Friday, February 27, 2009

The bees are coming!

Seeing as I enjoy food so much, and a dash of photography, I wish that I had skills at taking pictures of food. Because presentation, plus a great picture, can make me hungry or interested in a recipe just like that. It is exceedingly difficult though!

Anyhow, that doesn't mean that I don't occasionally dust off the old cake-decorating tips, pass hours (more than I should) in the kitchen, and have some fun baking for the school carnival's cake walk. (They are the B--- "Bees".) Oh, and then I make a valiant effort at a food picture. Never satisfied with the picture outcome...

Between birthdays and half-birthdays and now this, I think we are in the 100s for number of cupcakes at our house during the last month. Yikes! And yum!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Inadequate writing - by me, by God

I don't know how long me and blogging will last. Number one, it's kind of a thing that everyone's doing, and I just don't do that very well (read: I am severely pop culture illiterate - music, TV, movies, etc. - despite my short-lived periodic attempts).

Number two, I start writing and often wish that I could lay it _all_ out there - not quite PostSecret, but maybe? Dumb idea, for many reasons, including that I might hurt myself, you, or at the very least be misunderstood. A conversation with each reader, face-to-face, would be so much more preferable. Writing (reading too) is just often inadequate, and I guess I didn't realize that until I started trying it. So we'll see.

So I'm thinking about all that, and I had a little epiphany this morning - writing gives such an incomplete picture of the author's mind - and maybe that is a glimpse into why the Bible also seems inadequate and contradictory. Before you heartily agree or disagree about the sufficiency or clarity of the Bible as giving insight to God, here are some further bits of thought.

Being honest, the Bible is a tough book. God's law as I'm reading in Exodus/Leviticus is pretty much blown by almost every character in the Old Testament at least (wives, gods, love, etc. etc.) Then there's Proverbs about the merits of wisdom and hard work, followed directly by Ecclesiastes, which existentially blows both of those nearly to bits. Or Esther, where God's name is never mentioned. That's just the tip of the iceberg, as the some of you could tell me.

So why so many issues in a text issued by God himself? I don't think it's so much the flawed people who wrote it and maybe messed it up. Maybe when God puts himself into writing he'd like to lay it all out there, like me but on an infinitely bigger and complicated scale. As it is, He exposes himself by putting anything in writing for us (because we proceed to pick it apart or have the final say on God). But if he laid it all out there, it might hurt us and it would definitely be misunderstood. A conversation will some day be so much better suited to understanding Him, I hope. His thoughts aren't flawed, but the characters are, both then and now. Is that some of the root of the contradictions?

It feels like I'm becoming more baffled by the Bible all the time - both as I read it and sometimes when I talk about it with others. God is BIG, and all I have is a tiny little book to explain His mind, plans, and 6000 years worth of stories. Maybe it's not so crazy that it seems like big chunks of God's thoughts are missing from the pages. I read this quote recently, and it challenges me to stay uncomfortable with what I find in God's writing.

"There is, in a word, nothing comfortable about the Bible - until we manage to get so used to it that we make it comfortable for ourselves... Have we ceased to question the book and be questioned by it? Have we ceased to fight it? Then perhaps our reading is no longer serious... Let us not be too sure we know the Bible just because we have learned not to be astonished at it, just because we have learned to not have problems with it." Philip Yancey quoting Thomas Merton's "Opening the Bible"

I'm just thinking out loud today, offering my opinions, severely lacking in knowledge to back it up. But whether you have seventeen Bibles around your house, or no current interest in ever owning one, maybe you with the most questions or discomfort might seriously have something right.

Friday, February 20, 2009


Two scenes in nature strike me over and over again. One is the sun slipping quietly and brightly into the vast Pacific ocean. The other is the sun slipping quietly and brightly into the wide, barren, cold, Midwest winter prairie. In the fertile valleys, lush summertime, and dense forests, the sunsets just aren't quite the same. I rarely see the sun rise, or that might strike me too...

On my way to work yesterday, I saw the sun falling, in all of its red and orange glory. It was striking because there was so much of it to see. The corn/soybean fields are empty. The trees are bare. The billowy, white summer clouds are absent. The wind is blowing hard like it does here all year. There's not much in the way of seeing the sun set!

When almost everything else is stripped away - whether it is mountains or just leaves, that's when I re-discover the (best or worst) things that have been there all along. Barrenness or loneliness or despair are no fun, as a prairie pioneer or ocean sailor could tell you. But they can show things for what they really are.

When my mom passed away, I found the friends that were right by my side. And a sense of God unlike before or after.

When I moved to cities where I knew almost no one - four times so far - I realized that family (and extended family) can make any place feel like home, right from the start. Oh, and that first new friend.

And as I watch my family and friends encounter low points in their lives, I see their strengths, their values, their work ethic, their faith, their courage, their grace under pressure all highlighted in a new way.

For me, the challenge is to remember that the people, values, and faith that are so obvious in the barren times are still there and important even during the good and easy times.

Come summer, somewhere behind those vibrant leaves and mountainous vacation spots, the all-important sun is still brightly and faithfully setting. I've got to remember to look for it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Somethin' for nothin'

I've just been reading a book that a friend gave me about reading out loud to your kids (The Read-Aloud Handbook). It's actually much more interesting than I thought it would be. One of the big ideas it gives is that reading out loud is one of the single best educational things you can do for your kids - and it's FREE!

Which got me to thinking, what else is free? Many of life's best things are free for the giving and taking, I realized as I thought about it...

So what can you get or give, no cash required?

Hugs and kisses. Don't underestimate either one.

Time reading (may include cuddling with the kids). Free books from the library on the side. OK, but you do have to pay property taxes for the books.

Fresh air, serenity, and beauty in the great outdoors. Even in winter, it's somehow refreshing.

Time with a friend. Hopefully some laughter included.

A good shoulder or foot rub. Makes my day every time.

Prayer. Shout outs of happiness or complaint to the One up there are free of charge.

Play! Look around you, preferably with a kid in tow, and you will discover that any mundane item around the house, yard, or thin air, plus imagination, can become almost anything.

Have a great day, and don't spend too much!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Laments are OK - or dare I say - "When cursing at God is OK"

Beside my bed this week are four half-finished books - The Africa Cookbook, Read Aloud Handbook, and The Bible Jesus Read (Philip Yancey), and the one-year Bible. I'm in a rut of starting books and not finishing them lately. These all happen to be decent, depending on my mood, so I don't know what to do!

So, about "laments". I feel like in the past year or so, I've had more questions and frustrations and confusions over Christian faith than peace, worship, and joy. A lot of Christians don't talk about that question stuff a whole lot though. Leading me to wonder - is something wrong with me, or Christianity?

Turns out, maybe neither. I finally found some justification for my discomforts in Yancey's book, as he discusses how 70% of the Psalms, the Bible's prayer book, are "laments" - a.k.a. the cursing psalms! OK, so I'm not the only frustrated person around! The old testament of the Bible, more than the new stuff we read more of today, is actually full of lots of confusion, disappointment, paradoxes.

So what is a "lament"? "We whine about what we have little control over, we lament what we believe ought to be changed. ...The psalmists clung to a belief in God's ultimate goodness, no matter how things appeared at the present, and cried out for justice."

To find God or even his scriptures less than comfortable or clear doesn't mean that I have to discount God or his goodness. But it also doesn't mean I have to sit quietly in confusion.

"To whom do you vocalize the most intense, irrational (inarticulate) anger? Would you do so with someone who could fire you or cast you out of a cherished position or relationship? Not likely, you don't trust them - ...that they would endure the depths of your disappointment, confusion... The person who hears your lament and far more bears your lament against them, paradoxically, is someone you deeply, wildly trust. The language of lament is oddly the shadow side of faith."

I hope that you have laments to offer to God like I do. And for me, I will continue to offer my "angry" prayers up, with confidence that doing so is often the best expression of trust and faith that I can offer to a God who is beyond figuring out.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Two tragedies?

There are two tragedies in life. One is to lose your heart's desire. The other is to gain it. ~George Bernard Shaw

I'm not entirely sure what I think of this quote, besides that it is deeply thought-provoking. I haven't lost many of "my heart's desires", but I have lost a few. Some of the strongest desires were during my high school and college years - to get married, have lots of kids, and stay at home with them.

I got married at just barely 21, and that desire realized has been an incredible source of joy to me.

But shortly after that, I had a miscarriage. And then I couldn't get pregnant for another year. I cried often and deeply that year, wondering if my next two dreams were impossible. Nearly every other girl I knew during those years had a nearly honeymoon baby, and then more. I realize now that wasn't necessarily the norm, outside our quite conservative church, but it made my heart ache even more. Though perfectly healthy, my two girls have always seemed a bit more miraculous to me because of those first two years, small miracles against brief infertility.

What next? Many kids. I grew up in adoration of my best friend's family of 10 kids. I wanted 4, 5 or 6. I'd still like three or four. But the demands of school for my husband, among plenty of other things, have slowed that dream.

Staying at home? Out of necessity, I initially found myself back in the work force just after my first daughter was born. Out of both near necessity and great enjoyment and passion for education, I have not left since.

My heart still aches at times for the fleeting dreams. But what if life went just according to my plans, mostly just a dream come true? Would it have been tragic in its own way, depriving me of the chance to fully appreciate the husband, children, and hours at home that I do have? Might I be caught in my fulfilling, self-satisfied world, rarely glimpsing the possibility or pain of those whose babies never came, who couldn't afford to keep even one, who single-handedly supported and mothered their families?

I pray for a heart of always increasing gratitude, whether my desires are gained or lost. Because a life without gratitude might be the greatest tragedy of all.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Too busy to blog on my...

... birthday! Celebrations at my house were last night, because alas, I have to teach tonight, not to mention do my usual gym, library, grade thing during the day. But my sister insists that I post something for her to find, so I will resort to sharing just a few of the things that I am thankful for today...

* A family of my own to celebrate with last night - a steady husband of seven years, a 5-year-old and 2-year-old. Each brings me more joy than I could have imagined, especially by the tender young age of 29.

* New tiara for playing dress-up with Abby, smarties to eat with Rachel, and new jeans for John's eye candy - who says you can't buy for yourself on someone else's birthday?! Just kiddin' guys, I love it ALL.

* Jobs, good health, fun vacations, and a car that was paid off in 2008. Just in time to start saving, braving the recession and bracing for the next step of our lives, to ..........?

* One of my students happens to have a birthday today too - what a great excuse to bring in cupcakes!

* Happy birthdays from all around on facebook - although my once-a-month check ins hardly deserve it. So what if it only takes a few seconds, it's suprisingly nice to be remembered! Oh, and the phone calls, sonnets , etc. Thanks!

* Turning 28 last year kinda threw me for a loop - "Oh no, I'm getting old!" Somewhere around April I finally came to grips with it and discovered that it's actually quite interesting and fun to be growing up a little. So I'm actually not freaking out so bad this year, even though 30 is looming ever so close.

Anyhow, thanks for the love everyone, you make me happy to celebrate another year.

Picture of me and my tiara is coming. Stupid disk reader decided NOT to feel the love today :).