finding the motherlode

- mining for a vein of truth in the stuff that matters -

no diamonds of dull worth

diamonds


Gather up your sorrows

put them in a cup,

pour them on the altar

watch the fire lick them up.

♦ 

Give to God what is God’s,

to Caesar, the rest

in Him alone find solace

then peace,  sheep, and cattle 

will be holy blessed.

 

Fret not for tomorrow;

today has enough trouble of its own.

Should God send now more sorrow,

 O, diamond, know this:  

 He only cuts a brilliant stone.

diamonds

______________________________________

©2014 Elizabeth DeBarros

 

these, our hands

Hands
          
     


 

I rush to the water’s edge

without fear of falling in 

eternity has consumed me —

 Is this what love is? 

These, our hands —

still, I didn’t recognize them as ours.

The lines seemed untraceable 

to an earlier time

when the riverbed was full of stones 

and of all that lay ahead.

 …

Joined,

one on top of the other —

weathered 

but not beaten,

sanctified by scars

we could not do without.

Testament to what’s been wrought: 

a generation’s worth of work,

for better or worse.

 …

These, our hands —

once full of prayers

now answered

trace the lines

where no moth consumes

nor rust corrupts 

my treasure, my heart — 

 this is love.

_____________________________

Hands

©2014 Elizabeth DeBarros

This poem was first presented to my husband, Anthony, on April 8, 2014, in honor and celebration of our having lived twenty-five years together as man and wife. A milestone we share with you for your encouragement and for the glory of God.

Someone once said it takes twenty years to get to know someone. I say it takes twenty-five. And that goes for the both of us. A few things known to our minds we have come to better understand only through experience, and what are now cherished in our hearts:  

Marriage is a gift, a vestige left over from paradise. It is a crucible, where the refining  fires of God take place. And it is a cup, meant for overflowing. But grapes don’t appear overnight. The vine must first be tended, and watched. The fruit matures and is harvested. Time is involved.  And a winepress. So much mess! But the fermented wine is worth it.

But wine must first be mixed, then stored and aged, and finally, poured out to waft strong, imbibed as lovers and friends. And shared among friends. Over and over.

Marriage is a picture of Christ and the Church. 

Soli Deo Gloria.

philosophical joe

At some point, everyone develops a philosophy of life. Not so much a religious creed — and not even a parenthetical mission statement posted on a sticky note — I’m referring more to lifestyle, a way of doing things. Some really do like it hot. Sriracha is their new ketchup. Meanwhile, others prefer to cool their tongue, along with a cucumber slice and sprig of mint.  Nobody is wrong here. It’s simply a matter of taste.

Tomato, tom-AH-to.

But you know all that. No matter how it’s pronounced, it’s the same juicy slab of beauty on a BLT. Or BLT with cheese, if you happen to like cheese. Havarti? No, I prefer cheddar, thank you. The horseradish kind. I’ve decided to live a little. And if you add a handful of thinly sliced turkey (rice paper thin), it’s called a BLT&T with C, hold the mayo.

Whaddaya mean, hold the mayo? 

Yes.

If your world is easily shaken by how others do things, maybe it’s because you’re not fully convinced why it is you do what you do. Often, people either fear they’re not “doing it right” or get mad at everybody else for doing it wrong. Absurd that I actually used to think this way, long before I lived a little. 

If by a certain age, say 40 — nah, make it 45; people are taking longer to mature these days — you have not yet stepped over the threshold into that exquisite state of being where you’re comfortable in your own skin, then please receive this missive as a friendly, lighthearted (read: dead serious) permission slip to get on with living. Settle the matter. Develop your taste. Nothing’s worse than living out of someone else’s proverbial suitcase.

hot-tea-cup

 

Taste, or lifestyle, is one of those things that, once you have acquired it, nobody can take from you. It’s yours, internally. It only adds to who you are, never subtracts from, so it won’t be a line item on your tax return. It’s a hidden thing, a nearly imperceptible cache of personal likings — ways of doing things that make sense perhaps only to you but help maintain that other indispensible thing: equilibrium.

I imagine right about now an example would help.

Tea has been a longstanding commodity in our house, though now it’s in flux. For years, Twinings Darjeeling was my go-to every morning. Another cup in the afternoon and one again at night. Out from the purple box came a domestic ritual performed with a certain amount of solemnity. Equilibrium. Remember that word.

But something happened. Earlier this year, I lost my, dare I say, taste for tea, well, Darjeeling anyway. Whether due to a hormonal shift or something less exciting, I couldn’t tell at first. But I needed to blame it on something. A kind of epicurean whodunnit. I say it was the Styrofoam cup — the one they expected me to drink my Darjeeling from when I was in the hospital this past December. It ruined everything. I know it’s odd, but I still buy the purple boxes, tossing a few in the cart to revive my loyalty somehow. Twenty-five years is a long time. But the white foam cup just killed it.

So now it’s Assam. Loose, preferably. Or Irish Breakfast. Same thing, but not really. Ridgways Assam is a brand I’m not too proud to beg for, but it’s hard to get around here. For now, I’m living with Taylor’s of Harrogate, a box of 50 tagless bags I found online. A cut below what I’d actually like, which is a loose organic Assam sold at Wegmans. Malty to the max and fuller-bodied than most. But they’re out — been out for over a month. “Not sure if it’s coming in on the truck this week.”

Um, okee dokee. Thankyouverymuch.

Am I the only one in the world who follows Stew Leonard’s policy?

But all is well, truly. Growing accustomed to that lovely mid-morning cup o’ joe. Peet’s is good, but Caffè Verona never disappoints. French press all the way. Steaming hot. To the brim. In my new favorite mug with the “L” on it.

Want to know what I love most?

Didn’t think so. And nobody else does either.

That’s taste, my friends.

 

 

 

 

onto dry land

Fortitude, Acrylic on linen, 24 x 36, Kathryn Abernathy

“Fortitude”

Acrylic on linen, 24 x 36, Kathryn Abernathy

Exactly when I sank I can’t say • Overnight, this stowaway lay sequestered • nine days silent • sentenced to the bottom of the ocean floor  Squid ink disorients the brain, I could not think • tempest set against me, no way of escape  Gravity led the procession (this imposition became the assignment) with crushing force, until my walls shook • Irony delivered its verdict: “In her absence, cords were cut, men came forth • out of her dilemma a stand was taken: ‘Struck down, but not destroyed.’” 

 What of these aching arms? • Better yet, how heavy is dead weight? • Good questions expose things like roots and debris to the material witness of stale courtroom air • flesh and blood are bound to fail, every breath comes from Him.

Quake, little mountain; roar on, billowing sea. Faith opens doors and my mouth utters this confession:

He is LORD, fear Him.

At last, this, my only offering: in yearning to go home came my remedy: “I have declared peace.”  spit out onto dry land • I’m picking up these bones as fast as I can • learning to walk again coram Deo • informed by this:

To live is Christ, to die is gain.

©2014 Elizabeth DeBarros

_______________________________

Fortitude, Acrylic on linen, 24 x 36, Kathryn Abernathy

For further meditation

Jonah 22 Corinthians 4:9Philippians 1:21

golgotha

This is a revision of  a piece originally posted on December 22, 2008.  From time to time I like to go back and review what I’ve written to see if my views have changed, or if I’m horrified over what I’ve said.  In this case, it’s neither. 

Golgotha Gold mixed media, Julie Wecker

   “Golgotha Gold,” mixed media, Julie Wecker             

____________________________

I’m reading my Gregorian calendar right. It’s just that Christmas brings out in me the truth police and I catch myself breaking the rules again — forcing me to look past the golden glow of the manger and its million and one replicas, fix my gaze upon the Promise for mankind wrapped up in the destiny of a helpless, crying baby.

The movie reel inside my mind fast forwards past Bethlehem, the Magi, and the star in the eastern sky — zooms in on a grittier place on the timeline. I see something else.

A man in his prime, bent over, pouring sweat, stricken. Beaten. I see blood trickling from his thorn-pricked head, bearing the sins of the world on His back, looking up toward a barren hill where He’d soon be lifted up on a criminal’s tree to breathe His last. And I hear something, too. I hear the blind pride of angry soldiers feasting on the fat of their will as they beat with rods the lacerated back of Hope and Love Himself.  I hear the crush of sin and the groanings of a great multitude of rebellious souls being dragged through the dust that testify to this one thing: He did not just carry mens’ burdens, but carried their exact load.

Golgotha. The place where the Determination of God triumphed and announced to those things in heaven, upon the earth, and to the grave below, “It is finished!”

Golgotha. The place where only a few mourned for Deity become flesh. Where He bore the mockers’venom for His silent willingness to become sin for sin. God of Heaven now heralded as Victim of the most scandalous sort.

The reality of Golgotha is the greatest gift ever given and must be received for there to truly be a Merry Christmas at all. I pray when you look out through your car window onto your neighbor’s lawn, in front of your church building, or on the cover of a Christmas card, you see beyond the manger to the hill of Golgotha. And may you see Him, no longer a helpless baby, but exalted on high, seated at the right hand of the Father, making intercession in all His majestic glory, as He truly is.

___________________________________

 Julie Wecker

breaking form: a recipe

orange zest shortbread biscuits

Zante currants

 Zante currants

_________________♦_________________

NEVER THOUGHT I’D WRITE A BLOG POST for a cookie recipe. Well, maybe I did, but scrapped it before I could say butter. But I love breaking the rules when the rules are for breaking. Besides, it’s the holidays!

And even if it’s raining outside, life’s not all Sturm und Drang. I’m a baker at heart, a lover of good, a dreamer of what is not, a searcher of things. Everything that goes into the making of a good cookie. Throw perfectionist in there, too. The perfect cookie, where the flavor is full in the mouth and satisfying, there’s no need to reach for another. One will do. The exact complement to a fine pot of tea shared among friends. It is possible. 

When it comes to cookies, I believe I have found the motherlode.

This is an adaptation of a Martha Stewart recipe, and I’m slapping myself silly that after tweaking the recipe long and hard enough, I created my own so as not to resemble hers at all. I cannot be accused of stealing and I will have escaped from going to jail. Not only have I outgrown Martha Stewart, I’ve outwitted her!

_________________♦___________________

FIRST THINGS FIRST: Read through the recipe. It’s good practice all around, and chances are you’ll have to run out and get something. In this case, probably Grand Marnier. Don’t bother getting the big jug, a little 1 fl. oz. sampler bottle from your local ABC store will suffice. Zante currants can hopefully be found in the dried fruit and raisin section of your neighborhood grocery. My box was found in the northerly regions of aisle 7, sitting in the dark all by its lonesome on the bottom shelf. Jackpot! And don’t fret if you do not have unsalted butter. Call me a rebel, but in all my 25 years of serious baking, I have primarily used salted butter, because that’s what was in the fridge. I cannot tell the difference once the butter gets incorporated into the dough. Suit yourself. Well-formed opinions about butter are always welcome. Now, if you haven’t got a zester, a cheese grater will do. And if you haven’t got a cheese grater, God bless you. Just use a potato peeler and run a sharp knife through the bits of pith-free orange peel once or twice. There’s your zest in all its citrus oil-releasing glory. Next, the mileage you will get from an ounce of orange extract is worth the $4.79. Strap on your boots and hunt for it. I cannot believe I’ve lived without it all this time. And sea salt. It’s a household staple and what has become the lovely difference in my kitchen world. La Baleine or Hain are both reliable brands. Now, on Dasher, on Blixen, let’s get on with our cookie making!

__________________♦__________________

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup Grand Marnier
  • 1/2 cup dried Zante currants
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 + 2 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure orange extract
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (I’m partial to King Arthur Flour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Method:

STEP 1

Combine Grand Marnier and currants; cover, and let stand at room temperature overnight. Drain. Discard liqueur or save for other use.

STEP 2

Beat butter, sugar, and orange zest with a mixer on medium speed until creamy and smooth, about 2 minutes. Can also use fingers instead. Add orange extract and beat until combined. Reduce speed to low. Add flour and salt, beat for 3 additional minutes. Stir in currants by hand or use wooden spoon or heavy-duty spatula.

STEP 3

Form dough into log by rolling in a light dusting of flour on marble pastry board or countertop, about 8-10 inches long, 2 inches in diameter; wrap in parchment, and refrigerate 1 hour (or up to 3 days).

DSC00649

STEP 4

Remove parchment. Slice log into 1/4  inch-thick rounds, and space about 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment. Refrigerate for 30 minutes (This helps to keep shape during baking) prior to baking. Preheat oven to 325° Fahrenheit.

DSC00657

STEP 5

Once oven is preheated, bake until pale golden, about 20 minutes, depending on individual oven calibration. Let cool. Makes approximately 16 delectably rich cookies that hint of the sophisticated flavor of Grand Marnier.

DSC00703

I might still look for ways to perfect this recipe. Less currants, more firmness, and a thicker, more defined shape (translation: slice log into 1 inch thick rounds), but I digress.  Either way, consider it my virtual Christmas gift to you this 2013, with love.

_________________♦_________________

Eat well, love well, be well.

 

when the moon hangs low

honey

4 a.m.

the moon hangs low

clearer than clear

backside in his easy chair

as if to say:

“I’ve done my part,

worked hard, time to rest.

Let the honey dribble from my chin.”

And I think to myself:

Who will catch it?

This honey, this help

this golden muster —

the kind that gives strength in the night,

muscle to my bone,

reparation when I am weak?

(And God knows I need sight to my eyes.

Can’t see a thing without my glasses.)

If that’s my complaint,

then this is my boast:

I am no greater than the moon.

Every season, phase, tide roll — 

around and around

waxing and waning

in and out 

just like it did last year and again yesterday.

Except the waves don’t crash exactly the same way

and in the same place twice.

That man does not tell God what to do

but hangs listless,

waiting —

until the mouth of Him who speaks 

says:

“Take another turn

lift up

turn around

hide behind the sun

hang low,

shine.

I formed you to give light,

hang low tonight.”

And the honey that dripped from the chin of this faithful witness 

was mine to lick. 

Out of thin air,

I am sustained.

honey_____________________

©2013 Elizabeth DeBarros

 

when seeds split open

Ginkgo tree                                                        Photo courtesy of Blandy Experimental Farm

 

How fleeting are the years

they pass under the mistletoe

Like steam

they rise off the lake

— or was it just a pond?

The ripples,

there are so many now.

Some snows we waited for

never came

Burning sands underfoot,

our lot

fall is a journey through the leaves,

telling us what kind of

summer it’s been.

Of all the faces

none do I recall

as vivid

as when faith took root

and hope appeared

when love formed

in a moment’s time

when eternity’s seed split open

and gave birth

to something beautiful

in its time.

And time is His, not mine

every ginkgo leaf that falls

is remembered by the limb upon which it hung.

If He who makes sap run every spring

and the redbuds a little fuller,

Can He not whistle in the wind

and work a wonder for you?

Can He not work a wonder for you?

©2013 Elizabeth DeBarros

a fractured parable

SO MUCH ANGST. I catch myself every now and then, wanting to get loud. I sometimes want to raise my fist, break a jar, carry my torch down into the valley and raid the village. But, like I said, I catch myself. I know how easy it is to prove myself a lemming.

I am fraught with desires.

I’d love a better America. A better world. I recoil at the state of our nation. What I read online or in the newspaper has become like reading a sci-fi horror novel. Things we used to pay for to get a thrill for a couple of hours now scare us unsolicited. I don’t want to run down the list of names, and I really don’t want to serve up the details, let alone know all of them. The amount of information that comes my way on a given day is cause for vertigo. Everyone’s a celebrity but nobody’s deservedly famous. We’re all experts, but we still wake up desperate each morning for something. And isn’t it amazing how we’ve become gods overnight? Late night TV proves that ever since Johnny Carson died, we are our own late-night talk show host. We weren’t entirely pleased with Jay Leno. He seemed forced. After SNL turned rancid back in the 90s (didn’t you smell it?) we went backstage and reinvented ourselves. Our remote controls give us power to create. So when Letterman went and ruined it for himself, we found a way to be our own Conan.

We greet the world on our little stages, make small talk, send everyone home with a laugh and wave goodnight.

Nobody gets a kiss.

We don’t exactly trust Jimmy Fallon.

If this world is your home, you’ll always be turning up the volume, keeping one eye on the ball while you go get something to eat. Living for the weekend just keeps getting better and better and half-time is a veritable resurrection from the dead.

Americuns like it this way. Just don’t try to convince us.

________________________________

With my macro lens, I zoom in hard and see a farmer who went out to plant while it was still dark. He spends the better part of the day bent over, taking time with the soil, treating it as though it were a recipe for fine tea, concocted by a master blender.

Tillin’ and sowin’, sowin’ and tillin’, and sowin’ some more. Holdin’ that manure fork as if he was born with it. Fertility is the trick! Pack it down, nice and light, let the rains come. “Not too hard, Lord, please.”

When the first peek of growth springs up, his insides smile, making his breeches pop! He leans on his fork, doing his part, shooing away the birds, taking the time to pick off the beetles, keeping things orderly. This goes on all day.

At night, he goes in to settle his haunches, hoping tomorrow brings a little sunshine. Wonder what’s on his mind?

“These crops — they’re all I’ve got.” “That, and time.”  

A farmer being faithful

 

summer bids adieu

lemons and limesCherries and Mangoesmangoes

Mangoes and cherries

lemons, limes

steamy mornings

chill of night

mugs of tea, hot

and iced

I was long in need of refreshment

I was

treading oceans

scaling walls

fixed positions

scrape and thrall —

Making things right

takes time

So, we took the time.

Order comes

as chaos bends

before the Maker

Who descends.

 Watching and waiting — 

Shoot the stars,

 hasten the sun,

collapse the moon:

“Your will be done.”

God didn’t enter our world,

it was rather the other way around.

Beating our wings

 summer bids adieu

a hiccup, 

a laugh,

brief interval,

a curtain or two.

More than order

gone is grief

 Arose in my hands

   (thorns asunder)

rest and peace —

ours, 

Shalom.

©2013 Elizabeth DeBarros

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