Friday, December 26, 2008

Emotional Christmas

Upon Cheryl's urging and Fritz's do-it-right-now reminder, I listened to a portion of the Lessons & Carols service from King's College in Cambridge. I see why they both like it so much. There's something about it that kinda chokes you up.

Pr Petersen cried while he was writing his sermon for Christmas. He noted that the tears sneak up on him more frequently at Christmas and Easter.

As I did exciting things on Wednesday (like clean the litter box and mop the floor and fold laundry and do an errand in town that involved driving past the Episcopal church) I pondered these things. (Nooooo. I was not pondering the cat box. I was pondering the Christmasy emotions.) Anyway, I had a thought. [Ta da!]

What is preached in Christian churches? Far too often the sermons and the Bible readings are about things like being kind those who are less fortunate, helping the elderly, giving more money to church and charities, even topics like politics and weight loss and "Christian" financial management.

But not at Christmas and Easter.

Even the churches that care oodles about making us into good little people tend to get it right at Christmas and Easter. They read Luke 2 and John 19-20. The sermons and hymns are about the incarnation, the passion, and the resurrection -- the historical events tied most closely to the forgiveness of sins in Christ's blood. (Now, don't go and give me counter examples. There are probably way too many. But, y'know, compared to other times in the church year, these are the times we particularly look at God's mercy instead of at ourselves.)

At Christmas and Easter, the Christian Church is ecumenically united in a way that cannot offend even the most conservative bronze-age Missourian. Furthermore, "it is necessary to everlasting salvation that a person believe faithfully the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Athanasian Creed) and, at these two high feasts, this is what we are all are focused on together.

So we listen to and sing about the most fundamental portions of the Creed, and we all do it together. Seems odd if that didn't bring tears of joy to our eyes.


After learning from a master herbalist that comfrey is totally awesome at healing cuts and other skin problems, I added a pound of comfrey leaf when I next ordered my spices and herbs. But I have no experience in making poultices. Whenever I try, I end up with all the poultice herb-gunk falling all over the place and not staying on the part of the body to which I presumably bound it. (Hey, lookie there, instructions that maybe even I could follow!)

Katie arrived a week ago for a visit of a couple of days. She had some sores on her hands. Alia had something on her eyebrow that looked like it might be a cold sore, but we're not really sure what it was. So we decided to experiment.

One shot glass, full of dried comfrey leaves.
Olive oil poured over the comfrey.
Heated briefly in the microwave for about 20 seconds.
We applied tiny drops of the oil infusion to Alia's cold sore, Katie's wounds, and a couple of itchy spots I had on my hands and arm.

WOW! That was speedy healing!
I don't know if plain olive oil would've done the same thing. But whatever it was, Katie and I were impressed.

She took home a baggie of comfrey leaves.


The nice post-master smiled at me today as I mailed some textbooks to ebay customers. I'm getting to where I recognize the clerks at the post office here.

When Gary and I were first married, we expected to be moving all over. Even though we had two years of college left, we took an apartment that we would be allowed to rent for only a year. The fantastic rental price and the neighborhood was worth it, even though we'd have to find a second apartment. We knew there would be the move to sem, the move to vicarage, the move back to sem, and the move out to his first call. It was all an expected part of his education, and everybody else in his class was doing it too, so everything stayed in a state of flux, and that was okay.

After about half a year in Wautoma, I realized that we couldn't stay. The situation was transitional from the get-go. We would either move to the village where Gary had the mission-start, or there'd be some other change. We knew the time in the parsonage, and just a block from Wietings and three blocks from the library, was going to be short-lived.

So when we moved to the next place, I yearned for it to be permanent. Even when the pay was low, even when we found out that pastors stayed there only 2-3 years before moving on, even when midweek services were practically empty, I eventually came to accept that God was going to have us live there till we died, and there is definitely some comfort in that kind of rooted-ness.

So now we've moved again. It's getting close to a year now. I recognize some of the faces at the library and the grocery store and the post office. I should be following Tammy's lead (a friend who moved here less than a year before we did, and for the same reason) and doing more exploring to find the streets and the stores and the restaurants that are around here, trying to make myself feel at home. But I don't. I just do what I need to do to get by.

People tell me that this feeling of instability is good. (Well, at least, some people do.) They say we should not be attached to this world, but always feel like pilgrims on our way to our heavenly home. They say we should not be "stuck" or settled or too comfortable in our home, but always be ready to go wherever the Lord calls.

But I want to be settled and stable.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Baby Pictures

From about 6-weeks-old

All giggly

Daddy's girl

Mommy's clone?

Blog-Worthy Accomplishment

I turned on the TV.

Yes, I did.
First time since we got the digital converter box last summer.

I wanted to listen to the Christmas music on PBS. Paul was in the living room. He gallantly jumped up to help his mother. But I insisted that he just sit down and laugh at my ineptitude, and give me minimal pointers only as requested.

And you know what?
I did it without his help!
Of course, I punched some wrong buttons and did some stupid things first. But eventually I got the television turned on AND the channel changed.

I think I deserve a big pat on the back.

By the way, smoothies made of raspberries, raw apple, pomegranate-blueberry juice, raw milk, raw banana, raw kiwi, and honey.... ooooooh, it makes your tastebuds happy. If only my tongue were as long as a giraffe's, then I could lick up the inside of the smoothie glass to savor every last drop. Mmmmm.

Cat Litter


Poor kitties have to potty indoors because of the deep deep snow. I had to buy more litter and carefully scanned the boxes at the grocery store to ensure that I didn't bring home the stuff that "clumps." I have a septic system instead of city-sewer. It seems to me that flushing kitty-poops that have the clumpy litter stuck to it would be a very bad plan for my plumbing.

But today when I opened the new box to change their litter, I discovered the small print instructing me how to use clumping cat litter. Now what? We are accustomed to cleaning out the box every single time a kitty uses it. The kitties are too; they don't like a dirty litter box. But what am I going to do with poops that cannot be flushed? Right now, I am envisioning an environmentally-dangerous (and expensive) amount of plastic bags being used to dispose of smelly kitty-litter clumps multiple times daily.

Right now I am [perversely?] almost glad that Rosie accidentally missed the box when she gave it her first try. I picked the poops up off the floor next to the litter box and flushed them, and didn't have to deal with the nauseating smell remaining in the house. But then again, I really really don't want to be finding turds on the floor of the bathroom for the next month or so.

Today's Laugh

If something needs to be done right now,
do it yourself.

If you've got some time to do a project,
delegate it to someone else.

If you have forever to accomplish the task,
form a committee.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Big Sin

My pastor has often said that God hides most of our sin from us. If we could actually see the full extent of our sin, it would destroy us. We could not bear it; we could not believe that Christ's atonement could ever forgive the hugeness of our sin. And so God allows us to see only enough of our sin to know our need for Him and to depend upon Him for our salvation.

God seems to know that no one can fully discern his errors (Ps 19). He seems to be content to sanctify us a bit at a time, drawing us ever closer to Himself. He seems to think that there is no way for us to be made free from sin as long as we continue in the flesh in this earthly life.

And yet, Christians often take it upon themselves to point out to each other all their failings and sins.

IF they had the vocation to care for the souls of those they are crushing, that would be one thing.

And IF they had the real answer (Jesus' forgiveness) for those whom they have crushed (instead of telling them how they can fix their behavior and be better trusters, better servers, better Christians), that too would be a little bit understandable.

But when the business is to point out to others how they haven't quite measured up in "walking the Christian walk" and in "amending their sinful ways," you wonder where these people find their comfort in the end. If they're telling me what to DO to be a better Christian, then is DOING where they find their own assurance that they are God's people?

Rethinking Snow-Blowers

I never wanted a snow blower. It seems that shovels do a better job of clearing the driveway. And it's another machine to maintain. That alone is a bigger disincentive than the price tag on the snow blower.

Today Pastor called and asked a simple question. I had no idea what the answer was.

This evening, as Maggie was helping me shovel the driveway, she asked if she should go here and I should go there, or what. I had no idea what to decide.

It's hard to know which load of laundry to throw in next.

The futility of coping with all this snow, and knowing that we're not even 1/3 of the way through winter, is making it hard to think. That physical labor should not so thoroughly deplete my ability to make simple decisions.

The neighbors have plenty of snow in their yards. But the "cut edge" in their driveways are only about 2' deep. They have snow blowers. Snow blowers throw the snow waaaaaaay out there into the middle of the yard. The snow doesn't pile up next to the drive, as high as my head, only as far away as I have muscle to pitch it.

I may have to rethink whether maintaining another engine is worth it.

Large Families

Has anybody noticed how many homeschooling moms of large families struggle with depression?

I think that those who homeschool are prone to depression, in part because they want something so good for their children and their family, and then they find they cannot measure up to the high standards they so greatly desire to meet. And I think that moms of large families are prone to depression because there is so much they yearn to do in service to their families. When you put those two situations together, it seems more normal to face depression than seeing both mom & dad safe from it over the course of their child-raising years.

This is not to say that people should avoid having large families. And it is not to say that those with large families shouldn't homeschool. It's just odd to see those who have faced serious mental-health issues stumping for others to follow in their footsteps.

Today's Laugh

A cowboy was overseeing his herd in a remote mountainous pasture when suddenly a brand-new BMW advanced out of a dust cloud towards him.

The driver, a young man in a Brioni suit, Gucci shoes, Ray Ban sunglasses and YSL tie, leans out the window and asks the cowboy, "If I tell you exactly how many cows and calves you have in your herd, will you give me a calf?"

The cowboy looks at the man, obviously a yuppie, then looks at his peacefully grazing herd and calmly answers, "Sure, Why not?"

The yuppie parks his car, whips out his Dell notebook computer, connects it to his Cingular RAZR V3 cell phone, and surfs NASA page on the Internet, where he calls up a GPS satellite navigation system to get an exact fix on his location which he then feeds to another NASA satellite that scans the area in an ultra-high-resolution photo.

The young man then opens the digital photo in Adobe PhotoShop and exports it to an image processing facility in Hamburg, Germany. Within seconds, he receives an email on his Palm Pilot that the image has been processed and the data stored. He then accesses an MS-SQL database through an ODBC connected Excel spreadsheet with email on his Blackberry and, after a few minutes, receives a response.

Finally, he prints out a full-color, 150-page report on his hi-tech, miniaturized HP LaserJet printer and finally turns to the cowboy and says, "You have exactly 1,586 cows and calves."

"That's right. Well, I guess you can take one of my calves," says the cowboy.

He watches the young man select one of the animals and looks on amused as the young man stuffs it into the trunk of his car.

Then the cowboy says to the young man, "Hey, if I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back my calf?"

The young man thinks about it for a second and then says, "Okay, why not?"

You're a Congressman for the U.S. Government," says the cowboy.

"Wow! That's correct," says the yuppie, "but how did you guess that?"

"No guessing required." answered the cowboy. "You showed up here even though nobody called you. You want to get paid for an answer I already knew, to a question I never asked. You tried to show me how much smarter than me you are.

And you don't know a thing about cows . . .
this is a herd of sheep.
Now give me back my dog."

Monday, December 22, 2008

When Are theTwelve Days of Christmas?

This factoid may be obvious to many readers, but I have been bumping into the wrong idea a lot this year. The "twelve days of Christmas" are NOT now. Christmas Day is the first day of Christmas. St Stephen's (the 26th) is the second day of Christmastide. The twelfth day of Christmas is January 5, the last day of Christmastide prior to the change of seasons to Epiphany. It's not just the guys on the secular radio stations talking about the "twelve days" this year, but even Christians are confused on this.

All right. Speech done.


My pared-down goals for the day were to:
finish clearing snow off the driveway,
clean the bathrooms,
make supper,
buy milk,
make bread.

I had to BUY bread at the end of last week. With company and with snow-shoveling and with Lessons & Carols, we have done almost no housecleaning, not even the daily chores, and the yuckiness is beginning to get to me. And eating supper would be a nice idea.

I did not think this was an overly ambitious plan. When I see what needs to be done, this is barely a drop in the bucket. But I haven't started on bread or kombucha or cleaning or laundry or granola. I have no idea what we might eat for supper. All I've done so far today is buy milk and work on snow.

Thing is, with three hours of hard physical labor so far, picking away at the snow piles, I haven't even begun to clear the driveway yet. There was no place to PUT the drifts from Saturday night and Sunday. I have spent the day moving piles -- taking chest-high piles of snow and throwing them 5-10' further from the driveway, making massive eye-high piles of snow. At least now I've got a place to try to move the drifts to. And a place to put the snow that's due to fall from tonight until Wednesday night.

I think I'm going to have to buy more bread.

I think I'll take of my glasses before entering the bathroom. That way I won't be able to see the ick.

It's very cold outside.

Maggie is inside, barfing.

Gary was hoping we could go Christmas shopping tonight. There are no guarantees I'll still be awake by the time the guys get home from work at 5:30 or 6.

Do you know there are people who LIKE snow?

I'd like to say I'm done whining now,
but it would probably be a lie.

Today's Laugh

One of Karin's kids wants to know why the Virgin Mary is so skinny after just having a baby.

While I would respond, "Because life is not fair,"
Karin had a better answer.