Saturday, August 28, 2010

A La Mode and Ad Nauseam

Ok, so I'm guilty. I'm having way too much fun with the apples and apple pie analogies.  I promise this is it.

I thought it apropos to share my apple pie recipe, in light of my last post, and the fact that I did make it once for Dad and Carol on their first visit to us after we got married. Mike and I had been married about seven years, and our oldest was a toddler. Dad and I drove six blocks to a friends house to borrow cinnamon. I think that's why I distinctly remember having made an apple pie. The cream part is the video at the end, because if my family gets together, inevitably, there's singing.... Enjoy!

Apple Pie from Dawn's Kitchen (with a little help from the Dough Boy)

2 lbs. Granny Smith apples
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
Refrigerated, ready-made pie shell

Peel apples and slice thin. Mix both sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, and flour together and sift over apples. Mix thoroughly and taste for seasoning and sweetness. Place pie shell in glass pie plate. Add apple mixture. Cover with the remaining pie shell following box directions to seal the edges. Bake at 400° for one hour, reducing heat to 350° after first thirty minutes.

If you prefer a crumb topping: Mix 3/4 cup flour with 1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon brown sugar and 1/3 cup softened butter. Blend with fingertips until crumbs are formed. Sprinkle the top with crumb mixture before baking. No need for top crust if using crumb topping.

And now, the à la mode part or the ad nauseam part, whichever description you deem appropriate....

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Way God Used Apple Pie Today

One of the things about blogging that has changed my life is discovering a holy experience, Ann Voskamp's blog. Her post this Wednesday talked about having friends over for dinner and the conversation being about parenting. Her last line seemed to be disconnected from the rest of the post to me, but God was up to something. You can read her whole post here.

Her last  line was, "And what kids don't love apple pie?"

I found out this morning that it was a set up for her post today. It was also a set-up for something else entirely. The post captures her family at work in the kitchen making apple pie. But it did a whole lot more for me. It was confirmation. God knew I needed reassurance. Because now that the dust is settling on my dad's life-changing visit, and days are finding their routine again, I seem to be asking myself, "Did that really happen? Was it just my imagination?"

And God answered with apple pie.

Why? Because He knows a little something about reassuring kids about a father's love. And I wanted the author to know that God used her ordinary doings in her late summer kitchen in an extraordinary way today.

Dear Ann,

I just read today's post about apple pie. In the Carolinas apples won't be ripe for the picking until mid-October. It got me to thinkin' that I'm yearning for apple pie this year.

My father just came for a visit last weekend. Only his fourth in over 21 years. We did what you did this weekend -- we peeled away the outer skin that gets exposed to the elements and becomes a protection against what's harsh, and it turns hard and sees red. We carved off the outer shell to expose tender, delicate flesh underneath. I thought it was hollow in there--emptiness, but, to my surprise, there was soft, juicy sweetness hiding under there all along.

We managed to get to the core, finally, after all these years, and expertly extracted the hard-tough part that no one ever wants to consume. The painful past that has always been at the center and is unappetizing was extracted and thrown away, finally and fully. We did save the seeds, looking toward a future harvest with much anticipation, to gain back what the locusts have eaten.

Now that he's gone home again, I'm remembering the moments of his long weekend with us, disecting the newfound goodness, seasoning those sweet pieces of cut fruit with forgiveness and peace and a hard-fought-for love, and we've given it a new kind of outer shell. A flaky crust of restored relationship that will steam over time with the warmth and comfort of hot apple pie, homemade from the heart and hand, fresh from the oven.

Your pictures recorded my heartfelt and freeing weekend with my dad. I can smell and taste my future with my father in your pictures. And you are so right. Indeed, what kids don't like apple pie?

Your pictures and words mean so much. And the time it takes you to put them out there. Thank you for this.

Many blessings,

I smile, and this proverb breathed true for me:

A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. ~Proverbs 25:11

Monday, August 23, 2010

Almost Speechless

I love it when something catches you so off-guard that you never saw it coming. Not in a bad way, like being embarrassed when you walk into the door casing instead of through the doorway. But rather like making it through the door when you thought you'd once again run into the wall. A pleasant surprise. A happy ending that turns out to be a brand new beginning, too. In his words, making it to the summit and being able to hike downhill now.

My dad came to visit.

 And I count more graces, because I'm filled with thanksgiving.

~a long weekend trying to make up for lost time
~a living demonstration that love never fails
~a father and a grandfather that flies to you
~a game of scrabble with a wayward letter "R"
~cheating to help your granddaughter
~apple pancakes
~fighting over who sleeps on the couch
~sleepless nights
~facing the pain head-on
~precious time alone together
~things I never knew
~round table discussions
~hundred dollar bills and decisions, decisions
~saying everything that needed to be said, fully and finally
~never having to again...unless we just want to
~that somehow this time was different
~dinner times
~wanting more when you thought you didn't
~magic pennies and wanting more of them, too
~songs about rainbows and things coming back in style
~memories I don't want to forget
~not really knowing what to do today after he's gone
~so engaged in the moments that there aren't enough pictures
~salty tears to baptize and raise a relationship to newness of life
~a husband  with gentle wisdom, who already knew
~flying away
~a mutual pledge to read for each other
~making peace with the past and each other
~late nights and being tired
~a goodbye with hope for the not-so-distant future
~almost speechless at the wonder of it all
~being overwhelmed by the goodness of God's grace

This is the Lord's doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it. ~Psalm 118:23-24

I share this post in community with Ann Voskamp and friends whose walk with Him is about parenting this week.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

T Minus Two: Re-entry

Dear Adrian,

It's two nights before a new school year, and I've been thinking about you, the academic rigors you'll face for the first time (lots of honors courses--yikes!), and how much you've grown over the summer--in both height and heart.  I told you last night at the dinner table that you tend to start new things with gusto, but your energy and desire taper way off to below average  and your over-confidence kicks in for the long haul.  I was hoping it would be a warning to apply a wiser strategy to the start of a new school year.

You made me so happy when you didn't respond with words. Someday, believe it or not, you won't feel the need to argue with me all the time anymore. Did I see a glimpse into that future last night? I think what I saw was some of that heart growth I mentioned. (Or was that just because you had a mouthful of roast at the moment?) Don't answer that....

At the time, I meant the words of wisdom to affect your earthly life, but, lo and behold, C. S. Lewis offers the same warning to Christians in regard to their spiritual heath. It might be a little confusing. The letter is written from an uncle named Screwtape to a demon nephew, Wormwood, in order to advise him regarding how to tempt a christian (his patient) from his new-found faith. So, the Enemy, Adrian, is God. I know...I told you it was confusing.  Let's listen in:

Work hard, then, on the disappointment or anticlimax which is certainly coming to the patient during his first few weeks as a churchman. The Enemy allows this disappointment to occur on the threshold of every human endeavour. It occurs when the boy who has been enchanted in the nursery by Stories from the Odyssey buckles down to really learning Greek. It occurs when lovers have got married and begin the real task of learning to live together. In every department of life it marks the transition from dreaming aspiration to laborious doing. The Enemy takes this risk because He has a curious fantasy of making all these disgusting little human vermin into what He calls His 'free' lovers and servants--'sons' is the word He uses, with His inveterate love of degrading the whole spiritual world by unnatural liaisons with the two-legged animals. Desiring their freedom, He therefore refuses to carry them, by their mere affections and habits, to any of the goals which He sets before them: He leaves them to 'do it on their own.' And there lies our opportunity.

I want so many wonderful things for you, son. So many that you'll never know this side of being a parent yourself. But trust me, it's a lot. A bunch. You might need your calculator. But I can't make any of your success happen for you. You have to 'do it on your own.' Actually, you get to do it on your own. It's the only way you're free. It's a privilege and an honor, one that you can be proud of if you make it past the excitement at the onset into the hard work of making those aspirations come true. Don't fall to the enemy's temptation (the devil this time). Not in school nor in your spirit.

I like what I see in the young man I'll be sending off to tenth grade in two days. I very much want to like what I see come November, too. I pray you take the reins, do it on your own, and make your mother, your Father, and yourself very proud. So that when you do eventually fly, you'll be free.

My love to you,

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin that so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race which is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our you will not grow weary and lose heart. ~Hebrews 12:1-3

What does LOVE look like in your home?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Freeze Frame: Sure Foundations

A green 4:41 quietly penetrates the darkness beside the bed. The clock begins to sing, "...when I finally make it home..." after a nine minute long grace period.

The lyrics to Mercy Me's song skittered around my waking head as I showered by rote. Today is not a home-coming, but yet another leaving. Still, that eventual home-going is the reason for the leaving, and I smile at the poetry of that.

Mike is going to Guatemala for the work of God's kingdom. This time he will miss our kids' first day of school, their first after three years of homeschooling. We're getting used to his absence at momentous occasions like this, though. This year he's missed Easter and Father's Day, and on his next trip he'll miss my birthday.

These are not complaints as much as they are an accounting of our days and a rendering of the seismic shift I feel under my feet.

It began a few years ago with a Sunday school study about living a generous life. Mike and I felt a strong draw to give more of our lives away to God. But there weren't many resources in our lives we weren't already investing in ourselves, so this longing of our heart went unmet. The urgent cares of daily living piled on top, and it was soon buried alive.

Last year we took the Dave Ramsey course Financial Peace, which resurrected those unmet desires and challenged us anew: get out of debt, scale back what you spend on yourselves, and put God to the test.

We were already tithing, and Mike was already traveling to Guatemala three to four times each year for five years now. We weren't sure exactly what it was God was moving us toward or what it would look like.

We decided to make some sacrifices to accomplish the goals of debt retirement and stemming the selfish spending. What got cut was the time and money we were investing in homeschooling. We put our kids back in public school and I went searching for a full-time job. As committed as we were (and still are in so many ways) to homeschooling, we knew this was the next step in the direction God was leading us.

When I felt the earth moving beneath my feet, I so wanted a crutch to steady me. I was scared of all this change. Even now I feel ungrounded. David Platt's book, Radical, with divine timing, steadied me.

Mike is taking a small team of six to meet at least three others from another state. They will install a water filtration system to a primitive village in the rural mountains of northern Guatemala. They will also pour a concrete foundation to upgrade the dirt floor in the pastor's house.

And I smile at the poetry in that, too. God is stripping me of the unstable foundation of self and false security in the American dream, setting me adrift to take steps of faith that land on moving tectonic plates in His hands. He wants me to know only Him as my foundation. All this, while Mike goes to a third world region to pour a physically sure foundation for those who have only known Christ as the cornerstone under their dirt floor.

And somehow my heart knows we are stumbling in the right direction, and I am learning that He's the Rock that catches my unsteady footfalls. And I don't want to stumble anymore; I want to run sure. So we zip the suitcase that contains a week's worth of physical provisions and spiritual provision enough for a lifetime. He flies. And I run.


This post is a reflection on Freezeframing Life, a PhotoPlay challenge from Claire Burge at High Calling Blogs to capture life's landmark moments in still photography. You can see the reflections of others here.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Shining Like Stars

The LionsHeart Summer Tea Party came and went a few weeks ago, but youth camp and kids camp followed closely on its heels, so this is my first opportunity to talk tea.

Our church's women's ministry started seasonal tea parties at the beginning of 2010 because we had been neglecting the teaching of Titus 2. Older women teaching younger women is the prescription of scripture. Titus 2 might be the only place you will find it specifically, but it's also the only specifics you find regarding what women are to teach, so I'm guessing we should be doing at least that. The problem is, all those womanly duties and lady-like virtues seem so five minutes decades ago.

God showed me last Fall that womanhood was something to embrace, not something to camouflage or prove just as  good as manhood. (Anything you can do I can do better...) When God made us, male and female,  He said it was good, remember? Even Adam liked Eve. So I figured we women should like it too, and celebrate instead. And be biblical -- that too.

I want to spare the next generation of daughters from learning only the world's message:  that we girls have to play catch up to compete with the boys (that's the curse in Genesis 3, come to think of it) and/or exploit ourselves to get ahead. Maybe these little girls should learn a positive message about how to be a virtuous woman. Our little girls need to see women that are holy, that are embracing their role as desirable, that are pleasing God like that. What if the next generation saw that done well and said, "Wow, I want to be like her when I grow up."

This has become my heart for women's ministry.

So every season all us CWO girls get together, young and old, and do feminine...together. And what's not to love? We are complex creatures: fierce yet fragile. We are soft enough to house God's latest creation yet rugged enough to evict them when the time comes. Being a woman is wonderful. It's not any less than man, merely different. And marvelously mysterious.

So far, we've learned how to be a gracious host and a polite guest. This time we delved into behavior. We created behavior journals and used worksheets to determine good behavior from bad. We rated ourselves on how we are doing in areas like honesty, obedience, kindness, loyalty, cheerfulness, sharing, helpfulness, keeping promises, diligence, listening, and self-discipline.

This is not an exercise for the faint-hearted. Nor only for the little ones among us. I learned that I am inconsistent at best, and have little faith at worst. We all set goals to work on ridding ourselves of some BBs (bad behaviors). I'm working on complaining and impatience. I'll let you know how that goes....

Philippians 2:15 tells us we are to shine like the stars in the universe. Do you twinkle, gaining favor with quiet strength and inner beauty? Or do you explode like fireworks, demanding attention with your loud display of grandstanding?  

Proverbs 20:11 says we are known by our actions (behavior). What do your actions and reactions say about you?

We were challenged to put into practice the Philippians 4:8 things, a list of traits I'd love to live up to and be known for.

And, of course, we ate and drank until our teacups runneth over.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

700 Reasons Not To Be Jealous

A few weeks back, a farmer's wife with a large blog following announced that she was going to Guatemala with Compassion International to blog and hopefully gain some support for some poverty-stricken children.

I was very pleased because Guatemala holds a near and dear place in my heart. And we have a whole children's home full of children to support. We also have a much lesser known blogger and an obscure ministry that no one else has really heard of before.

And I was jealous.

Why is it the big name people with a lot of influence work with the big name ministries that already have lots of their own resources? I just wanted one tiny slice of the pie for us - our own small, but just as important, Guatemalan ministry.

Such ugly thoughts and feelings they were that I didn't want anyone to know about. So I sent off an email with my best effort to put on a good face to encourage the blogging farmer's wife in her effort to minister in Guatemala. I pushed the ugliness into the shadows of my soul and tried to forget it was there - no white glove inspections scheduled soon, so why not.

Then the phone rang and God donned his white gloves. Operation Rescue, a ministry of the 700 Club, called Pastor Cristian of Misioneros Sin Fronteras, our church's ministry arm in Guatemala, and said, "Bring a truck. We have some things for you."

The truck was borrowed and too small. Operation Rescue filled it to overflowing with food stuffs to fill the empty pantry in our children's home. They would have given more if we had had a bigger truck.

Donations have been down with the economy, and Pastor Cristian and Eugenia have been increasingly facing empty kitchen cabinets and many hungry mouths. So they have had the children pray that God would meet their needs. Only Cristian and Eugenia knew the cupboards were bare, their own children to go hungry with the rest. And the dutiful children prayed, but not for themselves. Their prayers were for their American pastors and their American church. And the needs here in America.

So God sent a truck, and a big name ministry to humble this blogger's jealous heart, but mostly to fill South American stomachs and shelves.

And the white gloves of God's inspection touched my green-eyed monster and withdrew it from the recesses. When a truckload of blessing comes unexpected, even the dark corners are needed to store those blessings. There is no room for lurking sin.

And God took the very thing I coveted and brought it to pass. Not so that I could have my heart's desire, but to aptly discipline my heart of envy with His heart of generosity. This is His heart's desire: to clean what's dirty and fill what's empty.

If you would like to partner prayerfully or financially with Missionaries without Boundaries (Misioneros Sin Fronteras) please contact Mike for more information at pastormg [at] gmail[dot]com.

Photos by Eugenia Teruel and used with permission.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Knowing Who I Am

Do we ever really know? Most of the time, at my age, I feel pretty sure I do.

Then the phone rings and my father tells me he's purchased airfare and I ink him into the weekend squares of my calendar. I begin to think about him more and start remembering the little bit there is to remember. Most of my life has been father-absent.

I'm comfortable with this, yet that statement makes me sad, even if just a little. How can these both be? Is it possible to be comfortable with, and sad about the same thing? I don't think I'm comfortable with sadness, so that can't be it.

And that's how life goes from being perfectly fine to a perfect mess.

One family gathered around the table for the bearing of bad news: divorce.

A few years of choosing the impossible: mom or dad, both no longer an option.

The rest of your life getting used to not having your dad in any capacity that's meaningful.

Children adapt, so we learn to acclimate to the circumstances. We find a spot in our being for the sadness and what's lacking: the need to have his approval, his identity, to know who you are. And you grow accustomed to the rock that is heavy that makes the space between you cold and hard and non-living.

You tell yourself that it's a fine place to sit when your paths do cross the telephone lines for chit-chat about how fast the kids grow up, how busy life is, and the latest joke he treats his clients to that day. But you hate that you're on par with his clients and that the jokes are unfulfilling, and you hang up still strangers. And you don't talk for many months, because there's really nothing to say.

He's been here three times before in the last twenty-one years. The conversation always repeats: memories past, old regrets, and long distances. And more failure at trying to make sense of it.

I think I'm not willing to forge something new at this point because I don't have any more grief and pain to give to this relationship. I don't want to risk it. That's what's sad.

There's not any unforgiveness or bitterness keeping me from it really, just a lack of energy or desire to build anything new. It simply is what it is: only little and superficial. It doesn't take much effort and can't do any real damage. That's what's comfortable.

And I know who I am. I'm a daughter, with as many short-comings as her father.

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