Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Celebration: Spring Table-scape & Menu

Over the weekend, we were blessed by having our son, daughter-in-law, their two munchkins, and a nephew as house-guests. 

 Yesterday for dinner, they were joined by a great grandfather, two great grandmothers, and a great aunt.  Getting ready for the party is always fun for me.  I enjoy cleaning the house, planning menus, purchasing the groceries, and making flower arrangements.  But, the flower arranging is my favorite preparation.
purple tulips and purple grape hyacinths (Muscaris amenicum)
I began by soaking the oasis in water with flower-perservative.  Then I cut two dozen purple tulips stems into seven inch lengths.  Next, I gathered several dozen of the tiny grape hyacinths from my garden, cutting them in five inch lengths.  I spaced the tulips in the oasis.  Then I filled in with the smaller flowers, and finally I added the tulip leaves.  The green and purple color scheme is one of my favorites.

My Easter menu was easy and could be used all spring and summer.  I began by serving crackers and cheese and a pear nectar with sparkling pear juice as an appetizer.  

At the table I first passed the whole wheat dinner rolls and the citrus and strawberry salad.  A short cut that eliminated the time consuming and tedious chore of segmenting the grapefruit was using canned but drained pink and white grapefruit sections. I also added a can of drained crushed pineapple.  Finally, I mixed in a pint of frozen (but defrosted) sweetened strawberries in their juice.  
The main course was a honey baked, spiral-cut ham, green beans, carrots, and scalloped potatoes. My shortcut for the scalloped potatoes is to use the packaged sliced potatoes sold for making home fries. The recipe is on the back of the package.
Dessert was simple--a purchased coconut cake topped with a scoop of pina colada sorbet.

The most memorable moments of the weekend were watching a three-year-old and a one-year-old hunt Easter eggs.  

Too quickly, the weekend was over and they had to drive away.  

Happy memories linger.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Coloring Walls to tell a Story

My daughter and her husband are closing on their stone cottage next week, so Anna has been picking paint colors. Currently, every room in the home is painted an off-white, builders-grade paint. However, to help each room reflect her unique perspective, Anna is coloring the walls.

The off-white living room as staged in the real estate ad.
Over the weekend, we took paint samples to view in each room.  In each unique lighting environment, we compared the colors to transportable furnishings (a drapery panel, a throw pillow, and honed marble tiles) to be used in the room.  What an important step!  In some rooms, what looked to be a certain color on the paint chip appeared entirely different in the space!

Anna will be using a new line of paint from Benjamin Moore called Color Story.

These are "full spectrum" paints which means each color is formulated from many different pigments not including black or gray which dulls color.  Whereas most paint colors use a few pigments in their formula, "full spectrum" paints use between eight and fifteen pigments. The resulting vibrancy is readily apparent.

Actually, artists have been mixing pigments without black or gray for centuries, but it is fairly new to commercial paint companies.

As far as I know, Donald Kaufman is the pioneer in the field of architectural paint coloration.  Back in 1976, he and his wife, Taffy Dahl, began developing their "full spectrum" formulas.  To determine the colors, they collaborated with the best architects and designers and travelled all over the world visiting museums, cathedrals, stores, hotels, grand homes, and modest houses.  Today, their luminescent (over one hundred) paint colors are available through Pratt & Lambert distributors and cost between $85 and $100 a gallon.

Customers can purchase sample cards of Donald Kaufman paint through: Paint samples are available for purchase by calling Eagle Paint & Wallpaper at 1-800-237-6918.

The next "full spectrum" colorist I became aware of is clothing designer turned interior designer, C. J. Volk who started manufacturing her paints in 2001. 

Volk's passion for vibrant, non-muted saturated colors led her to develop a palette using many pigments.  Citron, Volk's company, is located in Tuscon, Arizona, but customers can purchase the nearly one hundred colors, retailing from $55 a gallon, from her web site: 

Just this winter, Benjamin Moore launched their "full spectrum" line.  These paints are environmentally friendly and were tested by the company to be "versatile with a number of architectural styles and lighting environments."

Anna chose to use the Benjamin Moore Color Stories "full spectrum" product for several reasons.  First, Benjamin Moore has piloted their Color Story line in a couple of New England locations and in the Washington, DC area. For Anna, the Chevy Chase location of Monarch Home Decorating Center was a convenient place to pick up the Color Story paint samples. 

Furthermore, the $68 a gallon price, although a bit higher than the Citron paints, was offset by the elimination of shipping and availability of free samples. Finally, the Benjamin Moore Color Story line has two hundred colors to choose from, more than double Donald Kaufman or Citron paints. 

As each of the stone cottage rooms begins to tell their own color story, I will post pictures!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Promise of Springtime

In the past couple of weeks a groove has been worn in my mind by a Christian hit tune from over thirty years ago; the song by Bill & Gloria Gaither is called:  "Thank God for the Promise of Springtime". 
Maybe the unseasonably bleak weather, together with some frightening medical news, pushed my mind's replay button on the words:     
"Though the earth seemed bleak and barren
And the seeds lay brown and dead,
Yet the promise of life throbbed within them,
And I knew spring was just ahead.
Thank God for the promise of springtime,
Once again my heart will sing;
There's a brand new day that is dawning,
Thank God for the promise of spring."
Two weeks ago our daughter and her husband went for a prenatal exam.  The ultra-sonographer and then the perineatologist saw that their 10-week-old baby had a relatively large cystic hygroma.  In the early weeks of pregnancy such a finding indicates very high odds of chromosomal abnormalities which may be incompatible with life.  With heavy hearts we have waited nearly two weeks for a repeat sonogram.  Meanwhile, Rachel and Curt prayed and processed the news.  
Here are Rachel's own words after the first exam:  
"Curt, Will and I wanted to share with you that we are expecting baby #2.  I am sharing the news with you all now, so that you can please be in prayer for our baby.  We had our first ultrasound this week and got to hear the baby's heart beat.  However, the ultrasound revealed extra fluid on the baby's neck.  My OB recommended that I see the perinatalogist and receive genetic testing.  We went the next day to the perinatologist...who said that the baby has a cystic hygroma... 

I know that through suffering we come to know Christ in a more intimate way, and for that I am thankful...But I must say, that humanly we are sad, dissappointed, fearful, while at the same time, grateful that we can trust the Lord in ALL circumstances.  

We are reminded of Romans 8:31 'What then are we to say about these things?  If God is for us, who is against us?  He who did not whithold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?' And verses 37-39:  'No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinved that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.'  

God also reminded me...that he 'uses the weak things of the world to shame the wise and the lowly things of the world He will lift up.'  God, our Father, is our ultimate example of loving the weak and helpless.  And at this time when we are feeling weak, we know that He is the one who makes us strong.  And if we have a weak and helpless baby, He will be sufficient in his or her weakness. "

More than a week later, over the weekend, Rachel wrote:
"I just wanted to give you all a little update about how we are doing.  

Emotionally, I am actually doing really well.  God has really done quite a work in my heart.  The first few days after our appointment were really hard for me ... full of fear, sadness, dissappointment, anger, and sorrow. I am sure it doesn't help to have the raging hormones of a pregnant woman and having come off of several weeks of feeling really sick!!!  

But I just kept going to the Lord with my raw emotions...He met me there and has really drawn me into such an inimate relationship with Him.  It's incredible how God's Word becomes so much more real and active in my life, when my faith has been forced to be put into practice.  
It has been a journey, but I have come to realize that it's impossible to fear, when God has promised to give us 'every good and perfect gift from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows' James 1:17. When I truly believe His Words and promises I have no fear... (Now I have the sonogram laying out in the kitchen, and I can look at it without anxiety and thank the Lord for this precious little life). 

What a wonder...this life inside me has taught me more about grace, prayer, joy and thankfulness in suffering, faith, trust/surrender, and intimacy with Christ in the few weeks of its life than all the previous days of my life!   

Finally, I've reflected on this:  'Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed… Without weakening in his faith… Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what He had promised' (Rom 4).   

I just know that God is able to heal this baby if He so chooses, but if that is not His will, He is still good and His plan is still perfect for our family. Anyway, it is such a freeing thing to be completely surrendered and without fear."  

Then after their appointment, Rachel said: 

"Curt and I are just about speechless and in awe of God's answers to our prayers. When the perinatalogist did the ultrasound he said the extra fluid had gone away and the area that had a really significant amount of fluid was completely gone.  It was simply amazing site to behold...because only about two weeks ago the ultrasound looked so different.  We could see our baby moving his/her hands, fingers, legs, and it's cute little nose and profile...It was just incredible.  

The doctor is very happy with these results.  However, he also said that whenever they find a cystic hygroma early in pregnancy, like they did with our baby, (even if it clears up and goes away, like it has) there is still always an increased risk of chromosomal/genetic problems. (So, I had blood work taken today that will hopefully give us even more reassuring news. I should get it back in about 10 days).

So we are very, very, very thankful for these results today!  We just want to give the Lord praise for his answers to our prayers.  Thank you all for being so faithful in your prayers for us and for standing by us through these difficult weeks." 

Today, Rachel got the results of her blood tests. Here is her latest, and hopefully last e-mail update (until the announcement of baby Peteresen #2's arrival.  She writes:

"I just wanted to let you all know that I received my first trimester prenatal screening (which uses the mom's age, baby's ultrasound measurements (including the measurement of the extra fluid they saw early on), and results of a blood test to determine our baby's risk for having chromosomal problems.

Basically, because my blood results were so good our chances actually decreased drastically after this test of having a baby with chromosomal problems...The nurse who shared the results said they were "fantastic" and "extremely reassuring".  We won't need to do an amniocentesis, and we believe and trust that God has totally healed our baby." 
Praising our Lord and Savior,

From our daughter's journal, you can understand our journey.  It is with spilling-over joy that we thank God for the promise of springtime.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Living is Giving

In the last few weeks the Westminster Presbyterian Church congregation has undertaken a heart-stretching design project, outfitting an apartment for a refugee family.  Those who have helped in the renovation have verified the truth of Christ's upside-down kingdom:  It is in giving that we receive.

The family of six (including two parents, two younger children, an older expectant teenager and her young child) are being resettled in Lancaster County from a refugee camp on the border of Thailand.

Originally, from Burma (Myanmar) which is southwest of China, the family came from the Karenn State, one of the poorest areas in the country and the focus of civil war.

According to a Vision Beyond Borders worker, Patrick Klein, "More than 500,000 people have been killed in Burma (Myanmar) in the last thirty years.  More than 3,300 villages have been burned to the ground by the Burmese military, and thousands of children have lost parents...About one million Burmese refugees have fled across the border to Thailand...Even refugee camps in Thailand are not safe from Burmese soldiers.  They frequently cross the shallow river separating Thailand and Burma to poison water supplies and kill or kidnap refugees."

Klein said the genocide is an ethnic cleansing, but also has a specifically anti-Christian agenda.

A Burmese official boldly stated recently, "Soon there will be no Christians in this nation.  You will only be able to see a Karenn person in a picture in a museum."

Facing such persecution and genocide, it is no wonder Karenni refugees are waiting for visas to emigrate from Myanmar and immigrate to the United States.

A number of caring Westminster church members have embraced our Karenni refugee family. Elder Jim O'Conner together with his wife, Connie, initiated the effort with Church World Service, a non-profit organization that resettles approximately 300 immigrants every year in Central Pennsylvania.
Jim and Connie O'Connor 
The resettlement effort has been coordinated by a new church member, Janet Reedy.  Janet has paired the coming family's needs with volunteers, as well as linked the congregation with relatives of the immigrants who are already settled in Lancaster.
Janet Reedy
Builder, Pete Alecxih, Jr., had his crew renovate an apartment in Lancaster city for housing.  They gutted the kitchen, repaired damaged walls, retrofitted the bathroom, installed new windows, and resurfaced floors in a matter of a couple of weeks!  Now the family will be Pete's tenants.
Pete Alecxih, Jr. 
 Elsa Martin gathered furniture and linens,
Elsa Martin
while her husband, Gary, spruced up the yard for the family.

Other members scrubbed, painted, and furnished the apartment. For example, the apartment received a wonderful leather sofa, some occasional chairs, and a great circular table from David Teply's firm.  Others donated a kitchen table, chairs and hutch, beds and dressers, linens, pots and pans, glassware and dishes.  Grace Hagey organized donations of food staples. In short, the Karenni family have been provided with everything they need from car seats to toothpaste!

Below are the before and after pictures of the apartment.
Living room before
Living room before
Living room after
Living room after
kitchen before
kitchen before
Diane LaBelle and Grace Hagey organize the refurbished kitchen with Janet Reedy. 
kitchen after
bathroom  before
bathroom after
master bedroom before
master bedroom after
upstairs children's room before
upstairs children's room after
small upstairs bedroom before
Small upstairs bedroom after

What a difference paint, new floors, windows, cabinets, fixtures, curtains, and repurposed furnishings make.  The depressing place has become an inviting home. 

However, setting up the apartment is just the first step; assimilating this family will be a major undertaking for the next months.  Bob Hivner and Kim Melton have volunteered to help them learn how to manage their finances. Heather Cunningham will make sure their health needs are met, and Ellen Hivner will help the family learn English as a second language.  

With love and patience, it is hopeful that the family will be mostly independent within a year. How rewarding will that be?

Actually, our reward was seeing the family enjoying their new home.  

With so many participants, no one was overwhelmed.  To a person, the helpers enjoyed the extreme make-over.  

In reality, volunteers were mirroring their Lord "who though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor."  Think about it; Christ became a refugee for us.  Luke 9:58 says, "The foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the son of man has no place to lay his head."  He left heaven's palaces and came to a "world of woe".  Why?  So that we who are poor might become rich.

What a privilege to follow his example.  Furthermore, those who helped received more than we gave.  We gave time and received the friendship of others.  We gave supplies, but had our hearts filled. To paraphrase Christ's words: Those who give are more blessed than those who receive.

Our reward:  a happy six-year-old little girl holding her new doll and claiming this bed as her own!