Picking Up The Pieces [an essay on Coffee + Crumbs about grieving loss and finding joy]

Picking Up The Pieces [an essay on grieving loss and finding joy at Coffee + Crumbs]

We brushed remnants of sand off our feet and shuffled into the family room of the rented beach house. My parents, siblings, and our spouses squeezed onto the worn couches, while a few nieces and nephews sat on the floor. This family vacation wasn’t one any of us really wanted to take—or at least under these circumstances. It’d be the last time we’d be together while my mom was still alive. She sat next to my dad, and the two of them updated us on her cancer prognosis. My mom’s t-shirt sagged over her thin frame. Every once in awhile, her eyes closed mid-conversation, her body grasping for whatever rest it could find.

We talked about what hospice would look like, their financial picture, and when my dad would take a leave of absence from work. We asked if he could adequately care for her in the wake of his own cancer diagnosis a year earlier. It’s a conversation I wish I’d never had, but I’m grateful for it. Not many people get to ask such blunt questions and be given honest answers.

I stared at the carpet, shifting my weight in my seat every few minutes and mentally cursing the old sofa for my discomfort. The tears fell and we passed tissues around. I tried to listen and be present in the conversation, but I could think only about the gaping hole in my own future.

Click here to read more at Coffee + Crumbs.

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash.

Orange, Tea Tree + Cocoa Butter Cold Process Soap

Orange, Tea Tree + Cocoa Butter Cold Process Soap | Sarah J. Hauser

I’m switching gears for a minute and bringing you a recipe for cold process soap! I set this hobby aside while focusing more on food and writing (and chasing my kids around), but I’ve been wanting to get back into it. I’ve been using store-bought soap lately, and to be honest, it does not compare to the good, homemade stuff. I also feel like I’ve been in a creative rut with food and writing, and my temptation is often to forgo creating altogether. When I do that, though, I find I get “creatively stale.” I don’t know if that’s a real phrase, but I’m going to go with it.

To avoid getting stale, I have to switch to a different creative outlet—play music instead of write recipes, read fiction in between theology books, or in this case, make soap instead of food. It keeps me doing what I love—creating—but it gives my brain a break from the norm.

The beauty of soap-making is that you can make one batch, set your supplies in the closet for a few months, and return to it whenever you can. And most of the recipes I write yield 16 four-ounce bars, so you’re stocked for awhile (or you can use them for gifting!).

Soap-making is sort of like baking. There’s a chemistry to it, and you have to play by the rules in order for it to work. But within those rules, there’s so much creativity that can happen. I love experimenting with different base oils, using a variety of essential oils, or mixing in additives like vanilla. This recipe includes only the basic ingredients and not full instructions, so if you’re new to soap-making, be sure to read more about the full process here.

Orange, Tea Tree + Cocoa Butter Cold Process Soap | Sarah J. Hauser
Orange, Tea Tree + Cocoa Butter Cold Process Soap | Sarah J. Hauser
Orange, Tea Tree + Cocoa Butter Cold Process Soap | Sarah J. Hauser
Orange, Tea Tree + Cocoa Butter Cold Process Soap | Sarah J. Hauser

Orange, Tea Tree + Cocoa Butter Cold Process Soap
Makes about 16 (4-ounce) bars of soap

This recipe is bright and refreshing. I used a mix of orange essential oil and tea tree oil, and the base oils include cocoa butter, making the soap feel extra luxurious. If you are new to soap-making, visit this post for more info.

Base Oils
16 ounces olive oil
12 ounces coconut oil
6 ounces cocoa butter
6 ounces avocado oil
3 ounces jojoba oil

Lye Solution
12 ounces water
5.75 ounces lye

Add 1.25 ounces of tea tree oil and 2 ounces of orange essential oil before the mixture reaches trace.*

Remember to let your soaps cure for 4-6 weeks before using or gifting!

*The scent may seem strong at first, but it will mellow as it cures.

It's Friday! How about we have a giveaway?

Happy Friday! After what felt like an eternal winter, I think we’re over the worst of the colds and sickness in our family. The weather has turned a bit warmer, my kids ran around outside most of the morning, and we’ve got a few more hours of daylight. I have been not-so-patiently waiting for this season. It always amazes me how much easier parenting can feel when the weather is good and kiddos stay healthy!

As the week comes to an end and the season changes, I thought it’d be a great time for a giveaway! Since I write about food, faith, creativity, and motherhood, I wanted to include items from each of those four categories in the prize bundle. So, we’ve got music, beautifully designed greeting cards, coffee and tea, and all kinds of books! I’ve provided links to all the authors, creators, artists, and food professionals in the giveaway description below, so make sure to check each of them out!

Click the button below to read more about the prize items, and then enter with your email address. Make sure to share with friends and family to earn bonus entries. Thanks to FreshGround Roasting and Phoenix Feathers Calligraphy, you’ll also get a little something special in your inbox just for entering.

The giveaway will close on Friday, April 12, so don’t wait too long!

P.S. I’ll be sharing more in depth info about a few of these items over on Instagram, so make sure to follow me there!

Products for this giveaway were provided to Sarah J. Hauser by the artists, authors, publishers, creators, and food professionals. All opinions are 100% my own, and I only promote products I truly love.

Digory's Plea, The Magician's Nephew + The Compassion of God

Digory's Plea, The Magician's Nephew + The Compassion of God - Sarah J. Hauser

It's strange reading things you wrote years ago. Sometimes I roll my eyes, embarrassed by my words yet grateful for the growth that embarrassment shows. Other times, it feels like someone poured a bucket of cold water over me as I wake up to truth I knew but have since forgotten. 

My dad recently reminded me of a post I wrote on my old blog almost exactly six years ago. At the time, my mom had stopped treatments for pancreatic cancer and her impending death loomed over us like a dark cloud. My husband and I were rereading The Chronicles of Narnia, and a passage in The Magician's Nephew hit quite close to home. 

I've toyed around with the idea of sharing this post again. I thought maybe if I posted it, I'd rewrite it from my present-day point of view. But I'm not in a season right now like I was then. While I still grieve over my mom, we're through heaviest of that sorrow. I made a few minor edits, but otherwise kept my six-year-old post the same. I think if I changed the perspective the weight of the words would be lost. 

So this is me, six years ago, writing about my dying mom and the compassion of God. My mom has since passed, and my season of life is different.

In all of it, God is still good.  

“‘But please, please – won’t you – can’t you give me something that will cure Mother?'”

I can’t count the number of times in the last year and a half I’ve asked that same question Digory asked Aslan in the The Magician’s Nephew. Then you wait for an answer. And you wait longer. And longer. Until it seems God finally answers with a resounding, “No.”

What do you do with that response? I guess I can’t say God has given me a resounding no, but right now it sure seems like that. There’s always been one more appointment, one more treatment, one more thing to try. Yet eventually there comes a time when the road of possibility arrives at a dead end. 

Where is God in that?

Up till then he had been looking at the Lion’s great feet and the huge claws on them; now, in his despair, he looked up at its face. What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life. For the tawny face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion’s eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory’s own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his Mother than he was himself.

Our God is not distant nor apathetic. Karl Barth wrote, “If we fix our eyes upon the place where the course of the world reaches its lowest point, where its vanity is unmistakable, where its groanings are most bitter and the divine incognito most impenetrable, we shall encounter there—Jesus Christ. On the frontier of what is observable He stands delivered up and not spared. In place of us all He stands there, delivered up for us all.”

What does that mean for us now? We can have hope of eternal life in the midst of our temporal suffering, because God has overcome suffering. 1 Peter 4:1-2 says, “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.” The suffering of Christ provides a hope for the future and an example to follow in the midst of our own suffering in this world.

“‘My son, my son,’ said Aslan. ‘I know. Grief is great.’”

God takes up the broken state of humanity and fixes it. He does not remain distant but rather relates so deeply to the human condition that he became human. He defeats suffering through experiencing it and overcoming it in the resurrection. Our God is not a distant God. He doesn’t shy away from our pleas, our questions, our tears. He knows better than anyone that grief is great.

Then Digory took a minute to get his breath, and then went softly into his Mother’s room. And there she lay, as he had seen her lie so many other times, propped up on the pillows, with a thin, pale face that would make you cry to look at it. Digory took the Apple of Life out of his pocket.

I can’t help but read that paragraph and think, “Stupid story. There are no magic apples in this life. There’s no Narnia, no Aslan, no…whatever.” Spoiler alert: Digory’s mom gets healed. 

Why hasn’t God healed my mom?

I don’t know. That’s why it’s taken me so long to write this blog post. I’ve had it half written for probably six months and haven’t been able to bring myself to finish it. If I’m going to finish writing, I feel like I have to come up with an answer, a nice little conclusion that puts the my mind and the minds of my readers at rest. I’m supposed to have an Apple of Life to pull out of my pocket.

I don’t have one.

God sees our suffering and knows better than anyone that grief is great. There is hope in the midst of grief, joy and peace knowing this is a light and momentary affliction. An eternal “Apple of Life” exists, despite my frustration there’s not one right now to heal my mom. Instead, I’m left holding a thousand questions and pleading with God. He graciously listens. 

In my attempt for some semblance of conclusion, I fall short. This part of my family’s story is not over, and I expect that the epilogue will not be revealed this side of eternity.