He Was Home

I’ve never posted this picture or shown it to many people. I was embarrassed of how I look in it. And to be honest, looking at it brought twinges of disappointment and jealousy. I saw other pictures of beautiful mamas holding their tiny treasures for the first time. They wear looks of pure love and relief as they hold their babies to their chests.

I had what seemed like such a brief moment before they pulled him away from me. They took him across the room and those few feet felt like miles. I couldn’t see him at all but heard his cries for warmth. I chose an unmedicated birth and don’t regret it for a minute. But when it was “over” it wasn’t over. The pain was still very raw and very real and my husband and baby weren’t by my side or in my arms. It was just me, my doula, and Jesus while the doctor finished up.

This is the only picture I have of the first time I held my sweet, sweet baby. By the time they poked and wiped and weighed him, they returned him wrapped up tight looking like a little glow worm…. Those pictures are precious to me although you can only see his tiny little face.imageimage

I’ve been thinking about that picture today. Who knows why. My face does not appear as one who feels relief but rather pain, but if you look closer, in the midst of the pain, there is a mother newly born along with her baby. And as the pain rages she clings with all her love to the one who was worth it all. He is hers. And I remember the beautiful moment when I had reached my limit. When I was overwhelmed and starting to panic. I simply could not take one second more, and my doula said “Look down, America!” And there he was! “My baby!!!” And he was purple and all curled up and screaming as they lifted him over me but the very second he was placed on my chest, he fell silent and was contented. He was home. I was home. I was hurting, he was adjusting. But I clung to him and he melted into me. That is beautiful.

And isn’t that life? It’s not all picture perfect. But we cling to each other and the faith and the love that we share. The pain and the cold and the shock of change… It all softens in love’s warm embrace.

Even more, when I look at the picture, I think of the sacrificial love Christ gave on the cross. Not that giving birth is equal to his torment, but it’s the closest I ever expect to come. And in the way that his suffering gave way to our new life, a mother’s suffering gives new life to her child. I believe it was his great love that held Him there. His love for us. His obedience to the Father. And he is there ready to embrace us, to give us refuge from our ever changing world. And as we melt into him, as Oliver melted into me, we are home and we are contented there.

Harvard Beets… And Lee College

Ok kids, let’s talk about beets. No interest you say? Me either! But that’s next in the box and the name is actually intriguing: Harvard Beets. It so intrigued me that I googled them. There is a bit of debate over the origin of the name and the recipe but apparently, a lot of people like them. You can find the recipe using canned or fresh. This one uses canned. I’m telling you the truth. I had barely pierced the seal with the can opener when the smell slapped me right across the face. imageI knew I wasn’t going to be eating these… I tasted about a fourth of one…bleh. Billy tasted one… Enjoy his delightful repulsion! Their color however, knocked me over. Gorgeous! I wish I liked them… A friend recommended trying fresh beets roasted. I think I can get on board with that and am anxious to try it! The health benefits are fabulous! But for now… Here’s Mamaw’s recipe, for all you beet lovers out there. Don’t you love that she typed out many of these recipes?! The fact that she took the time to preserve them in that way is so sweet to me!

Harvard Beets
Cook sauce:
1 c sugar
2 tbsp cornstarchimage
1/4 c beet juice
1/4 c vinegar
1 tbsp butter
Dash of salt

Add 1 can of beets, drained
Add to cooked sauce and cook a little longer.

A couple of memories came to me as I read and cooked this recipe. The name “Harvard Beets” made me think of their schooling… For super obvious reasons… Mamaw talked a lot about her school years. She was on the girls’ basketball team in high school and proudly recalled the fact that she was Mistress of Ceremonies imageat the Senior-Junior banquet. She was overwhelmingly voted student counsel Vice President. I know this because she carefully included the details, including copies of speeches she had given, in her scrapbook. Young Lucile married 21 year old Lindsey at age 16 and she finished high school at Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee. Back then, it was Lee College and was not yet accredited. They had a high school program, which was convenient seeing as Lindsey was accepted into the seminary program there. She earned her high school diploma from Lee Academy, graduating with honors. Lucile was extremely bright, so bright in fact that she skipped the 4th grade. I recall that she had a deep respect for teachers. When she would talk about anyone she knew who taught for a living she would always make certain to say “She’s a school teacher!”. Who knows, maybe knowing it would make her proud is partly what led me to pursue teaching myself. Maybe she talks abut me in heaven. “That’s my granddaughter, Ami-Beth. She’s a school teacher!” They are, in fact cheering us on to the finish… Just allow me this comforting thought if you will…

Pa was privileged with only a 10th grade education, because after his daddy died he had to quit school and get a job to support his mama and 4 little brothers. After serving his stint in the U.S. Army, he was an evangelist and desired to go to Bible College. He was accepted at Lee, and it not being accredited at that time meant that entrance requirements weren’t very strict. He attended for 2 years where he excelled, making the Dean’s List. They lived in the old married couples dorm they referred to as “The Barn.”

I can imagine them there settling into life as newlyweds, studying, playing, and maybe even quarreling. He dropped out of Bible College when Lucile became pregnant with my father, Dale. He knew he needed to work full-time in order to support his growing family. So, they moved back down to Center Hill and lived on the farm with her parents, my great grand parents. He continued evangelizing and worked for his father in law (my Papa) at the vegetable packing house and the moss yards. The packing house is still standing and located right around the corner from there house. It was our favorite place to ride bikes growing up! They remained there for the first 8 months of their baby’s life until he accepted his first pastorate position at Ft. White Church of God.

As I cooked those stinky but beautiful beets, the color took me back to a lovely memory. They boast of the same bright pink found in one of her favorite dresses. After their deaths, I chose this particular dress as one of the keepsakes to cherish. She wore it often and I can still imagine the soft fabric on my cheek as she hugged me tight. I can still smell her Youth Dew perfume. I can still feel her playfully pat my cheeks as she squealed, “Oooooh, I love you!”. But that isn’t the only reason I wanted to hang this dress among my own clothing. It also reminds me of the way Lindsey pursued Lucile’s heart, even after all those years. My step mom Amy owned the same dress and after hearing Mamaw rave about how bright and beautiful it was, he went to her and asked where he could find it for his bride. And he surprised her with that dress. It suited her perfectly and she beamed while she wore it. The vibrance of the fabric’ however, paled in comparison to the vibrance in her face knowing his great love for her. She was a woman wooed and he was a man smitten over his beautiful Lucile.image

Aunt Trisha’s Chewies

This weekend I had the privilege of baking for the Mothers Day missions bake sale at church. This is a cause very dear to my heart. Before I married Mr. Ullah, I worked as a full time missionary at an orphanage in Honduras. I left part of my heart in that lovely country and I miss it so much! Our church sends teams there each year and I jump at the chance to support that. The church bake sale is also

Kristian's mama, Norma
Kristian’s mama, Norma

close to my heart because it’s how we spent Mom’s last Mother’s Day. We baked late into the night that Saturday and proudly displayed our goodies at church the next day. Then we went home and put our feet up with her favorite food (Pizza Hut) and movies. We had so much fun together. My precious friend Kristian, who is like a sister to me joined us that Sunday. My mom adored her and was so happy to have her with us. Kristian is from Honduras. Her family sort of adopted me while I lived there. Her mama was especially good to me and Mother’s Day 2013 was Kristian’s first one with her sweet mama in heaven. We didn’t know it would be the last one with my own mom here on earth. I hope they have met each other by now and are proud of the mamas we both have become.

While deciding what to make for the bake sale this year, I went to Mamaw’s green box. What a treat to find a little slip of paper with very familiar handwriting. My mom had written out the recipe for “Chewies” and shared it with her. Mom learned this recipe while she and my father pastored Alton Church of God in Mayo, FL. The women of Mayo are quite literally the best cooks I have ever and probably will ever meet. They are phenomenal! These chewies originally came from Aunt Trisha, a sweet, sweet woman from the church there who I’ve known almost my whole life. They were the perfect choice for the bake sale because we baked them together in 2013. So it was settled. My good friend and neighbor, Tia sent her daughter, Anna Cate over for the afternoon and we had so much fun! We made the chewies as well as mini peach cobblers… There were a couple of mishaps like… I burned the first batch of chewies, we almost forgot to add the peaches to the peach cobbler, and I preheated the oven with pizza crumbs in it and quickly filled the house with smoke… I never claimed to be a professional y’all!

People keep asking what chewies are and I’m not sure how to explain them. The are like cookie bars whose brown sugar and butter have won over my heart! Yum!!! You can use chocolate chips and/or chopped pecans. I grew up eating these and they are so delicious and Billy approved!

imageMy baking selections worked out perfectly for this recipe project of mine because
Mamaw had shared her peach cobbler with Mom and Mom had shared her chewies with Mamaw… And they shared both of them with me (through the green recipe box) and now, I’m sharing with you! I hope you had a beautiful Sunday celebrating the mamas in your life! And I hope you enjoy this week’s recipe!

For me, it was an emotional day but mostly…it was filled with sweetness…sweetness clothed in a perfect baby blue bubble. I recently visited my dad in Mayo and asked if I could go through the treasures in Mamaw’s cedar hope chest. I found so many lovely keepsakes in there. I walked away from that visit with my “quiet book” made from Mamaw and Pa forimage me when I was little. Now Oliver can enjoy it! I also found a precious blue bubble that was made by my great grandmother. We aren’t sure if it was for my father in the 50’s or my brother in the 80’s. Either way, what a special find! I was floored to
find that it fit Oliver perfectly, just in time for my second Mother’s Day. I have an obsession with baby boy bubbles and I know that God worked the timing out just for me. I need to take a couple more pics and then it will be neatly folded and returned to her hope chest, but what a blessing to dress my baby boy in the same thing Mamaw or Mom dressed their baby boy in. I was overjoyed! I also found one of her scrapbooks and I borrowed it for research for these stories. What a treasure that is! It is really quite a feeling to gingerly turn the fragile pages of her carefully saved memories.

Instead of sitting around with a lump in my throat all Sunday evening missing my mom, Oliver and I loaded his red wagon with his horse named Dutch, an animal book, and mini cobblers to deliver to our neighbors. Baking for her neighbors and family members was one of my mom’s favorite things to do. It was a perfect way to end the day and honor her memory! We may have started a new tradition! How do you honor your mamas on Mother’s Day?

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Aunt Trisha’s Chewies

2 cups self rising flour
2 cups brown sugar
2 sticks melted butter
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla (I use the good stuff from Honduras)
1 cup chocolate chips or chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350
Mix together ingredients until smooth saving chocolate chips for last.
Pour batter into 9×13 baking dish
Bake for 40 minutes (baking times may vary)

A Mother’s Day Story

Mother’s Day 2013

Mother’s Day 2013 we attended an adoption seminar propelling us closer to our dream (since our romance began) of adopting a child. I went in to that Mother’s Day with my mom by my side, both of us giggling and believing that by the next year, there would be a baby in my arms wrapped in the blanket she gave me that day. She and I enjoyed a beautiful weekend together baking for the Mother’s Day bake sale, watching movies, and eating pizza. It was one of the best weekends we’d ever had.

In the year that followed, life became increasingly cruel. There was attack after attack against my family. Sickness, addiction, financial hardships, adoption set backs, and even death loomed over us. I approached Mother’s Day, 2014 with the realization that not only was there no baby in sight but we weren’t even that close to the prize. And perhaps even worse, not only was there no baby… But I no longer had a mother either. I approached that Mother’s Day with a broken heart and a crushed spirit. But God is close to the brokenhearted and in the weeks leading up to the dreaded day, the voice of hope began to whisper again. I hushed her, over and over. I squashed hope and traded her for resentment and self pity. Hope said to “Taste and see what the Lord has done.” I said “Look and know that He has surely forsaken me.” But little did I know, despite my hushing, and despite my resentment, hope grew. Hope grew inside my heart and hope grew inside my womb. And what was unlikely become actual. What seemed forgotten, was imageremembered. May 9th, the Friday morning before Mother’s Day, hope wouldn’t let me sleep. “Get up and see what He has done for you!” I crawled out of bed, I struggled to the bathroom. I set up the test… The test I hated. The test that sneered. The test that shouted: “You are forgotten.” I set it up on the counter and begrudgingly went about my morning routine. Just before reaching for the toothpaste I glanced at the test and instead of 1 glaring line of impossible, there were 2 shining lines of hope. And hope said “Look! Look what He has done for you!” That Mother’s Day, I no longer had my mom by my side, but she had Jesus by hers. That Mother’s Day, I didn’t hold a baby in my arms, but I held one still.

And hope grew and grew and grew… Into the little boy who lies sleeping in my arms this very moment. Hope grew into a funny, smart, tender, explorative, music loving, affection sharing, olive branch of wonder. Our most precious gift, Billy Oliver. What a great joy he is to my life! As this Mother’s Day approaches, I’m so thankful for this little boy who made me a mama and I’m humbled to have been chosen for the role!

Mother’s Day 2015 with his blanket from Nana
Mother’s Day 2015
Current Shenanigans ??