Thursday, November 30, 2006
Monday, November 27, 2006
Eleven women from church gathered to drink tea and talk about the coming Christmas season. It was pleasantly warm so we sat on the porch. With teacups in hand and rosemary shortbread to nibble, we talked about the ways we celebrate Christmas. We represent a variety of styles and choices but all of us desire that Christ be the center of our celebration.
Here are a few of the ideas and traditions that folks told about:
Using an Advent calendar and/or wreath to focus our thoughts on the birth of Jesus during the weeks of Advent leading up to Christmas
Keeping the focus on Christ on Christmas day by not giving gifts on Christmas or having a tree, but celebrating with a Wise Man party on New Year’s.
Having a birthday cake for Jesus and letting a little one help bake and decorate it.
Setting up the tree in a less central location and making the crèche (manger scene) the focus in the main living space.
Not putting out gifts until just before time to open them so that the focus is not so much on the presents
Reading the gospel accounts of Jesus's birth together on Christmas Eve or morning.
Reading special stories each year that remind us of why Jesus came. Reading the same stories every year, stories that bind us together as a family because they are so familiar and beloved.
Singing Christmas hymns and carols during Advent as a family together
Making gifts rather than spending lots of time and money shopping; keeping gift giving simple; limiting the number of gifts
Traveling less, staying home and establishing family traditions
Doing something for someone less fortunate, participating in a service project in December
Having special foods that we only eat at this time of year that make the season specialMaking the Christmas Day or Christmas Eve service central
I am sure there were more but those are the ones that come to mind right now.
I'm so thankful for the women who came and shared a lovely Sunday afternoon together. I'm thankful for their thoughtfulness in the way they desire to glorify God in their lives and homes. I'm looking forward to more Sunday teatimes in the months ahead, probably not on the porch again for awhile, but just as enjoyable. I pray that these teatimes will help us encourage one another and continue fostering loving, joyful community in our church family.
It was a gorgeous afternoon. We did something I should have done a very long time ago. Coty and the boys and I took a long tramp in the woods and cow pastures back behind our house. The kids have explored and played back there from time to time over the last couple of years. Sometimes they walk all the way to the gas station beyond and buy fountain drinks. But for some unexplainable reason, I’ve never walked back there. What have I been doing for four years?!!!
Over our back creek, through the woods and up a hill, you come to a little knoll that overlooks a pond. From the knoll, you can't see any houses, only the rolling pasture, and the woods on the hill behind, and the quiet pond below. We walked up the hill and surveyed the pasture dotted with black cows. On the hilltop, we discovered a tree with a bit of mistletoe in the branches. Matthew climbed the tree and inched his way out the branch, eventually getting close enough to snap some of the mistletoe with a stick. Interesting reading the history of "kissing under the mistletoe." It's another of those pagan traditions that has continued in seasonal celebrations to this day. I never thought much about it and didn't know the origin of the tradition. Like many things, it has absolutely nothing to do with a Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus, but comes mainly from a Norse myth. The botany of the plant is pretty interesting, though. It’s an evergreen parasitic plant and has a number of medicinal uses. But I digress...back to our walk...
Beyond the hilltop is a darker and quieter cedar/pine wood. I noticed how the sound of your footsteps changes depending on what you're walking through. Oak leaves and pine needles sound very different underfoot. Through the cedar wood and down another hill, we came to a spot further upstream on the creek we had already crossed. There were large raccoon tracks in the soft mud at the water's edge and deep deer tracks on the bank. If only I'd had my Plaster of Paris! I could have made some really nice casts of tracks. Maybe next time!
All along the walk, I was collecting. A bit of moss, some lichen, pine cones and sweet gum balls, seed pods. Little treasures. They are now lovingly arranged on a ceramic plate on the shelf in the front hall, reminding me of the small beauties I often overlook.
I really can't believe I've lived in this house for a little over four years and NEVER walked back there. I have been WAY too busy. I have now purposed to walk out there at least a couple of times of week. I'm going to have to put my mucky-muck boots back in service.
Saturday's walk refreshed me - heart, body, and soul. I love being in the woods. I remember long tramps in the woods near my grandmother’s house in SC when I was a kid. I remember the first time I heard a covey of quail take off. It sounded like a mack truck. When we lived in
Somehow moving here, I got disconnected. I don't know why. There was really no reason. I can’t do what I could do in MA and hit the
But there’s something more I can do. I can pray and listen, in the quiet of the woods and pasture, to the voice of God, the creator and sustainer of it all. I can gather small treasures and be reminded that He is the greatest treasure. I can look for glimpses of His glory in all He has made, remembering that all nature declares its Maker's praise. I am deeply thankful for a walk that has prepared me to move into Advent - renewed, refreshed, quieted, physical and spiritual senses alert, ready to ponder, watch, and wait for the coming of the Glorious One, veiled in flesh, who shines in all He made.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
“Perhaps the World Ends Here”
By Joy Harjo
The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter
what, we must eat to live.
The gifts of earth are brought and prepared,
set on the table. So it has been since creation
and it will go on.
We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies
teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees
It is here that children are given instruction on
what it means to be human. We make men at
it, we make women.
At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the
ghosts of lovers.
Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their
arms around our children. They laugh with us
at our poor falling-down selves and as we put
ourselves back together once again at the table.
This table has been a house in the rain, an
umbrella in the sun.
Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a
place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place
to celebrate the terrible victory.
We have given birth on this table, and have
prepared our parents for burial here.
At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We
pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.
Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table,
while we are laughing and crying, eating of the
last sweet bite.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
"If Daddy is so good in math, how come none of us are math whizzes?" (I'm not sure that's true, I mean the part about none of them being whizzes)
"Is Jonathan taking any math at Gordon? Did Erin?" (I don't think so...)
"Calculating determinants makes my head hurt. I mean it's not hard, it's just takes so long. Why does it have to be like that?" (I agree, that's how I felt, though I don't remember anything about determinants)
I like my math. Geometry is neat...I mean, I learn something new and cool every day." (Well, yes, I did like geometry in high school)
Well, it's downhill from there - just wait til you get to Calculus." (I never did!)
"I guess I'm on the top of the math hill, then." (Let's hope it's a plateau for you and next year you'll still enjoy the view from the top!)
By the way, can you guess who's on top of that math hill?!
Sunday, November 19, 2006
I listen to NPR. I’ve listened to it for years. I think I started listening in college in my more radical days. I’ve listened through my children’s growing up years. When I cook dinner in the late afternoon, I listen to All Things Considered. One of the kids even said once that whenever they hear the ATC theme music, they imagine the smell of onions. I guess I sauté onions a lot when I cook. Funny how that radio sound and cooking smell are associated in that child’s mind.
In the morning, when I get back from walking, depending on my mood, I either start the coffee in the coffee maker or put the tea pot on the stove. While I wait for it to get ready I putz in the kitchen and listen to Morning Edition.
NPR is where I get my news. One of my sons gently ribs me for that, but that’s OK. It’s the only place I know to hear news stories about
But news isn’t really what’s on my mind right now. What I want to write about and share with you is my very favorite feature on NPR. Every Friday, Morning Edition plays clips from the Story Corps project, an oral history project that records the lives of ordinary Americans. My two favorite recordings this past year were the love story of Annie and Danny Perasa and the story of a Father’s best work, his four daughters. Both of these stories are stories of weakness, tenderness, and deep love. I was in tears both mornings as I listened, and both stories have stayed with me. I hope I have the kind of tender love for my husband that Annie demonstrated. I also hope, after hearing George Caywood, that my children will be able to say, when they look back on their growing up years, that my “no’s” to them were “against thousands of yeses.”
These stories give me concrete pictures of ways that people live their lives and they help me to reflect on how I want to live my life. As with the news, of course, I have to be discerning when I listen to other people’s stories. I don’t listen and automatically say, “I want to be like that.” I listen, am moved, and then reflect on what has been said. I hope I am a noble Berean, taking everything I hear and testing it against God’s word. And then I desire, humbly and prayerfully, to live a life that is worthy of His calling, filled with those qualities that come from the indwelling of God’s Spirit. I fail often. But stories, these and others, help me to get up and keep walking.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Then the other day when we were having brunch on the sunny deck and reading poetry, I happened to look over and see this fellow munching on an ant! That's why I like lizards. They eat other critters that I'd rather not have around like ants and mosquitos.
Now I just need to find a good lizard poem!
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Then a lovely thought crossed my mind. I was in the process of cooking an herbal and family fusion meal. I was using several different herbs from my garden and two old favorite recipes, one from my mom and one from my mother-in-law. So, I decided to ditch the trip to the store and savor the delightful smells wafting from the stovetop and oven. We enjoyed this meal family style with a full table in the dining area and a kids' table on the porch. Here's what we ate:
Pesto tilapia over Basmati rice, made with basil from the garden
Savory navy beans with rosemary and lemon thyme, also from the garden
Sweet potato casserole - my mom's recipe with brown sugar and nuts on top
Corn pudding - my mother-in-law's recipe
Marinated veggie salad with purple basil and dill
Anadama bread (great favorite made with whole wheat, corn meal and molasses)
Deep dish apple pie with ice cream - Kelly's delicious contribution
Sweet tea, lemonade and coffee
Actually, there is a little ethnic interest to this meal if you count the Italian pesto, Indian basmati rice, Southern sweet potatoes, New England Anadama....so really it was Italian/Indian/Southern/New England/Herbal/Family Fusion. But that's getting out of hand. Lets just call it a good meal that was enjoyed by all! The stories and laughter around the table made it great.
You know, I do love to cook. I do love talking about food, thinking about food, reading about food, hearing about food. A delightful moment occurred yesterday afternoon as I was in the midst of dinner preparations for today. Erin called with a food question! What's funny is that at the moment she called I was also listening to The Splendid Table! So, her question was, "What kind of vegetable dish can I fix in a hurry to take to a friend's house for dinner?" I delight in the fact that my daughter often calls me with food questions. I will never tire of phone calls with inquiries like what to put in her kidney beans to jazz them up or how to cook collard greens. I haven't talked to her yet but can't wait to find out how her cauliflower/carrot/pepper salad turned out!
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
And if you want to help me, a very computer un-saavy person, figure out how to post a link without the whole enchilada being in the text as above, comment....please! I am not computer smart enough to figure it out and don't want to spend any more time on Blogger help reading things that are unintelligible to me!
Sunday, November 05, 2006
That's the good news. Thomas had been told by the doctor and physical therapist earlier in the week that he wouldn't be able to play. Excellent advice from our friend, Laura, and good care from the sports medicine doctor she recommended helped get him in the game. Amazingly, Thomas ran the first kick-off of the second half all the way back for a TD. I was cheering my heart out and not believing that my son, who could hardly walk without pain earlier in the week, was evading tackles, cutting to avoid pursuers, and running the ball all the way back. It was a real highlight of the entire season for me.
It's been fun being a football mom. I'll miss it. I still have the responsibility of organizing the team banquet, but that's not nearly as exciting as watching my Thomas on the gridiron!
For all of you who asked, here’s the Tennessee Corn Pone recipe or at least my approximation of the recipe. I think the recipe was in
First of all, cook up a mess of dried pinto beans. For our family, I usually cook a 2 pound bag of beans. Follow the directions on the bag – soak overnight if you want to lessen the cooking time – or allow a couple of hours for them to cook. Make sure you put in plenty of water and check them occasionally, adding water if necessary. You don’t want to do my old trick of cooking all the water out and burning the beans. Yuck! You could also buy canned beans, but this sort of seems like cheating, plus you don’t get to enjoy the lovely, homely, humble smell of (non-burning) cooking pintos.
When your beans are done, sauté a couple of chopped onions and a bell pepper. Add a can of diced tomatoes to this mix and whatever else you think will make your beans taste good. Sometimes I add fresh parsley or cilantro, sometimes chili powder and dried coriander. There are endless variations. Experiment! Add the cooked beans to this sautéed mixture. Salt to taste. Put this warm bean mixture into a 9x13 pan.
Now here’s the important part and the part I don’t know the recipe for…but not to worry. It’s easy. If you can read, you can cook! Just buy some corn meal mix – you know, the kind to which you just add an egg, a little oil, and some milk to make cornbread. Look on the side of the bag or box, and mix up enough to fill a 9 x13 pan. Add a little extra milk so that the mixture will pour, not spread, over the beans. You’ll probably need to double the recipe or use two boxes, bags, or whatever your mix comes in. Down south, I can buy a nice big bag of cornmeal mix, but you northerners may not have that luxury! Pour this cornbread batter over the beans and pop in a 350 degree preheated oven. Bake until the cornbread topping is done. You’ll know because it will be firm and golden brown on the top. The beans will be bubbling happily underneath.
Now if you live in a country where you can’t buy mixes like this, find a cornbread recipe and make a batch big enough to fill a 9 x 13 pan. As described above, add a little more milk than the recipe calls for to make a slightly more liquid mixture to pour over the beans.
Now, I think you can’t really eat this dish without a good side of greens – collards, kale, or turnip greens – with a little hot pepper vinegar on top (of the greens, that is). And maybe some sweet tea with a sprig of mint. Mmmmm!If you aren't feeding a multitude like I usually do, try cooking the smaller bag of pintos and using one recipe of the cornmeal mix. You can bake it in a 9 inch square pan or similar sized casserole dish.
By the way, when I posted my Sunday dinner menu last week, I speculated about this week and what sort of fusion I'd try. We actually had cauliflower curry, cucumber and mixed sweet pepper raita, and my standard sweet potato casserole with brown sugar and walnuts on top... Dixie/Indian fusion this time!