Old-fashioned me

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Cooking dinner / Food / Grandparenting / Mothering / Writing

Girl ironing

1. I believe in love at first sight; it happened to me. Okay, maybe not first sight since I am not that shallow, but at first conversation. I knew then,  but he did not for many months. Somehow I managed to keep it to myself until he had seen the light! We’ve been married 45 years, and are each others’ biggest fans.

2. I use cotton handkerchiefs and so does my husband. I even iron them. Not bragging, it’s just what I do.

3. Intimacy in marriage should be part mystery, part direct communication. I’m not going to explain that any further, thus showing just how old-fashioned I am.

4. I cook dinner most every night. Both because I am old-fashioned, and because I like to cook.

5. I still iron many things (see #2). But I have a very cool and modern iron that makes it super easy to get great results. Putting your head down at night on a clean, ironed, high thread count pillowcase is a great pleasure in life, and you will sleep better.

6. I love my children first, my grandchildren second. This may not be old-fashioned, but it seems like conventional wisdom is that the grandkids kinda replace your kids. Not so for me.

7. My husband and I talk all the time, about big and little things. This is perhaps why we are still married? We do not lead separate lives like many more modern people. But we also do many things separately because we are very different people and have different interests and opportunities. And then we talk about what we did and thought. Mostly the talking about thoughts is me.

8. I grow lavender, dry it and strip the flowers to make little sachets, pillows, and lavender wands. Lavender is delightful.

9. I love to make pickles and jam and can them. My shelves of home-canned goods are like a treasure to me, and I look at them with pride.

10. I like real books. I like the way they feel and smell, and I find it’s easier to go back and re- read something I like. But I also use a Kindle.

11. Nothing beats an actual letter for saying important things, even just thank you. There is intimacy and care in putting a real pen to real paper. I confess I do this more often because of my affection for #12.

12. I own several fountain pens with cartridges in wonderful colors and I have lots of pretty notecards and a little bit of monogrammed stationery. There is great tactile and visual pleasure here.

13. And speaking of monogramming, true to my Southern roots, I am very fond of it. On linens, handkerchiefs, and clothing, it is a small and elegant indulgence. My daughters are a little horrified that I have our bed linens monogrammed the old fashioned way……with my married initials and not his. That’s because I’m in charge of the house!!  See? Old-fashioned me.

Another Way to be Resolute in the New Year

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January / Learning / New Year's Resolutions / Time

I recently took an afternoon and fled the red glitter, lego pieces underfoot, and cookie crumbs that have permeated every corner of my home, the detritus of a happy holiday with my large wonderful family.

I escaped to the public library. I found a lovely table all my own facing a window and spent a few hours thinking, praying, reading, writing, and contemplating my calendar. I had found a little notebook no one had scribbled in, and began it fresh on the first page.

Thank you to Emily P Freeman for inspiring me to follow through on my hopes and dreams by giving me a way to form resolutions I thought I could handle. I began by thinking through the past year in specific categories and listing out which things or people gave me energy and life and which ones drained me of energy.

This has led to a few surprising results and a couple of decisions as to how I invest myself in these days of my life. The time spent also allowed me the luxury of enjoying and appreciating all the positives (I actually put a + sign by them) that help to make my life rich and meaningful.

The things that drain me were not numerous, but revealing nonetheless. We cannot always choose to eliminate those activities/people from our lives, and I do not believe that God means for us to fashion our lives around comfort and ease.  But naming those areas as difficult means I am more intentional about how I approach them, more aware, more prayerful since I am acknowledging to myself that help is definitely needed.

A few areas were both energy giving and energy draining. And that is life, not just 21st-century life which we always believe to be far more complicated than life in the past, but just real life. Life is complicated and contradictory, and it is energy draining to try to simplify it more than that.

Emily also suggested looking back over pictures of the past year to relive and pay attention to your life. I chose my top ten pictures of events on Instagram and listed them in my little notebook for present pleasure and future perusal. What an amazing year.

Finally, I made a page of conclusions, ever the finisher. I listed what I need more of (kinda like resolutions!), how I might make that happen, and what I need less of, which mostly means more self-discipline.

It’s a start, and I’m grateful for that. Here’s to a full tank of energy for the new year!

Franee’s Famous Nut Bread Recipe

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Some asked for the recipe……..here it is!

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Mix in large bowl with a whisk:

8 cups flour (I use mostly whole wheat)

8t baking powder

3 t salt

Add: 2 cups sugar

1 box raisins

1 box currants

2 cups chopped nuts

I like to mix all of this in by hand to coat all the fruit and nuts with flour.

Add: 4 eggs

4 cups milk

Stir it all up, pour into four greased and floured (I use Pam on sides and parchment paper on the bottom of each pan), and let stand 20 minutes. (I think to let the air bubbles out) Bake at 325  for about an hour. I poke something sharp into the middle to be sure it’s done. You can use 2-3 mini pans for one of the loaves for nice giveaways. They bake around 40 minutes.

The amounts of nuts and fruit are negotiable, use what you have! If you like to use self-rising flour, you can substitute 8 cups for the first three ingredients.

Enjoy, and be sure to laugh a lot!

Thankfulness, that age old cure all

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Christmas / Recipes

Today I mixed up my yearly batch of Franee’s Famous Nut Bread. Franee is my beloved mother in law who went to heaven many years ago. I first had it in her kitchen at Christmas time a few months after meeting my husband.

The bread is rich with nuts, currants, and raisins, and after we married and moved away she gave me the recipe. Now I love making this bread at this time of year and thinking about her. Up to my elbows in whole wheat pastry flour, I was just filled with thankfulness.

I am deeply blessed to have known her and been part of her family for 16 years before she died. She was a woman who’d had a hard life yet was full of love and joy and a healthy bit of crazy. I knew her and loved her, and she knew me and loved me.

That is what it’s all about, my friends.

It is 2 days before Christmas while I am baking, and the whole laundry list of things that need to be done soon is marching through my brain, stress, and anxiety hovering around the edges.

But seeping into my soul as I cook is a simple gratefulness for this woman, for this recipe that I can prepare to bring her back to our minds and hearts, and for the wonderful bunch of people who will be here in a couple of days to eat this bread.

The threatening cloud cover of anxiety just floats away, because really none of it matters. The cure for our so called holiday stress is just to pay attention and be thankful for all the grace, all the blessing, all the good.

Have yourself a merry little thankful Christmas.

Comparison is the Thief of Joy, Even on Mother’s Day

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Mother's Day / Mothering

I shared preaching with two pastors  (one my husband!) this Mother’s Day. Here’s what I said:

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Theodore Roosevelt said “Comparison is the thief of joy”, and he was a man who did not try to match up his life with other’s lives. But for us as women, and perhaps especially as mothers, our lives are often filled with the noise of comparison with others and an obsessive need to be perfect. How can we begin to cut through this noise?  This issue is right in the front of the brain of any woman or teenager, but it is a factor in the life of everyone who is human.

Comparison steals our joy and can rule our lives.

Why do we always feel we are not good enough?  We don’t think we are:

  • as good,
  • as organized,
  • as good-looking,
  • as good of a mother,
  • as good of a father,
  • as hard of a worker,
  • as nice,
  • as educated,
  • as smart,
  • as young,
  • as old,
  • as well dressed,
  • as rich,
  • as gifted,
  • as funny,
  • as popular……

you fill in the blank.

We all constantly compare ourselves to what we observe about other people. This information often has little to do with reality, but it is the tape that runs in our heads all the time.  And this tape forms how we feel about ourselves and how we evaluate our lives.

In our age of social media, we have even more opportunities for unfavorable comparisons.  Everyone’s life looks better than mine on Facebook and Instagram, right?

 We are all super aware of our own failings, and we see others appearing to succeed where we fail or fall short.

Putting aside outside appearance for a moment, the truth is we ARE constantly imperfect in our behavior and words and maybe most especially our thoughts towards others.  We know we are not good enough for other people, and we suspect we are not good enough for God either.

We can try to talk ourselves out of this with the comfort of, “You are good enough, and you are wonderful just as you are.” For me, nothing epitomizes this message better than the women’s magazines in the grocery checkout aisle.  Here’s how one woman describes it,

“I sit down and let myself sink into the glossy

comfort of my favorite magazine. With each turn of the page

I’m assured that I can have perfect skin,

that I do have the power to get any man I want,

that I if I overhaul my wardrobe I can overhaul my

life, that if I just commit 15 minutes a day to the

latest workout I can get the perfect beach body! 

Apparently, I can have it all… So why do I feel… hopeless?”

Somehow this message does not work for most of us. We feel we are in a prison of comparison where we are always falling short.

The Bible actually offers a whole new pattern for living which answers this craving we have to be as good as others.  This new way of living is for us to create true community by being honest with each other about ourselves.  Being vulnerable and open about our struggles can begin to build intimacy.   And intimacy can replace this fear that we are not good enough which is the basis of comparison.

With honesty comes the realization that everyone else struggles just like we do.

Vulnerability, being open about what is hard for us, requires an atmosphere of trust and the assurance that we will be safely loved when we are honest.  Do you have honesty and acceptance in a trusted community?  What can you do to build this into your life?

The New Testament shows an example of community as the Christians lived together, sharing everything, helping those in need.  The sacrificial love mentioned in so many places in Paul’s letters comes from this love that was not jealous and self-promoting.

Maybe this sounds good to you, but you don’t know how to go about it.

As a mother, I can tell you I love each of my children beyond their understanding, and regardless of how or whether they deserve it.  If I love them this much, can you even imagine the love of God for us which is so many times more powerful?  We must begin with understanding deep in our own hearts the freeing vastness of God’s love for us.

When I think of the greatness of this great plan I fall on my knees before God the Father and I pray that out of the glorious richness of his resources he will enable you to know the strength of the spirit’s inner reinforcement—that Christ may actually live in your hearts by your faith. And I pray that you, firmly fixed in love yourselves, may be able to grasp (with all Christians) how wide and deep and long and high is the love of Christ—and to know for yourselves that love so far beyond our comprehension. May you be filled through all your being with God himself!  Ephesians 3:14-19, Phillips Version

When we have let this love sink in, we can really begin to understand God’s grace in our own lives.  Being loved melts our need to do more or appear better so we can get the admiration and acceptance of others.

Psalm 93:4 says, “Mightier than the waves of the sea is his love for you”

When we fix our eyes on God and let ourselves understand his complete approval of us, an approval and deep love not based on outward appearance or on behavior, then we can begin to offer grace to ourselves and to others.

That is my prayer for each of us today.

Nairobi to Kilimanjaro to Olduvai

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Cross Cultural / Cross cultural ministry / Tanzania / Traveling

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Next morning our taxi driver from the night before was there right on time at 6:30 am to catch our plane for our short flight to Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Unfortunately, the famous mountain was completely clothed in clouds, so we missed the view.

Safely through customs, all bags arrived, we went to meet Amanda and Bill Batterson and their son Owen who were waiting just outside. They were very happy to have the suitcase full of supplies we brought for them. And we were almost as happy to be doing it for them. So many people have done so much for us over the years, it felt good to make a  difference for this young couple we had never previously met.

We kept waiting for our safari guide and finally called the office in Arusha who said they’d check on it. A few minutes later Isaya walked up and said he’d wondered if we were the ones, but it looked like we were being met by someone already. Loaded up and headed out for a very long day of driving, heading through Arusha, across the massive plains dotted with cattle and Maasai tending them,  all the way to Olduvai, making a much-anticipated stop  at the overlook to the Ngorongoro Crater National Park which  was magnificent.

 

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We arrived in Olduvai Camp in time for the famous walk to Sunset Rock just behind the camp. Our Maasai guide named Laurencia (or Lora) was chatty and affable as we climbed up and enjoyed the view. Below us was a boma or Maasai village and lots of Maasai helping to herd the animals in for the night. Lora said they keep the bank (the animals) in the middle of the village, and keep a guard all night. He sat patiently talking and telling us stories for over an hour, including one about the time he killed a lion. I have an idea this was not a tall tale.

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Our tent is lovely and comfortable, quite amazing out here in the middle of nowhere.
We are exhausted by dinner, but afterwards decided to sit by the campfire a few minutes with our Maasai friend who was waiting to walk us back to our tent. It was a beautiful, clear, dark night and I pulled out the sky guide app on my iPad to identify the stars and constellations. Laurenica was very interested in this and held it up to the stars, grinning like a kid. He loved seeing the constellations, many of which he could name.

The memory of this man who still lived as his ancestors have for hundreds of years looking with absolute delight at the night sky through this scrap of technology, this picture will stay with me.

Dubai airport: cultures collide

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Cross Cultural / Cross cultural ministry / Tanzania / Traveling

In 2015 my husband and I spent about a month in Tanzania, including transit via Dubai, UAE, and Nairobi, Kenya. I am publishing today and in the following days parts of my travel journal which I think provide an interesting look at other worlds that coexist with my Western one in Northern California.

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The sea of non-western humanity is remarkable to me. Many women in burkas, some of them in their formless anonymity also beasts of burden. A woman just walked by in this ultra modern airport in traditional hijab, barefoot, carrying her flip-flops in one hand and balancing an enormous stuffed plastic bag on her head with the other hand. Clearly, she felt more comfortable bearing this load with her feet firmly planted instead of in the squishy instability of flip-flops.

A small boy in a white gown walks on the outside of the moving sidewalk, his hand in his father’s who has chosen to ride a brief way. They chat nonchalantly.

A group of Maasai women in matching red/black outfits ambles by, strikingly beautiful, like tall young trees. One of them is comfortably wrapped in a Maasai blanket over her outfit. Maybe they are a traveling sports or debate team? Yes, Kenya Pipeline Volleyball team.

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Hijab-clad woman with backpack and violin in case.
Paul, a French patisserie, has the longest line of any restaurant.
There is a children’s area with carpeted seats in front of a big screen Disney movie. Apparently, all children speak Disney. It is flanked by a popular Starbucks and a Winston smoking room, sealed and full.

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Our flight is 2 hours late leaving Dubai, so we arrive Nairobi during rush hour=1 1/2 hour drive from the airport to our hotel. On the plus side, we get to see giraffes in an area near the airport. I wonder how they have managed to incorporate the airport noise into their reality?

Nairobi is a place I’ve always wanted to visit, especially to see Karen Blixen’s home and museum from Out of Africa. Another time. Tomorrow, on to Kilimanjaro to meet our safari guide as well as a young missionary family I befriended online and am taking a large suitcase of supplies to.

Aftermath

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Christmas / Cross Cultural / Singapore / Time

My house looks like a big party went down, the blessing of lots of family members willing to come and stay awhile.  But all good things do come to an end, and this is it. And someone gets to put things to rights, and that is mostly me.

This morning, the first morning after everyone has left, there is tired Christmas deco, some of it just barely hanging on, fragrant pine needles that seem to have sifted everywhere, and balls of tissue and paper still lurking in corners. The 8 children and 7 extra adults that have spent most of the week here have also meant lots of food prep and eating, there are dishes and food crumbs galore.  I feel like I would like to stop cooking and doing dishes for about a month. My husband playfully asked me before we went to bed last night, “What’s for breakfast?” He got a pillow thrown at his head.

So this morning I thinking of Aminah, my Malay amah (helper) in Singapore some years back, a wise woman in all ways.  The summer we moved there with our 2, 4 and 6 year old children, our container arrived from the States about 8 weeks after we did. (How we survived the 8 weeks is another story.) The movers said they had to unpack everything themselves in order for any breakage to be covered by insurance. So all the contents of all the boxes: toys, dishes, kitchen stuff, clothes, books, bedding, everything we guessed we might need in our new life on the other side of the planet (and actually far more than we did need) was spread over every surface in my equatorial house. Even the mosquitoes and cicaks (geckos) were a bit intimidated. I actually wept it was so overwhelming. And amazingly, today I found this picture I took of one of the rooms. Four year old Allison was “helping”.

Singapore movers arrive 8-82But Aminah patted my shoulder. “Slowly, slowly,” she said. And then she began to help bring order, slowly, slowly.  It took days, but we did it. And I always think of this simple advice, free of frustration, to proceed slowly, slowly, and at some point it will be done.

I gave my youngest son a print for Christmas by the artist Ruth Chou Simons  of the Latin motto “Festina Lente”, make haste slowly. This classical adage has been used through the years by people as diverse as Roman emperors to Shakespeare.  It is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms, which I love the idea of because I think we are such contradictory creatures. As you hurry, slow down.

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Architectural students in Sarajevo, Bosnia have built an intriguing structure in front of the Academy of Fine Arts that they call the Festina Lente Bridge. The looped gateway from one direction to another across the bridge provides a pause in the journey.

Festina Lente by Adnan Alagić, Bojan Kanlić and Amila HrustićFestina Lente by Adnan Alagić, Bojan Kanlić and Amila Hrustić

Today and always, I want to move through my life slowly, slowly. I don’t want to rush, to miss things, to miss my own life because I am in such a hurry to accomplish, finish, move on to something else.  I want to pursue peace. And this, the last day of 2015,  seems like a good time to think on these things.

The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace. Psalm 29:11

The Lunch that Ate the Day

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Cross Cultural / Food / Grandparenting / Traveling

Monday in Paris was a very French day, at least the eating part. The children were tired, so Allie let them rest all morning. We met one of Allie’s students, Paula, and her husband Dave for lunch around 12:30 at Chez Gladines, a Basque restaurant in our little village of Butte aux Cailles that they wanted to try. All of these places are tiny, so moving 8 of us into a table with an infant is quite a production. Then we spent awhile trying to figure out the menu, and checking out other patrons’ food to see what looked good. The food was finally ordered and received, (lots of deep fried potato slices, ham, duck, cheese, and salads) plates traded, more wine brought, children got dessert, adults got a cafe, and a lot of talking and laughing later, we left at 3 pm. According to Allie, this is a typical French lunch. I am not sure when these folks work, but this may help explain why the cafes are full of people eating dinner at 10 pm on weeknights. IMG_3068 IMG_3069

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With our goal as Notre Dame’s tower, we made our way across the city until we were ambushed by the bouquinistes (booksellers along the Seine), which really are quite picturesque and fascinating. Stan and I looked longingly across the river at Notre Dame as the minutes ticked by with Allie and kids in full shopping mode with books galore, plus vintage posters, magazines, and newspaper pages.

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At 4:30 we reached the line to the tower which had closed 15 minutes before. On our way to the other line to get into the Cathedral we took pictures, fed pigeons, and lost and found Daylen (age 9) a couple of times.

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Inside is awesome, one of the few times in life that word is appropriate. While the rest of us wandered around, Allie fed Lani. Churches are great places to nurse babies: quiet, good seating, semi-dark, and everyone minding their own business.IMG_2228
Time for another cafe stop, which is pretty much the only place you get to use the bathroom in Paris. Mulled wine, cafe creme, hot chocolate, gateau and sandwiches for the kids fortified us for the trek to Sacre Coeur.
We loved the funicular ride up the hill and wonderful views up there. The church is made of travertine marble and absolutely glows on its hilltop perch. The interior is equally beautiful with dozens of huge gorgeous mosaics.

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Afterward, we headed down the hill on foot through Montmartre. This is usually very busy, but now it is well after 8 pm, so the tourists are gone and it’s pretty quiet. Allie and I manage to find a place just closing that still has hot mulled wine to-go. The alcohol content is very low.

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We are on a quest to find the Moulin Rouge at the bottom of the hill, Emma has a recent crush on the movie. Pics are taken from a distance since it is now pretty much a Las Vegas type show with plenty of inappropriateness for children, and actually adults too.

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Beyond exhausted, we make our way back home, and Allie, Stan, and kids head up to their place. I have not eaten since lunch, so I cross the street to the local creperie and order one to take home to my little apartment for a late dinner. I am ordering and frequently conversing all in French this trip, and so proud of myself. C’est bon!

Music, Medieval Castles and Noel

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Christmas / Traveling

Left about 11 am with the sun shining and dry feet, though bundled to the hilt against the close to freezing winds, and made it to St Sulpice in time for the end of mass and the magnificent organ concert. The music was particularly uplifting given the grandeur of the surroundings and the memory of what happened last weekend. We were all spellbound by the soaring and triumphant music.



Found a tiny cafe which was willing to accommodate all of us for a lovely lunch of champignons gratin, a duck dish, and soup. Delicieux! We took our time like good French people do, then headed out to a medieval castle right on the eastern edge of Paris originally built as a hunting lodge, Chateaux Vincennes. Lots of interesting history here (with two historians for parents, these kids are doomed), a beautiful (other) Sainte Chappelle and amazing “keep”.


  

Lani is remarkably flexible through all this, snug in her stroller most of the time, napping when she needs to, and we stop from time to time for Allie to feed her.

What a baby!


Back into the center of Paris on the Champs Elysee for the Christmas market (Les Villages de Noel) which cannot be adequately explained: lights, food, things to buy, lots of people. Amazing. We had a blast, including three of us on the trampolines! (Stan, Lani and I declined). We had vin chaud (hot mulled wine), sausages, crepes with Nutella, waffles with cookie butter, hot chocolate, macaroons, and candy. Yes, we are celebrating!


  
  
This last picture is blurry due to bad lighting and my lack of skill, but I thought the government building lit like a flag typified the spirit of the French people who seem undaunted and brave. Vive La France!