Giving Thanks

For dirty dishes, witness
that we have eaten today.
For puddles of water on the tile,
the overflow of drink and wash.
For pies minus an ingredient
because I have little someones
to distract me.
For the shrilling of the smoke
detector reminding me of the many
meals that have spattered this oven.
For the tension knots knitting my intentions
with my imperfections, the clash
of wills, and the reaching
of limits that brings prayer
to my lips.
For night wakings and sleep
deprivation, a body that works
nourishment for a baby, and knows
the cost of loving another.
For crayon scribbles on the walls, library
books on the floor, laundry lounging
a basket, grapes smashed
on a table in abundance,
the abundance, Oh, Lord,
the abundance of this life
and of Your grace.

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Not What You Would Expect: A Post for the Jesus Feminist Synchroblog

Yeast is an incredible thing.  Set out a jar of water mixed with some flour, wait a couple days, and if the environment is not too hot or too drafty, you’ll catch some wild yeast, the evidence of which will be thousands of tiny bubbles breaking the surface of the gluey mass, and an aroma of fermentation, beery and sweet, tingly and tickling.  Tantalizing.  Something entirely new.

Throughout most of the Bible, yeast usually symbolizes something that is evil, or unclean, as in “Be on guard against the yeast of the Pharisees.”  This makes sense in a culture that saw threats of ceremonial uncleanness in the very air surrounding them.  Contamination from non-Jews, women, the diseased and the infirm lurked around every corner.

But Jesus turned this metaphor completely on its head; Jesus– the One Who is willing to get His hands dirty in the sticky mess of the human experience, Who affirms the sick, the women, and the children that touch Him– this God compares His Kingdom to a tiny microorganism whose life and work no one of that time would have been able to observe except by its effect:  “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.” (Matthew 13:33)

Jesus knew exactly what He was doing in using this parable; not only did He choose one of the most quotidian of examples to illustrate how His Kingdom works, but more importantly, He chose one that would have applied almost exclusively to the women of that time and would have been intimate to their daily experience: the task of preparing food.

The process of slow, steady growth and transformation, though mysterious, would have been immediately understood by the women listening to him.  As the yeast does its work, it completely transforms the surrounding landscape, leaving something entirely new in its wake.  I can almost hear their stomachs rumbling at the mention of bread, see the astonishment on their faces as this Rabbi speaks their language–the language of preparing meals– without irony, without deprecation.  With honor and dignity.  Something entirely new. 

Jesus’s attention and respect for women in using this parable is not what you would expect.  Is it some kind of anomaly of his ministry, not to be repeated or followed upon?  On the contrary, Jesus, is seen again and again showing women and other devalued people of the day loving respect and radical mercy.

God’s Kingdom, like yeast.  Bubbling, overflowing.  Rising up, much like the Living Water Jesus described to a Samaritan woman He met at a well.

I remember the sense of revelation I felt when I came to the account of Jesus’ encounter with this particular woman while reading the gospel of John during my sophomore year.   As the professor of my Introduction to Theology class had pointed out, Jesus is constantly telling everyone to keep things quiet during His ministry, practically running from the crowds, avoiding being heralded, definitely not calling attention to Who He was.  But here, in the middle of this conversation at a dusty well in Samaria, He revealed to this woman– someone of the wrong gender, wrong ethnicity, and wrong history according to the cultural norms of the time, someone whose testimony wasn’t even valid in a court of law– that He was the Messiah.

It stopped me in my tracks. Was this– a woman– the person to whom Jesus first reveals Himself?

I shuffled the pages of my Bible and started examining the other Gospels to see if what I had noticed was really true: that Jesus first reveals Who He is to a woman, not only a Samaritan, but a woman who, most likely despised for her personal history, people went out of their way to avoid.

But Jesus doesn’t avoid her.  At a time when Jews often crossed a river to avoid stepping foot in Samaria, and men, especially rabbis, avoided even talking to women, He meets her there and asks her for a drink. He not only dares to do what no other self-respecting Jewish man of that time would, but he chooses her– a woman– to be the first person entrusted with the truth of Who He is: the long-awaited Messiah.  It’s not what you would expect.

I wasn’t confident in my own research, so I timidly asked my professor in the journal we were each required to keep for the class if this were true.

Yes!  You are right!  

With my professor’s words scrawled in blue ink across the top of my notebook, Jesus’ love and His Kingdom grew a little more wonderful to me.

This seemingly small action on Jesus’ part was truly revolutionary, not unlike a small bit of yeast working its way through an entire batch of dough, making everything different and new.  Understanding started rising in my heart: Jesus chose a woman to be the first to bring His good news.  And like a small amount of yeast, this woman’s encounter with Jesus spread to those around her, until many others in her region believed because of her testimony.  My experience of Who Jesus is and His great love and the way His Kingdom works, began to be transformed.  Something entirely new.

Not what I expected.

————–

This post is part of a synchroblog coinciding with the release of Sarah Bessey’s new book Jesus Feminist.

 

Retreat

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I did not grow up with mountains; my first hike was on a spring break mission trip to Oklahoma with other students from my college.  On that hike, the pastor, who guided us as we scrambled over boulders and braced ourselves against incredible gusts of wind, led us in a psalm once we were at the top: “I lift my eyes up to the mountains; where does my help come from?”  We seemed cocooned at the top of that mountain, the wind dying down and a small chorus of voices weaving the melody around us.  Ever since, I have sung that to myself on hikes.

We have been in need of just such a cocoon– rest, a retreat from the stress of the past couple months, and quantities of quality time as a family.  The woods in these mountains are cool and crisp, the pine inviting for wandering hikes, the deer accommodating of small budding naturalists.    Our first day in the mountains, E said, “I like the cabin; it’s quiet, we can talk and be together, and we can hear things.”  I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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Sneaking behind the fence for a closer look.

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Trying to smile for the camera.

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Bears are his other recent fascination.

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What I’m Into: October 2013

What I'm Into at HopefulLeigh

What I’m Into: October 2013:

I’m excited to be joining along in this link-up at Leigh Kramer’s blog (thanks for the inspiration, Emily!) because I’ve been wanting for a while to record the books I read, including the best of the children’s books we’ve read.  It’s been fun and stimulating to keep track of what we’ve been up to this month. Here are some of the highlight.

Reading:

*I had to return Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly to the library since it was on hold for someone else, though I’d only finished about 2/3 of it.  But I wanted to mention it because it’s given me an entirely new and fascinating lens–vulnerability–through which to view both my behaviors as well as relationships.  I expect to write more in depth about it sometime; I’ve already started a few posts based on topics from the book.  Highly recommend, and hope to finish it soon.

*Reading Like a Writer, Francine Prose: emphasizes the kind of close reading that demonstrates how the masters craft their writing; makes me feel like I’m back in graduate school, but without the pressure.

*I’m chipping away at Ivanhoe.  I saw a British film version in high school, but have wanted to read it ever since one of my college roommates claimed it as her favorite book.  I get into it at times, and then hit a slow patch and set it aside for awhile.

*Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath on Audible: Quint and I have been listening to this during car rides.  We’ve listened to several of his audio books on road trips and this one is really fascinating.  Based on the premise that what at first seems like a weakness can actually prove to be someone’s great advantage.  It has provided great fodder for our conversations.

*The Write Start, Jennifer Hallissy: E has started writing the letters of his name, pretty much out of the blue, and this book has great information and ideas for encouraging proper and creative writing at every stage of childhood.

Children’s Books: I’m pretty picky about children’s books; if I don’t enjoy it, I don’t want it in the house, because we’re going to be reading it at least 17 times a day till it goes back to the library (I’m talking to you, banal summary of a Batman movie that found it’s way into my canvas tote).

*Bedtime for Frances, Russel Hoban: The first couple times reading this to E at bedtime, I laughed out loud when Frances the badger sneaks into her parents’ bedroom and stands inches away from her sleeping father, staring silently till he wakes up.  Classic.

*Bee-wigged, Cece Bell: I didn’t have high expectations for this quirky book, but it had a surprise that made all of us laugh, and it is actually pretty sweet.

*Frog and Toad Together by Arnold Lobel on Audible: This is E’s choice whenever I offer to play an audiobook during lunch or while he’s doing some sort of art or craft-type play.  I never get tired of hearing Toad say that he can’t chase after his wind-blown List of Things-to-Do because chasing after the list is not one of the things on the list!

Listening: I used to daydream about being able to cherry-pick songs instead of having to buy entire albums; now I long for the time to experience a whole album at once!  Oh, well.  I’m embracing this time in my life when stopping to really experience a single song is accomplishment enough.

*The Vespers: discovered them through a Pandora’s children’s songs station with “All I Want is You.”  Yay for children’s songs that are enjoyable for the adults, too.

*Raffi’s version of “Octopus’s Garden”: I can’t tell you what a thrill it is to catch E singing a song to himself as he works away on a paper project or building blocks, and this one has been his most recent favorite.

*Neulore: “Shadow of a Man.”  I just really like this song.

*Robby Seay Band: “New Day”: when I need to start the day over at 3:57 pm.

*Melanie Penn: her song “Turnaround” has been in my head since I heard it on the Under the Radar podcast; the song is so well crafted I keep thinking about the ways the words, images, music, and metaphor work together.

*Ben Rector’s cover of Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” made me stop what I was doing in the kitchen and just listen.

*The Emerald City video series on Soulation’s Ruby Slippers blog: philosopher and apologist Jonalyn Fincher, whose book on the feminine soul was an engaging, inspiring read for me last winter, has been posting v-logs, some of them interviews, and I love tuning in when I get on the elliptical.  I love how she integrates the physical, cultural, relational and spiritual; her questions and insights are sharp and keep me thinking for a long time afterward.

In the kitchen:

*Indian Home Cooking, Suvir Saran: although I haven’t actually tried a recipe yet, I enjoyed reading  this cookbook and drooling over the recipes, particularly the vindaloo, which I plan to use as soon as I can get a hold of the whole spices required.

*Cauliflower Couscous: I’ve made Cauliflower “rice” a few times, but wanted to see if I could get good results with a simpler process, and I liked the results even more.  Just put some chunked-up cauliflower in the processor, pulsed several times till it resembles couscous, then saute for a few minutes in olive or coconut oil, maybe a little butter, and season to taste.

*I first tried these green olives a couple months ago and I am hooked.  They are fruity, kind of like ripe black olives, only fresher tasting.  I like them for a tide-me-over-till-dinner snack.IMG_0982

*flourless peanut butter bars (I’ve also tried them with almond and sunbutter) have been my go-to “healthy” treat this month: I decreased the honey a bit since our p.b. had some already, and they were great.

*It’s finally cool enough to use the oven, and so I’ve made pumpkin pies.  I usually use the recipe on the back of the can (Libby’s), doubled for two pies, but substitute one can of coconut milk for the two cans of evaporated milk (so about 1 cup of milk per pie instead of 12 oz.) and decrease the sugar.  I like the richer, denser filling that results from those changes, and even though Quint said, “Make it EXACTLY like this from now on,” last week, I’m experimenting with maple syrup and dates to see if I can get a version we like that’s free of refined sugar.

Doings:

*I purged my closet.  For.  Real.  I’ve made several attempts in the past year, always shutting down mentally and then returning most of my clothes to my closet and drawers.  This time I was ready to be ruthless, but needed moral support, so I begged enlisted my husband’s help and he empowered me to donate two garbage bags full of clothing that was ill-fitting, unflattering, unsuited for my daily life or otherwise Just-Not-Right.  He even cleaned the closet for me while it was empty.  It was a huge burden that seemed to be parked squarely on my shoulders for a long time, and now I know that I have exactly one pair of non-maternity jeans that have no holes and kind of fit.  I think I need a personal shopper.  Any takers??

*A couple weeks ago, I made the goal of playing my guitar every day, even if only for five minutes.  It’s been a gratifying outlet.

*We visited the pumpkin patch with friends.

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*The Spoonk: Quint’s sister had one of these acupressure mats when we visited them this summer, and Quint immediately ordered one and uses it almost every day to decompress.  I didn’t think I would get much use out of it, but I really enjoy lying on it and listening to a few moments of music after the kids go to bed to help myself relax.  It breaks up some of the tension in my back and helps me transition to bedtime.

*We’ve made story time at the library part of our routine, and it’s been great.  My high-energy preschooler sits engaged with the stories and finger-play songs, and brags to his daddy later that he’s the “quietest thing in the room!”  (quoting from recent fave Bedtime for Frances).  And just when his younger brother has reached the limit of his attention span, they break out the puppets, to his delight and my relief.

Looking forward to November!

PS, this post took me longer than I expected to complete; my husband says when it comes time to record what I did in  November, I can just say I did a blog post about October 🙂

Halloweening

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This was the first year the kids dressed up, since I’ve never been with-it enough in the past.  We don’t celebrate Halloween so much as my husband “guards our home” by appeasing all the ghouls and princesses that ring our bell with handfulls of candy.  And if he can play a trick–like pulling my sister’s beauty school mannequin head out of the bag of candy–all the better.

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I spent a good chunk of the afternoon putting together simple costumes for Thing 1 and Thing 2 from the Cat in the Hat. I was aware of the PBS cartoon–we’d seen it on vacation–but our main inspiration was from the book we’ve had since E was a baby, which we have memorized and randomly quote from quite often: “you SHOULD not fly KITES in a HOUSE, you should NOT!” and …”we can have lots of good fun that is funny!” For such a simple project, I spent way too much time trying to get the blue maribou boa glued to the beanie hat in such a way that a) it would still fit over the kids’ heads, and b) that the “hair” didn’t end two-thirds of the way down the hat. I was bracing myself for a Pinterest fail, but finally, I had the inspiration to put the hat on something round to stretch it out while I wielded my newly acquired hot glue gun. That chemical smell of melting glue (which I can only suppose is what the warning on the package was referring to when it said “contained chemicals known to cause cancer…” !!!) took me back to many a Girl Scout craft. The only thing I had approximating the size of a child’s head was a smallish pie pumpkin, and though it was a little too big, it worked.

E loved his costume (and he was emphatic that he should be #2); baby brother J was ecstatic for about two minutes, during which we blitzed him with camera flashes trying to get a Calendar Picture.  He then turned irate and wanted nothing to do with the hat. We didn’t end up taking the kids trick-or-treating, just handing out candy. But they were excited enough to answer the door and greet the other kids (and way-too-old for trick-or-treating adults) brandishing bags for candy. Pretty early in the night E went off-script and started introducing  himself as Super Thing 2, and then saying “Super Thing 2 to the Rescue!” He then demonstrated by zooming around the living room. We definitely picked the right costume.

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this is the face J makes when we say, “Smile!”

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Three, two, one….

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Aaand…. meltdown.

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