcome…
Wherefore, ye my sons, be valiant and show yourselves men in the behalf of the law; for by it shall ye obtain glory.
’’ I Maccabees 2:49-60
And as I ponder, there are 4 aspects of Hanukkah that have been illuminated in my mind...

As Mattathias charged his sons to choose to be zealous for the instruction of G-d, we too, are met with choices daily in which we have the opportunity to make the distinction between light and darkness, and choose that zeal for the covenant. The kind that brings holiness back into the world through each thought, spoken word, action...these opportunities to choose to elevate the holy are is however, a conscious choice...

While there are many times in a day where the light and darkness are easy to separate, most opportunities to purposely choose an action of holiness often comes in the deepest and darkest moments and struggles of life. A trial or hardship that you choose to look at as an opportunity, is then turned from the negative that it was and forming the energies to dedicate a place or moment of time into holiness. Taking something that is dark and creating a bright positive light. The dedication of this choice is the first step to the redemption of your light and bringing heaven down to earth...

We could go back in scripture and look at many, many examples of our Forefathers who after choosing the holy, took a step of action in complete faith not knowing the outcome. In the story of the Maccabee's, the life source of oil in the Temple was destroyed except for one jar, enough to keep the Menorah in the Temple burning for just one day. It would be 8 days before they could properly prepare more oil yet they took the step of action, without knowing what was next...that 1st candle that they lit was in essence, reaching to HaShem with faith...

Hashem sees our actions that we make out of righteousness and faith. We take that first step (light the first candle) which opens wide the gate for His miracles. He is waiting for us to light the Menorah (this can be studied further in the first aliyot of Leviticus 24). In the midst of dark spiritual times, not to mention literally the darkest time of the year, the Jewish people rose up and lit the Menorah.

While the book of the Maccabees shares much of the military success of that time, we must also remember the Spiritual level of Hanukkah - the charge to begin that small flicker of Light of the Menorah in the midst of darkness. To cleanse the Temple both physically in our actions, and spiritually in our hearts as we choose holiness and shine brightly.

We take action and light that first candle, HaShem lights the rest...He sees the faith and gives it great honor.

This year in Israel the Jewish people made an effort to light a Menorah at every site where there was a terrorist attack. In a very beautiful action, they are showing that what was meant for darkness, they will with G-d's help turn into light.

To light that first flame requires making a choice, a dedication and a step of faith. For it to shine brightly for another eight days is a miracle from HaShem. For a brief moment, a time that is difficult in history, whether it was the Maccabees so many years ago or us today...we are taking the step of faith and choosing the holy when we see the distinction between light and dark...we dedicate to HaShem and He answers.

Hanukkah may be over for this year, but may our flame in the Menorah of G-d keep illuminating brightly until the next season of Hanukkah, the oil not run dry. We have a mission, to bring blessing and light back to the world!

As the Menorah, may our hearts burn for our first love, HaShem, and for Israel.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

{Look at the Olives}

When it comes to life lessons, the fruit of the Land teach us many and on this universally known "day of thankfulness", I look to the olive...

A hearty fruit that is plucked roughly off the comfort of it's branches by being shaken or beaten from the tree. Falling to the ground, it is picked back up then squeezed and pressed until the oils run from the pit, it's very core. Then with heat applied, the precious oil is separated... the olive, there are times in life where we too, are shaken. We fall and get back up again only to be squeezed and pressed...

the holy from the profane...

the life from the death...

On a day where yes, I give thanks for dear family, a beautiful farm to call home and many other provisions in life, I remember the olive and choose to give thanks for the refining process that I have also experienced this year. 

I could look back on this past year and see hurt and pain in some of the events that took place. But today I am making the extra effort to choose to give thanks because even though I don't understand the story yet, G-d is the perfect refiner. He grants us these opportunities to choose life and holiness amidst the pressing, so that in the end the inner core of our hearts will be purified and our lives bear much fruit.

Even though I'm mid-process of this life-refining journey (aren't we always?), I choose to reflect on the growth that the difficulties have brought to my life - much refinement, just like the crushing and pressing does to an olive in order for it to truly bear it's fruit from within. I choose to see each of the struggles and challenges as deeper opportunity to crush through the hard outer layer of my soul and find the oil that can ultimately partner with G-d and bring holiness to the world.

Thankfulness doesn't stop at just seeing the obvious gifts of life. It is also about searching for the good in every trial that presents itself in the journey, and choosing joy and gratitude. It's about making the choice to let the difficulties refine you like the olive, and still be grateful even though the steady pressing may feel beyond you at points...

Thankfulness is about going through the process of being crushed, pressed and refined and still saying Baruch HaShem // Thank G-d, in every moment between.

"And I have trusted in your kindness, my heart rejoices in your salvation, I sing to Hashem for he has been gracious to me." Psalm 13:6

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Letting Go and Letting G-d

Written from my heart to yours, dear Girl who is on this journey of letting go and letting G-d:

It's normal to want to hold on.

Times, relationships, memories...they are so close to your heart, so precious, so beautiful and an answer to many prayers. At least for a while, life takes you on a path that seems nothing short of a perfect dream. I understand it; I too, walked that path.

Somewhere along the journey however, there is a bend in the path. Those things you hold on to, they fade into memories. That "perfect" dream slips away. And you learn to dance in the rain, to choose joy over happiness, to praise through the tears and to trust no matter the outcome. To let go of what is most priceless to you and let G-d.

Such is the story now mine.

The journey isn't so short, and the bumps on the path are many. Look at them as opportunities not road blocks, sweet girl, who is searching for G-d. Opportunities to choose holiness.

Find Him in the little moments, He is there.

Choose joy which transcends all circumstances of happiness.

Life has its share of tests: In the midst of that slow dance in the rain of tears, we have to release the tight grasp, slowly opening our hands and layer by layer, surrender our dreams, memories, plans and relationships on that rocky path. This is taking that first wobbly step of faith, sometimes blindly, in order to see fruit later on down the road. And understand dear girl, that as we release our self and fill that place with more of Him and less of us, G-d never lets go of His love for us.

|| To dance in the rain, you must first learn to praise in the storm ||

It comes in steps.

It takes time.

It takes so much courage.



Sometimes this laying down of ourselves is for a season, sometimes it's forever.

But once you lay it all down, you find new life. You walk to the end of the bumpy path and as you come out of the woods, tired, worn and stripped away of self, you find light and a new path. A new part of the journey that clothes you to become a pure and spotless bride of Yahweh. A place where G-d slowly restores your dreams and desires, but does not awaken them until His time. A time of becoming His bride first, the only place where our thirst will truly be quenched, our heart fully satisfied.

You, a beautiful spotless bride of Yahweh. You've stepped out of the woods and into a field graced with wild flowers. Arrayed in a white linen dress, beams of joy shining from your eyes. You see sweet girl, that your slow dance in the rain was beautiful in it's own way but as you let go of self and let G-d fill that space, you usher in a new season with even more beauty, a deep, life-giving offering being lifted to HaShem as you seek after your Heavenly Bridegroom wholeheartedly. He is looking tenderly at you with joy, thankful that you listened. Learned. Heeded. Thankful that you were faithful during that storm and bumpy path. Thankful that you kept pressing into the Word in order to get to Him. He turns ashes into beauty, rain into sun.

He tenderly fills your heart with the knowledge that you are:

Chosen. {I have called you by name}

Holy. {I have redeemed you}

Loved. {You are mine}

Beautiful. {You are precious in my eyes, and honored}

On this new part of the journey sweet girl, you've found contentment. You've learned to praise Him in the storm, you've danced in the rain and now you dance for your Heavenly Bridegroom. You've given it your everything, chosen joy and sought G-d with all your heart. All because you took the blind step of faith, let go and let G-d.

As a pure and spotless bride, you have chosen to take your place in the partnership with HaShem. Bringing holiness into each situation and heaven down to earth.

As you continue running towards your Heavenly Bridegroom with all your heart, may He reward you for your faithfulness! Because you walked the Wilderness Journey, praised in the storm, danced through the rain and replaced that "self" with Him, may He grant you the desires of your heart!
“And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in justice, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness; and thou shalt know Jehovah.”  Hosea 2:19-20

 "One thing have I desired of the L-RD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the L-RD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the L-RD, and to inquire in his temple." 
Psalm 27:13-14

Monday, November 23, 2015

Soon, even in our days

Sometimes you can get into the pattern of doing something for a long time but not truly understand why you're doing it...or at least the full extent. For me, it happened in prayer. Why did I pray for the peace of Jerusalem? I always thought it was because the Mashiach will be returning to Mt. Zion and then true peace will reign. While that is true, there was a deeper layer that I didn't fathom or understand until I was in Israel and we walked the Temple Mount. Then I saw the bigger picture.

This prayer for Zion is a prayer for the heart of it all - the Temple Mount. Where there is currently a mixing of light and darkness. While I'm praying for holiness to return and for peace to be re-established in Jerusalem, I'm also praying for the place where the Holy of Holies stood. I'm praying for:

Peace vs. Chaos

Holy vs. Profane

Light vs. Dark

Love vs. Hate

Life vs. Hostility.

As we tried to walk around the Temple Mount, we experienced "Waqf" (Islamic people trying to control and manage the area) trying to kick us off the Mount and telling us that the Temple Mount didn't belong there but rather a mosque did.

Muslim people were screaming "alah akabar" at us, intending to rush us out.

At points it was incredibly chaotic, anything but peace. There isn't religious freedom there, the location that is the holiest site in Judaism and where the Holy of Holies stood.

When I pray for the peace of Jerusalem, now I see the faithful Jewish people who still come to pray. In striking contrast to the chaos, they bring peace, holiness, love, life and light back to Mount Zion. They long to get close to G-d's holy mountain, to stand and worship and pray on the Temple Mount. To simply walk on Mount Zion without getting screamed at.

The closest they can get and actually pray visibly and without harassment is OUTSIDE the Temple Mount at the Western Wall, also known as the Kotel.

Baruch HaShem, we can pray in our hearts without our lips moving, without our eyes closed...and they do. Their hearts cry out for peace. Hoshiana, save please.

The Jewish people press on and they pray. Even if it is outside the Temple Mount. With zeal and fervor they pray and worship HaShem. They press on.




While I stood on the women's side praying right alongside the Jewish women and friends I was reminded of Moses, when he pleaded with G-d to enter the promised Land that he longed for. HaShem answered:

“Do not speak to me anymore about this matter. Go up to the top of Pisgah and look west and north and south and east. Look at the land with your own eyes, since you are not going to cross this Jordan. But commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead this people across and will cause them to inherit the land that you will see.” Deuteronomy 3:26-28

The Jewish people are pleading to go to that beautiful holy place on the Temple Mount -- they long for it wholeheartedly! Still right now they have to stand outside and see it, and not go in. Yet G-d is preparing them and many others and when Mashiach comes to reign in Zion, peace will return and we will pray and worship. Together. On Mount Zion.

Shema Yisrael Adonai Elohainu, Adonai Echad.

"From Your heavenly abode You will appear O our King, and reign over us, for we wait for You. When will you reign in Zion? Soon, even in our days, may You dwell there forever and ever. May You be exalted and sanctified within Jerusalem, Your city, from generation to generation and for all eternity." 

Monday, August 31, 2015

The {signs} and the {seasons}

 "Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to divide the day from the night; 
let them be for signs, seasons, days and years...Genesis 1:14

You made the moon to mark the seasons,
and the sun knows when to set. Psalms 104:19

The hebrew word for season in both of the verses above is mo'ed which means appointed time and/or place. Tonight at sundown begins the 17th day of Elul, the month in the Hebrew calendar that leads up to the three fall mo'edem: Rash Hashana, Yom Kippur and Sukkot. In these particular 60 days of preparation, we are meditating on Teshuva [return]. It is a month of deep introspection and setting apart, a time of repentance that turns from our wicked ways and returns back to the Father. A time of diligently re-aligning ourselves to HaShem and what He has instructed of us. Looking at our Father's appointed times [mo'ed], His Feasts, Shabbats, seasons, we glimpse the bigger picture of the incredible order and love of our Heavenly Father and how He truly prepares and works in our lives in Season. 

It is said that "Elul is a haven in time, a "city of refuge" from the ravages of material life; a time to audit one's spiritual accounts and assess the year gone by; a time to prepare for the "Days of Awe" of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur by repenting the failings of the past and resolving for the future. Elul is the opportune time for all this because it is a month in which G-d relates to us in a more open and compassionate manner than He does in the other months of the year. In the terminology of Kabbalah, it is a time when G-d's "Thirteen Attributes of Mercy" illuminate His relationship with us." (source)

The letters of Elul אלול spell the acrostic of the following verse: "I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine" -Songs 6:3. [Ani ledodi vedodi li]
ℵ : The numerical value of "Elul אלול" is also equivalent to "life chayim חַיִּים". Repentance/Return [teshuva] brings life!

We repent and turn from the sin in our life which brings us closer to our Beloved who cares so deeply for us and has given to us this season of teshuva and drawing close to Him. 

Elul. A season of preparation of our hearts and lives. Lechoo Veynashuva [Let us return] May our eyes be opened to the signs and seasons, may we humbly introspect our lives, pray with courage and steadfastly seek HIS face. May we turn from our wicked ways and *return* to Him.

Look up, the King is in the field. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

He Has Shown Thee

A few weeks ago in Parsha Balak, the halftorah included a favorite and somewhat well known verse...

"Human being, you have already been told what is tov (good), 
what Adonai demands of you - 
no more than to act justly, love grace and walk in purity with your G-d." 
-Micah 6:8

As I read a commentary on the portion, I was challenged to study the verse a little deeper and by replacing the english words "justly", "grace" and "purity" with the original hebrew: "Mishpat", "Chesad" and "Halak Tsana" I found: 

"Human being, you have already been told what is tov [good], what Adonai demands of you - no more than to act justly [Mishpat: in conformity to instruction, according to truth and facts], love grace/covenant loyalty [Chesad: be obedient out of kindness and love to the Father for the covenant of Torah] and walk in purity [Halak Tsana: live your life in modesty and humility] with your G-d."

We are told to "do justly" - how do we know what justice is? Instruction...Torah.
We are told to "love grace" - what is grace? G-d's covenant faithfulness. Torah.
We are told to "walk humbly" - what walk? Our walk of obedience. And what are we to be obedient to? Our blueprint...Torah.

So in other words? Let your halacha (walk) be in conformity to the instruction of covenant faithfulness (Torah), walk in modesty and humility and be obedient to it because of your love for our Heavenly Father, the other part, author and giver of the Torah covenant.

Fast forward a few Parsha's to Eikev // you follow. Moshe pleaded with the Father that He might see the promised Land, but HaShem said to Moshe: "...look with your eyes but you will not go across this Yarden. However, commission Y'hoshua, encourage him and strengthen him; for he will lead this people across and enable them to inherit the land that you will see." (Deuteronomy 3:27&28)

It is in this setting that Moshe humbly prepares and teaches the people before they enter the land...

"So now, Isra'el, all that Adonai your G-d asks from you is to fear Adonai your G-d, follow all his ways, love him and serve Adonai your G-d with all your heart and all your being." Deuteronomy 10:12

Sound familiar? You've already been told what is tov and what the L-rd requires....

 "You are to love Adonai your G-d and always obey his commission, regulations, rulings and mitzvot." Deuteronomy 11:1

He's asking for obedience.

The covenant of Torah is a tree of Life. It is guidance, protection and blessing to those that take hold of it. This world is getting more and more bold and hostile in sin; news is flooded with reports of abortion, homosexuality, murdered and disappearing Dr.'s. Just like Sodom and Gomorrah, sin is rampant and let us not be so naive as to think that this will go unpunished. G-d abhors sin. He loves Life. He blesses obedience. Indeed, history repeats itself and "there is nothing new under the sun".

In this world evil surrounds us. But far greater than that, G-d's creation and life surrounds us too. Our Heavenly Father's Word is constant. His covenant is constant. He is constant. Our faithful covenant keeping G-d hasn't turned His eyes from us nor will He for a moment. He has plans for us that we may prosper, He fills creation with beauty and offers Life and blessing (note that "blessing" isn't always earthly material but rather divine riches as well...of Life and wisdom). He rules with justice and peace. He reigns with truth and love. He shows us the way to live and promises protection, strength, care...He gives us a covenant. And what is our part? To do justly, love grace and walk humbly.


"Human being, you have already been told what is tov (good), what Adonai demands of you - no more than to act justly, love grace and walk in purity with your G-d." -Micah 6:8

"See, I am setting before you a blessing and a curse - the blessing, if you listen to the mitzvot of Adonai your G-d that I am giving you today; and the curse, if you don't listen to the mitzvot of Adonai your G-d , but turn aside from the way I am ordering you today and follow other gods that you have not known." Deuteronomy 11:26-28

Rav Nahman bar Isaac demurred, saying that this might be taken as: Seek Me by observing the whole Torah and live. “The righteous shall live by his faith [steadfastness].” Habbakuk 2:4. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

The waves that refine

The sun was just beginning to set on Shabbat evening as I listened to the waves steady rhythm lapping up onto the small beach. I closed my eyes and let my mind drift away from it's aching body (after a wonderful 17 mile backpacking hike) to the beautiful lake that I was next to. The water was sparkling like crystal as the sun slowly began to set. The day was coming to a close...Shabbat shalom {Sabbath peace}. I listened to the waves constant refinement as it washed over the sand, purifying it.

The water kept rushing onto shore...constant, steady, refining...

In my life that water is Living. And it's steady consistent wave is lapping over my life as I walk through the "desert"-sand . Sometimes slowly, sometimes rushing quickly, that water is changing perspective, giving life and truth, lifting me with strength and courage.
That water is the Word of G-d. In the same way as those waves, the water comes...

...constant, steady, refining...

The lessons keep finding their way into my memory, the water impressing them into my heart and washing away the negative, replacing it with life. 

Blessed are those who reject the advice of the wicked, don't stand on the way of sinners or sit where scoffers sit! Their delight is in Adonai's Torah; on his Torah they meditate day and night. They are like trees planted by streams - they bear their fruit in season, their leaves never wither, everything they do succeeds. -Psalm 1:1-3

When the dry times of desert-walking come, I know where I am to go. Like a tree, my roots are to be planted firmly and rooted deep in the Word, to be washed over by that stream of Water that I may become refined and steadfast. Then the fruit of living will come in it's proper season...then the testifying to YHWH's faithfulness each step of the way. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

// This Desert Place //

/Embracing the Wilderness Journey/

Imagine the desert. Hot, vast, dry, endless. Shortly after a miraculous journey out of Egypt where Israel experienced the hand of our Father and witnessed many signs and wonders, they were headed to the beautiful promised land that G-d had prepared for them. But the people, they lost focus and vision just as we all tend to do and despite the miracles that they experienced, they started complaining. Again. The mana. The heat. The water supply. They complained about it all. G-d's faithfulness introduced a detour into: this desert place. A time of b'midbar/ reestablishing order. They wandered in the wilderness for 40 years; a season where G-d steadily refined their lives and hearts, slowly realigning them to Himself. He gave them Torah, the blueprint of how to live all because of his Chesed//love//covenant faithfulness for His chosen people: Israel. In their wilderness journey, the Father was preparing them for the incredible blessing of the promised land.

Just as the Israelites needed to be ready for their journey to the Promised Land, we too need to be ready for our journey back to the garden - our Promised Land in the Messiah. 
{The desert: A place specially intended to change perspective...when you have nothing, you realize how much you had. When you have nothing of this world or dreams are buried, you realize that still you have all that you need in YHWH. You give thanks. You begin to see again how active and faithful the Father is in life when things are good AND when things are hard}

This place of reestablishing order? This desert place? That is where I'm at. This place that from a human perspective feels so lonely, uncertain and sometimes hopeless? It's where He has me. Because He knew that it was this wilderness journey that I needed in order to realize that I'm not alone. To see the holy in the midst of pain. To experience the gift of the wilderness journey. It has caused me to reach deeper than ever before to find shalom in the Father. A place where I find unquenchable thirst for truth and holiness. The loneliness? The sorrow? Heart desires that are being taken away during the wilderness journey? It isn't easy - the heat of the desert is there and real. Tears flow just like water did from the rock that Moshe' struck. But in this refining fire, the Father promises:

"Don't be afraid, for I have redeemed you; I am calling you by your name; you are mine. When you pass through water, I will be with you; when you pass through rivers, they will not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire, you will not be scorched - the flame will not burn you." -Isaiah 43:1-2
Indeed the desert experience is not one of comfort, but one of growth. 

A time to make priorities straight, a time to recognize the True purpose of life, a time to grow in ways that I never imagined. A time to study and cling to G-d's covenant that He gave so long ago at Mount Sinai.

During the wandering are we opening our hearts and listening?

"The Torah of Adonai is perfect, restoring the inner person. The instruction of Adonai is sure, making wise the thoughtless. The precepts of Adonai are right, rejoicing the heart. The mitzvah of Adonai is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of Adonai is clean, enduring forever. The rulings of Adonai are true, they are righteous altogether, more desirable than gold, than much fine gold, also sweeter than honey or drippings from the honeycomb." Psalm 19:8-11.

This desert place, the Father offers to you also. Will you embrace the wilderness journey?

"Even if you fail to conquer darkness entirely, even if you are still rolling in the mud with the enemy - you can still find G-d in the struggle itself. After all, He is not only light, He is darkness as well."
-Rebbe Schneerson

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

| Chedvah | Joy |

There are days in life that are sunny side up. You know, the ones where it's easy to choose simchah (joy|happiness|mirth) because life is smooth sailing, finances, relationships and jobs are going to plan and you feel as if you are living the dream and reaping the "desires of your heart". A hundred b'racha (blessings) each day are so easily offered up to the Father and indeed, choosing that joy is simple because in our human eyes, life is tov (good).  

But also in life, there are days full of loneliness, heartbreak, difficulty, transition, change and sadness. Challenges that rise up, causing the rubber to meet the road and this is where the real testing of our faith comes in. Can we run the race with endurance? Can we see that even in the storms of life, it is also tov? That in the difficulty rises an even greater opportunity for blessing and giving thanks? 

"Regard it all as joy, my brothers, when you face various kinds of temptations; for you know that the testing of your trust produces perseverance." James 1:2&3

 Some days we have to seek harder, look further and reach higher for Shalom (peace) and for Chedvah (joy). Joy is a choice; some days it comes easily while other days it needs to be worked for.

In the Jewish culture, it is custom derived from the Talmud to say 100 Blessings (b'racha) a day. It is a way of remembering the source of all goodness and cultivates a mindset of thankfulness. Speaking a b'racha establishes a person's proper perspective. It declares that YHWH is the King of the universe. He is blessed. He is praised. He is tov.

||Choosing joy is giving thanks||

Speaking life and blessing is choosing joy. It is actively deciding to focus on what we do have instead of what we don't. It is finding good in the mundane or even the loneliness and difficulty and elevating our perspective to recognize and see all the good in the world. It is acknowledging all of the daily gifts that are so easily taken for granted but indeed are miracles and wonders given each day. A new day of life, the ability to hear, speak, walk.
"I cried because I had no shoes, until I met a man that had no feet" - Author Unknown
Saying these 100 blessings a day, it cultivates ground for joy, it fosters a place for shalom and it transforms our eyes from seeing life as mundane and common place to a Spiritual perspective. A platform of hope. Choosing joy and being positive despite our circumstances is aligning our perspective to the Father's.

"In everything give thanks, for this is what G-d wants from you who are united with Messiah Yeshua." 1 Thessalonians 5:18
"Yah is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation." Exodus 15:2
"I will extol the L-rd at all times, his praise will continually be in my mouth." Psalm 34:1

Choose joy!

Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu!
Blessed are You, Adonai our G-d 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

When will my life begin? -- a lesson from Tangled

"Stuck in the same place I've always been
I just keep wanderin' and wanderin' and
wanderin' and wanderin' 
when will my life begin?"

I have heard the myth of "my life hasn't started yet" often since I graduated high school and entered the new phase of questions life.

You graduate high school and "just like that", the consistency is gone. No more of the steady continuation of doing the next chapter in a math or science book. Until advanced education courses start (or whatever path that G-d is leading you down) you inevitably begin to ask "what's next?" "what is purpose?" "and what is purpose-filled?" "when will my life begin"? You cry out to G-d asking Him to Show you the path of Life (Ps. 16:11) and questions rise far quicker than conclusions are reached!

This post-graduation truth quest, though internally challenging at times, is an incredible blessing. The temptation is there to ask "when will my life begin"? And start to subconsciously insert "maybe when I get this job" or "maybe when I get married" etc. but the truth is that our life began at conception. It doesn't start with the new good job, marriage, a college degree, a dream house etc. (although all those things can be blessings and good). Our life began at conception!

Embrace the searching, knowing that it produces growth. But don't let it cause you to waste the moments that you're living now. Enjoy them, use them, fill them with meaning and purpose. Prepare for the tasks that the Heavenly Father has laid on your heart and as Proverbs says, get wisdom.

Use the season of questions to search deeper into what you believe - talk with parents, get together with mentors and most importantly, search the Word of G-d. Remember that each day is a blessing from the Father to serve and glorify Him, to use the talents and opportunities that He has given us for Him. To make even the most mundane of tasks a living sacrifice to Him...(do all things to the glory of the Father). Your task might be small - but if you do it with joy as unto the L-rd, then you have done well, faithful servant.

Ultimately, let the questions lead you to the foot of the cross. Realizing that without our Heavenly Father we are nothing but with Him we have purpose in life! Our life began at conception and our spiritual life with acceptance and belief that He is our guide and Savior on this beautiful life journey, where He guides us with His commandments, precepts and the Holy Spirit.

With G-d we don't keep wandering, because our life has begun. In Him, our purpose is fulfilled, our questions answered, our hope found. What a privilege and joy to walk day by day in His guidance and always in His grace.

"I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go." -Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Embracing a New Perspective for the Coming Season

A cool breeze flowed through the kitchen window as I washed dishes at the sink. I could see the trees, their leaves changing to warm, cozy colors of red, yellow and brown. Preparations for the coming winter were well under way; piles of wood being chopped and stacked, garden tilled under, chimney cleaned and just one more batch of applesauce in the canner to add to the rows of preserved summer bounty.

Taking a deep breath, my mind thought over a list -- partially crossed off, yet still long with what needs doing before the snow flies. Pulling my sweater tight, I thought for a brief moment, how lovely it would be to skip the cold winter and head right into Spring again...with all the warm weather, goat kids, budding trees and a newly planted garden that it brings. Not that I'm against winter and snow - I do love the snow and of course a good pair of carhartts. But why, I wondered, the cold for so long?

No sooner had the thought crossed my mind, that the Lord refreshed my perspective to be able to see His wisdom in blessing us with the cold winter months, realizing that it is a season of rest for the ground and for the farmers. A short window of time where we can pull up a chair by the fire to enjoy a good book and a family gathered around the table working on puzzles.

I began to see a bigger picture of embracing each season. Spring for it's new life, Summer for the growing season, Fall for preservation and harvest and Winter for rest. Each play a vital role in the circle of life. God has graciously arranged the seasons to change -- that we won't grow weary in His creation. but instead never cease to marvel at His glory and nature.

That moment at the kitchen sink, I determined to embrace the coming season of rest -- viewing it as a time of refreshment instead of waste. And through the lens of thankfulness I learned to embrace each season to it's fullest.

Here's to a restful winter, full of puzzles, hot chocolate and family time.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

{ My Mini Farm-Girls in Training }

{forgive me as I take a moment to boast about my little sis's...#proudbigsister}

My little sisters love doing barn chores with me. Morning or night, these little farm-girls-in-training sit on the side of a stanchion, legs dangling, while I milk and we chat...they learn how to milk the goats too (and amuse themselves by squirting the dog with milk)...they ask questions like there is no tomorrow and soak up the answers. They can tell you why we routinely dip with iodine before and after milking, and their little eyes watch the goat herd closely for any signs of illness that they learn about. 
They know it needs to be caught and cared for right away! 

Those little sweetie pies thrilled my heart tonight as they joined me in the barn and started working. Without my asking, they just showed initiative and did! At 6 and 4 years old, they saw a need and they met it. Those girls picked up a broom and some pitch forks, and not only did they make a tremendous difference in the barn yard mess, they giggled, laughed, talked and had fun as they swept and cleaned up. 

Their eyes danced with delight as they asked if they "made my day"? 
....actually, honey, you girls made my week. 

One of the many things that my parents have done just right is that they've trained each kiddo at an early age to work hard and persevere. 
That's not to say that we don't deal with laziness or a host of other issues - we do! 
But I am grateful...very, very grateful for the time that my Mom spent with us, showing us how to wash a floor well. Bless her heart, she looks back now and feels bad that every Monday Josh and I grabbed our wash buckets and rags, and scrubbed...and I'll tell you what, at seven years old we found every hidden pencil, penny and crayon. It taught us to be thorough as we hunted for those items. 
As simple as it may seem, that lesson has remained with both of us.

Now I watch three of my little sisters as they learn how to be good workers. This summer they had a great time picking peas each day, and have the current responsibility of raising our layer pullets. I proudly watched (concealed by a barn beam) as Natalie grabbed a paper towel and went the extra mile to clean the waterer for her chick project. 

One great joy of being an older sister, is to watch them discover how fun it is to be responsible. To exceed expectations, and learn. All of my siblings love to learn. And when I have the privilege of sharing what my Momma taught's an extra blessing. 

Thank you Mom and Dad, for teaching and training your children in all of the above. It is my prayer to some day pass along the same virtues to the next generation. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Snapshots from the Farm

This Spring has witnessed some delightful farm progress as Caleb helped me fix our pasture so that the does could have daily grazing access. I'm so grateful for his help and that the animals can enjoy the outdoors; possibly as much as I enjoy seeing them out in the pasture! 

My only wish was that my favorite doe, Tenn, could have lived 1 week longer to fully enjoy the beautiful outdoors herself. 
{my morning "hello" for the past 4 years ~ neither she or her twins made it after an extremely traumatic birth}


{Tori and fellow herd-mates loving the fresh grass}

{Tahala on the right; another favorite!}

{incredible weather}

 {loving the new territory}

{a view from the pasture}

Even though there have been some very difficult losses encountered, a walk around the farm gave me plenty to be grateful for. The new goat pasture, good rain this year, progeny from Tenn, our garden planted early... I'll miss feeding my doe her favorite snack of tortilla chips, and scratching her chin each morning...that was a special memory of growing up with the responsibility of animals. But there is still more to learn, and determination over-flows as I look forward to improving the genetic line that remains. 

In everything give thanks. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Dinner for a Chilly Day

Recently upon talking with a friend on health and cooking verses sweets and baking, I was again inspired to work on finding delicious dinner recipes for the family. Since it is still chilly weather in our area, soup continues to be a meal staple and I turned to this recipe with some alterations to make a delicious and hearty dinner:

Beef and Barley Soup

Photo Credit
2T. Olive Oil
3 Onions, minced
1/4c. Tomato Paste
1T. Fresh Thyme, minced or 3/4t. dried
1/2c. Beef or Chicken Stock
1 (28oz) can Crushed Tomatoes
4c. Beef Broth (can substitute Chicken)
4 Carrots, chopped
1c. Mushrooms
2c. Spinach, chopped
1/3c. Soy Sauce
1/2c. Barley
2 pounds Beef steak, trimmed

Heat oil in 12 inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions, tomato paste, and thyme and cook until onions are softened and lightly browned, 8-10 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup of Beef stock and transfer to slow cooker. 

I made a rue to add some creaminess and thickness (it made a huge difference in the soup - I would highly suggest it). Start by browning about 1/4c. Butter in a sauce pan, whisk in 1/4c. Flour and slowly stir in about 2 cups of milk or broth - you may need a little more. Once smooth and creamy, add to the crockpot.

Stir tomatoes, beef broth, carrots, mushrooms, soy sauce and barley into slow cooker. Season beef with salt and pepper and nestle into slow cooker. Cover and cook until beef is tender, 9-11 hours on low or 5-7 on high. 

Transfer beef to cutting board and shred into bite size pieces. Add spinach to slow cooker along with the meat. 

Taste before serving to see if you need any additional seasonings. If you need more broth in your soup, just add water. 


*I doubled this recipe for our family of 10.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Oh, to be Five again...


That one word brings back a host of memories. Not only was swinging a favorite pastime from when I was younger, it might have been where my momma discovered that her good little girl had a touch of the naughty side as well. Oops.

Now I give my three youngest sisters under-dogs on the swing set...watching them play happily brings back many memories.

Right now they just enjoy our little life on the farm. They named the three chicks that hatched Alma, Maud and Ethel. So sweet.

 They dress up in their "hoop skirts" and set up a Civil War Camp with old cast iron pots and lots of sticks.
All three of them have wonderful imaginations that get put to work in their creative play and they learn a lot. Mom especially, reads them all kinds of books - she did that for Josh and me too. We sat in the living room every day and colored or did a craft while mom read. For a while, one of our favorite story books was "Roxaboxen" - we set up a cardboard box village in our basement, made gardens around the houses and a graveyard - just like the story.  Memories like that make me wish I was five again...

The girls find much joy in every little detail of life...that is something that I don't ever want to out-grow.

They remind me not to rush life, but to enjoy every moment of the day.

There's not a tree next to our current swing set, so I can't try and touch the maple leaves with my toes like I used to...but last night, I swung high on our swing set with many memories of what the Lord has blessed me with and I am so grateful.