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Huddled Over Grace

I sat on the floor of the shower holding a bottle of white, liquid soap. My head was tilted up as streams of warm water rained down my face washing away fresh tears. The cries were fewer and farther between, but they still came at times. Grief would come in waves they told me, and it has.

Three months earlier, we had lost our mom to cancer and, that day, I was headed back to her house to face the cabinets, drawers, and closets, not just of her things, but of her memory and of my memories with her. I didn’t want to go but, more truthfully than that, I didn’t want her to be gone anymore.soap1 I looked down at the nearly empty bottle of soap in my hand. It had been part of a present from our mom to my sister, Amy, and I. A simple, soap and lotion, gift set in the midst of the complicated twists and turns of cancer life. A little gift labeled and branded Pure Grace.Hug

I remember standing there the day she gave it to us hugging in my kitchen, the three of us arms intertwined, heads touching, staring at our shoes…huddling over that simple gift of soap, lotion, and grace. Unspoken words rumbled through our minds as we asked someone to take a picture, not because this was the first time we had ever huddled that way, but because current circumstances and possibilities gnawed within us.  We wanted to capture how we loved each other.

Not long after that day, we were back in my home again. This time a hospital bed was set up in my bedroom for our mom, and my house had become a revolving door of nurses and friends and family from all over stopping by each day to bring food, or flowers, or letters, or candles, or paper goods, or drinks, or to pick up laundry, or kids, or just to stay and visit….or to say goodbye. This was hospice care. This was the unwanted end we had been fighting against, however, a beautiful, loving end if there had to be one.

Amy and I spent most the time on either side of our mom, our arms sometimes intertwined, our heads sometimes touching hers, huddling over the gift of grace in our mother and clinging to the gift of grace in our God. The grace that gave us the courage to whisper in her ear, “It’s ok to go home.”

And so I sat on the floor of the shower gripping that bottle of white liquid soap, that now nearly empty bottle of Pure Grace, and it registered, gratefully, that true grace is never empty.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.”  2 Corinthians 12:9

And here I was sad, and weak, and in need of much grace…but not the kind that comes in a bottle because, at the end of the day, we all know that’s just soap. But true grace. The kind that helps you face loss with hope, the kind that helps you choose forgiveness, thankfulness, and joy. The kind of grace that gets you up off the floor of the shower and is never almost empty because it never runs out.

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The day I sent Amy this post to preview, she sent me a picture of the Giving Key she happened to be wearing that day….Sometimes our lives work like that….

His grace, thankfully, never runs out and with such grace, an end is transformed to a beginning.

Choose grace,

Cristi

A Thousand Miles, a Sad Mess and a Pecan Pie

“I could never love anyone more than I love my sisters”. Name that movie. (okay, its a book too)  Little Women. Amy and I watched it years ago and have been quoting it to each other ever since.  How deep is a sister’s love? Deep enough to drive cross country with multiple young children.  Yes. Twice. Did I say twice? Oh yeah, I did. Well, maybe I drove there for Amy and maybe I drove there for the most delectable pecan pie I’ve ever had….and I am not a pecan pie person. I am apple pie all the way…..but we’ll get to that later.

She lived in a postcard town in North Carolina. So cute.  An old, classic Victorian, yellow house, with an American flag on the wrap around front porch, is where they called home. The street was lined with such houses, all different colors, all old, with lush landscaping.

yellow house

If you walked out the front door and turned right you’d run in to horse stables down the road, surrounded by colossal pine trees and picturesque riding trails.  Just being there, you wanted to own a pair of riding boots. On the other hand, if you turned left, you’d run in to a downtown main street straight out of a small town movie set.  Train tracks, with a tiny train station, an ice cream parlor, a yoga studio, a movie theatre, a library, a park and dozens of charming shops and restaurants. Gorgeous, vintage red brick…everywhere.  There is a particularly preferred store called The Mockingbird and a particularly appetizing restaurant called Chef Warren’s.  Warren happened to also be Amy’s neighbor. He and his wife raised chickens and an organic garden whose crops he featured on their menu at times.  Fresh food, french pressed coffee, and hands down the finest pecan pie. Ever. But, again, we’ll get to that later.

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My last trip to the Carolina’s, we took our trusty black Suburban. This car has been with us since we became a two child family and carried us everywhere tried and true. “Old faithful”.

We rolled up to the sweet yellow house in Southern Pines, unloaded and fell fast asleep.  Old Faithful had done it again.  Road trip success. Check.

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The next morning, we awoke to towering pines and a quaint town.  We started up “Old Faithful” only to hear a dreadful screeching noise coming from under the hood.  Whaaaattt??? “It’s probably just a fan belt,” I thought to myself. “Yeah, definitely a fan belt.”

I drove my screaming car to the parking lot of the cute repair shop, also on Main Street.  I waited for their inspection of the fan belt. Time passes and Mr. Car Guy looks at me, looks at my car, squints his eyes, and proceeds to ask me ,”Do you happen to be in the market for a new car?”  I nearly choke and sputter back to him, “What are you trying to say?”

“Well, it seems you need a new a engine?” he says.

“Old faithful!!” I think to myself. “Why have you forsaken me?”

I breathe deep, wish my husband was standing here handling this situation, wish it was just a fan belt, and then consider this one of those character refining moments as I reflect on the circumstance.

Hmmmmm. New engines, those can’t be cheap. I mean that’s the main part of a car, right? And my husband is in Austin. I’m not going to buy a car here without my him. “Well, I guess we got to get it working.”

Mr. Car Guy states, “Oh wait , ma’am , we can’t fix it here. You have to be able to drop the engine. We can’t drop the engine.”

Long story short. (or short story long) We end up towing “Old Faithful” a couple towns over where we buy a used engine. Just as I suspected, not cheap. Our stay with with Amy (or Bebe, as my kids call her) goes from one week to three weeks as we wait for the engine overhaul.  We make crepes every other day and eat Warren’s amazing pecan pie.

Towards the end of our stay, Amy and her husband leave town for a wedding. That same evening a huge storm rolls in to Southern Pines. Lightning, thunder, wind…the whole deal. The baby starts throwing up at midnight. Nice. I am thinking he is having a terrible reaction to some bites he got on his face earlier in the day. I have no car. I am in a strange town. My sister is gone. My husband is gone. These are good times.(insert sarcasm)

I speak to one of our best friends back home who’s a family doctor.  After several questions, his diagnosis is that it is just a stomach bug unrelated to the bites. Whew. I’m relieved. Kind of.  In the meantime, there is still throw up. Oooohhhh how I love throw up. Wait, no I don’t. But, still, here I am covered in it. Its a sad mess really. Midol take me away.

Then, in the middle of giving the little guy a late night bath, the power goes out. …The power to a hundred year old house….. A house that belongs to my sister…..A sister that is not there.

I am solo and am sure a breaker tripped. It’s pitch black and my mind (not my body) wanders to the breaker box.  The breaker box that is under the house….In the basement. The basement you enter through a secret door that lifts up out of the floor. Repeat, out of the floor. The secret door that my sister will not even go down by herself. Being that the house is in North Carolina and one hundred plus years old, it potentially was some sort of hidden room that was part of the underground railroad. But that’s just my wild imagination. Who knows?

I am NOT going down there at two in the morning in the middle of a thunderstorm. No way. I’d rather sleep with the power off. Which I do.

Fast forward. Baby ceases to puke. The sun comes up. Power lights up. Sister comes home. Husband shows up. (love him) Car is fixed. (love it) Everything is back as it should be.

“Old Faithful” is on the road again. When it’s all said and done, I am thinking two things.  “I am not doing this trip again for a looonnnng time.” (sorry sister) and “Thank goodness I got some of Chef Warren’s pecan pie.”

And yes, I will share his recipe. He does so on his website and we made it this past Thanksgiving. Then we devoured it and thought happy thoughts.

Chef Warren’s Pecan Pie

This is their most requested recipe.

Yields two 9″ pies. Any extra filling can be refrigerated for up to one month.

Preheat oven to 275 degrees

4 ounces unsalted butter

8 ounces unbleached flour

2 pounds light brown sugar

12 eggs

4 cups of Karo syrup

1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

1 teaspoon of salt

3 cups of pecan pieces

1 cup of pecan halves

2 pie shells – par baked at 400 degrees for 10 minutes

Cream together the flour and the butter. Add the light brown sugar and then beat in eggs, two at a time. Add Karo syrup, vanilla, and salt. Mix in one and a half cups of pecan pieces per pie. Fill the shell and then top it off with half a cup of pecan halves. Place in the oven on a cookie sheet at 275 for approximately 2 hours or until set. He recommends letting it sit overnight in the refrigerator and serving it the next day. The pie freezes and defrosts well, so you can save the for those special occasions.

There you go. Chef Warren’s Pecan Pie. Make it for Christmas. He does not give a pie crust recipe, but may I highly suggest a homemade crust. It really does make all the difference and can be made ahead of time as well.  The one I use is from Ina Garten….use it for pies and quiche…AMAZING. Here’s the link to PERFECT PIE CRUST.

Thank goodness Amy has moved back to Texas and thank goodness Chef Warren shared his recipe for pecan pie.

Peace Child,

Cristi

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“Old Faithful” running strong.

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