life

A Successful Failure

I was a brand new blogger when I signed up for my first NaBloPoMo in 2014. I thought the challenge to extract something interesting out of every single November day might be fun.

It was fun. And it felt good to succeed.

Well done good and faithful blogger.

My daughter cringed. She said real bloggers don’t participate in things like daily prompts and NaBloPoMos. By real bloggers I assume she meant bloggers like Ann Voskamp and Glennon Doyle Melton.

I’m not a real blogger. I’m a real person who likes to blog.

So I signed on again in November 2015. My self-imposed assignment was to look at life through 1 inch frames.

Every day.

For 30 days.

Some of it was drivel, I confess, but again I met the challenge.

Success.

This year I thought NaBloPoMo would be a breeze since I wasn’t hosting my large family for Thanksgiving dinner as I had the previous two years.

So, again, I signed up.

I was clipping right along.

And then on Saturday, November 19 at 10 pm I had nothing to say.

I had been running on 5 hours of sleep/night for several weeks and I was profoundly tired. Profoundly tired.

Come on rally, I thought, you still have 2 hours.

But I couldn’t, I wouldn’t.

I thought about looking for something interesting to re-blog. But my fried brain started to whine and my fatigued eyes kept slamming shut.

I thought about re-posting one of my old posts. But whenever I scan old posts I can never find a good one.

I wanted to earn that swig of Gatorade. I wanted to give myself a last-day-of-the-month high-five. I wanted to, once again, be a NaBloPoMo success story. 3 for 3.

I ALWAYS rally. ALWAYS.

But that fateful and exhausted night I made the decision to be the boss of my blog and just let it slide.

And slide it did.

It slid for two more days down that slippery slope.

And once you’ve murdered one three day block, it’s easy to kill again.

I failed to post six times in all during NabloPoMo 2016.

And it feels like success.

Success because my affection for you, my dear blogging friends, won out over my desire for perfect attendance.

I spared you an excess of drivel and that feels right.

I can high-five that.

Makes me feel like a real blogger.

So long November.

#fadedglory

 

 

 

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life

A Smoking Car on a Store-less Road

Back when I was in college my co-worker and I took the day off from our duties in the Fisheries and Wildlife office to take a road trip.  We were heading to Holland for the tulip festival.

I was a car-less student and her little MG midget was in the shop.  The brakes on it had gone out as she was coasting down a steep hill, at the bottom of which was a red light. The back end of a Lincoln Continental, already stopped at the light, stopped her.

So we took her mechanic brother’s beat up Camaro, on loan to her while he fixed her beloved midget.

Off we went, heading west on Grand River. Just as we approached downtown East Lansing, Karen suddenly made a sharp left turn into the parking lot of a small grocery store.

“Run in and grab as much baking soda as you can carry,” she said. “Don’t stop to pay for it, we’ll pay later!”

I had no idea what was going on but I obeyed. I jumped out of the car before it was completely stopped, ran into the store, ran out of the store and saw smoke.

Without saying a word we each tore open a box and dumped the soda onto the flames.

Tragedy averted.

As I was driving home from a meeting this morning, a car approaching in the oncoming lane was encircled in a cloud of white smoke.

I thought of Karen’s car and her quick thinking and I glanced around to see if there was a store in sight.  The road was deserted except for the two of us, a small airport to my right and residential streets to my left.

Pull over before you explode into flames, I thought.

The volume of smoke was steadily increasing as it passed and by the time I looked in my rear view mirror, the car was no longer visible. All I could see was a ball of dense smoke traveling at 40 miles/hour.

I knew the car was approaching a sharp curve in the road.

How can he/she see through all that smoke?

Suddenly I smelled something burning.

Pull over before you die of smoke inhalation!

PULL OVER AND GET OUT OF THAT CAR!

Karen knew her car was on fire before I had any clue. I didn’t see smoke until I came out of the store with the soda and saw it billowing from the opened hood.

Surely the driver of this morning’s car must have seen the smoke. Surely he/she must know that where there is smoke there is fire.

I wish the driver would have pulled over and let me help. I hope he/she is okay.

Needless to say, our trip to the tulip festival was aborted. We never even made it out of town.

Could we have gone into work?

Yes.

Did we go into work?

No.

We bought bon bons, went to Karen’s apartment and watched soap operas all day.

Anyone know the protocol for dealing with a smoking car on a store-less road?

Just in case.

 

 

 

 

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life

On the Threshold of Christmas

Our tradition has always been to cut down a Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving.

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But this year Netflix premiered Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life on our annual Christmas tree day.

So instead of stepping directly from Thanksgiving into Christmas, we straddled the threshold; instead of bundling up and heading to the tree farm, we stayed in our pjs and parked ourselves on the sofa to marathon watch all four 90 minute episodes.

When I say “we” I mean my daughter and me.  Not the hub.

Six solid hours of Gilmore Girls with a brief intermission to walk the friends.

It was perfect.

Gilmore Girls was the weekly mother/daughter bonding date that took us exactly through my daughter’s adolescence. It began airing when she was in sixth grade and it ended just as she was graduating.

The show kind of reminded me of us – except Lorelai had her daughter at 16 and I had mine at 30. Lorelai gave birth out of wedlock, I gave birth in wedlock. Lorelai was hip and cute, I was not hip and only kinda’ cute.

But, Rory was smart and adorable and my daughter was smart and adorable.

It was just the two of them and they were close.

It was just the two of us for ten years and we were close.

When the reunion series was announced last summer, we started counting the days until we’d all be together again.

And it was perfect.

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And then this morning, one day behind schedule, we drove an hour to Nicholas Tree Farm and loaded ourselves into a wagon.

In search of the perfect tree.

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“Hey you guys,” I called them over, “how about this one? It’s nice and straight, and there is plenty of room between the branches for ornaments.”

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We had a winner.

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The blade was sharp, the trunk was slender and the hub had it felled in record time.

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Waiting outside for the return wagon.

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Waiting in the warming shack.

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Here it comes.

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Loaded back up with the loot.

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Shake, bundle and roll.

Then off to lunch.

#aliminalstepintotheyuletide

 

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family, the friends

Gratitude

I am not hosting my large family for Thanksgiving dinner this year and I am grateful.

Grateful to relax, drink coffee, watch the parade and eat cinnamon rolls. The parade – which I’ve been too busy in the kitchen to watch for the last several years – and the cinnamon rolls are Thanksgiving traditions.

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Grateful that I only have to bake my sweet potato rolls – made the dough yesterday – and roast a turkey breast – just in case.

Just in case because my 86 year old mother is a spaz. (No offense, mom.) And after 65 adult years of preparing, planning and eating Thanksgiving dinner she still worries that there won’t be enough.

As a result there is always waay too much.

We’ll call that another Thanksgiving tradition. And I’ll be grateful for the abundance. And for my mom – who is baking pies, making stuffing and roasting yet another extra (8 pound) breast in her own kitchen this morning. God love her.

In addition to the 26 pound bird my sister, the hostess, is roasting.

Like I said, abundance.

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But the thing for which I am giving the most thanks this morning is the good report the beagle and I received.

I took her to the oncologist yesterday afternoon for an acupuncture treatment and a six week follow-up x-ray.

After the x-ray the doc came in with Good News: The tumor has not grown! It is exactly the same size.

That’s a good start. Praying her next x-ray, in 3 months, shows shrinkage.

Considering she was only given 1 – 2 months to live 6 weeks ago, I’m grateful for the hope a 3-month follow-up appointment gives.

Hug your beagle and have a very Happy Thanksgiving all you Americans.

And just a plain great day everyone else.

#foroncemyThanksgivingmorningisnotchaotic

 

 

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life, Light

A House of Worship Where Worshipers Arise

The first thing I noticed when the hub and I walked into church Sunday morning was the joy. The place was abuzz with joyful greetings and  joyful conversations.

We were visiting the church affiliated with the Christian school at which the hub is an administrator.  It was their first Sunday in their newly remodeled worship center so we went in support.

The second thing I noticed was the diversity.

Diversity of color, diversity of socioeconomic status, and I suppose diversity of political opinions.

But I heard absolutely no political talk.

And that was refreshingly welcome.

The words, “I’m blessed” came from the lips of those who have a lot, materially speaking, and from the lips of those who have little.

It reminded me of the wonderful diversity at Saturday morning BSF leaders’ meetings.  Everyone is “blessed” there, too.

How is it that both these diverse groups can meet on Sundays – and brutally early on Saturdays – black, white, comfortable, struggling, liberal, conservative – with such joy?

I pondered and concluded that the joyful gather around a person – a Savior – rather than an ideology.

Or a need.

Studying John 6 these past few weeks, I noticed that some who were following Jesus wanted a political leader, they wanted to make him king. Others wanted free bread and fish.

They wanted Jesus to provide for their political and physical needs while all He wanted to talk about was their spiritual needs. So they started grumbling.

And many quit following.

“You don’t want to leave, too, do you?,” Jesus asked the Twelve.

“Where else would we go?,” responded Peter, “You have the words of life.”

Ah, to spend a couple of hours worshiping with those who want nothing from Jesus except life.

The pastor, who was reared in Africa – the son of medical missionaries – lived and served 22 years of his adult life as a church planter and leadership developer in Uganda.

“Worshipers in Uganda wouldn’t like these screwed down seats,” he said, “they’d want to be able to push them aside and dance.”

He was preaching Psalm 100:

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

He pointed out that the Hebrew word for “Know” here is not restricted to mental activity. It is a visceral knowledge that goes deep into the emotions, into the “deepest stomach.”

That’s the kind of knowledge that elicits push-those-chairs-aside-and-dance worship.

The kind of knowing that the Lord is God that causes a diverse people to all feel blessed. To stand together joyfully.

In peace.

Toward the end of the sermon the pastor mentioned his little granddaughter.

What kind of a world will she grow up in?, he wondered.

And worried.

But then he caught himself.

She’ll grow up in a world with God.

God never changes – even as the world changes.

The same God who was with him and his family while they were living and ministering amidst wars in Uganda will be with her, too.

She’ll experience God in ways that he has not because she’ll experience Him in a different culture, a different context.

I liked that thought.

I like the idea that the same God is moving just as faithfully and just as powerfully in every generation, but in new and different ways, come what may.

It’s His story, not ours.

His story.

So why are we demanding, grabbing, protesting, threatening, terrorizing, accusing, slandering, backbiting, worrying, panicking when it’s His story?

May we simply gather in church and, God help us, as a nation around the One who created us all.

P.S. Spent a couple of hours this morning cleaning gum off the bottom of lab tables.  Ew. Don’t stick your gum under your desk/table, youngsters, ‘cuz one day somebody’s momma is gonna’ have to scrape it off.

#elicit

 

 

 

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faith, family, Food

Kneading Prayers

The sweet potato rolls I make every Thanksgiving require 8 minutes of kneading, which works out perfectly. I knead 1 minute of prayers into the dough for the families of each of my six sisters, a minute for my family and a minute for my mom and her husband.

I’ve been kneading prayers into various doughs ever since Sarah gave me the idea two years ago.

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Tomorrow I’ll spend most of the day making the rolls for a support group that meets weekly at my church.

And though they are strangers, I’ll be kneading 8 minutes of prayers into the dough for them, too.

Friday I get to help serve the Thanksgiving feast.

And meet the eaters of my prayers.

If I have time, I’ll make them a pie, too.

Or maybe these apple blossoms.

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Sweet Potato Rolls

Combine 1/4 c. warm water with 1/4 oz. dry yeast. Let it get foamy.

Scald 1 cup milk in a small saucepan, remove from heat.

Stir in the following:

1/3 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons coarse salt
1 teaspoon ground cardamom

Let cool slightly.

Place 2 cups roasted, peeled sweet potatoes in the bowl of your stand mixer.

Combine them with 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice. Beat until smooth.

Then beat in 1 large egg, the milk mixture and the foamed yeast.

Mix in 7 cups of sifted, unbleached all-purpose flour, one cup at a time.

Switch to your dough hook and knead until smooth, about 8 minutes. The dough will be sticky.

Transfer dough to a large oiled bowl. Cover and let stand in a warm place until doubled. (approx. an hour)

Punch dough down and knead again with your hands just until smooth.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats.

Using a bench scraper cut the dough into 20 equal pieces. I weigh each piece because I’m a spaz and they bake better if they are uniform. Shape each piece into a roll.

Place the rolls on the prepared baking sheets and cover with a towel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 40 minutes.

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Snip an X in the top of each roll with a pair of kitchen scissors. Brush each one with melted butter.

Bake until tops are brown, about 20 minutes, rotating pans half way through.

Cool on a rack.

I make two batches: a rounder, smaller dinner roll and a larger, slightly flattened roll like the ones in the front of the picture. I use the larger rolls for turkey sandwiches.

You can make the dough the day before, shape it into rolls and put the sheets in the fridge. Take them out of the fridge about 45 minutes before you want to bake them, snip, brush, bake and serve fresh from the oven.

It’s the cardamom that makes them so good.

Bon Appetit.

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restoration

Redemption

I have a tough assignment on Monday nights this year. I am teaching a fairly large class of 3rd and 4th graders, some of whom are challenging.

Very challenging.

And exhausting.

I was tired going in last night, but I rallied.

Midway through the evening a boy approached me.

“Did you give the Bible Lesson last week?,” he asked.

“Yes, I did,” I replied.

“Well I just want to thank you. It really spoke to me. I had a really weird week and it spoke to me.”

Bless his heart.

Bless his studious little heart.

Sweet moments like that make the challenges worth it.

Last night we talked about redemption.

Today, as I began to prepare next week’s lesson, I boiled it down.

redemption

Interesting stuff in this new lesson. I’ll probably have something to say about it tomorrow.

But for now, there are towels that need folding.

Happy Tuesday night. (This is Us is on in the U.S.)

 

 

 

 

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church nonsense, Jesus

Manipulators of Men

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I read a short, encouraging article today. It reminded me of a scene from Blue Like Jazz. I hope you have a minute to read it.

It kinda’ goes along with what I was thinking about after church yesterday.

I used to be a member of a conservative church. Everyone, as far as I knew, was like-minded. So much so that I assumed all Christians were like-minded.

Because everyone was like-minded, the pastor thought nothing of inserting political commentary into his sermons. He didn’t mention anyone by name or violate tax-exempt laws in any way, he just assumed everyone agreed.

From there I began attending a politically diverse church. The pastor may have leaned liberal but the large congregation seemed to be a fairly equal mix of Democrats, Republicans, Liberals, Centrists and Conservatives. There were Independents who lean left, Independents who lean right (me) and Libertarians scattered about, too.

Discussions in the Thursday morning women’s Bible study were uplifting. Because we were aware of the diversity of viewpoints, all political comments were made carefully and with respect. As a result we were able to actually hear one another and even broaden our perspectives. It was easy to love those women – even the ones with whom I disagreed – because their respectfulness loved me back, because it was obvious that our Christian sisterhood was more important than our viewpoints. I miss them.

These days I attend a mostly liberal church.

Sitting in the pew yesterday I thought of any liberal-leaning people who may have been in the audience of that first church years ago. And as I sat in their shoes (shoes that probably walked far away) I missed the mix of the second church.

I missed being where a diversity of opinions was assumed and even appreciated. I missed knowing that at least half the congregation saw what I saw.

As I was walking the beagle the other day God reminded me that half the country sees what I see. He brought to mind the county by county map of the US I saw on election night – the one that was almost completely colored red.

When one half of the country is yelling f- you, it’s easy to feel like you’re in the minority.

When you sit in church and hear a faint f-you from the pulpit and feel a silent f-you in the pew next to you, it’s easy to wonder if you are in the wrong family.

I know the incoming administration wants to make changes to the Johnson Amendment to the tax code, but that could become a nightmare for the church.

Fishers of men could become manipulators of men.

I hope not. I think I might do a little research, weigh the pros and cons.

In the meantime my pastoral friends, a sermon that indulges in even the slightest bit of partisan commentary is a sermon that has just lost its power; a sermon that has just clogged the flow of the Spirit.

At our ritual after-church lunch my daughter shared that one of her friends resurrected his LiveJournal account back when they were in college just to post a rant about this very thing. He ended by saying how much he appreciated that his pastor back home just said what Jesus said and left it at that.

Amen.

#aconservativefishinaliberalsea

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love

All In

My daughter went to the library this afternoon to study and ended up writing instead. Thank God because I haven’t written anything for NaBloPoMo today.

So, with no ado at all, it is my pleasure to bring you a guest post, written by my daughter, a chip off her momma’s block:

It was years ago on a retreat that I was first challenged to look at the book of Genesis 3 and what it means for women in an entirely new light. In verse 16, in the aftermath of the encounter with the Serpent, God says to Eve, “Yet your desire will be for your husband, and He will rule over you.” This is part of the curse of mankind, one of the consequences of that original sin. It is often referenced as a Biblical defense for man’s authority over a woman, but maybe, just maybe, the words aren’t so much a command as they are a prophesy, a foretelling of the way things will play out for humanity. God isn’t commanding husbands to rule over their wives or men to rule over women, He’s acknowledging that the downfall of woman is her desire for man, that throughout time and generations her desperation will lead her away from God down paths of destruction. I see it all the time. I hear it in the stories of the women who come in for counseling at the practice where I intern- it’s one of the strongest and most consistent themes there is. We as women are so prone to live out the sometimes implicit sometimes explicit ideal that it is better to have any man than to not have a man at all. We make a lot of bad choices because of it. We put up with a lot of crap because of it. We open ourselves and those around us up to a world of hurt because of it. We end up in horrible situations we refuse to leave because of it. Man rules over us because we let him.

The new perspective on Genesis takes it one step further to the possibility that God didn’t actually banish Eve from the garden. Chapter 3 verse 23 says, “therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken.” Verse 24 continues, “So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned over direction to guard the way to the tree of life.” Never is the woman mentioned. Never is the pronoun “them” used. No, I don’t know for sure that Eve wasn’t banished. Yes, it is possible that God intended for this curse to be all-encompassing and that His inclusion of woman either goes without saying or got lost in translation. But it seems to me that Eve may have had another option. If Eve was not specifically banished from the garden, she could have stayed with God. And if she could have stayed with God, her separation from Him was a choice. What if the only reason Eve left the garden is because she followed Adam out? I realize that Eve’s sin would have necessitated some sort of separation from God, so I’m not fully convinced that this is the way it all went down, but I think it’s a question worth considering because whether Eve left the garden by choice or not, I believe that we as women do have a choice. We have the option to stay with God, to choose him over men. But it won’t be easy.

There’s nothing wrong with men themselves. They are not the problem, here. Men are wonderful and uniquely created; loved by God and meant to reflect His image just as women are loved by God and meant to reflect His image. In fact, we need both man and woman for the full reflection. Man and woman together make up the complete image. God created man and woman for relationship with each other. He loves marriage and He loves family, so not only is there nothing wrong with men themselves, there’s nothing wrong with the desire for romantic relationships with them. A relationship between a man and a woman who are both following after Christ is a beautiful, sacred thing. But there is something undeniably wrong with consciously or subconsciously putting the desire for a man above all else, forsaking all standards for the sake of having someone to love.

This is my task for the present: not doing that exact thing. I hear God asking me over and over again to stay with Him and I want to more than anything, but it’s hard. It’s hard even for me, who constantly witnesses the disappointment that results from “any man is better than no man” mentality. It’s hard for me, who’s more passionate about standards and choosing good men and never settling than I am about a lot of things. I had an incredible man who was following after Jesus, and now I don’t. I thought the memory of my relationship with him would make it easier to not settle. I know what a good thing looks like now. And yet. Yet, I still struggle with the temptation to settle for the sake of companionship. Most men who show interest don’t phase me. But then there are the men who have something attractive about them, something that resonates with me, though they may not follow Jesus or love Him the way I do. These are the “good” men, though they’re not the godly men. They are the men who have me questioning everything, thinking “not having a partner to have my back is hard” and “maybe I’m being too picky anyway” and “perhaps having a companion is better than not having one.” Wait. No. That’s not right.

This is the mental space where I’ve been fighting and have to keep fighting. A “good” man will never be someone who can walk beside me spiritually or be my partner in ministry. He will never be about the same things, or want to live the same kind of life that I do. I will inevitably sacrifice part of who God has created and called me in joining my life with his. I will inevitably abandon some of my precious intimacy with the Lord in following him. Is it better to have a man like this than to not have one at all? I know the answer is no, but whether motivated by a desire for something as simple as a night out and physical chemistry or as big as assurance of a future that includes marriage and family, the temptation these days is to say yes to this kind of man. Sometimes that yes seems pretty harmless, but I can play the tape to the end. Those paths aren’t for me. I won’t let man rule over me. God is asking me over and over to stay with Him. He’s asking me if I trust Him; if He’s enough. He is. He’s more than enough. I just have to remember that.

#loftyideas  #Itaughthereverythingsheknows  #allin

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