Thursday, November 23

Thursday Thirteen #7

In honor of the Thanksgiving holiday, I'll share:

Thirteen little things for which I am thankful

1·My daughter (who isn't even three feet tall yet)
2·Our lovely home
3·Double Stuf Oreo® Peanut Butter Creme (YUM!!)
4·Having my in-laws over for dinner (they live 10,000 miles away)
5·My paycheck
6·My car (especially with the price of gas again on the rise)
7·Clorox® Disinfecting Wipes
8·Our local petting zoo (just the right size for the preschool set)
9·Our spinet (given to us by friends and worth a lot more than free)
10·Channel 23 (think Nick@Nite® without the cable)
11·Baby-swapping evenings out
12·Disposable sippy cups (six to a package)
13·A holiday that requires us to stop and say "Thanks"

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!!

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Wednesday, November 22

What You Find Under the Couch

In preparation for having Thanksgiving dinner at our house, Adam and I spent the day cleaning up and washing dishes while his parents took our daughter out for an adventure on the play equipment at the mall. One of the areas that really needed weeding out (no, not literally. It wasn't quite that bad) was under the couch. I found cracker crumbs, four pieces of a beading toy, three books, a CD case, cracker crumbs, two spoons, a juice tumbler, a plastic bag, cracker crumbs, the computer cord for my digital camera, a rubber funnel, two DVDs, and cracker crumbs. Lots of cracker crumbs. Have I mentioned that my daughter's favorite game lately has been to finagle an almost-empty box of crackers from her mother's hands and dump the remaining snacks and all the crumbs all over the couch, the floor, or wherever she happens to be when the mood strikes?

But the really exciting find was the cord for my camera. You see, earlier this afternoon, I had found the CD-ROM with the software for downloading photos from the camera on to the computer. I'd been looking for that since we first set our computer up about four months ago. And today I finally found it, sitting inconspicuously on a bookshelf.

After a small dance of joy at the treasure I'd unearthed, I quickly began digging through the mess of papers and books underneath the computer table. I was sure that was were I'd last seen the cord to connect the camera to the computer. But it was nowhere to be found. Instead, all I got for my trouble was three telephone DSL filters, an AV cable, and some computer cord I can't identify, but I'm sure came with the CPU.

I had been all ready to download (upload?) the photos from my camera to the computer because our memory card was full and I wanted to clear it before Thanksgiving tomorrow so I could get some nice family holiday photos.

Numerous sighs and groans followed my fruitless search. Adam suggested, "You'll probably find it under the couch." If I really thought he'd turn out to be right, I'd have looked under the couch first thing. But I didn't actually expect anything to turn up there, so I went about my cleaning from one end of the room to the other, finishing with the couch.

Yet there, in the last place I was planning to look today, I found precisely the item I needed. Sigh. But now I have the wonderful opportunity to share with you these lovely photos of my daughter. And the camera is all ready for the Thanksgiving family portrait that will surely grace the mantle. If we had a mantle.

Sunday, November 19

Third World Thanksgiving

I had never heard of the concept before this year. Suddenly, I keep seeing references all over the place, but when I tried to Google "third world thanksgiving" I only found information about one organization's fundraising banquet, an interesting article about daily life in poverty-stricken countries, and one site that had a video link which didn't look quite savory, so I left before I figured out exactly what it was showing. Therefore I offer you my own primer.

How to host a Third World Thanksgiving

Basically the idea is twofold: better understanding of and offering tangible assistance to those living in poverty (whether in the Third World or not).

Step one...Invite lots of friends over. And don't forget your family, too. Make sure everyone knows you are having a non-traditional dinner to raise awareness, as well as funds, for the hungry.
Step two...Shop for food. Go to your favorite grocery store with a list of all the ingredients you would need to buy in order to host a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for all the people you now have coming to your house. Price all of the items on your list. Buy only rice.
Step three...Cook dinner. Measure one cup cooked rice per person.
Step four...Enjoy the party. Spend a few hours sharing with family and friends the many blessings in your lives for which each of you can give thanks.
Step five...Share the wealth. Write a check for the amount you would have spent on your traditional Thanksgiving dinner (as calculated in step two). Send it to a worthy charity working to combat poverty and hunger in the Third World or right here in North America. Suggest to your guests that they make donations of their own.

A few charitable organizations working to feed the hungry:
Church World Service
City Mission World Association
Food for the Hungry International
Samaritan's Purse
World Relief
World Vision
  † on-line donation available

Another site worth a look:
The Hunger Site
In less than 5 seconds, visitors can click on the "Give Free Food" button and, at no cost to them, send food (one cup per click per day) to the hungry in countries like Bosnia, Lebanon, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Honduras, Mozambique, Eritrea and the United States—anywhere there's a need. The staple food funded by The Hunger Site is paid for by site sponsors and is distributed to those in need by Mercy Corps and America's Second Harvest. 100% of funding from sponsor banner advertising goes to our charity partners. Sign up for email reminders and give an additional two cups of food!

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I need to say Adam and I are not hosting a Third World Thanksgiving on Thursday. We are having a traditional turkey with all the trimmings. I thought this idea was just too good not to share, even though I'm not participating this year.

But keep your eyes open. I may be back for an Eating Less Easter in a few months. Fair warning to those of you who live nearby. Keep your checkbooks handy!

Saturday, November 18

Leave Me Alone

Regular readers (it's so cool to know that some of you read my humble little thoughts regularly!) may have noticed a dearth of deep, insightful comments lately. I feel bad that I haven't been making any. Mostly, I've not been having many deep insightful thoughts. Just dealing with the day-to-day trying to get everything together and keep it that way.

For Adam's birhtday I got him a gift card to one of our favorite coffee spots. The real gift isn't so much the card, but that I'll be sending him off on his own several times to use it. We have an ongoing battle to each get enough time to ourselves in the midst of busyness.

Alone Time is a concept I never really thought about as a single woman. Very rarely was my life so full that I needed to take time out just to be with me. I'm more an extrovert than an introvert anyway, so generally spending time with people is energizing to me. And when I did need a moment to myself, I just closed my bedroom door and voilĂ  instant Alone Time.

Getting married, I thought, back before I was married, meant spending all your time together. I managed to cling to that illusion throughout our dating relationship because it seemed that was all Adam and I did as a couple, spending hours and hours together every evening, before reluctantly tearing ourselves away to go home, get some sleep, work a little, and wait impatiently for the time we could be together again.

Nobody told me to expect times I would want him to go away. I certainly never did. Expect it, I mean. When we were first married, Adam was unemployed, and I was working part time, so we spent nearly every waking hour, and all the sleeping ones, together. After a few weeks, I started feeling really upset and frustrated and I wasn't sure why. One day, it suddenly dawned on me. I was used to having big chunks of day, especially right before bed, when I spent time alone. And I hadn't been doing that since we'd gotten married. I thought it was a bad thing to want to be apart. Now, I recognize that, though God made us to live in community, that doesn't mean we are supposed to spend 24 hours a day, every day in their company.

Recently I was reading something (I'd link to what it was, if I could remember) that talked about Jesus taking off by himself to pray. The idea was that if Jesus needed Alone Time, surely the rest of us do, too.

So, I'd like to encourage myself and the rest of you, especially as we are entering the busy holiday season, take some time out. You don't need to spend it in Bible study and prayer (although those are good options, too) just get away from what you spend everyday doing and try to look at life from a new perspective. And when we come back, may we truly enter into the joy of the holy days.

Thursday, November 16

Thursday Thirteen #6

Thirteen harmlessly addictive ways to play on the internet

Jigsaw Puzzle of the Day from JigZone

Pop the Shrimp from Red Lobster

Foxcentration from Bill Amend's Web Page

Simon from Neave

JACKSONPOLLOK.ORG from Miltos Manetas

Checkers from Fun Ranch

Tantrix Puzzle from Tantrix

Daily Crossword from The Washington Post

Click 'N Slide from NCBuy GameHouse

Museum of Childhood Kaleidoscope from The Victoria and Albert Museum

Tetris from 2DPlay

Island Mini-Golf from TBS

Connect 4 from Milton Bradley

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Tuesday, November 14

Happy Happy Birthday, Baby

Today is Adam's birthday. Not having sound on my computer, I'm always a little wary of the free e-cards you can send. I remember back when it was just internet postcards with a single static image and your message underneath. Ah, the good old days. I sent him my own card this afternoon. I love playing around with Photoshop®.

I hope today is a special day, my love. I am so very glad you were born. You have my love, always.

Monday, November 13

Grace Around Fire

I haven't made a real home-cooked meal in a while. Mostly because our kitchen is a mess and one of the things I seem to have caught from Adam since we've been married is his aversion to cooking in a messy kitchen.

But tonight I felt like making something new and different. So I thawed some chicken and paged through my More-with-Less and Extending the Table cookbooks looking for chicken and rice recipes. I finally settled on a peanut soup recipe from More-with-Less to which I added chicken, rice, and garlic (since the books are copyrighted, I won't post the recipe here, but you can purchase your own copy, here. Peanut Soup is on page 217).

The real fun could now begin. First, the knife I had wasn't working well with the chicken. I already had a Band-Aid® on my thumb from an earlier run in with a knife (no pun intended), and now I was getting raw chicken juice all over my hands. Yuck.

Next, I was searing the chicken a bit when I noticed a small flame outside the burner ring. When I bent down to investigate, I saw a ladle that had once been neatly situated in the center of the stove between two burners was now melting into the flame under my sauce pan. I pulled up on the pan, immediately turning off the flame. When that didn't solve my problem, I reached up into the cupboard for an open box of baking soda, remembering the dire warnings my home ec teacher had given us about spreading a grease fire with water. Since I wasn't quite sure the content of the plastic-looking handle, I didn't want to take any chances.

Unfortunately, sprinkling baking soda over an open flame is not the most efficient means of dousing it. Once the box was emptied, the flame continuing unabated, I decided the best course of action would be to grab the ladle from the serving end and plunge the flame into the sink.

The problem with that plan was a simple matter of unfinished laundry. Both of our oven gloves are in the wash. I tried grasping the metal end with a dishtowel, but I wasn't able to get a decent grip on it. Additionally, by this time, the melted portion of the handle was dripping down onto the chrome plate below the burner. I was not at all certain that lifting up one end would ensure the other followed.

Finally, in a moment of inspiration, I remembered that we have a fire extinguisher on the shelf above the microwave. I pulled it out and searched quickly to find the directions for use. (As an aside, this is not the course of action I recommend. If you have a fire extinguisher in your kitchen--a wonderful idea in itself and highly recommended--make sure you know how to use it before you need it.) Following the instructions on the label, I stood six to eight feet back and squirted a short blast of whatever was inside onto the stove. Instantly the flames went out. It was kind of fun, really.

Once the excitement was over, I still had dinner to make. I briefly considered throwing my hands in the air and letting Adam finish it, but, by then the meal was nearly complete, so I scooped out the half-cooked chicken, washed the excess baking soda out of the pan and began cooking again.

By the way, the soup turned out pretty yummy. I'll have to repeat my experiment again sometime. Minus the steps involving runaway flames, of course.

Thursday, November 9

Thursday Thirteen #5

Thirteen random acts of kindness (all true)

1·On my first Mother's Day after my mother passed away, One of the volunteer leaders of our church youth group bought me a bouquet of flowers because she knew I would be having a tough day.

2·In college, a friend gave me $928 to pay back rent and utility bills so I wouldn't get evicted from my apartment.

3·When my car broke down about an hour outside of Cincinnati, a woman took me into her home, fed me dinner, drove me to the airport, paid for my ticket home, and mailed two boxes of stuff from the car.

4·When my grandmother passed away unexpectedly and I had to drive across several states to go to her funeral, a friend's boss (who owned a deli) sent me off with a free sandwich and chips so I wouldn't have to stop for lunch.

5·While I was away for the funeral, my roommate cleaned my bedroom and finished unpacking for me.

6·As I prepared to leave grad school, I casually mentioned to my brother that I was considering moving to his area. He offered to let me live with his family until I found a job and my own apartment.

7·When my brother-in-law started a new job with a computer company, he and my sister FedExed their old CPU and monitor to me at no charge.

8·While I was between jobs, two former managers called me in to do temp work for their new organizations.

9·Friends from church gave Adam and me their tickets to a popular concert series when they were unable to go suddenly.

10·Another friend from church opened her home for our rehearsal dinner on the eve of our wedding.

11·We were given a matching crib and changing table from a woman we had only met IRL a few times, but knew from an on-line message board.

12·One of my best friends went against her boss's orders to take an extra day off work so she could be with me the day my daughter was born.

13·When Adam and I went to a play several weeks ago, we were "upgraded" to second row center seats by a woman who couldn't use her tickets.

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Wednesday, November 8

A Wonderful Present for My Birthday

Now that all the elections are over and done with and it's all been decided (at least "unofficially" by the AP and television networks), I can spend a moment talking about politics.

I should begin by saying, it was a great birthday present that after yesterday all those horrid negative mud-slinging opponent-bashing ads are off the air. Hooray!! Unfortunately, like a cancer, I know they are only in remission until the campaigning season begins for the next election. I give it a year, tops.

You should check out the post Ash wrote about a common sense approach to politics. He makes a good point about not needing to agree with a candidate on every single issue if you feel he or she is a person of integrity.

I really don't understand some people. I have heard talk about voting for this or that candidate because she's pro-life or he's against the legalization of marijuana. Since when does a single issue define a candidate or a race? And, are these people truly willing to vote for an unscrupulous person simply because he or she is willing to vote their way on this one issue?

Now, I do understand in many cases the issues seem cluster together. The pro-choice, affirmative action, universal insurance candidate against the pro-life, lower taxes, tightened border security candidate. But, I still wonder. What if you agree with a particular candidate on a number of issues and you respect him or her, yet, he's pro-life and you are pro-choice? Would you not vote for him because you disagree on that one issue?

And while I'm on my soapbox, who are these people who vote for a candidate because of his or her negative ads? As I have heard many times, the reason we keep seeing negative advertising is because they are effective in garnering votes. Maybe I'm just strange that way. The more negative ads I see from any given candidate, the less likely I am to vote for that person!

If you have thoughts on these issues, I invite you to share them in the comments. I really would like to better understand how others process this information and come to their decisions. (Thanks!)

Tuesday, November 7

Famous People Born Today

  • Marie Curie (1867) Nobel Prize winning Physicist
  • Leon Trotsky (1879) Bolshevik leader, assassinated in exile
  • Heinrich Himmler (1900) Nazi leader, death camp founder
  • Albert Camus (1913) Existentialist writer and philosopher
  • Billy Graham (1918) Christian evangelist and teacher
  • Mary Travers (1937) Folk singer of Peter, Paul & Mary fame
  • Joni Mitchell (1943) musician, songwriter, and painter
  • Dana Plato (1964) Actress, known as Kimberly on Diff'rent Strokes
  • Amy (1975) Yours truly
Okay, so I'm not famous. It's still my birthday today. No special celebrations yet, but Adam may be planning something for early next month. I told him to surprise me. Meanwhile, I just got my daughter down for a nap, so I think I'll take one, too.

Have a special day today.

Monday, November 6

Multiple Cooking Intelleginces

Learning styles and theories of multiple intelligences fascinate me. Unfortunately, I have neither the time nor the inclination to keep up with all the new research (that was one nice thing about grad school, research was made really easy). So, in a half-hearted effort to add more research, I offer my totally anecdotal theory of cooking.

The way I see it, there are two different styles of cooking. One is the French Chef method, which is all about recipes and directions and going out to buy the right ingredients in order to make the best dishes. Then we have the Two Days 'Til Payday method (a.k.a. the Mom method) which is to survey the contents of the cupboards and the fridge then concoct a dish out of what's available. If what you make tastes good, all the better.

Adam is definitely a French Chef cook. He loves complex recipes requiring unusual ingredients and elaborate techniques that, quite simply drive me to distraction. Me? I prefer to dump it all in a bowl, mix it up, and toss it in the oven at 350°. I'm a big fan of casseroles.

For me, cooking is a creative activity. Say, I have about-to-spoil chicken breasts, wilting carrots, droopy celery, and expired-yesterday milk in the fridge, a canister of cornmeal on the counter, and a clean casserole dish (trust me, some days this can make a difference!) in the cupboard. It takes some imagination to mentally convert all that, along with a few other staples, and come up with a chicken and vegetable casserole topped with cornmeal biscuits.

Yum. In fact, we actually do have all those things in our kitchen right now, except for the clean pan. Maybe that's what I'll make for dinner. Adam was supposed to cook tonight. In fact, he's been supposed to cook dinner ever since last Thursday, National Men Make Dinner Day. Maybe I'll let him off the hook again tonight though. He can make it up to me tomorrow (hint, hint).

And maybe I'll even make another batch of blondies. I made these for a football potluck we went to last night (the Bears lost...there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth). I discovered this morning, the blondies are even more yummy refrigerated overnight.

Peanut Butter Blondies

¾ cup peanut butter
½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1½ cups flour
½ cup chocolate chips (optional)
½ cup chopped peanuts (optional)

Step 1: Mix all the indredients together.
Step 2: Spread into a greased 9 x 13 pan.
Step 3: Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until the center is set.

Now this is my kind of recipe! It should be, I suppose, since I wrote it. If Adam were writing it, there would be several more steps and you'd have to beat the eggs separately and mix ingredients in a specific order. And if you were really a gourmet foodie, you could probably tell the difference between his batch and mine. But since gourmet and I have only a nodding acquaintance, I prefer the easy way.

I Want to Win!!

Jenny over at Home is Where You Start From is hosting a contest to celebrate her 100th post. Check her out and leave a comment for your chance to win!

And while you're there, check out some of her posts, too. She has a lot of good things to say and some fun photos of her family and animals.

Sunday, November 5

Negative Interpretation

I subscribe to a verse-of-the-day service from K-LOVE Radio, a nationwide network of Christian radio stations based out of California. Every morning I get a verse in my e-mail inbox. Lately, I've been using them as a jumping off point for my morning devotions, which are about as likely to be in the morning as any other time of day.

Today's verse hit me pretty strongly. Samuel is concerned about anointing David as king of Israel. Saul is already king, and a mighty warrior to boot, but David is just a kid yet. "But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Don't judge by [Saul's] appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn't see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.'" (1 Samuel 16:7, NLT)

That last part of the verse stopped me in my proverbial tracks this morning. I had been thinking as I was waking up and getting out of bed that I should write something about fighting again. About how it's so easy to fight with the man I have pledged to love and the child who needs my love the most. So easy to lose my cool and yell at them in a moment of frustration.

Last evening was supposed to be simply a lovely time to celebrate a birthday for one of my best friends. She had a group of us meet her at a special restaurant and we all shared a meal together. And, that part of it was a good time.

Unfortunately, we've been a bit under the weather at our house, and both Adam and I were heading into the evening not feeling our best. I don't know if this is how it works in everyone's marriage or if we're just special this way, but when I am feeling especially high maintenance (during illness or times of unusual stress or whatever) but Adam is not stepping up and pampering me a bit more than usual I start sniping and complaining at him.

It's rotten and unhealthy and terribly passive-aggressive, so of course he jumps right in and gives me more of himself because he knows I'm hurting.

Uhm, no. Being of a sinful nature himself, he gets all defensive and starts snapping back at me. Then, if we're not careful, our little sparring session soon escalates into a full-blown argument, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing good.

Studies have shown there are particular danger signs that can be seen across the board in troubled marriages. The authors of the book Fighting for Your Marriage label four as: escalation, when the fight starts about a small issue and soon has exploded into WWIII; negative interpretation, taking an innocent comment and reading into it an insult; withdrawal/ avoidance, not being willing to discuss controversial topics; and invalidation, suggesting a partner's point of view is worthless.

People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

As Adam and I have reviewed the four signposts, we have found our biggest problem lies in the area of negative interpretation. Both of us are quick to jump on the defensive when the other might possibly have said something to suggest we may not be quite competent. Which was exactly our problem last night. Both of us were not looking toward the heart of the other, to what we meant when we spoke, but only at the outward appearance of the words, especially as they reflected our own poor thoughts of one another at the time.

I am not always a literalist when it comes to Bible interpretation. I don't know if God created the world in six 24-hour days. And I don't think staying up all night so that the sun doesn't go down while we're still angry (Ephesians 4:26) is necessarily the wisest course. Last night, even our apologies seemed to stir up more conflict. So we quit talking for a while and got some well needed rest. This morning, feeling better after a full night's sleep, it was much easier to apologize with sincerity and not simply duty.

Early in our relationship, Adam made a comment to me that I found rather startling. He said it amazed him that our conflict could actually bring us closer together. On the surface, that doesn't make any sense, and literally interpreted, it shouldn't. What he really meant was working through our conflict together brings us into a more intimate relationship. Which, while it takes more effort in the moment, is so much nicer than sitting back and pretending you don't have problems.

Saturday, November 4

I've Been Quoted!

My friend writes the blog At A Hen's Pace. Recently she welcomed me to the blogosphere and stuck
    a big ole quote
from me in the middle of her post.

I feel important now. Let's not discuss that in too much depth, shall we?

Friday, November 3

My Mother the Charity?

When I was a kid, my mom bought me a book entitled The Sick of Being Sick Book. It was one of those paperback collections of silly things to do when you're home sick and bored with staying in bed. I thought it was great fun at the time.

Now I need a different book. Maybe The Sick of Having to Take Care of Other Sick People Even When I Feel Sick Book. Or perhaps The Sick of Having My Daughter Shy Away from Me When I'm Trying to Wipe Her Nose Book. How about The Sick of Not Having Sick Pay and Holidays Book?

Motherhood isn't really a job. It's more of a charitable contribution. At a job, you have pay, benefits, and holidays off. Not to mention merit raises and retirement plans. But charitable gifts by their very definition do not allow for tangible compensation.

I'm not complaining, exactly. I knew what the deal was when I signed on. No days off. I get it. I just didn't realize how demoralizing no days off can truly be.

To quote Huey Lewis and the News:
    I need to change my disposition
    Change my point of view
    I need time to figure out what I want to do
    Believe me when I tell you it gets a little rough
    We work a little harder but it never is enough
    I'm not afraid to say
    I'm a total loss
    All I want is a couple days off
Unfortunately, the best we're able to do in our house at the moment is a couple hours off at a time. Which is nice, while it lasts. But...all too quickly it's over and there I am back to being Mommy again.

Please tell me, all you moms of more than one child, how do you manage with two or three or six sick kids? When you're getting over being sick yourself? And you're husband is just coming down with it? And you need to get away, but there is no away to be gotten? And why is it don't they pass out medals for this? Or at least let you take it off your taxes?

Motherhood is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization. "No goods or services were received in consideration of this gift." Sounds about right to me. Now where do I go to incorporate?

Thursday, November 2

Thursday Thirteen #4

I enjoy reading, when I get the chance. Mostly I've been nose-deep in fiction these days, since I find it a lot easier to be interrupted from the light and fluffy. But once in a while, I do read an outstanding work of non-fiction, so I thought I'd share with you:

My thirteen all-time favorite non-fiction books (in no particular order)

All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten: Uncommon Thoughts on Common Things by Robert Fulghum

I've read most of Fulghum's books. This was the first. I like what he has to say, even when I don't always agree with his philosophy. Definitely worth taking a look at if you never have or reading again if it's been a long time.

The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate by Gary Chapman

I first read this book when I was very single. It's not just for married people. That said, Adam and I do use the information we've read here nearly every day (or at least, we should). A warning, however, do not expect your spouse or anyone else to speak exclusively in your love language. I know couples who have broken up over this.

The Cornbread Book: A Love Story with Recipes
by Jeremy Jackson

A bit of a goofy title, but a really good cookbook. I think I've tried all the basic cornbread recipes and a few of the not-so-basic, like cornbread popovers and popcorn pitas. Yummy food and a laid-back narrative with some history thrown in for kicks.

Sacred Marriage
by Gary L. Thomas

A tough but excellent read! Tough, not because it's hard to follow the language, just because it makes me squirm as I recognize how much selfishness there really is to overcome before I can truly love selflessly.

More Than You and Me: Touching Others Through The Strength of Your Marriage by Karen & Kevin Miller

Since I know the Millers personally, I wouldn't have bought this book except Adam wanted it (sorry, guys). But if you don't have them to consult, it does have lots of good information about finding the mission in your marriage and how to work together serving God.

Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health by Toni Weschler

If you are wanting to be pregnant, trying to keep from being pregnant, ever thought about getting pregnant or just want to understand more about how women's bodies work, you must read this book.

The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby from Birth to Age Two by William & Martha Sears

A nice alternative to the "What to Expect" series. I don't completely subscribe to the attachment parenting theory, but there is a lot of good solid basic medical and developmental infomation here too. A good one to have on the nightstand when it's 2:00 AM and you don't know why your kid is crying.

The Message®: The Bible in Contemporary Language
translated by Eugene H. Peterson

This version of the Bible helped me to really understand why Wycliffe Bible Translators do what they do. Eugene Peterson worked to translate the Bible into the "heart language" of millions of teens and young adults (and me, since I really don't figure in to either of those categories any more).

The Mother Tongue:English & How It Got That Way
by Bill Bryson

I first read this book in high school. It follows the development of English as we know it. Very informative, and way funnier than any text book I have ever read. If I end up homeschooling high school some day, my kids are reading this book.

The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are
by Kevin Leman

This is the very first systematic look at personality that made any sense to my family dynamics. I am a youngest child, but my next sibling is eight years older. No wonder I'm confused! Lots of interesting information for families of varying sizes.

Traveling Light: Releasing the Burdens You Were Never Intended to Bear by Max Lucado

I'm a big Lucado fan in general, but I'm especially fond of this one. It goes through the 23rd Psalm, teaching about how to rest and carry on, with out carrying it all. And, in a small way, it brought Adam and me together before our first date (but that's a story for another day).

A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23
by Phillip Keller

This was recommended reading in the study guide section of Traveling Light. Very useful information about what the various verses mean, from somebody who actually knows sheep.

When You Look Like Your Passport Photo, It's Time to Go Home
by Erma Bombeck

I bought this at a used book sale for about 75¢. I have read it at least three times since then. My mom got me started on Erma Bombeck when I was only about 10. She's just funny in a very down to earth way--especially for those of us who are at home with our kids.

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Wednesday, November 1

Life in Theory

My virtual life is a whole lot easier to live than my actual life. Maybe other bloggers have noticed this, too. I can't remember ever having read about it, however. I just find it a lot simpler to write about my philosophies and my faith than to actually live it out day to day and moment to moment.

Grace seems a little harder to come by, somehow, at the time when I really need it.

Adam and I got into a fight tonight when he got home from work. I was tired and I think I'm getting sick and I hadn't had enough protein (I'm hypoglycemic). Also, our daughter is sick and has been whiny and clingy all day. None of these things excuse my behavior, but maybe they help to explain why I started out in a bad mood.

So I started yelling and fussing and complaining. And Adam fretted right back at me. He wanted to know how I could have just finished writing about God's grace but be so angry and defensive toward him. That really didn't help me feel any better. I had a lot of thoughts, but didn't really want to share them with him at the time. It felt too personal just then. The last thing I wanted to do was make myself vulnerable in a moment when I was feeling hurt.

The truth is, I just find it so much easier to believe in what I say in theory than in actual fact. It's a lot easier to talk about God's grace than to live it. Especially when I'm sick and tired and protein deprived. Grace seems a little harder to come by, somehow, at the time when I really need it. Or maybe the problem is, I just don't feel like showing grace in those moments.

Adam, I'm really sorry I blew up at you. That's twice this week that I've taken out on you what has little or nothing to do with you. I wish I could be as good a wife in real life as I like to think I am on line. I love you. Please forgive me.

A Great Cloud of Witnesses

Today is All Saints Day. Having been raised a generic protestant, I never really thought much about the day. We didn't have saints when I was a kid, so celebrating all of them made as little sense as celebrating none. It's only been lately that I have, to borrow a phrase from my friend Joel, "discovered my inner Anglican."

I'm not entirely sure what the official Church stance is on saints. Since I wasn't confirmed as an Anglican, I didn't learn such things, and since I tend to credit what I personally believe over the official decree of any given organized body, I haven't bothered to research it much. That said, I found some fascinating history on the internet today.

The Anglican Church has only ever canonized one saint: Charles I, King of England, Scotland, and Ireland from 1625-1649. He was apparently rather unpopular as an advocate of the Divine Right of Kings, a doctrine he used to justify setting taxes without the consent of Parliament. He was also on the throne for the first two of three conflicts making up the English Civil War. He was eventually overthrown and executed for high treason.

In general, not the sort of man I would think to look up to. However, let me offer some more history. What about these people?
  • One man took his family away from their home, no sure destination in mind. They moved to a country where they knew no one and lived as nomads for 60 years.
  • Another was raised in wealth and privilege but gave all that up when he committed a murder and ran away to hide in the desert.
  • A prostitute housed enemies of the state, then helped them escape undetected by the authorities.
  • A king found himself in love with a married woman. He seduced her and, when he found out she was pregnant, killed her husband to cover it up.
You may already have recognized these examples as Abraham, Moses, Rahab, and David. All lauded as heroes of the faith. These are just a few of the people Paul mentions in Hebrews 11. He recounts their continued faith in promises they never saw fulfilled in their lifetimes.

So much of what I learned in church as a child was about being good. While we certainly shouldn't instruct kids to do evil, this sort of teaching just seems out of proportion to me. God didn't come to earth for us to worry if we're being good enough. In fact, exactly the opposite is true. He came to make sure we never again had to worry about being good enough, because He was good enough in our place. He freed us from the fear that our past, our mistakes, our deliberate sinful choices would keep us far from Him.

Paul further exhorts his readers, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." (Hebrews 12:1, NIV).

So many people who have gone before us are cheering us on as it is now our turn to run the race of life and faith. And they aren't all flannelgraph pictures like I saw in Sunday school. Lovely peaceful images who look like they'd never done a hard day's work in their lives. No, these were real people who knew how difficult life can be. They committed mistakes, they made bad choices. But they were forgiven. They are now held up as examples of what true faith is.

Today is a chance to honor all the saints. And to recognize that we are all the saints. Sainthood is not something handed down from on high upon the deserving few, but on the UNdeserving many. It is just as available to each person, regardless of our own merit, or lack thereof. We are all worthy of the honor of sainthood, simply because God loves us. In the words of Pigpen: Sort of makes you want to treat me [and yourself] with more respect, doesn't it?