The Land of Raw Milk & Honey ~ a Link-Up {Take Heart…in Romance}


I cried over unspilt milk at the breakfast table. It jostled in the jug, straight from the farm, raw, and my emotions were raw, too. My husband had just seen the mandatory fine print on the label, “Not for human consumption,” and wondered how I could be guzzling it down.

Reluctant, I typed in search words at my computer. Together, we sifted through scientific studies, FDA warnings, conspiracy theories, outbreak data. But we wound up where we started: me craving the au naturel, him feeling best about food from the box. Who can change the lawyer’s mind or his tastebuds? But who can change mine either?

If only I could get him to swoon over free-range eggs, raw Amish cheese, organic vegetables…or really any vegetables at all. I wanted him married not just to me but to my tastes.

Later, I gathered with friends, bumbled about the raw milk and my ridiculous tears. I just couldn’t shake the frustration, the desire to change my husband.

One friend handed me a slice of apple pie.

“I’ve gotten caught up before trying to find a friend who sees the world just the same as me,” she told me as she rumbled open the silverware drawer and grabbed a handful of mismatched forks, “I’ve never found one, but I don’t think I’d be any better off if I did.”

Simple words that they were, they were honey to me, “sweet to the soul, healthy to the body,” whether the raw milk was healthy or not.

I looked at the friend with the seminary degree and nominal Christian parents, another who teaches us the glory of God in the names of microbes and images on doppler radars, one who sits quietly filtering the conversation through the counselor’s ear, another whose organization skills from teaching in the elementary school now keep us on track in getting together like we should. But no matter those efforts, if we had to be replicas of one another to warrant friendship, none of us would be circled up in that family room.

I felt it in that eclectic group– that for growth, for creativity, for healthy relationship, “few things are as important as time devoted to cross-pollination with fields [or people!] outside our areas of expertise.”

The Lord has been making a big deal of it from the beginning, that we would know both unity and diversity, that we would be fruitful and multiply, like the growth that happens when pollen travels from flower to flower, filling the earth and displaying all the differentiation hidden in His creation.

It is why He toppled Babel. It is why He toppled tables in the temple court saying His house was meant to be “a house of prayer for all nations.” It is why in His mercy, He toppled my non-committal ways and put me with my husband, pairing emotional stability with boundless idealism. Compatible does not mean identical.

In community, we sisters brought our findings together, the nectar of kind words boiled down and I went away re-aligned. In my fridge, I stocked the plain old organic milk again, a compromise between his and her tastes and philosophies. I clinked my glass against his and drank up, feeling my marriage a bit of paradise again, all of the blessed differences, milk and honey.


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Take Heart Series ~ Feb 2013This post is part of our Take Heart series. This week we’re talking about romance and we’d love to have you link up with us and share how God has helped you take heart in the midst of your own struggles in singleness, married life or abandonment. In your post, link back to our page here (you’re welcome to grab the thumbnail graphic to use in your post) and invite others to join in. Then, be sure to visit and comment on the posts that link up before and after yours and encourage each other!

Eat These Words {Undistracted Devotion}

I’ve been putting off the week’s trip to the grocery…don’t want to take the kids, but too tired to go late night. One morning I go to the half-bare pantry and settle on what’s left for breakfast…carb-heavy, sugared-up CoCo Wheats. It tastes like childhood, the glory days of processed sugar and high fructose corn syrup, the days before we had a clue that Twinkies were bad for you.

Within an hour, I feel more tired than I did when I woke up. The pillow invites me back to sleep off that sugar crash. But I’ve got kids to take care of, so I muddle through, sighing and shouting out when the sugar gets them too.

All day long, the smart phone is on the kitchen counter waiting on that buzz and chime. And aren’t I eating out of Pavlov’s hand with the way I go for it? The screen glows and so do I to pick up a little morsel of words.

Psychologists say infants need ready response to sense they are known and loved, even to feel they exist. You and me? Seconds after we walk away from the screen, we’re hungry again for something else, cluster feeders crying out to the world, tell me I exist to you.

On the buffet sits the story I’ve been taking in all my life, milk to meat. Page corners turn up like wavy noodles. It’s been five years of flipping through this anthology during meals, words nourishing my boy from babyhood to now, us reading straight through from cover to middle. Today on page 943 of 1694, we find ourselves listening in on the strangest of dinner conversations.

There is this hand outstretched like a platter and it holds a scroll. Eat what you’re offered. Eat this book. We laugh at the menu choice, but Ezekiel doesn’t. He opens his mouth right up and swallows it down like manna straight from the hand of God. It tastes like raw honey.

I don’t have to explain it. Elliot dishes out the exegesis. Ezekiel has to eat the words so God’s words will be inside him. Then he can say God’s words.

I’ve done this before and I need to do it again if I want to give up the sighing and shortness and instead give out words full of grace and truth. I need to lay my Bible open on the kitchen counter like a cookbook, to check it more than social media, to let the soul feed and feel its worth, to taste and see that the Lord is good…all day long, no sugar crash.

{How do you blend a hearty helping of the Word into your everyday? What priority does communing with the Lord have in comparison to your interaction on social media? Comment below to share your thoughts on undistracted devotion.}

Widows and Wedding China: How to Clean Up a Lonely Mess

Bread FlowerAsparagus sizzled in the top oven. I pulled lasagna from the other and looked up. The golden girl waltzed through the door with pep in her step. She came bearing hugs and kisses and cards, and beamed as my boy told her she was “thinking really good” when she got him that balloon. Later, Grandma Hamilton would recount it all, her voice going high like helium through vocal chords.

Grandma Jean bounced her namesake, Farah Jean, on her lap and chuckled that most mornings her biggest decision is whether or not to get out of her pajamas before breakfast. I pictured her at her kitchen Valentine's Balloontable, where Grandpa’s pocket calendar juts from the catch-all basket, evidence that he was here making plans and accomplishing them.

The grandmothers sat down, each in the place prepared for them. We bowed our heads together, generations holding hands, and the youngest of us prayed aloud for the meal. What took hours to prepare took mere minutes to devour, but we lingered at the table anyway, going from one subject to another, a twenty course conversation. Our Two GrandmasThey heaped on helpings of words, happy ones. I took it all in, the marginalized feeling their worth.

I thought of saving the clean-up until morning, leaving the wedding china paused in time under smears of salad dressing, remnants of iceberg lettuce, curls of pasta left behind. Sparkling cider pooled in concave crystal, a cupcake paper sprawled, maraschino stem tossed aside– that mess, it was evidence of time spent, joy shared. We broke bread together and left the basket empty, crumbs on the tablecloth.

Grandma Jean looked out the window into winter. “Does it get any easier?” she motioned to her fellow widow. “Growing up in a full house, then marrying George and making a full house of our own…I’ve never had to live alone.”

“It’s been one day at a time…eight years of one day at a time since my own George passed.”

“Too bad we live so far apart,” her snowy locks glinted in the light, “We need more times like this.”

I chauffeured them home through flurries. Then, back in my kitchen, I checked the menu to see what I’d planned for breakfast in the morning. I had every ingredient except the clean table. Since my husband had done the hard work of putting the kids to bed, the clean up was all mine. I pushed through my drowsiness and sentimental procrastination and made myself grab a single plate. A well-known widow said it this way, that when you’re left with piles of work and only your two hands to get it done, “Just do the next thing.”

I scraped scraps into the can and ran the fragile surface under the faucet’s stream. Then another, and another, and another until all the china was stacked and ready for a more thorough wash the next day. I crowded forks in my fist, a bouquet of silverware for the dishwasher. I shook place mats over the table. I opened the door to a burst of arctic air and waved the tablecloth out into the night, crumbs floating down with snow.

I threw a prayer out there with all those tiny morsels in the air, evidence of a once upon a time feast falling to the ground. The kitchen rag warmed my hands. I circled it over espresso wood all of a sudden bare.

{We may not be able to do it all, but we can help with what’s right in front of us…we can love on the people in our reach. What ideas do you have for meeting the needs of widows in your circle of influence?}

Comfort Food for the Trampled Soul

We pull our chopsticks from their wax paper wrappers, snap them apart and graze them against one another, like twigs starting a fire or iron sharpening iron, to smooth out the splinters while our food steams and cooks in the kitchen.

I turn the English and pinying side of the menu over to the real menu, the one my friend reads. I search the code for familiar symbols. She points to the boxes, lines and curves that she’s just spoken softly for our waitress, and teaches me how to recognize the characters. I keep up the work on the chopsticks while I practice my Chinese. Curls of wood settle on the worn table. I flip the menu over to my cheat sheet and then back again to study the hanzi.

First, the waitress brings out a plate of snow peas. Then, another of stir-fried eggs and tomatoes. And my friend tells me how her grandparents made this for her in the countryside where she spent her girlhood sick in bed.

I lean closer to hear her faint voice. I focus my eyes on her mouth, reading her lips as she ekes out the words from her trampled soul. She winces always, as if something is coming right for her, and now I’m starting to understand why. Her parents had sent her away, their one child a disappointment on the Darwinian scale, barely surviving, unfit.

I look out the door of the restaurant at the wooden crate, a rickety step upholstered in red carpet. Yarny fibers collapse under the load of automobile crud, spittle and vegetable scraps. I hear her meaning through the language gap. She bends under her own load, wondering if she’s born to be trodden underfoot.

We dig our chopsticks into the comfort food and scrape it into our bowls, onto soft beds of white rice. Her words come out quiet like a prayer filtered into a feathery pillow.

“But when I see the film,” she recalls scenes from the movie based on Luke’s telling of Jesus’ ministry, “how He loves the sick…I am very surprised- very surprised!”

I lay my chopsticks across the rice bowl. I picture my friend laying down on her cot in the countryside, mostly dead like Jairus’ daughter, except my friend didn’t have a daddy calling out to Jesus for her.

But Jesus, He who laid down his own life to raise her up, He found her nonetheless.

Here she is across the table telling me about Him with her round face like the moon reflecting some distant glory. She clasps her hands over her heart. And I have to do the like. I bring my hand first to rest on my chest and then to cover my mouth. I want to say His name out loud in the middle of this place that is scared of Him. If only they knew His meekness, quietness, how He changes the diagnosis with a gentle touch.

“He sees you,” I tell her, “He knows your need.” She  feels this already and opens her eyes, not wincing like before.

We put our smoothed-out chopsticks to work. Ginger and sesame oil trickle from our comfort food, hit the taste buds and slide to the core, nourishing. She is quickened, suddenly feeling her worth under the care of our Great Physician.


{Happy Chinese New Year! Below is an authentic recipe for Stir-Fried Eggs & Tomatoes. A friend in China taught me how to make this simply delicious comfort food the way her family makes it at home.}

Stir-Fried Eggs & Tomatoes

6 eggs
2 teaspoons sesame oil (optional)
olive oil
1/2 inch of fresh ginger, grated
1 clove of garlic, chopped
sea salt
scallions (optional)
ripe red tomato, roughly chopped

Beat the eggs with sesame oil or water and season with a dash or two of sea salt.
In frying pan, heat olive oil on medium heat.
Stir-fry ginger, garlic, salt and scallions in oil for about a minute, being careful not to burn.
Add tomatoes and stir-fry for about a minute.
Pour egg mixture in and stir until the eggs set.

Serve over rice. We use germinated brown rice when my hubby’s not home and white Basmati rice when he is. :) Serve alongside sauteed garlic green beans or stir-fried broccoli or bok choi.