I have been reading in Ecclesiastes recently, and I thought the verses below would be appropriate for this letter. This was written last month, but the Valentine’s letter trumped it, so here it is March until I am giving some reflections on the “New Year,” even though it is not so new anymore. Let the whole truth be known; actually this and last month's letter were originally one really long letter, but my editor told me ‘way too long Mom, this is easily three letters!’ So I have made it into two. Here is essentially, with some editing, part 2. The theme of ‘Love for...’ is carried over from thinking this would be part of the February/Valentine’s Day letter. Thank the Lord for editors! : )
Contentment for the New Year - 2011
May the Lord bless you in 2011 with the contentment indicated in these verses! And in that contentment, may He also give you joy and appreciation for what current circumstances you are in. I have found there are always at least a few positives you can think of no matter how bleak things might seem, and it always helps to get your mind out of discouraging thinking. Once when I was complaining about something, Sarah said, ‘Mom, at least the situation isn't like this’... and she proceeded to paint a scenario the opposite extreme of my complaint, and it was equally or more undesirable! It is really often just a matter of choice to think of the positives and be grateful. May you be blessed with that ability in 2011!
“He has made everything appropriate in its time; He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one's lifetime; moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor--it is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it, for God has so worked that men should fear Him. That which is has been already and that which will be has already been, for God seeks what has passed by.”
Ecclesiastes 3: 22
“I have seen that nothing is better than that man should be happy in his activities, for that is his lot; for who will bring him to see what will occur after him?”
So as in this letter we reflect on the New Year, here are a few tidbits of things the Lord has given us so far, things that make us “happy in our activities” (from Eccl. 3:22 above). We think these things also demonstrate how God's love in us can produce choices and changes in ourselves and others. May His love in you produce many positive choices and changes in the New Year! We hope reading these little snippets of Beall life encourage you to take some time to recognize your own ‘love story’ in the hands of our loving Father in heaven.
Love for the Lord
Mt. Vernon, VA
Early this year Bernie got a call from friends who have many contacts in Asia, asking if Bernie could give a D.C. American history outing for two families visiting the U.S.: an urban church leader with a unique ministry to business leaders in his country, and one of those business leaders who was also travelling with his family. Bernie had a wonderful time giving tours of Mt. Vernon and Washington, D.C. They loved seeing many sights and were encouraged in their faith by the Christian foundation of our nation and its history! Our whole family met them one evening for a free chamber music concert at the Kennedy Center. We were very surprised that one family had three young children who they are homeschooling in a country where that is far from normal. We were so encouraged by their willingness to face opposition for something they believe in. We have it so much easier here! Their love for the Lord and for their children was enabling them to do this, and it was an inspiration to us, too.
Part of this Christian man’s ministry vision is to bring groups of businessmen from his country to learn about America’s godly heritage. We look forward to seeing what doors the Lord opens in the future for us to contribute to that vision.
Love for Family
My birthday is Jan. 4, Sarah’s Jan. 5th. Although Sarah and I both unfortunately were sick on our actual birthdays this year, we were able to do some fun things as a family around that time, like visiting the Library of Congress for the first time (amazing place), and also hearing the U.S. Constitution being read in Congress for the first time in history. Another special treat for Sarah was being able to snowboard with some friends, for the first time in many years. The girl loves exhilaration I think, and has always enjoyed flying down the mountain (just one more way she is opposite me), but in recent years hasn’t had the time or money really. Conditions around here tend to be icy and less than ideal, so this worrying Mom is not that crazy about the whole thing, but it was a blessing and rare treat for her that she has been able to repeat twice before the season closed.
In the Great Hall at the Library of Congress — Beautiful arches above the Great Hall — Library of Congress Reading Room
Love for the Local Church Body
We enjoyed having another Sweetheart Dinner in our home this year, it has been our annual way to encourage and thank the couples in our local church for their ministry and service in our church body, in their homes, and to the Lord. It was a special time for everyone. My dear daughter-in-law brought a great salad and gave me great menu suggestions (I was kind of drawing a blank trying to think of something different for our 5th year hosting this dinner), and the meal was a huge hit. I think what is most special about this annual dinner is the time we have to talk and connect in a way that is more focused than most other times we are together. We seated our pastor who has 10 children and 16 grandchildren at the head of a table with all the younger couples, so they could ask questions more easily. I think they were encouraged to press on in their marriages and child rearing by his humorous stories and anecdotes.
Always my Valentine after all these years! — Table centerpiece of three lit candles — Sweetheart Dinner young couples table
Augustin Hadelich and
pianist Robert Kulek
Image courtesy Augustin Hadelich
In January, we enjoyed taking a number of friends with us to hear Augustin Hadelich perform the Brahms violin concerto locally with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. It was a real treat to share this experience with many friends and to hear his performance more than once. (Each time was a little different, with a different group of friends or family.) For a lot of them it was their first ‘orchestra in a nice hall’ experience. They were all totally wowed, awed, inspired and really grateful to be able to hear Augustin in particular, but also by the whole symphony experience, too.
It was very special to have our granddaughter Abbi with us for her first full-length concert. She loved it. She especially loved hearing Augustin play his ‘zucchini’ (Paganini) encore. Good music, and those God has gifted like Augustin to play it so well and share it with others, are most definitely a treasured gift of love from God to us.
Augustin has recently produced a short video where he talks a bit about his new CD, Echoes of Paris. It was filmed in France, with clips of some of our favorite pieces from this new recording. Like everything Augustin does, it is really outstanding and exceptionally beautifully done. To view the video go to Echoes of Paris on YouTube. The CD is available at Amazon, itunes and others; we highly recommend it.
It is a good thing we never need to stop learning, and there is always more to learn. Of course the place to start and end is with God’s Word to us, the Scriptures. But as Lord and Creator of all, God has made so much for us to explore, learn about and enjoy. It keeps life interesting! Depending on your life stage you may not have the time for additional reading, but if you do there is so much to enjoy; and we think it is better for your brain than other forms of story telling, like movies, where your brain is more passive. When you read you must think, imagine, predict and analyze. We put away our TV about 10 years ago, and I don’t think we have watched but a few movies since then either, and we really haven’t missed it at all. Of course we still have had our connection with plenty of media and news through our computers, and that has its own addictiveness too, so don’t think us too noble! And now some of us have smart phones too... But still, we think being TV-less has helped us have more time to talk, play board games, do puzzles, read and be more creative and interactive with the time we do have together as a family and with others. Sometimes I worry about what lies ahead for the intellectual development of future generations as our culture moves more and more towards shortened, fleeting and addictive forms of communication (and spelling!), combined with the effect of the visual, rather than word based, form of story telling in most media.
G.K. Chesterton has been one of Sarah’s most recent favorite reads; she says she loves his mind and wit and how he likes to ‘turn every idea on its head’ in order to better understand it. He has written in many genres, both fiction and non-fiction. I actually have not read any Chesterton myself, but I trust her judgment; so may we recommend in the new year that you choose one of his books and read it, even if only a few minutes a day. It will provide a bit of humor and ‘exercise’ for your brain.
I think this C.S. Lewis quote is a great reminder for me as I enjoy good music or read great books . . .
“The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”
Speaking of putting away our TV and the ‘what movie can we watch this week’ mindset, about the same time we put away our TV, Josh and Aaron also put their computer/nintendo gaming to rest. This was not an easy thing after many years of gameplay, but they did it. We felt it was eating up too much time that could be used for things that actually stimulate your brain and are productive, like conversation and developing skills that would help them live lives that served others in some way. Instead of using their God given desire to be the best and to compete and participate in contest or ‘battles’ in the fantasy realm, they channeled that energy instead to conquer and do real work in the real world. I don’t think they have ever gone back to being preoccupied with gaming. We think it was to their great advantage to have chosen that path, rather than letting the addictive pull of it interfere with their development socially, professionally and personally, especially during those late teen years when many choices are made that set a person’s path to adulthood and maturity. This is not to say all computer type games are wrong per se, if there is moderation without preoccupation! We are simply saying we think you have to be careful how you use your time. You can only use your time once, so why not use it to develop skills and abilities that improve your intellect and/or bless other people?
Loving health - Caring for your body
I thought it might be fun as you may have made some New Year’s resolutions related to your health, to give you some simple healthy menu ideas that we have come to enjoy in our family.
We have found that using a baking stone, the roast (rather than the bake) setting on the oven at about 425 degrees, some fresh herbs, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper and extra virgin olive oil on most any chopped vegetable or meat to always be a winner. (The stone works great as somehow it equalizes heat distribution in a way that makes it nearly impossible to burn the bottom of the food, a real plus for a cook like me. : ) I now have a collection of stone pans from ‘Pampered Chef,’ and use them almost exclusively.) Using olive oil, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper as the main coating, some of our favorites includes sweet onions roasted with sweet potatoes, red potatoes with garlic and rosemary, and zucchini with onions, fresh basil and oregano. Add some fresh lemon juice to the olive oil coating with Salmon, lemon pepper to tilapia, and chicken is particularly yummy with fresh Italian herbs and some lemon. It is amazing that something so uncomplicated can be healthy and delicious too. We also love using white or brown aromatic basmati rice, or quinoa, or whole grain pasta in lieu of potatoes. Many whole grain pastas are available now that don’t have that dense whole wheat flavor, and taste almost like white flour pastas. Add a fresh leafy green salad with chopped salad veggies like cucumber, red peppers, onions, some fresh herbs, and add some feta and a dried fruit like figs. Use a simple dressing made of olive oil, salt, pepper and vinegar or lemon juice, maybe a touch of a low glycemic sweetener like agave, and you are set! Squeeze your own lemons, and use fresh herbs for added intensity of flavor. Buy organic if you can for its flavor and nutritional benefit. Because we use olive oil for salad dressings and as a dip for bread, as well as for our cooking, we really don’t have much need for butter which is another health bonus. Our favorite cookbook is the ‘Sonoma Diet Cookbook’ which has a lot of recipes our whole family really likes based on these kinds of ideas.
Then if you haven’t yet tried a ‘green smoothie,’ that is another simple way to add nutrition to your diet, in a very easy way. It makes a great energizing and filling breakfast. Basically you fill a quality high speed blender (a worthy investment), about 3/4 full with greens, spinach is the mildest and best to use if you are new to this idea, then add about 2 cups of frozen or fresh fruit, (we buy big bags of frozen strawberries and blueberries), a banana, then fill about halfway with water or OJ. You can adjust the amount of fruit and greens to your preference, but to our taste with these proportions, all you will taste is the fruit (really!), but it will be green in color and give you a big dose of all the nutrition in that fresh raw spinach. As you get more adventurous you can experiment with other stronger greens, but if you overdo it that taste with come through and make it not as palatable. This amount of greens, fruit and water makes four tall glasses full, and you can store any extra smoothie in mason jars in the fridge for a day or two if your family doesn’t drink it all for breakfast. : ) Then we like to make dessert smoothies too, with no greens, frozen fruit, yogurt (we don’t use a lot of cow products, do best with goat yogurts and cheeses, but it is an acquired taste,) then we often add some nut butter and unsweetened cocoa powder, honey or agave, and almond milk. In a high speed blender this mixture can be ‘frozen’ by the action of blending the frozen fruit, and becomes almost the consistency of a sorbet or ice cream.
We have tried a number of different diet regimens in our family, including being ‘all raw’ for a while, (not a very big hit with the men in the family, and although most people get thinner when raw, I actually got fatter, which was not good!). We have learned and experimented with lots of different things over the years. The ideas above would be some of the simplest ways we have found to provide nutritional benefit in a family friendly way, hope you find it helpful in this New Year!
Well, that’s all from the Bealls for now, we all wish you a great, although belated, new year in 2011! Thank you so much for your prayers as we have launched into a new season of conferences and outreaches! May God bless you in unique, matchless and unbelievable ways this coming year, as you find happiness in the activities the Lord brings your way!
In Christ’s love,
Linda for the Bealls