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Friday, January 30, 2009

Higher Ground

I woke up this morning, with a vague recollection of part of my dream during the night. Marc and I were on vacation, staying on the seventh floor of a hotel that was literally right on the edge of a beautiful beach. We had just stepped onto the warm sand when we were alerted about the possible threat of a tsunami coming. My reaction was rather calm, even for watching myself in a dream.

(Dreams are strange, aren't they?)

Right away, I started repeating over and over, "we need to get to higher ground!" Well, we ended up deciding that our seventh-floor hotel room was the perfect place. Fortunately I'm a little smarter in real life. But, as I woke up this morning the thing that kept repeating through my mind was, "we need to get to higher ground."

This week I've found myself desperately needing some higher ground to get through some of these new stages of grief. I try not to focus too much on the pain and the grief, but honestly, the last six months of my life have been hard. For real hard. It has been hard to face the reality of our loss, and it has been hard to come to terms with what the rest of our life might hold, or not hold for that matter.

And, I find myself recognizing the wisdom in finding that "higher ground." I'm so glad I did on Wednesday.

It is comforting to know that I am known and understood and loved by God. When I feel burdened by the loneliness of my heartache, I find relief in those quiet moments when I feel the strong assurance that He knows. He understands. Even the feelings that I'm too embarrassed and sad to express to anyone else. He knows them all. And, still loves me, too.

This journey to higher ground is the pathway of discipleship to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a journey that will ultimately lead us to exaltation with our families in the presence of the Father and the Son. Consequently, our journey to higher ground must include the house of the Lord. As we come unto Christ and journey to higher ground, we will desire to spend more time in His temples, because the temples represent higher ground, sacred ground.
- Joseph B. Wirthlin

(My time spent on that higher ground this week couldn't have come at a better time. We got a phone call today from the mortuary. The headstone we ordered right before Christmas is supposed to be set today... I don't know how I feel about that yet.)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pizza Margherita

I've decided to share my most favorite pizza. It makes me a little nervous, actually. It looks so average that I'm afraid it won't be respected the way it deserves. Yes, it is simple... but that only adds to its magnificence. But, I have to warn that it'll ONLY turn out properly if you use the right ingredients. Just so you know... you've been forewarned. Even the slightest of alterations will completely mess it up. Just sayin'.

Pizza Margherita

1. Best Pizza Dough Recipe (previous post) - this dough recipe will make two 12" pizzas.

2. Homemade pizza sauce

3. Fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced NOT grated - you'll know it's fresh if it's packaged in water and says "Fresh Mozzarella" on the container. 

4. Real Parmesan - you'll know it's real if it DOESN'T come in a cylindrical green container with "Kraft" written on the outside and a strange powdery substance on the inside. If you're really serious, buy an actual wedge of parmigiano reggiano. Oh, so good!

5. Fresh basil

6. Pizza stone and cornmeal (if you have them)

DIRECTIONS: While the pizza stone is heating up in a 400 degree oven, stretch your dough as thin as possible and set aside. Prepare all other ingredients. When pizza stone is heated, pull it out of the oven. Sprinkle cornmeal on it, covering its surface. Carefully lay pizza dough on the cornmeal-covered stone, then start adding the ingredients on top of the dough - pizza sauce, mozzarella slices, light sprinkle of parmigiano, and the fresh basil (either as full leaves or chopped up, however you prefer). Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, give or take 5. (Sorry, I can't remember how long, exactly. The crust will be a light golden color when it's done.) It is seriously SO GOOD. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Pizza Casserole

I have some thoughts swirling around chaotically in my mind, and there's nothing like making pizza to distract me further. I recently tried a new way of making pizza and it's already a favorite. It's your basic Pizza, only you make it in a casserole dish (like a 9x13 pyrex), so that the dough comes up the sides and creates a sort of deep dish pizza.

You're welcome to use your own dough recipe, but if you want to try a REALLY good recipe, check this one out. 

Best Pizza Dough (for ONE crust)

1/2 Tbsp. dry yeast

1 tsp. sugar

1 cup warm water

2 3/4 cups flour

1 tsp. salt

1 Tbsp. olive oil


1. Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water and leave in a warm place for 15 minutes.

2. Mix the flour with the salt, then add flour mixture and olive oil alternately to the yeast mixture.

3. Turn the dough out to a floured surface and knead for 4-5 minutes or until smooth.

4. Return the dough to the bowl and cover. Leave it to rise for 30 minutes.

5. Knead the dough for 2 minutes, then stretch it out to your desired shape and size.

Okay, now back to the Pizza Casserole.

Spread your dough into a very well Pam-greased 9x13 dish, or other casserole-type dish that you prefer, making sure that the crust covers all the way up the sides of the dish. Next, top with your favorite pizza toppings. Some of my favorites on this pizza include: my homemade delicious pizza sauce, browned Italian sausage, red and green bell peppers, mushrooms, olives, slightly-cooked broccoli (Yes, I love BROCCOLI on my pizza), Mozzarella, and grated Parmesan. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Buon Appetito!

The beauty of this recipe is that you just pile it all on. AND, with all those vegetables I only end up using about a half cup of cheese, making it that much more healthy than your average pizza.

Coming tomorrow: My All-Time Favorite "Old" Pizza. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Home Again

As I mentioned a while back, we've been preparing to welcome my parents home from Australia. And, I'm happy to report that they are now back home. We met them at the airport in San Francisco, with this hand-crafted banner:

We took the liberty of hanging the sign on the airport's line barriers, or whatever you want to call them. It worked quite nicely. And, we got more than one dazed traveller turn that corner from customs with great enthusiasm as they read the sign. It was great! Until we had to watch the dejection slowly cover their faces when they realized we weren't their welcoming party. Although, there was one guy who, when greeting his friend, pulled a Vanna White, pointing to our sign, as if to imply he had made it just for her. We didn't mind. 

I'm pretty sure my parents decided to build up the suspense, purposely waiting to be the last ones to walk down that long corridor. But, once they finally did, it was wonderful to see them again. Hugs and then some...

After sending so many of us on missions, we had to make sure to get all the awkward poses that they got of us, and make this a real-welcome-home-experience.

That Wednesday morning in San Francisco was clear and sunny. Fifty-two degrees. Definitely not as winterous as other places on the map. But, since they were coming from three-digit temperatures in their summerous Sydney, it was quite a cold welcome for them.

Our plan had been to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, another family tradition of sorts, and somewhere in the middle share a toast with none other than Martinelli's. I can't blame them for not wanting to make the long walk after a 13-plus hour flight, especially with the shocking difference in temperature. 

So, we just made a quick stop at the look-out point, took some photos...

... and still shared our Martinelli's. No need to throw everything out the window, right?  

Finally home. Again.

There is some aspect of having my parents home that has helped with my grieving process. It reminds me of moments in my childhood when I would get hurt at school or at a friend's house... I would swallow down that lump in my throat, and bite the inside of my bottom lip to keep my chin from quivering. But, then as soon as I'd return home, the tears would come gushing out. With my parents home now, I've realized that maybe I have been holding more in that I thought. Maybe there was some release that could only come with them coming back home. I'm glad to have them back.

This homecoming of theirs has only made the anticipation even greater to be back Home again, surrounded in the arms of a loving Father, where I know I'll find even greater relief and joy than I am now able to imagine, where my throat lumps will disappear and my chin won't feel the need to quiver. There, "encircled eternally in the arms of His love"... those arms of safety, arms of mercy, arms of love. A grown daughter, who still needs the comfort of Home.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


So, we've been absent. The last two weeks have been filled with some good memories - time spent with family, mostly. We were in Seattle for almost a week with Marc's family. I seriously love the family I married into. (And, I swear, I'm not just saying that because they may or not be reading this right now....)

We took a bunch of photos, and as I was going through them I realized that Eliza and Reese happened to be standing in front of our camera for most of that week. Don't know how that happened... but aren't they cute?

I feel bad that we didn't get more photos of all the other family members we spent the week with. I think there were about 30 of us there hanging out, even though the photos don't prove that. 

Oh, here's one of Zac... 

and, one of Colton.

Lunch at Taco Time with Eliza, Joy, Bruce, and Celinda (the photographer):

Visiting the cemetery where Marc's grandparents and oldest brother, Robbie, are buried:

It had been way too long since we'd returned to the clouds and dampness of Marc's childhood. We were shocked to wake up to snow on two different days we were there. It only added to the joy of being with family. After the first snowfall, Marc and I went on a walk through the winter wonderland. We ended up at a Walgreens, where we bought Cherry Carmex, Fiddle Faddle, Chocolate Milk, and one other item that will remain unnamed. 

After the second snowfall, I was caught in a seriously snowball fight with Zac, Davis, Alida, Colton, Cherstin, Eliza, Reese, Bruce, Nicholas, and Brynn. For some reason I was their obvious target. I don't remember the last time I laughed that hard. I was totally out-numbered... that is, until 3-year old Eliza started feeling bad for me and joined my team. She sure showed them.

Our trips to Seattle never disappoint. We won't let another two years pass before coming back again. 

Monday, January 5, 2009

Long-awaited Reunion

My parents will finish their mission this week. They have spent the last 18 months in Sydney, Australia. We took advantage of the opportunity and visited them for ten days in March of this year. It is one experience we will never forget - we had such a fantastic time!

It has been hard to face some of this year's challenges without my parents near. So many times I've yearned to have my Mom comfort me in only the way a mother can. And I've needed my Dad to lovingly put his arm around me and reassure me that everything will be okay. I have felt their love and support, though, from afar.

I'm extra grateful for my siblings and close friends who have stepped in and filled some of those needs and yearnings. Marc, especially, has been faithful in standing by my side every step of the way. We have found a new closeness with each other. How I love him.

With my parents' arrival approaching, I've been thinking a lot about our reunion. Anticipating the joy that we'll feel, and the tears of joy and relief that will be shed. Those long-awaited hugs and kisses will mean so much more, after the time and distance that have separated us. Just even the thought of seeing them in a couple of days brings tears to my eyes.

And, as I've envisioned being with my parents again, I've thought of another reunion where the roles will be reversed. Being now in the position of daughter welcoming my parents home from a long and trying mission, has offered me a better glimpse from the perspective of our twin daughters. I'm sure they feel many of the same feelings of anticipation and joy at the thought of welcoming us back home, with them in heaven.

There are no words to describe how I feel about that joyful reunion that awaits us. We'll finally be together with our girls again, and our heartache and grief will be swept away. Although, I have to admit that it's still so painful to recognize that our "mission" here will likely last for another 60 years or so. We find great comfort in the promise of the joy that will replace the pain. And, for all of this pain, there must be something truly great that lies ahead.

"The cavity which suffering carves into our souls will one day also be the receptacle of joy."

- Neil A. Maxwell

"The deep hurt is the mirror image of the deep joy that still awaits you."

- Bruce C. Hafen