THE BEACH AND THE PIT

 Photo by Adrian Garcia.  This image is subject to LASDI© by Life As She Does It. Please do not reuse without linking credit.

Photo by Adrian Garcia.  This image is subject to LASDI© by Life As She Does It. Please do not reuse without linking credit.

Every year somewhere around the 4th of July, The Hubster and I go camping on our Annual Beach Date Trip.  It's only one night, but it has become a tradition I look forward to so much, that when we are leaving the beach from one trip, I am already talking about the next one to come the following year.

I am a girl who thrives on tradition; the history of things excites me.  I can't explain it.  I'm the one who buys a beat-up torn-down table because it is that way.  I've had someone ask me as I made a purchase like that how I was going to refurbish it, to which I replied, "I'm not.  I absolutely love the cracks and weathered appeal.  It tells me all about it's character."  The person looked at me like I was mad, and it made me smile.

Building traditions is like that for me.  I believe it creates the legacy we live in the present and the one we leave behind.  I don't think anyone is going to remember things I said or did in 100 years, but perhaps I can build traditions in our family that continue to be passed along from generation to generation and that may make a difference both now and long after I'm gone.

It is crucial to part of that legacy that The Kiddos and Grittles (GRAND Littles) see The Hubster and I make time for one another; that we still date each other.  It is vital to the lifeline of their own marriages and relationships.  Hence, the Annual Beach Camping Date Trip!

It's pretty simple, really.  We take our tent, which we set up in the back of the truck instead of on the sandy beach.  There has to be a thermos of wine and two plastic wine glasses.  We take along hot dogs and tortillas to wrap them in - and don't forget the skewers to hold them over the fire!  

Ah, the fire.  It's essential to a successful night, and I mean ESSENTIAL.  We go around the beach collecting wood and shells to create a pit for the fire.  We roast those wieners, sip our wine, look up at the stars, and listen to the roar of the ocean waves (and maybe a little Enya).

We play verbal games that remind us of how rich beyond riches we are.  We play "What's the Top-Five Most-Beautiful Places We've Ever Been" game, and "Top Three Favorite Restaurants", or "Best Family Vacay Memories".  We talk about our wedding, which by no coincidence, took place on the beach.  We never let any sad or unhappy memories interfere with our date - we have enough of those during our regular-life days together!  #Reality

One of our favorite games is something we actually do on our regular days together, but this time with a twist.  On normal days at dinner together, whether we are by ourselves, with The Fam, or with friends, we play "The Pit and the Peak".  This game is where everyone goes around saying the worst part of their day first (The Pit), and then to end on a good note they must say the best part of their day (The Peak).  

Since no worst part of any day is allowed to be discussed on this date, we call it "The Beach and the Pit".  This is where we sit around that fire pit we built in the sand, and talk about all of the best parts of our marriage - the things one has said or done for the other in order to edify them; the times that stand out to us in a great and fond way.  Now sometimes things are repeated from the same game the year before, and that is more than okay.   And there are the new moments from the time we left the beach the year before to the present that we talk about.

It is so easy for we, as mere humans, to cling to the bad.  It is, in fact, easier to place any good on a forgotten shelf if something bad occurs.  We all do it, really.  But life is too short to allow that to happen, so I will fiercely fight for the memories of the happy things - the good parts - even if it means I fight fire with fire by sitting around one and forcing those memories to the surface.  It is the best medicine for those regular days that bring reality back into play.

Do you have beat-up torn-down memories in your own history that tend to make you feel like you need a refurbished life?  Do you allow them to make you feel cracked and weathered or know that it builds character in you and can create a good-and-long-remembered legacy you can leave behind?  Does it make you look back and feel like a mad person or make you smile?

Real life is not always beachy and full of fun and games - trust me, I know.  But it is definitely what you make of it and what you allow it to make of you.  Don't put all the good on a forgotten shelf.  And mark out those times to remember the peaks - even if it means you must fiercely fight to do so.  And in order to see you are rich beyond riches, let the fondest pit be the fire.

beachdate

MY STUFF

 LASDI©

LASDI©

This old thing?  Well, I make the most of it.  It's nothing fancy, really.  Sometimes I can make it look fancy if I want, but most of the time that's smoke and mirrors. I often have to put a coat of paint on it, or accessorize in such a way that can give the faculty of imagination to the onlooker.  Even though it isn't elaborate in decoration, the structure is intricate.  It may even look superficial,  but the character that lies beneath it is thorough and sturdy.  

I got it a long time ago, so I'm guessing it is an antique; however, I prefer the term 'vintage' since it makes it sound a little cooler than what it is.  I hear it is desirable because of its age, beauty, and rarity.  Though tough in utility, it's not in mint condition and is actually very delicate, so I definitely try to take good care of it.

I have a very personal emotional connection to it.  I value it's unique features, but sometimes try to cover them up for personal reasons.  There is also a connection to the Spirit world, which helps bring a strange sense of joy to it and can take emotions to the next level. 

The era in human history that it represents makes it extremely nostalgic, so many people are drawn to it.  That doesn't mean everyone likes it or is even interested in learning more about it, and that's okay because it's not for everyone.  

It's a humble thing, to be honest.  In fact, it doesn't meet the standards of most people.  I've often looked at it and felt the same way, but I'm stuck with it now, so I do what I can to make the best of it.  I suppose I could give it an overhaul, but that would be expensive.  I do recognize that it holds uncommon traits, though, so I try to make those as visible as possible - that's a different investment entirely.  That's the kind of price I'm willing to pay so that others can experience the rare qualities measured against others of it's kind.

It's gaudy and ornate, but plain and simple at the same time. That makes it custom-designed, of which I am proud.  I do share it with my family, whether I shine it up or leave it dull.  They don't seem to care either way; in fact, they seem to love it on the days it's lackluster, or the days it seems to shine.  

It's something that can't be sold or even given away.  I really wanted to tell you about it because it's very important to me, and I have such a powerful connection to it.  I've really learned to cherish it and the journey it's taken to get it to where it is.

It's all my stuff.  

It's......WHO I AM - it's me, She!  

Being me is something no other person can be.  I'm not perfect, but I'm always myself and it's all my stuff that makes it so.

What's YOUR stuff?  What makes you uniquely YOU?  Though you cannot be all stuff to all people, you CAN choose to appreciate who you are and the journey it's taken to get you here, and who you want to become and the journey it will take to do so. Give to others what you want for yourself, and know that though you can't control everything, you CAN control WHO YOU ARE.  And you know - YOUR STUFF.

 

OH, CHRISTMAS TREE

 LASDI©

LASDI©

Christmas is coming!  I love the Christmas season.  I don’t really have a standout favorite thing about it.  Well, that’s not true.  I LIVE for Countdown to Christmas on The Hallmark Channel.  But rather than have to decide what I like best about the holiday, I choose to like all of it equally: the decorations, the Christmas music, the lights; ALL of it!  But there are certain branches of Christmas that kindle special memories and spark a few flames in the heart.

We are definitely a family that stands united and that stands on tradition.  For us, Christmas starts the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  Every year we go pick out the perfect-not-perfect tree. When The Kiddos were Smalls, we went together as a family and it would take us hours to find the right tree.  Even though they all liked something different, we wouldn’t leave until we all agreed on one.  The Hubster and I would nearly always agree on the tree we liked, and of course, each Kiddo would choose a different one.  At that point, it was time for all of us to go to each tree everyone liked and “sell” the others as to why that would be the Christmas tree for the house. 

But no matter which one we ended up deciding upon, we knew what awaited us when we got home.  Christmas-tree-decorating-day meant The Hubster climbed into the attic and brought all the packed-up Christmas boxes down for us to deck the halls, and it also meant cinnamon popcorn and homemade eggnog.  We turned on Christmas music (the classic kind, of course) and away we would go.

Now that The Kiddos are Talls, they still hold that day as the day for putting up the tree and getting their ornaments up in their own homes.  And so, still, do we.  Now each year, The Hubster and I go and pick out our own tree knowing it’s a reminder of times gone by.  For the last few years the tradition has been for Aunt Lu to come with us and help us choose.  The three of us still do the walk-and-find.  My choice is not always what most people would want, though. 

When I go a-tree huntin’, the big winner is always one that stands up straight, because I believe we stand up straight when we’re confident about life.  We shake the tree, and if the needles fall off right away, it doesn’t get picked.  That means it’s not healthy enough to last, and I intentionally choose health for The Fam so that we can last and be together as long as we can.  To pull a tree out and see if it’s rounded all the way around or flat on one side, and that the trunk is large enough to be grounded into a tree stand, is a big deal.  My goal for my family and myself is to be sure we are grounded, and well-rounded in everything we do.  I especially like the ones that are a little imperfect; the ones that maybe have some sort of gaping hole or seem to have some branches that jut out further than the others.  I like the ones that are blemished in ways that show the flaw, though it may be a little hard to see.  Isn’t that how we are as mere humans?  We try so hard to look a certain way or stand out, knowing each one of us is imperfect on the inside, though it may just barely be enough for anyone to see.

Once we find the precise tree, we place vintage ornaments on it with the greatest care.  Each one gets unwrapped and hung in just the right place.  Now I know some of you have that ornament OCD The DAUGHTS talked about in her blog, The Untidy Tribe, but as for The Hubster and I, we just put them on the tree where we really believe they belong.  If that means a couple hang close to one another, then so be it.  Even with that, there is a parallel to what we feel for our family and community not just at Christmas, but every day – we want to hang close to one another, believing we are in the exact right place with the right timing for each season.

Christmas is coming!  How have you stood united with those you love?  What traditions have you kept or created to give a sense of who you are and the legacy you build to tell your story?  Do you embrace your imperfections, no matter how you decorate the outside?  How do YOU choose YOUR Christmas tree? 

“Oh, Christmas tree, how lovely are thy branches.”

BEAUTIFUL GUTS

BeautifulGuts

As All Hallow’s Eve draws nigh, it seems that ghouls, goblins, and grossy guts are everywhere.  I get it.  I get that we have this one day for us to gather in unity to celebrate and glamorize our fears and dark sides.  But for the last few years, I think of Halloween much differently.

To start, I think of a young, gangly girl walking into my home for a midnight premier party I threw for The Hunger Games.  I think of her skinny legs on the highest heels I’ve ever seen – and they were paired up with a mini-skirt and croppy toppy.  Our eldest son had invited her as his date, so she was on the arm of someone I love very dearly, and it put me on the defense instantaneously.  Now I’m a fairly reasonable woman, but when said defense kicks in, I tend to go all “Sheila From The Block” - and that can be quite scary to a youngster like the one I’m describing.  It takes real guts to get through a night like that.

I think of a little sprite who came to a Thanksgiving evening without warning, and started asking for a “sliver” of this and a “sliver” of that, and licking her chops at all the food fare without care.  She was a tiny little thing, and I couldn’t believe the amount of food she ingested.  It reminded me a bit of Gollum referring to his “precious” when anyone came within the vicinity of her eating arena.  It was alarming and charming all at the same time, as she filled her guts with the glorious food feast.

Thoughts take me back to a more mature young lady, filled with quiet countenance as my family embarked upon our Annual Family Festivus at Christmas.  Family picture time came about, and she willingly became the photographer instead of assuming she was to be in the photo itself.  She was content to have been asked to be part of Family Night at all, it seemed, and wrapped arms with me and slid her hand into mine as we crossed the street for dinner.  She then quietly and authentically whispered, “Thank you for having me” in my ear.  And my guts did a butterfly flip.

I think of a quirky young woman, daring enough to be different and wear knee-high socks with the character Jack Skellington from the movie ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’  on them all year long (to go with her Jack Skellington earrings and hair bow, of course), no matter what holiday it is.  Now that takes guts!

I think of someone with so much talent it baffles people.  I see in my mind’s eye all the colorful and creative ways she paints, draws, and pieces things together to make the most incredible art.  I think of the upright work ethic in her gift of artistry, and really anything she does for that matter, and I know how very rare a quality that is.  I see her work her guts out.

I think of a strong female, coming into a family of strong females, somehow knowing just how to graciously fall right in line with them without having to gnarl her teeth in order to prove something.  Gutsy move.

When I think of Halloween, I even think of a hot, breezy day in August near the beach.  I know that one does not necessarily coincide with the other for most people, but for me the two are harmonious.    That was the day a beautiful and blushing bride who looked like an angelic woodland fairy got married.  To my son.  And with all her guts pledged her undying and forever love to him.

Why do I think of Halloween when I think of all of these things?  Because my whimsical and wonderful Daughts-In-Law, Kiren, was born on that day, and we celebrate the holiday much differently from most people.  We don’t celebrate our fears or dark sides.  But we do celebrate in unity.  We celebrate how beautiful she is.  We celebrate how unique and exceptional she is.  We celebrate her ferocious-yet-gentle love for her husband.  We celebrate her fierce loyalty to a family she fits so perfectly into.  We celebrate her beautiful guts.

BY THE BOOK

 LASDI©

LASDI©

I am not known for being a Rule-Follower.  The Hubster is a Rule-Follower.  One of my closest friends is a Rule-Follower.  In fact, several people I know are Rule-Followers.  They are the type that HAVE to follow the rules or else they get all freaked out or their throats close up.  I've seen upper lip sweat occur at the very thought of breaking a rule.  Everything for them has to be 'by the book'.  For each person, it's a different book, with different chapters.  

I'll give you an example:  If Adrian (the aforementioned Hubster) is making pasta (a rarity in our home, as it were) and the instructions on the box say "bring six cups of water to a boil", he will measure out exactly six cups of water, because that is the rule, whereas I would simply fill the pot about halfway or so and move on.  He goes 'by the book'.

So then, who is the author of this 'book'?  Who decides what the acceptable rules are across-the-board?  I don't mean the lawmakers, though there are still some old rules on the books that say "Humming on public streets is prohibited on Sundays" or "Bowling is forbidden", both of which are still documented as actual laws!  I wonder what my Rule-Follower friends and relatives will do when they find out they've not only broken those rules, but broken the law!   

There are the rules of the law, or the laws of morality, and the every-day-back-of-a-box-of-pasta kind of rules.  But who gets to say what is going 'by the book' in this life, and what is not?  Who is the author?

Though I am not exactly a renegade, I do believe in a more bendable point-of-view.  I'm a bit more colorful in my thoughts and behavior about getting things done, though I find the black-and-white way of looking at things quite fascinating, and necessary to the life/people balance.  There is room for both or else we would all be exactly the same.  Can you imagine how boring THAT book would be?

I guess that means we author our behavior ourselves, whether it's exactly 'by the book' or perhaps not.  And though the Book I try live by (written by the Author of my life) is not one that everyone shares a belief in, I have a confidence that we, as individuals, do share the belief that there are seasons in life that bring us emotions we must deal with; sometimes there are wonderful seasons, and sometimes there are dark or stormy seasons.  And those seasons are almost never black-and-white, and there are no rules to follow, or how-to's when we deal with them.  There is no 'by the book' process to our emotions.

This is one life we've been given.  We have one life to live, whether we live it within the measurements of every single rule, or a tad bit outside the boundaries of the rules, how we do it creates the legacy we live and leave behind.

Though I certainly don't have all the answers, I do strive to make my legacy something that will make an impact. 

I have lived a life with the wonderful seasons and the dark and stormy seasons, and my 'by the book' is finding light in the dark in order to survive, while not taking this life for granted or letting it slip by me in sorrow or self-pity.  My 'by the book' is my own - one that I authored.  It is called 'A Life Of Flavor', presented by Life As She Does It (me, She Gar-C!).  It is a book of finding joy in life's hard times.

In the long run, whether we think in black-and-white or in color, how we deal with the peaks and the valleys is what creates our distinct flavor of who we are and how we live our lives.  Do you find joy when the hard times come upon you?  When a loved one gets sick, or a job is lost, do you try to see the light through the darkness?  It's never too late to try.  Never.  

Whatever is your distinct 'by the book' - BUY THE BOOK!  

Click on the photo below to purchase Life As She Does It presents: A Life of Flavor! (published by LUCID BOOKS)

 

 

HOT-BLOODED

 LASDI2016 ©

LASDI2016©

Boiling.  Face.On.FIRE.  Five-second-long daydreams of punching someone square in the face.  Screaming like a wild banshee within my mind with no sound coming out of my mouth.  Chest pains.  Real chest pains.

These - and more - are all emotions I have felt within the last few days.  Some would say I have anger issues after reading that.  I would say I am human.  Granted, being of Italian descent means people assume a few things about me:  that I talk with my hands, I am a good cook, and I am hot-blooded.  I am not one to subscribe to stereo-types, but all of those things happen to be true, by the way!

But I am not hot-blooded in the way you know it to be - at least not anymore.  I am hot-blooded in a way that makes me take those moments that make my blood boil, reflect on them, and use them to set fire to my very soul whenever I can.

Let me explain.  

One of the incidents this week was just from standing in the grocery store check out line, which, by the way, is where I seem to spend most of my life.  I was behind someone that needed a price check, of course, and who also decided they didn't want a particular product but sent the bagger to snag the same product with a different brand name - all while we all waited behind her.  After me in line there were about four more people.  The cashier was a young girl, and though smiling through the entire thing, at first seemed a bit incompetent from my perspective.  "Bless her heart", I thought, in my condescending and sympathetic way.  After several minutes had passed and one or two people behind me had been cattled to a different register (not me, of course, because I was in the worst position in the game of grocery check out chess), I noticed some grumbling behind me.  I heard a person speak (rather loudly) to themselves,  but in the cashier's direction, "Maybe they should get someone in here that knows what they're doing."  There it was.  I started to feel that little sizzle around the edge of the pot; not toward the cashier, but rather toward the person I heard behind me in line.  As I was nonchalantly minding my own business, and showing off how people in this world SHOULD behave (insert self-deprecating sarcasm here), I overheard the cashier thank the (annoying) patron in front of me for her patience, and that she had just received the news that her mother was in the emergency room with a fever and she was waiting to hear if she would be all right.

"How RUDE of the person behind me", I found myself thinking.  "If only they would put themselves in HER position and ask themselves what could possibly be going on in someone's life in certain situations, like I'm doing now, all the world's problems could be solved!!"

Immediately after that thought, I heard the same voice behind me say, "Good LORD.  Can we get moving here?!?"  Could she not see and hear for herself that this poor cashier was doing the best she COULD??  The sizzle came to a slow-rolling boil.  But I hung in, still not looking behind me and still thinking this person should watch me at work and behave in a similar manner.  How uncivilized.

One final insult flung was the last straw.  "Helllooooooo.  You should go back to training and learn to check people out faster."  That was all she wrote.  My blood was BOILING.  I snapped my head around and without a thought, but with a certain je ne sais quoi and in a most-pretentious manner, I offered: "WHY DON'T YOU GO ON AHEAD OF ME SINCE YOU SEEM TO BE IN SUCH A HURRY!!  THERE IS NO NEED TO BE RUDE!!"  All in the name of defending this poor, poor cashier with a sick mother, of course.  

And then I looked at the person throwing the insults.  And I saw it: the tear-stained face; the red, swollen eyes; the puffy, shiny nose.  And I shrank.  What had HER day been like so far?  She moved right past me and went ahead as I had suggested, and I found myself watching and staring at her.  She put her items on the belt, and I noticed the ratty, used tissue she wouldn't let go of still in her hand as she did.  She took out her wallet and as she counted out all the coins, penny-by-penny, almost to the last of what she owed, she began to cry.  She apologized to the cashier firmly, and said a quick thank you to me for letting her go ahead.  She was exasperated and in a changed manner said, "I am SO SORRY.  It has been a day of great loss for me.  It has actually been a YEAR of great loss for me.  And I'm sorry to say I have to go out to the car to get the rest of the money.  Would you mind suspending the order and I'll be right back?  I am really very sorry."  

I'm an idiot.  I was SO READY to pounce on this person in the name of considering what others are going through, only to become a hypocrite while doing so.  As she walked out, I saw her head to her car in the parking lot where there was an elderly lady sitting in the heat with the window down on the passenger side.  I saw her say something as she walked up, and the woman in the car offered up her purse through the window.  Though I still had no idea what the loss was she had spoken of, and could only make thousands of assumptions, my heart began to ACHE.  My boiling blood turned on me, and I found myself ashamed.

I moved quickly.  I told the cashier to un-suspend the order and add it to my groceries.  She said, "Are you sure??"  There are few times I am so sure of anything.  I told her to say nothing when the woman came back and waited back in line to pay and to wait to tell her until I was out the door.  I told her I'd be praying for her mom, and walked right past the (former) rude lady as she walked back in to pay.  

I couldn't help myself - I glanced out of my peripheral just in time to see her look out my way, confused, and then slowly begin to walk her groceries out.

When adversity comes, I am not always the most graceful or gracious; in fact, in that particular moment when I found myself thinking I was so shiny and did a great service, I had to remind myself of why I was led to do it in the first place.  I wasn't so great.  I was hot-blooded and thoughtless.  When I look back, there are definitely times in my life where I wish I would have behaved differently or responded better, as with this opportunity of redemption I had been given.

In these times of great and growing stress, what makes you hot-blooded?  Do you let it destroy you and take over, or do you find a moment of redemption that heals you and sets fire to your soul to do better, and BE better?  Only you, in those moments, can decide.

 

Do you have a story to share?  We can help you publish your book!  Click here: LUCID BOOKS

YOUR MOUNTAIN IS WAITING - A GUEST BLOG

 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY CARISSA VANN MUSIC 

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY CARISSA VANN MUSIC 

I absolutely LOVE having Guest Bloggers on the [Life] As She Does It Blog.  There are so many voices that should be heard, and so many gifts and talents I want to lift up, edify, and share with my She-Peeps!  Carissa Vann is among those ridiculously talented humans I have asked to help me do that.  This woman is one of the kindest, truest-and-genuinely-authentic, and loveliest people you would ever hope to meet or have in your life somehow.  She is working two-fold by following her dream of being a singer / songwriter, and also helping the community at the very same time.  I gave her full carte blanche on what to write about, and boy, did she pull through!!  You can find more of Carissa at Carissa Vann Music.  Look for some other ways to learn more about what she's doing after her post.  Thank you for being you, Girl.  And thank you for sharing this piece of encouragement.  Take it away, Carissa!!

I’m beyond honored to guest write for Life As She Does It. Thank you, Sheila, for allowing me to pour out my heart here on your blog. God has used Sheila as an instrumental person in my spiritual journey; one who has seen me in some weak moments and loved and supported me through them and for that I am forever thankful. She’s a servant, loves people fiercely and is incredibly talented and I’m so excited to watch God use her as she takes steps of obedience for Him. I love you, dearly, She-She!

I’ve got a sign in my house above my piano that says:

“Your Mountain Is Waiting, So Get On Your Way.”

I bought it not only because it was from the Magnolia Market in Waco, TX, but because the Lord literally spoke to me while I stood in the store staring at those words; surrounded by people scurrying around shoulder to shoulder and my kids touching everything in sight (despite our discussion beforehand to “keep your hands to yourself”).

I felt like the only one in the room. It was like a movie scene. You know the one where the noises stop, the surrounding images become a blur and it’s suddenly quiet?  Yeah, that’s the one.

As silly as that image is, for a moment I felt empowered by the Lord. What I heard was the Lord saying:

“Carissa, I’ve equipped you – now go.”

 So to be honest, I also questioned the Lord in that moment, because at that time I was stuck in the valley; a dark place of struggle and trials that to my frail mind, seemingly had no purpose or end.

I bought the sign anyway and it’s been gracing my walls with it’s loveliness ever since.  

 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY CARISSA VANN MUSIC

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY CARISSA VANN MUSIC

Fast forward a few months and I’m holding hands with a dear friend as I’m distraught, terrified, frustrated, and confused and while tears are streaming down my face…she prays over me. I was fighting an age-old battle of defeat.  I felt defeated by the circumstances surrounding me and the pain from the past. I didn’t believe God had good stored up for me.

Ever since high school, I have felt a calling and desire to point others to His throne through worship and music and in that moment I wanted to quit. I wanted to throw in the towel and pursue something else in life because surely that would be easier than this, right? Let’s just leave that stuff to the professionals, OK? …Wrong.

God doesn’t magically set us on top of mountains where the view is clear. To get to the top, He takes us through the valley, up the steep climb and through the thick brush where He restores us, cleans us up, strengthens us, reminds us we are nothing without Him and makes us more like Him. It’s where we are sanctified. It’s where our legs and bodies begin to fail us and we have no other choice but to trust and depend on Him. Will it be hard? Heck yes. Will we fall? If you’re brave enough, you will fall. Will we lose some things in the process? Possibly.

The way up can be treacherous and daunting, but the view from the top is so beautiful.

The first thing I learned I had to do was to take off my backpack full of “securities” and… let go. Let go of the fear, control, shame, guilt and sin that weighed me down and live life remembering that… I. am. free.

Matthew 11:28-30

“ Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

I am free because…

He bore my sin

And carried my shame

He won my peace at Calvary

And I am justified by His blood

I’m saved by the life of Jesus Christ

(lyrics copyright: Carissa Vann)

 Don’t miss His redemption story. It’s your story.

I am changed because of this truth. But the word changed is past tense. Yes, I am changed, but that’s not the end. That knowledge doesn’t let me off the hook, either. I am free and out of excellence and reverence to Him - I have to live it out.

Jesus died to save us but He also rose from the grave and gave us the Holy Spirit to work in us and keep pushing us to be more like Him. He’s alive and He’s still working. Because of that, I’m continuing to change and be refined – I’m changing still.

If we ever get to a point where we feel like we’ve “arrived” – we’ve missed something. Until that glorious day when we see Jesus face to face and He restores all that’s been broken by sin, we’ll keep walking through the peaks and valleys of this life. Once we reach the top of one mountain, the only way to the next peak is to go back through the valley. Embrace the messy middle ground and let God work. Trust Him. Seek Him. This valley is equipping you for the next one.

Romans 5:3-5

“…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

As I sat time after time in front of my piano literally opening the pages of my journal and personal time with the Lord and giving those words melodies - I feared sharing it with anyone other than my husband and had no plans to put myself out there for the world to see like I have.

Sometimes in our lives, God gives us these moments of undeserved grace where our eyes get opened, the veil that clouds our view of Him gets removed, and we get this glimpse of Him that is indescribable. I looked up one day while playing my piano and I saw the words:

“Your Mountain Is Waiting, So Get On Your Way”

and I read

“Carissa, I’ve equipped you – now go.”

I realized in that moment that these songs weren’t mine. These words weren’t mine. These melodies weren’t mine. They are His. This voice isn’t mine – it’s His. So basically this album is me with my hands open and empty. Whatever you want with this, Lord, it’s all yours.

Sometimes we just have to be willing and submissive to His plan - not ours or what we think we can do and accomplish.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (The Message)

“Trust God from the bottom of your heart;

    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.

Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;

    he’s the one who will keep you on track.

Don’t assume that you know it all.

    Run to God! Run from evil!

Your body will glow with health,

    your very bones will vibrate with life!

Honor God with everything you own;

    give him the first and the best.”

Is this all easy? Not always.  Am I scared to do this? You bet! Do I still struggle with doubt? Yep, everyday!

One thing the valley’s in my life thus far have taught me is that I’m not alone. God didn’t leave us here on this earth to walk it alone. He sent Jesus to step into this mess with us. He knows the pain, suffering, and struggles of this life because He personally walked it and experienced it himself and to a degree we will never know. I’m not alone and that’s where I find confidence to keep going.

 Who knows what the Lord will do with all of this, but for now I just have to keep taking steps of obedience. 

 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY CARISSA VANN MUSIC (make up by a partner of LIfe As She Does It, Beauty by Chelsea)

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY CARISSA VANN MUSIC
(make up by a partner of LIfe As She Does It, Beauty by Chelsea)

I’m currently working on my first EP to be released later this year. They are songs and hymns from some of my valley’s; a corridor into my soul and how the Lord has been working in me and through the people around me. I’m grateful for the opportunity to share these songs with you and support and encourage our community in the process. Find out more by following me on Facebook at Carissa Vann Music for updates on this project and more.

 

WHEN THE KUCHEN HITS THE FAN

  SHE2016

SHE2016

I was thumbing through my favorite spice magazine.  Okay.  Let's get this out of the way - some people read gossip mags, some like the cerebral-sciency type of mags.  If you're like The Hubster, perhaps you like fishing magazines.  Personally, I find it extremely provocative to carefully peruse the free quarterly magazine sent to our home that houses all the gorgeous spices and seasonings, and all the published recipes sent in by "others" like me.  

So I was thumbing through my favorite spice magazine, and I came across a picture that stopped me in my tracks.  It was a warm photo showing layers of sliced apple, caramelized and formed into some sort of delicacy unlike any I had ever seen.  I did one of those things we do to get an even closer look - you know, like when you fold the magazine in half and then hold it right up to your face, or tilt it from side-to-side as if to see around the item in the picture?  I looked to the left of the photo and saw the title of the recipe: "Grandma's Apple Kuchen".  (pronounced koo-ken)

I knew this recipe was meant for me and I knew I had to conquer it.  I wasn't sure why, but I just knew.  I made my shopping list right away.  There were a few obstacles to overcome in order to make this happen.  Hey, nothing good comes easy, right?  It called for a very specific-sized glass pan I didn't have, nor had I ever heard of, and a few ingredients that were not easily found in a regular grocery store.

As fate would have it, I was in my local Goodwill spot and heard something calling my name.  "I'm over here, She!"  There, with what seemed to be a rainbow with confetti streaming down over it, was the odd-sized glass pan.  $2.99??  I think I can handle that.  Check.  I perused Amazon to find the specific ingredients needed and found them.  CHECK!!  Sunday Supper was looking like the perfect time to make Grandma's Kuchen.  In my mind, I could see the proud faces of my family and hear all the accolades I would be receiving.  Oh yea.  Meant to be.  This was going to be PERFECT.

I carefully did exactly as the recipe said.  I painstakingly sliced the apples so that they were uniform and lovely.  I whisked with fury, and stirred with passion.  I slowly placed each apple slice in layers to be ever-so-exact.  And into the oven it went.  And THE AROMA!!  The smell of the vanilla, the cinnamon, the apples!!  I cleaned the mess that is usually left on the path behind you when you work so hard to achieve greatness.  The kitchen.  But I wasn't bitter.  Oh, no.  Not with what was waiting on the other side of that oven door.

The timer went off.  The potholders came out.  The oven door was opened.  And there, Ladies and Gentlemen, was THE KUCHEN.

I took it out of the oven with tears in my eyes.  I breathed in the hard work I had seen come to fruition, and set it down on my granite counter.  I stepped to the doorway and proudly announced, "The kuchen ...... is cooling."  And the smiles of anticipation spread across the faces of The ManChild and The Hubster.  I was in the clear.  My artwork was complete.  Now all we need do was eat it.

I walked back over to it to rest on my laurels.  Of course I did.  I couldn't help but stare at this incredible beauty as it cooled and brought us all closer to being one with its tasty morsels.  And then, BOOM!

You may find what I'm about to say hard to believe.  But every word is true.  Out of nowhere, the kuchen exploded.  I mean EX.  PLO.  DED.  Glass hit my arms, my neck, my face, luckily missing my eyes.  Kuchen hit the walls, the floor, the ceiling.  The sound of it was deafening.  Cameron and Adrian came running into the kitchen, only to see me standing there, eyes wide with shock and arms out in the air to my sides, as if I were attempting to fly.  "WHAT HAPPENED?!?"  I just stared at them.  "WHAT HAPPENED, She?!?"  And the tears began to flow.  "Are you okay??  What happened?"  I looked up at them, giant tears streaming now, and screamed at the top of my lungs (get ready for it)" "MY KUCHEN EXPLODED!!"  

I wish you could have seen the pity-slash-comical-slash-confused looks on their faces.  The "awwwwwwww"s coming out of their mouths, rolling from deep inside their souls for me as they both put their arms around me to console my broken spirit were so sincere.  All that hard work.  All that mountain climbing to get to the top, only to slide back down.  Everything I had worked SO HARD FOR.  Ruined.

Or was it?  Those two went into action.  They cautiously cleaned me up, and led me to the couch with a tall glass of wine.  They cleaned up the kitchen.  They loved on me.  They offered me kuchen condolences all night.  And I was reminded that life was good, even and especially in the moments we think it isn't.

I changed that recipe to morph it into my own and chose simple ingredients and more practical tools to do so.  I make it often and think of that day every single time I do.  I know it grew me and helped me stretch and climb.  I know it taught me that there is almost always a mess left behind you when you work hard, not to rest on my laurels, and to understand that in all toil there is profit.  I know it helped me see what's really important.  All that because the kuchen hit the fan.

Sometimes the most beautiful things can explode in your face, even if you think you've conquered something after a long, arduous process, and it turns out incredible ...... you feel proud and think you're in the clear.  And then, BOOM.  What was once lovely artwork is in pieces everywhere, reminding you how truly delicate life can be.

Be careful and practical as you stretch and climb, but climb just the same.  Know that when something goes wrong  after you've worked so hard, it is only to show you what's really important so that you don't lose sight of it.  And NEVER put a hot kuchen in a glass pan on a granite counter. 

SHE'S CONDOLENCE KUCHEN

Kuchen:
1 1/4 cups  flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 stick butter, cold and cut up
2 egg yolks
2 tsp milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 medium-sized green apples, peeled, cored, and sliced thin
 
Streusel:
3/4 cup sugar
3 tbs flour
1 tsp cinnamon
3 tbs butter, cold and cut
 
Combine all streusel ingredients into small mixing bowl and blend with your fingers until the mixture resembles small crumbs. Set aside.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and butter. Use your fingers to blend all the kuchen ingredients to large-crumb consistency. In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks then add the vanilla extract and milk. Pour milk mixture into the crumbled dry ingredients and mix until it is just blended. Press this dough into the bottom and up the sides of a prepared baking dish.

Arrange the apple slices in three lengthwise rows on top of the crust. Sprinkle the streusel mixture over the apples. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the apples look glazed and caramelized.

EAT SLOWLY.

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