Sunday, July 29, 2012

What's cookin'

photo credit
Thanks to an irresistibly good Aldi sale, I had an excess of blueberries and apples this week, so what better way to celebrate the USA than with a red, white, and blue (sort of) Blueberry Apple Crisp? Served warm and gooey with a scoop of vanilla ice cream--scrape-your-bowl-clean decadent. Other than the way it makes your house smell so good you'll want to eat the walls, I love that you can make this dessert ahead of time and reheat when you're ready to eat.

So, I'm sharing the love. Enjoy!

3 1/2 apples (peeled and cut into chunks)
5 cup blueberries
1/2 cup sugar (depending on tartness of fruit optional)
1 cup flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup rolled oat
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter

Preparation Steps:
Choose baking dish. Add enough blueberries to come 1/3 to 1/2 up the dish, keep in mind that the blueberries will “shrink” when cooked. If frozen, thaw them slightly. Flour could be added to thicken the frozen blueberries if desired. Add sugar if the fruit is tart, but the topping is sweet enough that it is not needed. Cut enough apples (depending on size) into the blueberries to give color — making sure that you have enough room for the topping
Topping: Combine flour, brown sugar, rolled oats, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Mix well. Cut butter into flour/oat mixture until coarse crumbs. Spread over apple/blueberry mixture and bake in 350 oven for 30 minutes or until the fruit is cooked.

To serve: I usually make the crisp up earlier in the day. Before serving, I put the crisp in the oven at 250 for 15 – 20 minutes or until warmed, then serve it with ice cream.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Loving better, not bigger

Do you ever have times when you feel like the same theme meets you at every turn? Times when you read something about generosity, for example, and then a friend brings up a conversation about it the next day and then you see a news story on the topic that night and then you go to church and hear a sermon about it?

That happened to me the other week with the idea of loving others better. I'd spent some time with missionaries we support and was so moved by the needs they'll be addressing in Bundibugyo, Uganda. Then, the next week, my dear friends took a huge step forward in the process of adopting their daughter from China and my heart soared. The next week, I read on another blog about one author's trip to Ethiopia with Food for the Hungry. And on and on. 

My initial reaction to all of this was, I want to do more! Let's support a child through Food for the Hungry! Let's help get clean water in Uganda! Let's give more! Let's do big things!

But then. I realized that more isn't always better. It's good, of course, but not always better. I had to ask myself: how well am I loving the people and ministries I'm currently a part of? Beyond financial contributions and occasional prayers, I'm not doing much. That's not to minimize things like money and prayers, but a check is pretty impersonal, and, in many cases (thanks to automatic withdrawal), it doesn't even take thought. I was really only loving others in ways that were convenient to me, and I'm not sure how loving that is. 

Rather than do more, I want to love better. I may not be able clean all the water in Uganda, but I can show love in other ways. I can write friends and missionaries letters or emails as encouragement. I can remember birthdays. We can plan trips around where people we love live. We can put pictures of them up in our home as a reminder to think about and pray for them. We can get involved locally if we aren't able to globally. I can knock on my new neighbor's door and bring her a loaf of my homemade bread. Instead of casting a wide but shallow net, we want to go deep, even if that means serving in seemingly smaller ways. 

It's a different, braver way to love. It means not getting acclaim and probably shouldering more mess in others' lives (and sharing my own). It means thinking of myself less and making practical changes to think of others more. It won't be easy, but I'm excited about how this deeper, more intentional love will transform relationships. It's the great paradox of love: the more we give to others, the more joy we feel ourselves. And I say, bring on the joy!

Friday, July 27, 2012


I had one of those mornings the other day when I knew I was coming across as far more awkward than I really am. You know what I'm talking about?

While at the dermatologist, the nurse and I had about four miscommunications in the span of ten minutes. I'm generally adept at social interactions and consider myself an effective communicator, but let's just say that's not what came across that morning. To my credit, I'd only had four hours of sleep the night before (thank you, Moo, for teething), and the nurse wasn't the best communicator, but still.

Figure one:
When I was called back, I followed the nurse to the end of the hall. At the end of the hall was another nurse who smiled and said hello while the nurse who'd called me back took a right around the corner. I stopped at the end of the hall. For a moment,  I couldn't tell if I was supposed to go with the new nurse who smiled and said hello and looked like she was going to take me elsewhere or if I was supposed to follow nurse #1 who called me back to begin with.

"She went that way," nurse #2 said, pointing around the corner. "You thought I was her, didn't you?"

Obviously I saw which way she went; I was five steps behind her. And of course I didn't think they were the same person. Give me some credit. (Sigh, internal eye roll). Smiling, "No, I didn't think you were her; I just thought she was passing me off to you. Sorry about that." Awkward.

That began a series of similar conversations that left me embarrassed for myself. I knew I was being awkward but I couldn't stop it. I wanted to tell them I had a Master's degree and was top of my class in high school and that I was teacher, for crying out loud, that I wasn't the ditz I appeared to be. But in the end, all I could do was be glad that I didn't have to see them again for another four months. Or maybe ever. I haven't decided yet.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Moo update: 8 months

I like to say that this boy lives life with his mouth wide open. 

He's into anything having to do with:
and wheels.

His favorite toys include:
empty water bottles
empty medicine bottles filled with pennies for shaking
any toy that makes music
family pictures
stuffed animals
small cars
and anything that mommy and daddy have (especially if it's off limits).

One of his favorite places on earth: the bath

  • He had his first hair cut on the 4th of July; it was starting to look a little small town Alabama, if you know what I mean. I can say that; I live in Alabama.
  • He cut his first tooth last week and is working on the next one--nothing Tylenol and lots of snuggles can't help.
  • He's oh-so-close to crawling but we're okay with him not figuring that out just yet.
  • He is happy 99% of the time--nothing short of a blessing.
  • He's a complete extravert and especially loves other babies and children.
  • He loves hearing his daddy's voice on the phone when he calls from work.
  • He thinks eating grown up food is pretty awesome but he's not very good at it yet.
  • He gives kisses generously, but discriminately.
Part of that 99% happy. And that dimple melts me.

Is it just me or does he look especially grown up in this one?

His new face: raised eyebrows! 

My cup overflows!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Oh yeah. I turned 30.

My birthday was back in March, but somehow I forgot to blog about it. Probably because I'm so old now. Or because there was a tornado complete with hail, high winds, and threatened power outages that day. Seriously. Work was even let out early. After last April's tornados, Alabama doesn't (and shouldn't) take tornado warnings lightly.

photo credit
Because of those tornado warnings, Phil and I had to cut our birthday date short and just grab a quick dinner. Thanks to some sweet (and courageous) friends, we had free babysitting AND a free dinner at Brio. About 40 minutes into our meal, we heard what sounded like the percussion section of a band serenading us, but in a matter of seconds, the noise started pounding so loud that we couldn't hear each other talk. We looked out the window to see hail the size of softballs in the street and were thankful we had parked in a parking deck. Quite the birthday display...and the end of our dinner.

So, here's why I'm excited about being 30:
Thirty is having enough behind you to be confident in your own skin but enough ahead of you to still be excited about the future. Thirty is old enough to be taken seriously but young enough to still get carded every now and then. Thirty is established, but no where near "arrived" (if there is such a thing).

Remember my 30 before 30 goals? Yep. Most of them happened. But several of them didn't. I still haven't sung karaoke. Or snorkled. Or finished typing my grandfather's WWII letters. Or changed a tire. BUT, here's the thing. In my 20's, I would have berated myself for not finishing the list. Now, in my 30's, I'm learning to be okay with doing what I can, but leaving space for being human, for being imperfect. So I didn't accomplish all my goals. Big whoop. Since I was the one who made them in the first place, I'm pretty sure I can a) change them, b) extend the deadline, or c) choose not to do them all. No one cares (except me if I let myself).

For me, 30 is all about the freedom to be imperfect, to make mistakes, to give life all I've got and be okay if it's not enough sometimes. It's also about living thankfully. Think of all the things I have done that weren't on the list, like giving birth to Moo or starting (and somewhat maintaining) the Kitchen Challenge. So much to be grateful for that I can't even anticipate.

Sitting at the top of a new decade, the view is pretty nice. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Loving better

You may recall my brief but raving review of Dan Merchant's Lord Save Us From Your Followers. At the time of the post, I intentionally kept my opinions about the movie vague. I didn't want to taint your view of it before you had a chance to watch it yourself, but I also needed time to figure out exactly what I thought about it. Since some time has passed, here are a few thoughts.

Photo Credit

I liked how the movie didn't feel like one big attack on Christians, but in the end, I still felt convicted. I don't mind that kind of conviction, the kind you aren't guilted or shamed into. I felt convicted because the overwhelming message from the non-Christian population was: I'd like Christians a lot more if they were more loving. Fair enough. (It's also important to note that several non-Christians said that many Christians they knew actually were some of the most loving people they knew.) But overall, if God is love and Christians are to be "little Christs," then non-Christians aren't getting an accurate picture of Jesus from Christians, on the whole.

On the one hand, I whole-heartedly agree. Christians often live hypocritically. We say we love Jesus but we have road rage and high divorce rates and are addicted to alcohol and shopping; we yell at our kids, eat too much, and often don't know when to shut up. We can't handle down time, alone time, unplugged time. We think bad thoughts and sometimes say them out loud. We gossip. We're jealous. We're a pretty sorry bunch. And make no mistake: those things are not okay.


That's not all (thank God).

The reason Christians don't always act the way they should is that they're human, and by human I mean sinful. I don't say that as a cop out, because being sinful is not an excuse to sin, but being sinful does mean that we won't be perfect this side of heaven, that we'll mess up (often), that we're in process, that we're growing but haven't arrived. God has changed us, but He's also in the process of changing us. Surely that process of becoming is a human quality that both Christians and non-Christians can identify with, which means we all need to give each other a little more grace in that growth.

That being said, the documentary challenged me not to love perfectly, which is impossible, but to love better. Before you think I've gone all let's-hug-it-out-and-draw-hearts-and-rainbows-in-the-margins, I realize that LOVE is a loaded word. It's not always hugs. It's not always acceptance. It's not always tidy. What does it really look like to love better, then? I plan to write more of what I'm learning about that in some upcoming posts (along with some more lighthearted posts to keep us afloat amid the deep thoughts). Looking forward to processing with you!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Three Things (almost) Thursday

One. Good news: I've been writing, drafting an essay on how I've lived my life in fear. It's definitely a first draft, but I'm feeling good about it and it's promising. Bad news: I have writer's block. I've written maybe a third of it and now I don't know where to go with it. My guess is that I have some more thinking and remembering to do. Going back in time takes more work than it sounds, so I'm just going to set it aside for a few more days and try to do the hard work of thinking.

Two. I LOVE the Olympics. When Beijing hosted four years ago, we got Chinese takeout with my brother and his wife and ate it on the floor. When the Olympics were in Vancouver a couple of years ago, we had friends over  for a potluck dinner with the requirement that their food be Canadian and their garb be red and white. And in just 16 days, London will be bringing me more quality television than I watch all year. I'll get to celebrate with fish and chips and Coke without ice and I'll make everyone speak in a British accent. It'll be jolly good, chap!

Three. Whatever you do, don't watch Someone Like You. Queen of B movies. Save yourself two hours and avoid plot gaps, flat acting, and deeper points that are a bit too obvious. That, or (like me), watch it with friends so you can make fun of it the whole time. While Ashley Judd and Hugh Jackman did a nice job, I'm hoping they were paid well for this movie because, frankly, it was beneath them.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

New Beginnings (Part 4)

This is the end of the "New Beginnings" posts for me. It's about the final steps to finishing something (anything).

Step 5: Take a day off.
This step has me doing backflips. It's life. It's exhale. It's margins. It's space. It's oxygen. I love, LOVE that this is one of the steps to finishing something because it's as true to me as gravity. Taking a day off is key to keeping life lively and anchored. It's a day to do life-giving things, a day to break from regular routine, a day to be a little more still, a little more reflective, a little more quiet. And it renews in a way that an hour here and there never can. I've been taking a day off each week for most of my life and I can honestly say that I have never once regretted it. The work has always gotten done. The bills have always been paid. The laundry has always been folded. Just not on that day, not on that day of rest. I've read a couple of helpful (although very different) books on this kind of rest: Keeping the Sabbath Wholly by Marva J. Dawn and The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan. Of the two, I liked Buchanan's book better, but they're both good.

Step 6: Have a plan for after the thing is finished.
This step makes me squirm. I barely know what it is I want to finish, much less what I want to do when I finish that thing. I'm really working on being more present and not having to have every bit of my future planned out, so there's some resistance from me on this one. BUT. I think it's a good point and something to be thinking about. The truth is, I don't know what my plan is for after this thing is finished.  And that's okay for now, but I don't want to stay there, so I'm chalking this one up to an "emerging" step.

As for how I'm going with my specific goals, I've been writing most days, started reading Fearless Confessions: A Writer's Guide to Memoir by Sue William Silverman, and have been brainstorming about what to write for an essay contest. I have to think and think and think and then the words usually pour out after that, so I'm thinking. This writing thing is hard business, especially when I feel like I'm fitting it into the nooks and crannies of my life.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Three Things (almost) Thursday

One. I know, I know. I resolved to "write every day" when I really should have resolved to write almost every day. More on that later, but (irony of ironies) after posting about my new beginnings in writing, I've taken almost a week off. Why, you say? Ah, that's thing number two.

Two. Last weekend, I was in Sevierville, TN with thirty-five family members celebrating my grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary. SIXTY YEARS. TOGETHER. What a thing of beauty and blessing. The weekend was full of food, cooking, conversations, swimming, laughter, memories (made and recalled)--all the things a southern summer family gathering should be. So, I decided that quality time with family was far more important than writing. Then, I spent a few days in Chattanooga with Moo since Phil had to work several days (and nights) in a row--another family time that trumped writing. So, now I'm back. While my commitment isn't to blogging most days, I imagine that I'll post a little more often than I did when I was teaching. Lots of fun posts to come!

Three. While I'm not the kind to get decked out in red, white, and blue, Independence Day holds deep meaning for me. Watching fireworks always reminds me of the Auden poem, Musée des Beaux Arts. In it, Auden writes about suffering, how "everything turns away quite leisurely from the disaster," how suffering exists simultaneously with celebration and the mundane and a million other experiences and how it's easy to miss. In the same way, we sit and enjoy a light show while others around the world are suffering from starvation and still others are yawning the morning awake. The celebration, suffering, and mundane--it's all part of what makes this life very human.  I think that's what I like most about the poem: it doesn't seem to have a message or agenda but just comments on a human quality. In the middle of this leisurely night, I have to consider those who have given and are giving their lives for our independence, to think on how their sacrifices have contributed to my evening celebration. And there's not necessarily survivor's guilt in that, but rather a moment of gratefulness, of consideration, of looking beyond my own dimly lit world.