Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Quote of the Day

"And, as always, I am curious about your love-life. Do have someone to squeeze? Someone who cherishes, admires and loves you extravagantly -- kinda like God only "still" in human form --a model complete with human flaws?" --B.E.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


This comes from a host of online recipes I have gathered in the last 6 months. Most of the ingredients are common to each recipe, and at this point, I just do my own thing... (this recipe should easily serve 10 people)

1) In a large (the large part is important here because there are a lot of ingredients and when you add the rice, the whole thing will grow!) pot over medium heat, brown 1 pound chopped, skinless/boneless, chicken. Remove and set aside.
2) In the same pot, brown 1/2 pound pork sausage. Pour out the grease. Set meat aside on a paper towel to collect extra grease.
3) In same pot, brown 4 links of andouille sausage, chopped. Remove and set aside with other meat.
4) In same pot, add 2 tbsp EVOO and 2 Tbsp butter. Add 2-3 white/yellow onions chopped. Add 4 stalks of celery, chopped. Add 1 green bell pepper, chopped. Add 4 green onions chopped. Add 4-7 cloves of garlic, chopped. (FYI--garlic is like salt in that the more you eat it, the more *immune* your palate becomes, thus requiring more of it in order to taste it, so if you hardly eat garlic, you probably only need a little, but if you eat it a lot, then you will need more to have the desired taste effect. Kapeesh?!? on an obvious but different note, unlike the health risks of eating lots of salt, garlic is actually good for you!)
5) Add 1 tsp thyme, 1/2 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp cayenne, 1/2 tsp paprika, 2 tsp black pepper, 2 tsp garlic salt, and 1Tbsp salt (all seasonings should be to taste, these measurements are only approximations.) Cook covered until translucent/semi-soft. (5-10 minutes)
6) Add 1 can diced tomatoes, 6 cups chicken broth, 2.5 cups of white rice, and all the meat. Mix well. Cover and cook for roughly 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
7) It is finished when the rice is cooked through, (i.e., no longer crunchy).
8) Serve hot with rolls or cornbread. Greens (collard) if you like, and preferably sweet tea!

Tortilla Soup

I love to cook, and more specifically, I love to cook for people. I have missed not having friends living close by (or in the same house) that I can cook for when I want. Tuesday night I was supposed to have a meeting but because of the fires and freeway closures, it was cancelled. So I treated myself to a night off. I read, cooked fried ravioli, and ended up inviting some friends over to share in the meal. It was nice. Nice to treat them to a night off from cooking. Nice to share a good recipe (thanks Aunt P). And nice to have company for the evening.

In an effort to share the cooking joy, I thought I'd share another recipe with you my readers:

Tortilla Soup (should serve 4)

In a large pot over medium heat:

1) Melt 2 Tbsp butter and add 1 Tbsp cumin seeds. Cook 2 minutes.
2) Add 3-4 cloves chopped garlic. Cook 2 minutes.
3) Add 1 cup salsa (whatever kind you like, cheap is good hear b/c it just blends in), 2 cans diced tomatoes, 2 cans (or 3-4 cups) chicken/vegetable broth.
4) Bring to a boil.
5) Reduce heat. Simmer 30 minutes, covered.
6) Remove from heat. Add 1/4 cup chopped cilantro.
7) Serve hot with shredded or 1/4" cubed cheese and fried tortilla strips (or tortilla strips).


Quote of the Day

Yesterday I really needed someone to pray with me, not just for me, but with me. I called one pastor who had offered support any time I needed at Annual Conference and he was out of the office, so I called another with whom I had prayed long and hard at Clergy Convocation, gloria a Dios, he was in. After identifying myself, my first words were, "I was wondering if you'd be willing to pray with me." I didn't make it two words into that sentence before my voice cracked and tears began to stream down my face. We talked for a long while and at the end of the conversation he did indeed pray WITH me. I needed that. I needed him and was grateful he was there and available when I called. As we talked about things he shared something that was extremely powerful. He said, "I tell my kids they need to obey me when I am right and they need to obey me when I am wrong, because that way they learn to obey God when they thinkare wrong is good discipline to train us to continue to obey God when we think God is wrong."

Now, ordinarily, I'm a "fight-the-fools, speak-truth-to-power, don't-let-them-get-away-with-that" kinda gal. But really, his words struck me. It was amazing and eye-opening to see the clarity of his wisdom: we will think God is wrong at various junctures in our life, and if we have no willingness to submit to "wrongness" then we will be unwilling to submit to God and God's sovereignty in those times, and we will miss out, be hurt, run from God, etc, but if we practice submission, even in the light of another's obvious "wrongness" then we will be more prepared to practice humility in the light of God's perceived wrongness.

Thank you JM.
God is wrong. Learning to obey authorities when they

Worth Reading

I don't know how many of you frequent Pastor J.T.'s site, but he has some beautiful pieces about his faith journey of growth and awakening. Recently he wrote about his experience attending to those in need at Qualcomm Stadium and it is definitely worth reading. Click here to read it.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Let it be by Superchick

Some people bring you gifts, some bring you bricks to weigh you down
So they can swim a little higher while you drown
Some people mean so well, their way was the best way that they've found
But any other way you choose is a brick that weighs you down

So tell me
what do I do with this backpack full of bricks
Of sticks and stones and words that stuck to me like ticks

Let it go, let it be
brick by brick we can be free
Of all the words we say til we were our own enemies
Let it go, let it be brick by brick we can believe
in the person God intended us to be
Let it be.

Some people give themselves a brick, I know most people do
When we compare, we fall short somewhere, its always true
If all we see is where we fall, weve bricked the prison wall
Instead of trying to learn to fly weve taught ourselves to crawl

So tell me what do I do with this backpack full of bricks
Of sticks and stones and words that stuck to me like ticks

Let it go, let it be
brick by brick we can be free
Of all the words we say til we were our own enemies
Let it go, let it be brick by brick we can believe
in the person God intended us to be
Let it be.

We could believe in ourselves more
We could try for unique instead of trying to conform
We could defy what they tell us
And don't buy the lies they sell us
And were brave we can believe in what we are

Let it go, let it be
brick by brick we can be free
Of all the words we say til we were our own enemies
Let it go, let it be brick by brick we can believe
in the person God intended us to be
Let it be.

Word of the day

Flummery is dictionary.com's word of the day today. I like it. It's befitting of the random musings I often have, and of some of the compliments I've received as of late. Flummery. It's a good word.


For the record, it's much easier to talk about forgiveness than to be the one who actually has to do the work of forgiving. I doubt that's a surprise to many of you, but it had to be said. I have had the opportunity to write about forgiveness a couple of times to a fellow blogger. And after a couple of comments, he even solicited my opinion about his final piece. I've written about the greatness of God's forgiveness, how the forgiving work is more about us letting go of the anger and resentment that is eating us alive, how we may never receive an apology from the other party, or how they may never accept our apology, and that that's okay because forgiveness is greater than that. All of those things are great, in the philosophical sense anyway. But forgiveness is a hard, hard practice.

Awhile back I was having major trouble with N. I resented him, was irritated, hurt, aggravated. And in the midst of my unforgiveness, I had the opportunity to see a spiritual director. It was a time of major upheaval in my life and I expected the spiritual direction would address issues with my call or my relationship with God. The SD and I talked for awhile, I cried, and then she had me do a guided meditation exercise. I lay on the floor with my hands at my sides and my eyes closed. She had me put my hand on my heart and call to mind an experience that had brought me great joy in the recent days and immediately I had a vision of hugging B and rubbing her pregnant belly. The SD told me to relish and feel that joy and then to let it go, to give it to God. Then she had me call to mind a painful experience and immediately I was struck by my interaction with N. I started to cry and again the SD encouraged me to really feel those emotions and then let them go. I don't remember well what the next few prompts were, only that it had to do with how I would be reconciled with N, or what needed to happen, and the vision I had was of me asking N for forgiveness for having a hard heart against him. That struck me. Big time. N had hurt me. N had wronged me, and I was supposed to be the one asking for forgiveness? Come on. I was not thrilled with the idea. The spiritual direction continued in a different vein and when I left I talked with a friend of mine and told her what I had seen. She said she'd had a similar experience with a colleague and had to ask her colleague for forgiveness in a similar way. I continued to protest. She said I could protest as long as I wanted to, but that eventually I'd need to do it.

I finally conceded and had the conversation. I can't say that it fixed everything for N and me, but it was helpful, and I felt like I had honored God by asking for forgiveness in the way I had seen it in my vision.

Well, it's forgiveness time again in my life. A few weeks ago I mentioned the insults that had been slung my way. I have mulled and fumed, pondered and debated the words that came my way. I continue to be angry and hurt. And quite frankly I have trouble wanting to go anywhere near this person. And yet, over the last few days, I haven't been able to get it out of my head that I need to ask for forgiveness for having a hardened heart and for being unwilling to offer grace and forgiveness. Regularly the conversation I work out in my head goes something like this: "I need to apologize to you because I've had a hardened heart toward you since you were an arrogant jerk and said such horrible things to me." Somehow, I think that misses the mark. Call me crazy. I really don't want to have this conversation, especially in many ways because he's the type that would easily assume I finally conceded he was right and saw the light. Wrong. He was still wrong, both in his words and in his approach. But I can't force him to apologize and it's only going to eat at my soul if I sit around and wait for him to do so.

I'm struggling between the notions of forgiveness and reconciliation. I believe they are two separate things (though they often go hand in hand). As a back story, my last year in seminary I dealt with some strange men, 3 strange men in particular. One was extremely lonely and became obsessive in his calling and refused to heed my requests for time and space away from him. The second was a narcissist who ended up stalking me relentlessly until I finally called in the higher ups. The third was an old man who decided he was entitled to me and whatever he wanted from me. He, too, called incessantly--in the end pleading for "reconciliation" (in the name of Christianity, of course). As I learned to honor myself and protect myself from those who did me emotional harm, I wrote this:

'I just want to be reconciled with you; will you pray for that?' Do you know what reconciliation means? Have you thought of what it entails? It is not simple or cheap. It is not an "I'm sorry" and "I forgive you" and a turn back to how things were. It demands repentance--change in direction--not the same as the old path. Reconciliation between us requires action from each of us. It requires grace and understanding, absolutely, but it also requires action and change. Reconciliation cannot truly take place if we simply return to old habits. Reconciliation is profound and powerful. So let us be reconciled, if you desire. You do your part and I'll do mine. You respect me and my wants and desires and I will honor you in our relationship. Neither of us can move forward if we continue to hold misconceptions, misinformation, prejudices, or hate from the past. We must clear a path down which we can walk toward greater connection, and wholeness in ourselves.

In dealing with L, man #3, I really struggled because the reconciliation he was asking for only involved action on my part. He wanted me to wipe the slate clean and for us to "move on from this." But not once was he actually repentant (not in my presence or to my knowledge anyway). Not once did he acknowledge any wrongdoing. Forgiving him, as I understand it, meant letting go of the anger, hurt, and frustration that were binding me. But reconciliation, that was a bigger deal--that involved some action, some commitment to change on his part.

Now, back to the present. I think in some ways I want to be reconciled with my current offender, but I don't know if I actually want to be reconciled, or if I really just want him to be repentant. Either way, I have tried to make my act of forgiveness contingent upon his acknowledgment of the wrong. And I really can't persist that way. Because, like I said, I have no control over that, and looking at the situation, it is unlikely it will actually happen. So I need to work on the forgiveness, the letting go, the giving over to God, and let God work with the rest of the situation from there.
It is indeed hard work. Dreadful work in some instances. But I think the fear and dread of the hard work are actually more difficult than the work itself.

My prayer this sabbath day is that I actually would have an unhardened heart and be able to do this work of forgiveness.

buffered up

Sometimes it feels like I'm perceived this way. It's not generally something I consciously do--shield myself from the world, for in many ways, I think I am very open and make myself pretty vulnerable. But there are other days, when others claim I am all walled in. I have one *friend* (he's deemed me his best friend, in fact, how much of a friend he is for me seems to be pretty inconsequential in terms of his actions) in particular right now who's regularly frustrated I don't share more. But it's hard for me to share more because he's a member of my congregation and there are a whole host of things happening right now that are confidential, so I can't talk about them. This man also has a habit of pushing and digging with all his might into areas where he has been given an inch of information, and quite frankly there are other parts of my life where I don't want anyone pushing and digging for more information.

In many ways I think our willingness to be vulnerable is a product of our environment--we learn to wear extra padding or not, and we learn to read the signs of when it is safe to take that padding off. I guess I'm more like Mr. Padding than I'd like to admit, at least these days. It doesn't feel safe to share. It doesn't feel safe to bear the truth of my heart. I need a buffer these days because I'm not sure I can take another blow.

hat tip for the cartoon: Naked Pastor

Friday, October 19, 2007

The 3 Best Things Edition

Chai regularly blogs 3BT—3 best things from her week. I like her reflections and appreciate that she does it regularly. It reminds me of the Ignatius practice of consolations and desolations. This week I have been on vacation with my family in Death Valley, and lots of things have topped my list, so I thought I’d share a few:

· Being awake at the(bum) crack of dawn and getting up to go to Zimbrinski point to watch the sunrise.

o Being reminded of my trip up Sinai as I watched the light of day reflect off the rainbow painted rocks.

· Laughing so hard my sides hurt because some things never change.

o Realizing the pate my dad ate for breakfast was only 2 years out of date, and the lobster stuff, though not dated, was clearly out of date—probably pre-2000. So when my dad went to open the sardines and mom joked the date was 1992 and I incredulously asked, “Are you serious?!?” I actually thought she could have been serious. Heck 15 years is still new for our family.

· Being Aunt Debbie. This seems like something simple, but somehow it brings lots of privileges, including all the little kid hugs and kisses I want. (And, unfortunately for my sister and brother in law, my niece hollering for me in the wee hours of the morning).

· Being in Death Valley after probably close to 15 years and still having sights and sounds seem familiar to me.

Quiet for my soul

I am more and more convinced that I simply have not had enough quiet time as of late. On the 4 hour drive to Death Valley I began to get antsy after about 2 and a half hours on the road. My cell phone reception was soon to see its end and I got off the phone with my best friend so I could try and entertain myself for the next part of the trip. I played music and sang along. I sat in silence. I opened the sunroof. I closed the sunroof. I sat in silence. I sang songs acapella to myself. Lots of songs. Praise songs. Oldies. Whatever came into my head. (It was sort of reminiscent of Spain where around just about every corner I was struck by some other song and would break into it). I thought about work. I thought about relationships. I thought about nothing. I waved to all the passing cars. And the trip kept dragging on and on and on.

Here in the lowest part of the contiguous United States there is NO cell reception and NO wireless internet. I think if I had been forwarned about this fact, I’d be fine. But now I am anxious because there are people I was hoping to talk to during these days and am ill at ease thinking they’ll have no idea why I’m not returning my phone calls. I had also told my dog sitters they could email me with any question, only I was wrong about that too. There’s no email here. And really, I probably just need to let it all go and call it a day, but something keeps ticking in my head.

All of this, I think , is proof that there is not enough quiet time in my life. If I had more solitude (in the quiet reflective sense, not the alone sense) I probably wouldn’t be bothered by all this quiet. But as it stands, when the day is done and everyone in my family is coupled up and off to their own cabins, I’m here thinking to myself. Stirring in my own head. It’s aggravating really.

The Tension

Ministry is the strange paradox of doing things as if you’ll be there forever and never again all at the same time.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


I finally made the switch and traded in my car. I've had "Dina" just over a week now and love her! There's the sun roof--a bit of a luxury, but super fun, and I need a little fun in my life! There's music and blue tooth phone controls built into the steering wheel, and the way cool thing--it's KEYLESS. That's right, I just have a clicker deal that sits in my purse (or my pocket) and as long as I have it on my all I have to do is push a button to lock or unlock and then just turn the ignition (without inserting anything) to make it run. It's fabulous. No more digging through my purse for keys, no fumbling around when my hands are full. I am a happy, happy woman. (It's also nice not to be riding in a car worrying about what will break next and how much it's gonna cost me!)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Prayer for the youth of the world

God of all generations, past, present, and future, this day we focus our prayers on the youth of our world.

We pray for those:

Who are seeking something more

Those who are lost

Those who are abused

Those who have discovered the joy of Christ’s love that they might continue in their faith

For our future leaders

For teen moms and dads

For those left to act as the adult in their families

For those with AIDS and HIV

For those confronted with war

For the homeless youth

For those with leukemia and other devastating diseases

Those in gangs

Those who are teased and bullied

Those with mental illness

Those who struggle with depression

Those who cut themselves and self-mutilate

For youth who struggle with body image

For those addicted to drugs, alcohol, or nicotine

For those who are forced into prostitution

We know youth struggle with so many issues, many we have left unnamed, but we entrust them to you O God.

We pray for your protection and guidance.

This day we also pray for their future, our hopes and dreams for their lives

We pray that they will be





Convicted about their beliefs



Witnessed to



Spirit filled








Constantly seeking more knowledge






Justice seeking





Environmentally conscious

Peace promoting

Truth telling prophets

That they wouldn’t lose their wonder

And that they would realize their dreams.

We lift our prayers to you this day O Holy One, our petitions, laments, and hopes for the youth of our world.


Friday, October 12, 2007

Sleeping In

this morning I got to stay in bed until 7:45!! That was super exciting. Lately my dog has been waking up at 5:30 or 6:00 and whining or scratching in her kennel until I let her out and take her downstairs to go to the bathroom. On occasion I get to come back up and get back in bed, but there is simply something lost once you've been up and walked around the apartment complex so your dog can find the appropriate 3 inches of grass on which to relieve herself. But this morning there was no fussing, no scratching just pure silence perforated by doggie breathing (though not her typical snoring) such that I got to relish the warmth of my covers in the cool fall air, stretch and wake up slowly rather than dragging myself out of bed at o-dark-thirty for a potty stop.

Just remember, it's the little things in life!


Last night I had my second youth leadership team meeting. This is the area of my ministry I am super thrilled about. Don't get me wrong, I am enjoying leading worship, teaching new songs and new ways of worship, our organic Bible studies and my youth, but this is an area where I have people who are dedicated and willing and wanting to grow in their faith and in this ministry. They feel like my 12 (even though they are only 5!) I am planning on how to teach them to teach a Bible study (more conversationally than expositionally), doing a spiritual gifts inventory, figuring out what kind of leader and communicator they are, and the "ologies" (i.e., theology, eschatology, soteriology, Christology, etc), then one of them added knowing and understanding the committees within the church (yeah, I wasn't as excited about preparing for that one!!!).

As we sat around the dinner table together one of the leaders, A, asked me if I had taken sabbath. I told her I had and it was good because I had noticed I was letting my sabbath be co-opted by the need to do something, so this week I practiced being quiet and listening to my soul. I talked about taking phone sabbath (a need which was readily apparent when I was taking my phone with me from room to room so I wouldn't miss a call--can we say too attached?!?!) and all of that discussion led into me talking about an area of life that is exciting, confusing, and frustrating all at the same time. I hadn't anticipated delving into this discussion, but it just happened and then they had questions...normal conversation things. Except, in the midst of it I began to feel super vulnerable and overly exposed. I just don't share these things with people (not generally new acquaintances and most definitely NOT parishioners). It was weird because I didn't share anything I shouldn't have shared, and they responded appropriately (excitement and questions), and yet I was incredibly uncomfortable--all their attention on me, sharing personal details, being so animated in my sharing. I had this strange feeling I needed to numb my enthusiasm. And all I could chalk it up to was issues of being vulnerable. As I pondered my reaction on the way home I realized that I give so much of myself at the church and in a way I think I was equating that with the vulnerability quota of sharing. Give of self = expose self to those you trust. And what I realized last night is that those two things are quite distinctive. While I do give a lot of myself, I have not really let myself be truly vulnerable in the church--not in a way that wasn't calculated or pre-meditated (thinking about what to share, how much to share, and with whom, so I wouldn't get burned). I am not sure yet how much of this we are simply cultured to believe in the church (especially as pastors) and how much of it is actually necessary for the integrity of the work we do and the reality of church politics...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

another newbie

Another pastor/seminary friend of mine started a blog!

Chicken (or veggie) Pot Pie

One thing I love about fall is not dreading the use of my oven. Monday I enjoyed making fresh bread...mmmm....and Wednesday I made pot pie for my lectionary group. I got this pot pie recipe from JCM, one of my former roommates, so technically it is hers, not mine. It's fairly simple and easy (only about 20 minutes prep plus 30 minutes in the oven) and is very healthy--a point that was underscored when my lectionary friends told me the Paula Dean recipe called for a stick of butter and heavy cream....

So I thought I'd share with you, for those who love to cook, or those seeking inspiration, or those seeking to use up some stuff from the fridge.

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2) In a skillet, brown one pound chopped chicken (you could also use left over turkey) in 1 Tbsp EVOO.
3) In a large pot (2 qt) heat 2 Tbsp oil or butter. Add one white/yellow onion chopped. Add 3 stalks of celery, chopped. Add 3 large carrots, chopped. Cover and cook on medium heat for 5-8 minutes, until tender.
4) Once chicken is cooked, add it to the vegetables. Add 1 cup corn (frozen or canned) and 1 cup peas (frozen or canned). Season with 1-2tsp of salt, 1.5 tsp of black pepper, 1/2 tsp of thyme. Add 1 can cream of celery soup. Mix.
5) Place bottom pie crust in the oven for 5 minutes to brown. Remove and add filling. Lay the second crust on the top, squeeze the edges and then place in the oven to cook for approximately 30 minutes (until the crust is golden brown).

Vegetarian option:
(though I've never actually done it this way, this is how I'd do it if I did....)
Replace the chicken with cooked potatoes or with mushrooms (portabello...) and proceed with the other directions.


Tuesday, October 9, 2007

New bloggers

A couple of my friends from seminary have started blogging lately. Both are gifted servants of God and pretty fine writer's



These were two other new ones I read because of links and they share the beauty and laughter of being a young mother...



Saturday, October 6, 2007


Lord, may we be conscious of the foreigners in our midst. May we see them as part of us--members of your blessed creation, brothers and sisters in the holy family. May we not be obstructed by color of skin, language, or human drawn borders. May we see each person as beautifully and wonderfully made in your image O Divine One. Amen.

Depends on whose hands

I don't know who the author is, but I received this poem today and really liked it....

A basketball in my hands is worth about $19
A basketball in Michael Jordan's hands is worth about $33 million.
It depends whose hands it's in

A baseball in my hands is worth about $6
A baseball in Mark McGuire's hands is worth $19 million
It depends whose hands it's in

A tennis racket is useless in my hands
A tennis racket in Pete Sampras' hands is a Wimbledon Championship.
It depends whose hands it's in

A rod in my hands will keep away a wild animal
A rod in Moses' hands will part the mighty sea
It depends whose hands it's in

A sling shot in my hands is a kid's toy
A sling shot in David's hand is a mighty weapon.
It depends whose hands it's in

Two fish and 5 loaves of bread in my hands is a couple of fish sandwiches.
Two fish and 5 loaves of bread in Jesus' hands will feed thousands
It depends whose hands it's in

Nails in my hands might produce a birdhouse
Nails in Jesus Christ's hands will produce salvation for the entire world.
It depends whose hands it's in

As you see now it depends whose hands it's in. So put your concerns, your worries, your fears, your hopes, your dreams, your families and your relationships in God's hands because....... it depends whose hands it's in.

Thank a caregiver...

A number of years ago my grandmother had a stroke, a number of strokes really, and it left her in need of full-time care. She has had a number of live-in assistants, and at one point when there was a break in help, I was able to stay with her for a couple of weeks. It's not a taxing job in most ways...help her dress, oatmeal in the morning, make sure she takes her pills, scrabble or a game, tv, lunch, another few games, dinner, more pills, dinner, and then some more tv and then bed. There's laundry, simple cleaning, and meal preparation. One of the greatest challenges is the tedious nature of the same routine day after day....that and dealing with a mightily stubborn woman whose short term memory is shot...I can't tell you how many times she'll ask who I'm dating in the course of an hour...after answering "no one" time after time and beginning to feel lousy about my date-less life I'll occasionally change the story and make up some wonderful suitor...

Her current care-giver is in her early twenties and is very sweet. I'm sure boredom must overtake her quite regularly, but she has done well at taking up hobbies and finding things to do. Tonight I called to check-in with my grandmother following a fall she had a week or two ago. She had already gone to bed, so I talked for a bit with her caregiver. Minor stuff really but somewhere in the midst of it it dawned on me to thank her for what she does. She does good work, and my grandmother can be quite difficult and stubborn (we discussed her refusal to use her walker in spite of her fall....). I could hear her voice lift when I thanked her...I realized how irregularly I do that, and how nice it would be if I took more time to make mention of my gratitude.

So, my suggestion today, if there is a caregiver in your life (for a loved one, friend, or otherwise) to acknowledge their patience, their hard work, their dedication, and the love they are sharing with your loved one.

Quote of the Day

"We live so easily in the grooves of the past that they become the ruts of the present." --William Long


Avoidance is like a growth hormone for the emotions associated with those things in life we'd rather not deal with. Fear. Confrontation. Rejection. Disappointment. Anger. Frustration. These aren't exactly situations most of us are drawn to, and so, logically, we attempt to distance ourselves from them. We distract ourselves. We justify our hesitation. And yet, I've found our attempts at avoidance actually serve as a steroid of sorts for the fear, intimidation, reluctance, whatever it is that impedes us from having the conversation/interaction in the first place. The more distance we place between ourselves and the dreaded encounter, the more dreadful it becomes in our imagination--the person's expected reaction becomes more fierce, the fallout from our words--irreversible, the relationship--irreconcilable. What would have been but a kitten had we dealt with it on day 1 becomes a ravenous lion because we waited until day 15. The problem itself may or may not be affected by our actual avoidance, but the perceived problem and/or consequences becomes gigantic and insurmountable. It's a crazy thing, avoidance; and by my estimations, ironically, it should be avoided!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Patience is a virtue...

...and I'm not sure I have it. I always used to think I was a patient person. And, generally, I am very patient in situations, especially crisis or challenging ones. I can keep a cool head and keep perspective, but more and more I am finding patience simply isn't a virtue I possess. You may have read about the car situation, and since then I have decided to go ahead with a trade-in deal and buy the nissan. I shopped around a bit, but really, the day after I got my car back, I was ready to trade it in and get the new one. JP encouraged me to slow down, he seemed to think I was being a bit impetuous. I tried going with a contact of his, which meant waiting 5 days even to talk to him, and then it has been a few more days of calls and thinking through things. The initial excitement faded and it became a numbers game. Crunching numbers has been a strength since I was in 3rd grade, yet somehow when you convert it into buying something worth more than $15,000 it becomes incredibly complex....mostly I think because my mind simply has trouble fathoming spending all that money in one place. I'm someone who tends to "know what she wants and then gets it". So not getting what I want, or not knowing what I want becomes incredibly taxing. I have a number of things/situations/opportunities in life right now that I am waiting on. One thing after another seems to be waylaid and it's enough to make me crazy! (If I had been an Israelite wandering in the desert, I probably wouldn't have made it a year in search of the promised land, let alone 40).

Thinking about it this afternoon I thought, "If I can't wait 2 weeks for a new car, what on earth is it going to be like when I have to wait 9 months for a baby?!?!?" Never mind the physical burden, pain, or weight, the "delayed gratification" (as my mother would put it) would be cause for crazy making. I thought further and wondered about my degrees--those took time to earn...but that's just it....I earned them...I didn't simply have to wait for them, I was actively going after them--taking classes, reading, writing papers--it was a constant blur of busyness--studying, doing, learning. No simple waiting. Almost always active doing. Thus I find I have been ill-prepared for true patience, patience that involves long-term waiting for things further off in the distance than 2 weeks, a semester, or even a 4-year degree.

Now the question becomes how to get rid of this sense of *antsy* long enough to focus on something else--anything else, the many other things that are left to do in the meantime.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Health care crisis

Health care is a big issue in the media these days. Lots of folks are talking about crowded emergency rooms, lack of funding, and increasingly expensive insurance rates and co-pays. I myself am aggravated by this issue, especially who believes in a national health care plan. I was talking with a parishioner today who had been to the ER (the one here in town has a reputation for being especially bad with 3-8 hour waits to even get in to be seen and then 6-18 hour waits to get moved upstairs to a bed). She, as an 89 year old woman who had had a stroke was left waiting in the waiting room from 10 at night until 3 or so in the morning before. Let's just say she was not terribly pleased with that. Coupled with her frustration were "loud and rowdy" families who were eating, going in and out, and loud, AND whose loved one was taken in before her. Her complaints echoed the stereotypes screaming out in the media--*they* just come here because they don't want to pay a doctor, because the care is free, because, because, because. I tried to explain a bit of the current problem to her (lack of insurance, lack of preventative care, ER visits only when the problem is exceedingly bad...), but she wasn't quite prepared to hear it. The conversation ended with her saying she was "happy in [her] own little world" and "there's nothing we can do about it." Aside from being frustrated by her relative indifference, I was thoroughly frustrated that there's nothing she thinks we can do about it. Of course there's something we can do about it. We live in a democratic country where we vote on laws, can petition to amend laws and vote on the government officials who create, amend, and vote on laws. So how is it that we can't do anything about it?!!?

Coupled with this frustration is the fact that our entire annual conference has argued, squabbled, and debated over our health care plan (especially for our retirees) and how we can't afford health care. Each year we seem to pass the same resolution--we'll tell our representatives to do something...well, I don't know if anyone else has noticed, but our representatives do not seem to be doing a whole heck of a lot with this. And as someone who has worked on public policy and lobbied about it and received the same canned answers about why my opinion doesn't matter, I'm pretty sure they're not quite ready to make the necessary changes. Not without a lot of public pressure that is. So, tell me again, why it is we can't seem to get organized to analyze the current policy, review other possibilities, and create a health care reform proposal?!?!

Glutton for love

My dog is a major glutton for love. She will accept love and a belly rub from anyone and everyone. It's adorable really, unless I'm trying to get work done and she lies down across my keyboard...her love language is definitely "physical affection". I can have her next to me all day, take her for walks, have her nap with me, but it's all for not if I don't spend some serious time petting her. She has no qualms about asking for such attention and if I stop before she is ready for me to quit, she puts herself right in my way so she can have the love she desires. It's priceless really. Sometimes it makes me wish I were a dog so I could get all the love and attention I desire. =) My primary love language is also physical affection, so when she snuggles up to me (in her efforts NOT to be put in her kennel for the night), I can hardly resist how sweet she is.

Love languages for those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, comes from the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. It's a fabulous book that explains that there are 5 love languages (physical affection, words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, and gift giving/receiving). We each have a dominant language and are prone to *hear* someone's love for us if it is expressed through our love language. I'm sort of dual-dominant--physical affection and quality time...I'm perfectly happy just to be with someone I love and consider that a legitimate way of spending my time; I'm also prone to give lots of hugs and back rubs and love to snuggle. Gifts is the most foreign language for me. Aside from things like Christmas or birthdays, gifts are not a big deal for me, and I don't often think of just giving a gift, and likewise if I get a unexpected gift from a gift person it never seems to feel as special as they hope it will. Not that I don't appreciate it, but it just doesn't come through quite right.

I think because each of the languages can be understood by someone who "doesn't speak that language" I might be more inclined to call them dialects--just like with English, there are various dialects, some easier to understand than others, and for most of us when we hear *our* dialect, there is something comfortable and assuring about it. The English dialects that resonate most deeply with me are "Californian" and Southern, and though I can understand a Scottish brogue, it takes focus and energy to catch all of what is said and meant...it's similar with the love language.

So, like I said, I love this book. I have found it profoundly helpful not just in romantic relationships, but in friendships and familial relations too--knowing which dialect/language someone else speaks makes it easier for me to express how I really feel for them (though speaking in another language can take a good bit of personal effort). And speaking their language makes them feel more loved by me, which in turn fosters a deeper relationship between us. If you haven't read the book, I highly recommend it. He also wrote one on kids, I think it might be next (whenever it is that I find time to actually read again).

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Ahhh Falafel

Tonight I had friends coming over for dinner. They have taken care of my dog on a regular basis and refuse any sort of payment, so when I cook for them, I like to do it up right. But the way the last 2 days have gone, I wasn't feeling up for much of anything, let along cooking a big meal. I toyed mostly with the idea of steak but wasn't enthused about that. So I called my sister, the chef extraordinaire, to see what suggestions she might have. She offered up a whole host of ideas and I hemmed and hawed over several. Then it hit me--Greek food! I could make falafel and couscous and we could have Greek food! I thanked my sister for her ideas and for stirring my imagination and off I went to the store to collect the necessary ingredients. Only when I got there, the package for "falafel" I had hoped to find (not knowing for sure it existed) was nowhere to be found, so I redialed my sis and asked for a recipe...super simple. I gathered the ingredients and headed home. This is easily one of the best meals I've had in awhile and it was SO simple, so I thought I'd share the fun for anyone who is lacking inspiration on their nightly cooking.

1) Pita
2) Dip/Sauce: 1 cup sour cream, 1 tsp dill, 1/2 tsp salt, 3/4 cup chopped cucumber
3) Chicken: heat 2 tbsp EVOO in a medium/large skillet. Add chopped chicken (I used about a pound for 3 people, and there was enough plus left overs for one meal) and brown. Once chicken is browned, add 4 cloves chopped garlic and cook for 2-4 more minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4) Tomato chopped
5) Couscous: Near East brand....follow the directions, but basically it takes all of 8 minutes, boil the water, add couscous. Remove from heat, cover and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork--it's ready to go!
6) Falafel (follow the recipe below). Found here.

We ate the falafel and couscous on the side and piled everything else into the pita bread! Super simple, maybe 20 minutes prep if you need something quick....the falafels take the most time because of frying them (and there is a recommended *refrigerated sit time* that I didn't have time for and it all turned out alright.

1 cup dried chickpeas (or one can)
1/2 large onion, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon salt
1/2-1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper
4 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon baking powder
4-6 tablespoons flour
Soybean or vegetable oil for frying
Chopped tomato for garnish
Diced onion for garnish
Diced green bell pepper for garnish
Tahina sauce
Pita bread

1. Put the chickpeas in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover them by at least 2 inches. Let soak overnight, then drain. Or use canned chickpeas, drained.

2. Place the drained, uncooked chickpeas and the onions in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the parsley, cilantro, salt, hot pepper, garlic, and cumin. Process until blended but not pureed.

3. Sprinkle in the baking powder and 4 tablespoons of the flour, and pulse. You want to add enough bulgur or flour so that the dough forms a small ball and no longer sticks to your hands. Turn into a bowl and refrigerate, covered, for several hours.

4. Form the chickpea mixture into balls about the size of walnuts, or use a falafel scoop, available in Middle-Eastern markets.

5. Heat 3 inches of oil to 375 degrees in a deep pot or wok and fry 1 ball to test. If it falls apart, add a little flour. Then fry about 6 balls at once for a few minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Stuff half a pita with falafel balls, chopped tomatoes, onion, green pepper, and pickled turnips. Drizzle with tahina thinned with water.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Sticks and stones...

When I was in college, I worked as an RA. About halfway through the year, all the residents were asked to do a survey about the kind of job I (and my co-RA) were doing. We had about 96 residents on our floor and of the surveys returned, 1 suggested that to improve my performance I needed to dye my hair blue, a second said I was unapproachable and judgmental. The others were generally positive--that I was cool, fun, nice, whatever. Of those 96 people the only 2 I actually remember are the one who didn't feel safe/comfortable/welcomed and the one who wanted me to dye my hair blue. It's so strange how powerful negative comments can be and how many positive comments it takes to override hurtful words.

That lesson has come back to me over the last few weeks. Three particularly hurtful things have been said to me, coupled with a host of positive feedback from a variety of other folks. It's been kinda cool actually how God has used these people to shower me in love and encouragement even though they didn't know (generally) of the insults that were thrown my way...and yet the words that ring in my head day in and day out are those that were degrading, belittling, and discouraging.

I wish I had somewhere to go with this post and these thoughts. I wish I had a resolution or a great mantra or activity that put it all right, but I don't. So I guess I'll leave it at that.

Marriage on the mind

The last couple of weeks I've had marriage on my mind. I have simply been musing on marriage, and having heard many bad reports of infidelity, addiction, abuse, and variety of other tensions and problems, I have become fairly cynical about marriage. I have always idealized/romanticized marriage, and lately I have been struggling to believe that it's really worthwhile. My musing hasn't really had true direction, it's just been musing, wondering, questioning, and mostly doubting. Yesterday, I proofed a friend's template for a wedding service he will be using. (for the record, he's not practicing any religion, is a trained psychologist, and doing a service for an atheist couple and he asked for some help from me....I asked another friend, who has actually done a wedding service, for a template and passed his sample's onto the wedding rookie). The service he wrote up was wonderful--sweet, endearing, insightful. I really liked it. I particularly liked the vows: "I promise above all else to live in truth with you/and to communicate fully and fearlessly/I give you my hand and my heart /as a sanctuary of warmth and peace/and pledge my love, devotion, faith and honor as I join my life to yours" I read his and then the 5 samples my friend sent and the romantic in me bounced right back...I couldn't help but think, "I want that."

I want to believe in marriage. I want to believe that couples make it. I want to believe that despite the anger, frustration, and disappointment that is guaranteed when two people live together and try and raise children, decide who will do which chores, negotiate extended family issues, and work around differing communication styles that marriage really is a beautiful thing. I want to believe in all those things but lately it's just hard to do...

So today I am petitioning your stories of marital hope and triumph...

Monday, October 1, 2007

Lover of my soul

Lover of my soul
Convince me
Convict me
Logically, I know your love
I see it in grace, compassion and love
I see it in Christ
Help my heart hear
I often even feel your love--
Assurance as I walk into a difficult situation;
a warm embrace to hold my tears
And yet I still don't connect
I don't feel worthy
Lover, connect my two spirits
Let my heart feel you with assurance and acceptance
Help me receive your gracious gift with celebration and gratitude
Connect my spirits that I might feel you
throughout my body and my soul--
my entire essence