Saturday, June 30, 2012

12 Steps to Creating an Addiction

Step 1:  Ask savvy friend who already built a set, where to begin.  He directed me to these instructions:  These were perfect for a rookie like me.

Step 2:  Pluck up the courage to actually DO it.

Step 3:  Head to Lowe's for my a Sunday dress and high heels, no less (I had to go straight from a job interview!).  I found that men were anxious, but fearful of offering help.  I suppose they've been blasted a few too many times.  One gentlemen customer decided to school me on choosing "true" 2x4's.  Another informed me that Lowe's would cut the wood for me, if I wanted them to...for free even.  One male employee asked, "Now, you know you have to drill a pilot hole before inserting those wood screws, right?"  Mostly, the offers were to make sure I was finding what I needed.  It was a little comical, to be sure.  I tried to be extra interested in their advice and receive it all graciously, hoping to partially salvage the reputation of surly, independent, "I don't need men" women.

Step 4:  Haul the lumber out of my car into the 110 degree heat and wonder for the first of many times, "What was I thinking?"

Step 5:  Follow instructions.  I discovered that building is a lot like sewing: get the materials they tell you to get, have the right tools on hand, follow the step-by-step instructions and wah-lah!!  You have a finished product!

Phase one:

 Step 6:  Bend.  Squat. Hydrate!  Bend.  Kneel.  Squat.  Stretch.  Hydrate!

Step 7:  Consult YouTube: How to use a jigsaw

Step 8:  Consult YouTube:  How to use a miter saw  

Step 9:  Hide the stuff from Shaf every night (it's a SURPRISE!  THAT may have been my stupidest move...yes, let me haul 50+ lbs. of lumber in and out of my car every night...why not?)

Step 10:  Create and apply ugly black and orange SF Giants design.  

Step 11:  Head to Hancock's for duck cloth.  The fabric cutters always ask what you're making, right?  So I tell her and she says, "Oh yeah...we used to call that Toss Across."  Exactly.  I'm making a Toss Across set for a grown man.

Fear the Beard corn bags in the making:

Step 12:  Present final product to satisfied customer.  Score MAJOR  brownie points.


I'm tired, I need a new back, and I have "orders" to build 3 more sets.  But if you'll excuse me, I think I'll head back to the world of women to have tea with my girlfriends at The London Tea Room.  Pinkies up!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The "New" Fairytale

I generally avoid reading movie reviews, partly because I don't want to go see them with a preconceived bias - positive or negative - and partly because I so often disagree with the critics anyway.  I will sometimes read a brief synopsis, which is exactly what I did last night.  Those few sentences led me to believe that BRAVE was a movie I'd probably, it's Pixar and really, how wrong can you go with Pixar?

Up to this point, it seemed to me that the Pixar films had mostly avoided the Disney mantra that permeates nearly every movie they make.  What mantra?  

The Child always knows what's best for himself more than those stodgy, uptight adults who love him.   He must rebel, throwing off authority and tradition and anything else that might rob him of his freedom to choose for himself.  Follow your heart and your TRUE destiny awaits.  The Stupid Adults realize in the end that The Child was right all along.

BRAVE's Merida is just the latest face on this storyline.   

But I have an even bigger bone to pick with this modern "fairytale."   Over the years, we've lost not only our awareness of what constitutes a true fairytale, but we've also lost our knowledge of The Real Point of fairytales.  The whole "princess gets rescued from death by a prince" thing has been severed from that which it intends to image: The Bride has fallen prey to some kind of evil from which she is unable to rescue herself; The Prince lays down his life to rescue her and exalt her as Queen.  Fairytales are not about how helpless women are apart from men, or how every woman needs the ideal man in order to bring meaning to her life.  Fairytales are variations on The Gospel.  

In BRAVE, the princess's primary rebellion is that she doesn't need a prince to rescue her.  She is fully capable of rescuing herself, thank you very much.  She is sufficient in and of herself.   Because we misunderstand The Real Point in the first place, our liberated society demands that we throw off the "woman without man is dependent and helpless" storyline and embrace the "woman is strong and independent and man is entirely superfluous" one in its place.  Problem is, that mindset reflects a deeper worldview that also throws off mankind's inability to rescue itself from death.  Who needs a saviour?  WE GOT THIS! 

Secondarily, we see the princess is unwilling to lay aside her own wishes for the good of the kingdom and in order to fulfill her responsibilities.  Sacrifice her own desires for the sake of The Kingdom?  That would be weakness!  REAL strength lies in standing up to those who would require her to go against her own heart. 

Lastly, we have the all-too-common personification of manhood in three fools: a pompous ass, a blubbering idiot, and a childish coward.  Who would want a "prince" like that anyway?  NO ONE.  If I were Merida, I would resist too.  But the movie fails to set these false princes over against the glory of a True Prince who is humble, strong, courageous, and willing to sacrifice himself to rescue the bride and restore the kingdom. 

I feel like I've drained all fun and enjoyment from what some would declare is simply a piece of lighthearted entertainment, but what can I say?  I was disappointed.  I'd be interested to hear from you if you had a different take on it. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Musical Monday: Townes Van Zandt

Lyle Lovett, John Prine, Elvis Costello, and Ray LaMontagne sing Townes Van Zandt...doesn't get much better than this!  (music begins at :30)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

About That Book: An Exercise in Narcissism

I have been challenged from several sources lately to STOP DREAMING and GET GOING on one of those books I've wanted to write.  Besides the basic fear of pouring myself into a project that, in the end, remains unmarketable (which, somehow, I have come to equate with "unuseful"), I am also paralyzed by not knowing where I ought to begin.  Here are the books I've mentally (and in some cases, literally) begun writing:

Trinitarian Education: Educating According to the Nature of God

It Quite O'ercrows My Spirit: Suffering Christianly

From a Mother's Heart:  Letters to My Christian Sons

Don't Be That Guy: Literary Lessons for Boys

In My Name: Teach Your Child to Pray Biblically

I've also desired to write a comprehensive Bible curriculum from a particular perspective (probably too overwhelming and wouldn't finish until I was 96), as well as a number of literature guides.  Sigh...

How does an aspiring writer know what readers want?  Something true, engaging, honest, from the heart, encouraging, challenging.  That much is obvious.  I suppose I could approach it from the standpoint of writing to benefit my children and grandchildren and if it goes no further than that, then that would be OK.  If perchance it DID find an audience outside of them, that would be a bonus, right?

Feel free to chime in with your opinion, if you have one.  Otherwise...stay tuned.  For another 5 years...maybe by then I'll have finished an OUTLINE.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Musical Monday: An Evening Hymn

  1. The day Thou gavest, Lord, is ended,
    The darkness falls at Thy behest;
    To Thee our morning hymns ascended,
    Thy praise shall sanctify our rest.
  2. We thank Thee that Thy church, unsleeping,
    While earth rolls onward into light,
    Through all the world her watch is keeping,
    And rests not now by day or night.
  3. As o’er each continent and island
    The dawn leads on another day,
    The voice of prayer is never silent,
    Nor dies the strain of praise away.
  4. The sun that bids us rest is waking
    Our brethren ’neath the western sky,
    And hour by hour fresh lips are making
    Thy wondrous doings heard on high.
  5. So be it, Lord; Thy throne shall never,
    Like earth’s proud empires, pass away:
    Thy kingdom stands, and grows forever,
    Till all Thy creatures own Thy sway.

T-Shirt Quilt

A friend of mine had a snazzy t-shirt quilt made for her daughter's graduation a couple years back.  As soon as I saw it, I knew I wanted to do this for my boys so I began saving their old t-shirts instead of throwing them away: sports teams, vacation spots, mission trips, Shakespeare plays...these shirts represent all kinds of fun memories.

While I was alone this weekend, I began working on Grant's.  I want to add at least 2 more rows, but only have 3 shirts left.  I raided his closet and found more, but don't yet have permission to confiscate them.  I'm working on that.   I also have some of his dad's old shirts from high school/college and plan to incorporate a couple into each of the boys' quilts.  Here's what I have done so far:

I feel compelled to explain my unsophisticated, rough "design."  Most of the t-shirt quilts I've seen are quite professional like those pictured above.  However, THIS one is going off with an 18-year-old male who shall I say this?...ummm...less than domesticated.  Yeah.  That's it.  This thing will get drenched in sweat, Coke, wing sauce, Cheez-it name it.  And it may actually get laundered once or twice a year.  Rather than make a beautiful piece of art that I would be devastated to have "lived with" I chose to make a fast and rough "rag" (exposed seams) quilt that can take a beating, but still be useful and sturdy.

The other advantage to this design, is that I can continue to add to it over the years...which is pretty much...brilliant.  Right?

I think he'll like it.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

An Old Hymn Revisited

Empty.  Naked.  Helpless.  Foul.  

What a horrible condition in which to find oneself!   Bereft of all glory and dignity with nothing to offer.

And yet...what a mercy.  What a gift.  A GIFT?   Yes.  When we find ourselves in this place, then...THEN...we finally come in abject humiliation to the One who can fill, clothe, strengthen, and cleanse us!   When our hands are full, they cannot receive.  When we can take care of ourselves, we don't need rescuing.  When we aren't sick, we don't need a physician.  

Our humiliation makes us receptive to the generous gifts of God and those gracious gifts transform our shame and humiliation to gratitude and humility.  When that happens, we realize our destitution was a gift.  

This old hymn, that I've known from childhood, beautifully expresses a faith that knows it has nothing to recommend itself and is entirely dependent on the mercy and grace of Christ:  

Friday, June 15, 2012

Name That Flower

Notes From a Young Preacher

I rarely link to outside articles, and I'm doing it twice today.  Hmmm.  But since I lack the discipline and energy to write something original, I might as well post other people's words, right?  

I hope you take the time to enjoy this poetic essay written by one of my pastors:

Cultural Trends

An interesting and honest article which looks at the cultural changes of the previous decade, neither  through rose-colored glasses, nor with the all-too-common "to hell in a hand basket" mentality:

Ten Most Significant Cultural Trends of the Last Decade

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Rotten Bananas

Last Monday, the food pantry had pounds of bananas that were nearing the end of their usefulness, so a few of us took some home to use in our baking.  Here's my haul:

Appetizing, huh?  

Actually, some were still rather firm and decent looking inside.  I peeled them and froze them because I was not ready to do any baking.  Well...I'm never really READY to bake.  I eventually decided to make a couple banana cakes - one for the Pig Roast and one for the pantry workers.  Here is the cake recipe and the ways I modified it for a tube pan, and a 9x13 pan:

Banana Caramel Cake

In a large bowl, add and mix well:
2 c. flour
1 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. ground cloves
1/4 t. allspice
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
1 3/4 c. sugar
3 lg. eggs
1 1/4 c. vegetable oil
1 t. vanilla 

When well-blended, add:
3/4 c. finely chopped pecans
3 ripe bananas, diced 

Pour batter into greased-floured bundt pan and bake at 350 degrees for 45-55 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

NOTE: I recommend removing cake while center is moist.  I waited until the toothpick was clean and thought the cake was a little too dry.  

Just before cake is finished, prepare caramel sauce as follows:

In saucepan, combine:
1/2 c. brown sugar
4 T. butter
2 T. heavy cream
1/4 c. rum

Bring to boil for 3-5 minutes, whisking occasionally.  If desired, add up to 1/4 c. rum after turning off heat. 

As soon as cake is finished and out of the oven, poke holes all over the top with a skewer.  Pour caramel over the cake, stopping to let the caramel sink in.  If it begins to pool, poke more holes.

Once cool, loosen sides and invert cake onto a serving plate.
Banana Upside Down Cake

Use the above cake batter.

Grease and flour a 9x13 pan.  Put 6 t. butter in pan and place in heated oven to melt.  When melted, remove pan and sprinkle with 1 c. firmly packed brown sugar.  Slice 3 small bananas and place slices over butter and brown sugar.  Pour cake batter over bananas.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

NOTE: As above, I recommend removing cake while center is moist.  I waited until the toothpick was clean and thought the cake was a little too dry.  

I made the following sauce to serve with both cakes.  Personally, this was my favorite part:

Chocolate-Caramel-Rum Sauce

1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. brown sugar
3 T. heavy cream
1/4 c. rum
1/2 bag chocolate chips (app. 3/4 c.?)

Combine butter, sugar, cream and rum in saucepan.  Bring to boil, stirring until creamy.  Turn off heat and add chocolate chips.  Whisk until well-blended.  Spoon over individual servings of either banana cake. OR...pour into a shot glass and enjoy!  (Kidding!)

I had about 2 1/2 bananas remaining, so I figured I'd make a "smoothie" of sorts.  Now, in my mind, the very name "smoothie" carries the idea of health...and there's nothing especially healthy about this thing!  It was a shot-in-the-dark experiment that turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself.

Banana Cream Smoothie

In a food processor, blend:
2/3 c. sour cream
2/3 c. heavy cream

Process until thick and well-blended.  Then add:

2 frozen bananas
1/4 c. brown sugar

This tasted great!  It may look a bit runny at first, but it quickly thickens after you finish processing it.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Musical Monday: Guy & Verlon

One of Guy's more recent songs interspersed with conversation about his musical influences.  Delightful.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Winds of Change

I am well aware that my experience is by no means unique.  Not even close.  Mothers have been doing this and will continue to do this  for time immemorial.  But it is my first time.

We mothers open our arms and our hearts to receive these little people we call "our children" into our worlds.  We devote our whole selves to them by being present, active, and engaged in every detail of their small existence.  

From the beginning, they depend on us for their very lives.  We fill their bellies, empty their diapers, alleviate their pains, soothe their restlessness, encourage their curiosities.  We keep them alive and then we teach them how to live.  We teach them to play, to create, to love, to speak, to sing, to know, to choose, to sacrifice, to give, to trust.  We set the trajectory for their lives.

Their best interests crowd out our own.  Their needs dictate our schedules and priorities.  Their desires and pursuits become ours.  In short, we allow them to be ever present in our hearts, as well as in space and time, all the while knowing that the end goal is to send them out.  

We must hold them loosely while making them feel we have held them tightly.

From my sons' earliest days, I encouraged independence and self-sufficiency at every turn.  I was conscious of gradually loosening my grip on them so that they could be strong young men with no ties to Momma's apron strings.  I have been cognizant of their need to leave from the get-go and I have even looked forward to them taking flight.  And yet I find myself strangely moved by the reality that my firstborn has left the nest this morning.  Half of my world just walked out the door and no matter how many people assure me that I'm still his mother, I know...I know...that everything has changed.

Today is his first day of manhood.  Despite this mother's heart and the remaining filial attachments between us, there is a change in my gut.  He is no longer first and foremost my son.  He is first and foremost a man.

Is he prepared to be the right kind of man?  Has he been equipped to choose faithfully and wisely?  Will he love well?  Will he make my same mistakes or will his be different?  Will he remain committed to Christ?  

I realize my work isn't entirely finished.  I'll still nurture and advise...from afar.  But other voices and influences will be primary.  As for me?  I will pray.  A lot.  And I will learn to believe more fully what has always been true: he doesn't really belong to me, but to Christ.  His future and who he becomes doesn't depend on me and my training, but on the Spirit of God moving, shaping, transforming him.  

I expect that my new role, like all our earthly roles, will carry me through moments of trepidation, disappointment, and sorrow, but I also expect that these will be set over against moments of confidence, satisfaction, and great joy. 

Thankfully, I know I'm not alone as I walk beside or follow many of you down this path (not the least of which is my own mother).  I hope to do it with as much trust and dignity and grace as you all have.

Musical Monday: Ingrid

Coming to The Pageant on July 16:

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Earth Adorned

The earth adorned in verdant robe
sends praises upward surging,
while soft winds breathe on fragrant flowers
from winter now emerging.
The sunshine bright gives warmth and light
to budding blossoms tender,
proclaiming summer splendor.

    From out the wood, the birds now sing
    and each its song now raises,
    to join with all the universe 
    in voicing thankful praises.
    With hope and joy their songs employ
    a rapturous exultation
    in praise of God's creation.

O God, amid these joys of life, 
creation's glory beaming,
grant us the grace to keep your word
and live in love redeeming.
All flesh is grass, the flowers fade,
and time is fleeting ever;
God's word remains forever. 

Waldeman Ahlen (trans. Carolyn and Kenneth Jennings)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

A Mother's Prayer

At Grant's baby shower 18 years ago, my sister, Sherre, gave me a cassette with this song, which Grant and I listened to daily during his infancy.  I prayed this prayer for him over and over again throughout his childhood, and I'm praying it for him today as he prepares to leave us on Monday:  (the video is irrelevant, but this is the only recording I could find of this song)

May he have the faith of Abraham
May he have the boldness of Paul
May he have a heart like David

Always seeking God.

May he have the wisdom of Solomon
May he have the patience of Job
May he be a leader like Joshua
Always full of hope.

May he have the courage of Daniel
May he have the love of John
May he know your voice like Samuel
Always obey God.

Father God, bless my son
May he grow to be a man of God.