Monday, November 25, 2019

Marked by Greatness: Greatest Surprise

I try to keep my eyes open for great moments in my life, but sometimes they sneak up on me and take me by surprise.

Sometimes sisters make you do crazy things like bake 400 whoopie pies in one day when you expected to do a fourth of that amount.

Some days sisters return from a shopping trip, telling you that a complete stranger walked up to them in Goodwill's parking lot and gave them stale, slightly soggy sandwiches, which they ate for lunch. (I am not making this up.) They lived to tell the story, but I have not recovered.

At other times, sisters give you one of the best birthday gifts of your life. 
I got a text at 7:00 one morning saying, "Don't eat breakfast."
Me: "Okay. Am I allowed to eat lunch and supper?"
Them, laughing: "Yes. Just not breakfast."

"Ah-ha!" I told John smugly. "They said earlier that they've been working on a birthday present for me. I'm guessing they are going to show up with the present and bring pastries to go with coffee."

I expedited my morning routine, even skipping coffee (and breakfast) so I and my house would be ready for guests.

But when my front door squeaked open, my niece walked in alone. I looked past her to see if the others were here. They weren't.

Felicity handed me an envelope that read, "OPEN NOW."

The card inside said:

The note on the back of the card told me to go to Laura's house and to bring along a writing project, if I wanted to. Ah, so brunch was at her house! How clever. Laura collects darling dishes and loves to set up pretty tea trays. I supposed I was a lucky recipient of a breakfast tray, complete with time alone which is a rarity for this homeschooling mom. I left my children in Felicity's capable hands and went for brunch.

Except Laura's house didn't smell like food. Both of my sisters sat there idly, talking small talk, and seeming in no hurry to brew coffee.

"Well, are you ready for your present?" they finally asked, grinning.

I was, by now being deeply curious.

They handed me a stack of numbered envelopes, tied together with ribbon. I was supposed to follow the instructions on the enclosed cards and adhere to the times listed on each one.

I entered the first address into my phone, not knowing whither I was going, and left.

Google Maps took me to Courtyard Café. When I arrived, I opened my next envelope and a gift card fell into my lap.

That gift card added extra warmth to my day because it meant
they had driven to the coffee shop with me in mind. 

My note said: 
"Relax with your book or project while you enjoy breakfast and coffee purchased with the gift card enclosed. Leave at 11:00. Go to 1930 Division Hwy, Ephrata, PA. 
When you arrive at the destination, open envelope #3." 

I loved my time alone in the coffee shop. I drank a latte, ate a lumberjack-sized burrito, and made progress on planning a creative writing class I'll be teaching. 

I noticed that my next destination was in the vicinity of our dentist, so I sent a text to my sisters saying, "I hope you girls know that getting my teeth cleaned does not rejuvenate me."

No need to worry. They gave me a gift certificate and an hour to shop at a bookstore.

If my excursion ended here, I would have gone home rejuvenated and happy. But the best was still coming: Griddle and Grind. 

I loaded my writing projects into my bag and walked down the sidewalk to the crêperie. The fall weather invigorated me, adding splendor to the day. Tilting my face upwards, I thanked God for my sisters. This was a wonderful birthday present.

Just when I neared the restaurant, a good-looking man stepped out from behind a tree and said, "May I join you for lunch?" 

I couldn't believe it. That morning, John took the lunch I packed for him, knowing all the while he would join me at Griddle and Grind.

He told me later that my look of surprise, followed by my obvious delight in seeing him warmed his heart all day. His presence warmed mine. 
Commemorative selfie
We shared coffee and crêpes (that is, I helped myself to his, still being full from breakfast), and we talked uninterrupted for an entire hour. It was marvelous.
Lemon Cheesecake Crepe. Delish!
Warmed clean through by an unexpected lunch date, I followed the course prescribed on my cards, spending several hours browsing Ephrata Reusit, Goodwill, and Scenic View Fabrics. Each envelope held cash and the instructions to buy myself birthday gifts.

When I returned home (with books and boots and fabric), my children bubbled over with stories of their fun day. Felicity brought along a crate of books and read so many stories that her voice was nearly hoarse. 

She also brought homemade bread and had a crockpot of soup on my counter, ready for supper.

Sisters. I recommend them. (And, no, mine aren't up for grabs.) 

I also recommend nieces. And birthdays. And Chili, Chicken, Corn Chowder, warm in the Crockpot. 

Chili, Chicken, Corn Chowder
1/4 cup oil
1 large onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 rib celery, finely chopped
2 cups frozen or canned corn
15 oz. great northern beans
1 cup cooked, diced chicken
4 oz. can green chilis
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. oregano
Salt to taste
1 cup half-and-half
  1. Saute onion, garlic, and celery in oil. Stir in corn, chicken and chilis. Saute for 1-2 minutes. 
  2. Combine all ingredients, except half-and-half in slow cooker. 
  3. Cover. Heat on Low 4 hours. 
  4. Stir in half-and-half before serving. Do not boil, but heat cream through.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Marked by Greatness: Launching a Tradition

I brush shoulders with greatness not because of me but because I am surrounded by inspirational people with great ideas. Here is an annual tradition Rodney and Dawn began with their family this fall. Dawn (my photographer sister) shared the pictures and permission to share them with you.

Family Day Events

  • A special brunch
  • Gather for a time of reflection, of recounting the ways they saw God at work in their family 
  • Recall events that happened this past year, both the good and the bad
  • Share dreams and goals for the upcoming year
  • End the day with a picnic, complete with tapered candles, glassware, and pretty food

The idea of carrying glassware to a picnic spot exhausted me until I saw Dawn's pictures. Some day, when our toddler is big enough to be kind to china plates, I want to do this for my family.

Do you have family traditions? How do you honor and bless your children?