Monthly Archives: December 2011

“Come, oh winds of testing…”

I got carded last night at Trader Joe’s, buying some sparkly for New Year’s.  That cashier knew how to perk up the outlook of a down-faced 38-year-old.  I had a good laugh with the lady right behind me, who congratulated me on the event.  She was friendly and warm and had a Nigerian accent, and I left with a smile on my face.

At the previous store, Costco, I had decided that despite my current state of affairs — a really ugly situation with my ten-year-old son and a neighborhood boy, which has escalated into three families boycotting our family, and which is still not even remotely resolved — that God didn’t intend for me to:

a) walk in shame
nor
b) treat people like crap just because I’m feeling badly.

When I go on my weekly marathon grocery shopping trips, where I typically visit 4-6 stores and spend 3-4 hours doing so, I make an intentional effort to be kind to customers and cashiers, to go above and beyond what might be expected of a typical late-night shopper, and to spread the love of Jesus, if only a smile at a time, to those I encounter.  This approach almost never fails to have some sort of positive effect on someone, and often results in some really interesting interactions with shoppers and/or store employees.  Last week, a cashier at Bashas’, Nina, told me that I was her favorite customer.  I laughed, and then she prompted me, “Now, you’re supposed to say, ‘And Nina is my favorite cashier!'”  I complied, although, honestly, she’s not.  She’s kind of grumpy and gets on my case about often needing assistance to find out-of-stock sale items late at night:  “What do you expect?  It’s 10:45 at night!  We close in 15 minutes.  Of course the butcher isn’t here and there’s no one who can help you in meat.”  She also makes fun of me for taking so long in the store.  I check my list, I check my coupons, I read labels endlessly…  I’m sure I take longer than the typical shopper.  In spite of this, though, she likes me.  🙂  I think I like her more, for liking me.

Nina thinks I’m amazing for having five children and tells everyone about it — other employees and customers alike.  I don’t particularly think that’s a reason for merit, but I’ll take it.  She wasn’t there last night, though, to prop up my ego;  her son got married on the 27th and she took the whole week off.

Anyway.  Back to Costco.

My cashier there was Richard.  He’s tall and very thin, and I have often wondered where he purchases his jeans, though I have never mustered up the courage — or would it be cheek? — to ask him.  He asked me the standard question about whether I had found all I was looking for.  I replied that I had, thank you, and made eye contact with him, smiling.  He paused, responded cheerfully, and with what seemed to be an intentionally friendly manner, finished up my order.  Not friendly-flirting.  Friendly as in, “Wow, you are treating me like a person and I appreciate it.”  As I walked away, I marveled at, truly, how little it takes to make someone’s day a little better.

That’s when I resolved to still do my normal, intentionally kind shopping trip, instead of wallowing in the misery of the situation with my son.

Misty Edwards helped me, too.  To be honest, I’m not a rabid fan of hers.  Those who like her tend to REALLY like her.  I’m not like that.  I just don’t often enjoy listening to endless Misty-IHOP music;  it just doesn’t float my boat, even though I love, love, love worship.*  Last night, though, when I got into my hubby’s car to go grocery shopping, he had Fling Wide on, and I let it play, needing some soothing for my sore soul.  Track 5 came on, the title track, and I almost fast-forwarded it because I just don’t like the opening lines, “Awake, awake oh north wind, awake, awake oh south wind…”  But, I let it play because I love the electric guitar on that song, and I was thinking, “How does the chorus to this song go?  I think I remember liking it.”  And I did.  I do.  I hit repeat, really listening to the lyrics the second time through, part of which say, “Come, oh winds of testing…”

What??” I thought, “I’m not liking winds of testing right now.”

I really do NOT have a “bring it on!” mentality to testing.  At all.  I don’t like being tested.  I don’t know if Misty really does, or if she simply has made peace with the value of being refined by it.  In any case, she appears to be further down that path of maturity than I am.

To most of the song, though, I really can yield, singing loudly and with full agreement, “Fling wide the door to my soul/Open up the door to my heart/Have Your way, have Your way…” even though I have to will myself to sing the next few lines about “I won’t be afraid/I’ll embrace the flame” and I’m sure any fly buzzing around the cab of the car would note the lack of conviction in my voice at that point…

I hit repeat on that track about six or seven times before I just resigned myself to the fact that I needed to put the song on a continuous loop-repeat.

Even though I really need to update that 101 Random Things About Me page, #43 is still in full effect:  “When I’m upset, I love to go on an errand by myself and BLAST worship music in the truck, singing my guts out.”

————-

*Gross generalization:  I find that most IHOP worship tends to be really internally-focused, introspective, “search my heart… I am weak and lowly…” kind of worship, and I tend to prefer songs that focus directly on Jesus and His character and ability, and/or a little more transcendent worship/rejoicing in who He is…  Hard to explain.  Not trying to pick any fights with anyone, just trying to explain where my worshiper’s heart is at, and it typically doesn’t beat in quite the same place that Misty Edwards, et al, seem to beat.

I knew he would do that.

I just about derailed a nice evening with my hubby last night and had to apologize this morning.

I should have apologized last night, and didn’t, because I felt righteous and justified.

Ugh.

Sometimes, I wish I could go back and kick my yesterday-self.

First, let me say that Martin is very generous.  He has challenged me in this for the length of our marriage.  My tendency is to say, “What do we need to do?  What is our obligation?”  His tendency is to say, “What can we do?  Who needs the help we can give?”  He has always been very generous and frequently gives our money away.  Always to people we know and love, often anonymously, never to random ministries or charities or people, so don’t get any ideas!  Unless you know us.  😉

So, last night, I got a phone call from someone in my family, asking for a small amount of cash for another family member for Christmas.  I held the phone against my leg to mute it and asked my husband.

He was not pleased.

You’d think after 17 years, I would know my husband.

I do know my husband, and I am well-acquainted with him abhorring being put on the spot.  For anything.  Even for small, no-brainer kind of things.  However, I felt completely justified, thinking:

  1. I know he’ll say yes.
  2. It’s just $20.
  3. It’s for someone he loves.

Afterward, when he was scowling at me, and I had to gracelessly excuse myself from the phone conversation, and he was telling me — for way too long — that he really, really, really hates being put in a situation where I’m requiring him to make a decision NOW, instead of feeling badly, I was thinking, “I knew he would freak out about this.  How unreasonable.  He should have just said yes.  It’s not that hard.”

But, he needs time and space to think about stuff.  He just does.  That’s the way he has been for 17+ years.  Often, he needs more time and more space than I think is reasonable.  But, I know that about him, too.

He called me this morning from work and said that we could contribute $40, and happily.

And, really, I knew that about him, as well.  I knew he would do that.  I knew he would think about it, and come back with a suggestion that we give more than I had asked for, even if I was a jerk.

When I was a brand-new mother, I used to go to a ladies’ Bible study which concentrated on being a Godly wife.  The lady who led it said a number of things in my two-ish years of attendance that have remained with me, 10+ years down the road.  One was:  “Saying ‘I knew he would…’ is never a valid excuse for your wrong response to your husband.  If you knew he was going to do it, you could have prepared in advance to respond better.”

To be clear, she was never saying that if a husband reacts irrationally or violently that it is the wife’s fault.  But, another thing she used to say is, “What’s your 2%?”  In other words, in just about every negative situation, even when you honestly think your husband is in the wrong, is there a sliver of culpability you need to own?  Is there at least a small thing for which you can take responsibility and do differently to diffuse the situation, or so that it doesn’t even burst into flame in the first place??

I think about that a lot.

I didn’t think about it enough last night, though.

My natural tendency is NOT to own up to my faults, flaws, errors, mistakes, et al.  My natural tendency is to find fault with my husband and grump about in my heart, “Why’s he being such a Grinch?  It’s TWENTY DOLLARS!  We can afford $20.”

However, that still small voice in my heart reminded me that I do bear responsibility for my actions, and if I knew my husband wouldn’t respond well to me saying, “May I have a decision RIGHT NOW?” that I shouldn’t have put him in that predicament.  Even if I don’t think it should be a predicament.

Does that make sense?

I need to honor him, and I need to have the care for him to say into the phone, “Twenty bucks.  I bet we could do that, but can I call you back about it tomorrow?”

And I didn’t.

The fact that he called this morning and doubled my offer reminded me how much I love him, and caused me to recommit, in my heart, to be tender to his “unreasonable” nature.

Thoughts on Christmas. Of course. And dreaming. And poetry.

I am really excited about Christmas, especially the presents, which is a switch for me.  I’m a terrible gift-giver.  I just never can think of what would be “just right” or the only thing I can think of is a bizillion dollars, or it would have taken a month to make and I’m out of time, or whatever.  It’s a lack of intuition plus inadequate planning, I guess.  Add to that the constraints of staying ON BUDGET, and it about wipes me out.  However, this year, we set aside some money well in advance.  And I’m excited about what I have planned for my family.  Although, also in the back of my mind linger the unpleasant memories of gifts that I thought were going to be AWESOME and they turned out to be a total bust.  It’s so much easier to remember the failures than the successes for me.  Something wrong about that….  Anyway.

I had my children make Christmas lists, which I don’t often do, as I think it’s a bit tacky and self-serving and can get their hopes up for that ridiculously over-priced Really Cool Present that they will never receive, like the CELL PHONE on my 12 year old’s list.  I know there are younger children with cell phones, but I looked at him and asked, “Really??” with the Mom Look:  One eyebrow arched, head tilted to the side, lips pursed, a heavy sigh written all over my face.

However, I need to let my children dream…  I’ve been convicted about that lately.  I caution them and prepare their hearts so well about our family’s values — which have a lot to do with Jesus and very little to do with materialism — that I caution them right out of dreaming.  I’ve specially noticed that about my oldest son, who is 14.  He is afraid to even have dreams, lest he be disappointed;  he doesn’t want to fix his heart on the impossible.  That’s startling, partly because that’s just like ME, and I have to fight just to allow myself to have dreams… and frankly, it’s not a super-healthy place to be.  I read “Hold Fast Your Dreams” by Louise Driscoll to him yesterday and suggested that it was a good poem for him (though “The Metal Checks“, also by Driscoll, is much more striking, as poems go, it wasn’t appropriate for the lesson at hand…).  And, I let the cell phone stay on Grant’s list.

Mine is almost identical to this one, mustache bridge and all. An upgrade from $50 firewood. In related news, pretty much all of our guitar-buying has been pre-1997, when we started having children.

For my younger two boys, Wes (age 10) and the aforementioned Grant, I’m having them memorize Luke 6:27-38, in light of the commercialization of the American Way to Have Christmas, and due to the fact that there has been way too much of, “Hey, that’s mine!  Give it back!” which makes me want to poke out my eye with a fork.  I slowly went over each verse with them, explaining that in God’s economy, if you give up something willingly, you always gain back in greater quantity and quality than what you yielded.  I used as an example:  In April 1994, I semi-unwillingly gave my $50 guitar — which was just this side of firewood — to my roommate who had, in my absence, started taking lessons with it.  It was hard, but I was intentional about being generous.  I got married in November of that same year, and my dear husband greatly surprised me with a Taylor guitar (815C model — jumbo with a Florentine cutaway) for our first Christmas!  I hadn’t even dared to hope — to dream — about my own super-fabulous guitar.  It was enough to play my husband’s.  😀  Come to think of it, that was the first of many instances where my husband goes above and beyond where I dare to dream, when it comes to buying me presents.

Anyway.  I also explained to my boys that Jesus was blowing the minds of his hearers.  The Jews already had an unusual law forbidding lenders to charge interest.  Jesus was taking it one step further telling His followers that they were to give anything to anyone who asked, and not even expect repayment of the principle, let alone interest!  This is challenging, to be certain.  Very challenging.  But, it’s required.  Even for kids.  No more, “Hey, that’s mine!  Give it back!”

And, it must be mentioned, that the former roommate is now a professional musician.

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31Do to others as you would have them do to you. 32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. 37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Cranberry-Almond Stickybread Recipe (GFCF, refined-sugar free)

Mmmm....

I came up with this recipe for a friend whose husband has been put on a really restrictive diet.  At first, I was disappointed, because my intention was to make a dough for rollable cinnamon rolls, but the dough was too wet so I had to glop it all in the baking dish.  My husband, however, vetoed my plans to rework the recipe.  “It’s perfect,” he proclaimed, stabbing his fork into the air as an exclamation.

Usually I make a recipe a number of times to work out the kinks… but after excellent results on the second time making it, I decided to go ahead and post the recipe.  I’m thinking I’m going to make this for Christmas morning.  I read up on Monkeybread, and I think the recipe would work in that style, too — in a Bundt pan, maybe even starting with frozen dough.  I’ll have to work on that, though.

This recipe uses no refined sugar:  honey and/or agave syrup are the only sweeteners.  I used egg whites, as my friend’s hubby can’t have yolks;  I think it would work without eggs entirely — if you try it without eggs, up the water content and leave a comment to let me know how it worked.  I used sweetened, dried cranberries, but any dried fruit would work (and would be necessary to make it truly sugar-free).  I used almonds, but pecans would work fine, too.

Last caveat:  The flours.  I use my favorite trio of gluten-free flours in this recipe, but you may find others that work just as well or better.  Post a comment if you alter the flours and let me know the result!

  • Garbanzo flour is made by Bob’s Red Mill, or you can find it in any Asian market as besan, chana dal, chickpea flour, or gram flour.  Expect to pay about $5-6 for a 4-pound bag of garbanzo flour at the Asian market.  My favorite brand is Brar, which is a product of Canada (and which used to be labeled as gluten-free and is no longer… though there isn’t any cross-contamination warning on it).
  • Mung bean starch is very common in Korean cooking;  most Asian markets are organized by nationality/region, so you’d find it on the Korean aisle.  Or Chinese.  I’ve purchased it from both.  It’s also known, cryptically, as green bean powder or green bean starch, since mung beans are small and green.  Mung bean starch is a bit pricey, at around $2.50 – 3.50 per pound in the store, and about double that online.
  • You can find gluten-free oat flour in many well-stocked grocery stores, or mill your own in a blender, sifting it through a wire sieve afterward.

 

Cranberry-Almond Stickybread (click for printable PDF)
About an hour and ten minutes from start to finish
Makes 15 servings

  • Grease a large baking dish (I use a 9″ x 13″ Pyrex, though size is flexible.  I also use Spectrum Organic non-hydrogenated Shortening to grease my pans.)
  • Turn on your oven to 350°F for only 2 minutes.  Turn off.  This provides a warm location for dough to rise.

1¾ cup warm water
1 Tbsp yeast
2 Tbsp honey

  • Gently combine water, yeast, and honey, and let sit (proof) for ten minutes

1½ cups garbanzo flour
1½ cups oat flour
1½ cups mung bean starch
¼ tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp sea salt
2 tsp xanthan gum

  • Whisk together these dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Set aside.

4 egg whites

  • When the yeast mixture is done proofing, whisk in 4 egg whites, stirring briskly to combine.
  • Add the yeast and egg mixture to the flour mixture, whisking quickly and thoroughly to combine.  Set aside to rest about five minutes.

½ – ¾ cup honey OR agave syrup OR a combination of the two
2 tsp cinnamon

  • Warm the honey to liquefy using a microwave for 10-15 seconds, or setting the container in a pan of very warm water.
  • Stir briskly to combine the cinnamon with honey.

½ cup almond meal
½ cup blanched, slivered almonds (or other chopped nut)
½ cup sweetened, dried cranberries (or other dried fruit)

  • Stir the dough, then with two spoons, drop spoonfuls of dough into the baking dish, using half to two-thirds of the dough.
  • Drizzle about half of the honey-cinnamon mixture over the lumps of dough, then top with about 1/3 cup of the almond meal and all of the slivered almonds and dried cranberries.
  • Drop the remaining dough in small lumps over the first layer.  Drizzle with remaining honey mixture and sprinkle with remaining almond meal.
  • Place into slightly warm oven or other warm place and let rise for 20 minutes.
  • Remove baking dish, cover with a clean kitchen towel, and preheat oven to 375°F for about ten minutes, for a total rising time of 30 minutes.  Dough will have doubled in size (or just a little less-than-doubled).
  • Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes, until top no longer feels spongy when touched lightly, and top is a nice, golden brown, and honey is sizzling along the sides of the dish.
  • Cut into 15 servings.  Serve warm, with a side of dairy-free ice cream, or topped with whipped cream if you can have dairy.  (Tastes good cold, too, on the off-chance that there are leftovers.)

 

You can’t afford a baby.

Please read this post, a short-but-slightly-snarky response to Suze Orman, a financial adviser who recently told a couple that they couldn’t afford a baby, with its $700-1000 monthly expense.

I agree wholeheartedly with Connie, the author.

Having a baby in America CAN be expensive, but it doesn’t need to be.  I’ll never forget when I told a former neighbor that I was pregnant with my third and she sighed and said, “You’re so lucky.  I’d love a baby, but we just can’t afford it.”  It was all I could do to not let my jaw hit the sidewalk.  She and her husband lived — by themselves — in a 2500 s.f. house, had an RV, brand new vehicles, two ATVs, two Jet-skis, expensive mountain bikes, and who knows what else.  In other words, they could totally “afford” a baby if they got their priorities straight.  AND, yes:  it can be difficult and expensive if you have to have everything new and fancy and trendy, bottle feed, use childcare for when you go back to work at 6 weeks, and use disposable diapers.  But, heck.  Even name brand disposables will run you about $40-60/month.  NOT $700-1000.

Maybe this is inflammatory, but I also believe our American culture which values independence over community is partially to blame.  We’re disconnected from our extended families, we don’t root ourselves in a church family either, and we value income and material wealth over family.  Even things like baby showers and hand-me-downs are most often provided by our extended community, which we as Americans have less and less of.

Don't YOU need a $5768.89 crib??

I have a wooden cradle that is “making the rounds” between friends from church.  This DELIGHTS me.  I bought it for $40 from Craigslist, used it for my fifth baby (as I had given away a previous cradle), and now a third friend is about to use it for her her newborn, due in Feb. But, if you have to keep up with the Jones’ baby who had a $2,000 Bellini crib (or this $5,800 one!), you’re going to have a pricey infancy.  However, if you breastfeed, raise your own child, and don’t mind having used or hand-me-down things, it’s really quite inexpensive to raise a baby.

EDITED TO ADD:  One other thing… (can you tell this has struck a nerve???) I’m not suggesting that selling baby things is wrong, but I have learned that you get back what you give — sometimes literally, sometimes from elsewhere.  I have given away cribs, strollers, swings, clothes, countless other baby items, partly because I saw someone in need, and partly because I thought I was “done” with having children.  But, whatddya know??  It has ALL COME BACK to me. I have, in return, been given cribs, clothes, toys, slings — I don’t use swings anymore! 😉 — everything I need for a baby, when I did have need.  My youngest is three and the goods still keep pouring in.  Someone just gave us three bags of virtually brand-new girls toys — voila! Christmas for my 3 and 5yo girls. Whether you call it karma or attribute it Luke 6:38, or whatever, if you give, you will receive.  We are a panicked, hoarding society, and often fail to recognize that if we are generous, we’re going to be provided for.

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