Thorn of Crowns

This is about as crafty as I get, friends.  A foam ring and some tooth picks.

-2

I saw this idea on another site and thought we would try it.  Beginning at Lent, every night at dinner, Evangeline would remind us to get out our “Thorn of Crowns” and then we would proceed to go around the table and each stick a single toothpick in to symbolize a sin from that day.

Remembering and Confessing.

Sometimes they came to mind quite quickly and I probably could have used a good 5-10 toothpicks, other days I had to rack my brain (or get friendly reminders from my family).

Even with skipping a few nights, it didn’t take long for this crown to be difficult to handle.

If you grabbed for it the wrong way you would get pricked, and the closer to Easter we got the more dangerous the crown became and we actually had to keep it up away, out of the kids’ reach, lest a lenten stabbing occur.

Sharp, prickly, dangerous, damaging.  Our sin. 

But the toothpicks just kept accumulating.  More and more. Our sin. 

We placed our final toothpick in on that Good Friday night and remembered.

When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”  As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!”

Our sin. 

This morning, Easter morning, the kids woke up to something new on the crown.

-3

 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen!

Today has been a bummer of an Easter.  Fevers have kept us from church and family.  Spiffy spring dresses lost out to pajamas.  Tylenol and VaporRub bring more comfort than brunch and none of us can stop coughing long enough to get through a hymn.

But while Christ wore a Crown of Thorns, we wear forgiveness.

Toothpicks have been thrown in the trash, New Life has come.

Although sickness plagues our home, death has lost it’s sting.

And, I feel like supermom for actually starting and finishing a project with my kids.  That’s worth something, right?

Happy Easter!

Home

Home.  These four solid walls of burnt adobe in southern Arizona.  Right here on a Saturday morning, all of us still in our pajamas, the house smelling of bacon, while I sip my coffee in a way I just can’t do on a Monday morning and I listen to giggles and the washing machine turning.

Home. Those four solid walls of creamy yellow.  Right there, lying on my mom’s couch while she cooks pot roast and does my laundry and Evangeline across the room on Grandpa’s lap.

Home. No walls at all as I sit at the park on a clear Tucson morning, gabbing with friends while our little ones play and grow up before our very eyes.

Home. Four walls of blue-ish gray, in the quiet of my bedroom, all by myself, the door closed, re-reading Harry Potter for the 5th time through.

It’s intimate, it’s deeply personal.  It’s where the heart is, after all.

Yet, there it is too, in the vast farmlands of Illinois y las playas de Chile and the Wide Open Spaces of Arizona.

It’s inviting me in, to stay, to live.  It’s sending me out to go, to love.

It has witnessed it all, the good the bad and the ugly because my life is comprised of good and bad and ugly.

Its where I am the most comfortable but where the biggest messes happen.

Home is slavery back in Egypt. Where I have made all the wrong decisions and cried all the tears and received all the wounds.

Home is the Promised Land full of milk and honey. Where I have loved and been loved in return, and held babies and said vows and snuggled and laughed and worshipped and danced.

It’s across the country and it’s right here, in my arms.

It’s in the sanctuary where I learn and sing.

It’s solid. I can touch it’s face and hold it’s hand and carry it to bed and slow dance with it and hear it crying and breathing.

And yet, it can’t be contained.  It’s an ache, a yearning, a fulfillment, a moment, a memory, joy and peace and love.

Home is with you.

Home is with You.

It envelopes me and nurtures me and shelters me and asks me to do the same for others.

Casa y Hogar.

My house.  My home.

Christmas Peace, Budgeted

Sorry, this isn’t a deep, pensive blog post about the holiday season and all the peace that comes on December 25th.

I’m sure if I tried real hard I could squeeze out some elegant words about Christmas peace, but honestly right now I got my mind on my money and my money on my mind. 

That is to say, the floodgates have been opened and between the beautiful, glittering displays at stores and the red cups at Starbucks and the lists of who we buy presents for adding up and so many meaningful places to send our cash tugging at our heartstrings and the Pandora station already on “A Charlie Brown Christmas”; all these glorious things are threatening to pull Christmas peace out of my finger tips and it’s not even Thanksgiving yet.

One of the best ways to experience Peace this season is to be at peace with my finances.  So while I am sure I will have some emotional stuff to spew later on as I begin celebrating Thanksgiving and then Advent and then Christmas, right now I need something practical.  Stat. 

I stumbled upon this gem awhile ago. A downloadable Christmas Budget for moms. First off,  don’t be confused.  This is NOT that kind of mommy blog.  I think I have made myself clear in the past, I am not the organized, craft-pinning, kids’ chore chart kind of mom.

Well, I am in my dreams but not in reality.

So lest you think I made this myself, visit here.

christmas budget

My Christmas Budget sheet.  I like that it includes everything from gifts down to baking ingredients, as I am the kind of person that needs everything detailed to help me stay on track, mostly because I lack self discipline.

Money is a big deal for me.    Money is a big deal for people who don’t have any.  Money is a big deal for people who have a lot of it.  Money is a big deal in the bible.  Money is a big deal in my heart as I often times believe the lie that more of it will make me happier.

Yet, it doesn’t make me happier.  Sometimes, though, the things money can buy make me happy, but isn’t it funny how something that makes me happy can actually lead me away from Peace?

So I put on my Organized Hat and make budgets, specifically a Christmas one.  Maybe it will be helpful for you, too.

As I am budgeting, here are some of the decisions I am making (with Jon of course) to guide me and help me stick to what I truly value in the midst of all those beautiful decorations, expensive toy shops, and delicious cookie recipes.

I am always looking for ways to value celebration, without valuing materialism and consumerism and any other such harmful ‘ism’.

1) Our kids get three presents each.  Kinda like Jesus.  Simple, inexpensive, fun, meaningful – but only three.

2) This year I am only baking two sets of cookies.  Gingerbread for ginger bread houses to decorate at home with some friends and my favorite peppermint molasses ones that I hope to share with others so that I don’t gain a million pounds before the New Year.  These are so yummy, you should bake them.

3) We can’t make everyone’s Christmas special. Tear. But we can make some difference. I have a hard time saying no to helping others and even though generosity and giving are pretty darn high on the list, we can’t go into debt.  This year we didn’t do Angel Tree, but we did do Operation Christmas Child.  We will continue talking about where else we want to give and can give as the season continues.

4) Celebrating the season for free (or pretty darn cheap).  Advent readings and prayers as a family and individually,  lights to celebrate The Light coming into Darkness (that means Winterhaven for you Tucsonans!), singing Christmas Carols, snuggling by fires, attending church, reading the Christmas story from scripture, bringing cookies to neighbors.  I’d love other suggestions and traditions!

5) Being thankful.   A thankful heart brings far more Christmas cheer than the biggest turkey, the fattest Santa, the most delicious peppermint mocha, the glitziest tree, or the most money spent on presents.  Just ask Tiny Tim.  This is something I have to decide to do, it doesn’t just happen organically.

6) Enjoy the Extravagance of it all.  Alright, so we probably won’t splurge on anything this season, although those Black Friday deals are tempting, but I have been the recipient of The Most Extravagant Gift Ever and I am looking forward to celebrating THAT in excess this year!  With you.  And cookies.

Happy Holidays, officilaly.  37 more shopping days until Christmas 🙂

Tension. No wait, TENSION.

See this?

DSCN8847

I picked those leaves from my parents’ yard in northern Illinois.

Once back in the dusty desert I got out my Tub-o-Mod Podge and made my very own candle holder with those beautiful red leaves.

Then I made another one with some burlap.

DSCN8846

I had a problem, obviously, and just couldn’t stop.  I bought a pumpkin and some ears of corn and re-purposed a mirror that was in our bedroom and POOF!

Kirsten had decorated for autumn.

DSCN8851

This is big people

HUGE, actually.

There was a time in my life, not too long ago (like, last week) during which I was convinced that decorating for seasons (other than Christmas, duh.) was for a certain kind of person that involved wearing mom jeans and reading Good Housekeeping and being boring.

Well, I guess I have arrived because this fall my house smells like  spiced apple cider and my fire place mantle looks AHHHMAZING.

And I love it.  It truly brings me joy to sit here enjoying a bit of autumn (while the a/c is on, obviously, because you know it is like 93 degrees out right now…).  So maybe not like ‘profound spiritual’ joy but certainly ‘life is good‘ joy.

Bit by bit I have found myself doing strange things like this.

For example, last Christmas I paid like $20 for a wreath from Micheal’s that had gold spray-painted pine cones plastered to it. (It’s tacky, not gonna lie)

You can kinda see it in this picture…

DSCN8015

Now that I have figured out how to use Pinterest it is getting even worse and I am absolutely stuck in the TENSION of it all.

You might be surprised that there can be TENSION in Mod Podge and fall foliage, but there is in my life.

Actually, I am a firm believer that for all the Peace we get in Jesus, the actual day to day of following Him is full of this TENSION.

For example, I want to celebrate the beautiful gift of changing seasons and create a warm and loving home for my family and drink gallons of pumpkin spiced EVERYTHING and visit and plan and host and bake and apple pick and craft and decorate because it is FALL and YAY!

But – people are literally starving.  Here in Tucson. People don’t give a you-know-what that I have glued some leaves to an old jar because they can’t afford pumpkins or pumpkin spiced lattes and they are drowning in sorrows and bills and family drama and drug abuse and lies and abuse and unemployment so what the you-know-what am I doing spending time and money decorating my mantle and buying gaudy wreathes?

And, am I less of a good Christian woman if I can’t afford to, or choose not to, have a home strait out of a magazine?  (Alright, let’s be clear – for all my mocking, I am quite certain my mantle wouldn’t make the cut to appear in Good Housekeeping in a million years…)

Am I less of a good Christian woman if I can afford to, and I do choose to?

TENSION.

It’s all over the place in my life.

I am so, so, so pleased that my children have a mommy who teaches and leads and works and serves yet I want to prioritize raising them well – so how much is too much time away from them?

I value deep scripture study and prayer and spiritual care and fellowship and I value outreach and service- how does this all fit into an hour and a half small group meeting I lead?

I value being wise with my finances and future, but I also take Jesus seriously when he says not to build storehouses of wealth here on earth and give away my possessions.

I am constantly resisting with every fiber of my being against the pulls of materialism and ‘fat and happy’ Christianity in my life, yet I also value celebration and thankfulness and joy in my home – so exactly how much time and money should I put into making my house adorable?

Is abundance found in pumpkin spiced lattes and beautifully decorated homes, or is abundance found in giving sacrificially of my resources?

Or, is it found in both?

I think it is both, but it feels tricky to navigate sometimes.

I believe joy and abundance are found in a mommy who serves inside the home and outside of the home.

I believe joy and abundance are found on my knees and reaching out to my co-workers.

I believe joy and abundance are found filling myself full at God’s table and letting dinner get a bit cold while I find someone to share it with.

So there is TENSION.

Questions of how much and how often come up daily.

Calls to be radical and extreme encounter and sometimes clash with calls to rest and feast. 

I wish I could neatly tie this blog post with an answer.  An answer of what percentage is okay to spend on seasonal decor.  An answer of when I need to say ‘no’ to others and just get on the floor and play with my kids.  An answer of which nights it is perfectly acceptable to veg in front of the TV and which nights I need to open up my bible (I will probably decide that one based on Gray’s Anatomy…).

Sometimes a gold Christmas wreath is just what I need to celebrate the season, and sometimes I need to JUST STOP FOR THE LOVE after decorating the mantle and quit before the centerpiece because my time is better spent elsewhere.

Jesus is not about guilt and shame and I don’t have time for that.  So when He says care for others I try to do that.  When He says chill out and rest and get out that glue gun to rejoice in the beauty of autumn I try to do that, too.

Being firmly passionate in God’s purposes for the world, and allowing HIS story to be the foundation to my life, actually allows me freedom in making these choices, but no matter how you slice it, self-reflection, accountability and self-control just aren’t always easy.

What TENSIONS of the Christian life do you deal with?

Stretch the Week

Sukuma Wiki

A dish my husband ate when he was in Kenya in 2001 which at its most basic is just braised kale and at its most gourmet (and, er, most American) includes meat, tomatoes, onion and some spices.

My Swahili doesn’t go much beyond Hakuna Matata (what a wonderful phrase!) but I have read that Sukuma Wiki translates into “stretch the week” or “push the week”.    As in, “we don’t have any food, but no worries – Hakuna Matata – this kale is gonna last us all week.”

I have to admit, I wasn’t very excited about stretching the week.  I don’t love kale, so having it as the main dish for three days was going to be a challenge.

Jon’s remembrance of sukuma wiki was a very wilted, very bitter kale with not much else going on in terms of meat or flavors – so I don’t think he was very excited either.

I don’t know how authentic my recipe was, but the final outcome was delicious.  I can’t wait to eat it the next two nights!

STRETCH THE WEEEEEEEEEEEEEK!!!

DSCN8768

I served it with Ugali, which didn’t have a ton of flavor but is apparently served by the boatload in Kenya because it is a great filler for hungry bellies.

DSCN8764

Jon opened our prayer in Swahili and then moved to English, interceding for this beautiful country and its people.

Then, he showed me how to eat, forming a ball of ugali in your hand and then scooping up some sukuma wiki

DSCN8769

As he put the first bite in his mouth he uttered “Oh my gosh!”, which I translated as “I am back in Africa!  Back in Nairobi!  Back in the bush!  Back at Lake Turkana!”

DSCN8770

I was so satisfied with myself for being able to transport him through time and space via a mouthful of Kenyan cuisine.

I continue to be amazed at food.  At how central it is to a culture, to a family, to our survival.  At how an aroma, or a taste, or even the act of using fingers instead of utensils can so strongly and so tangibly bring forth memories and emotions.  At how it builds community and sustains and fills.

God uses food – something so simple yet so central – to care for me.

There are moments, days, weeks and years where my resources are stretched thin.

Sukuma wiki. 

If I can just make it to 5:00 when daddy gets home…

If I can just get through the semester…

If I can just make it through this week…

Emotions are frail.

Time is short.

Stress is high.

Money is gone.

Husband is working late.

But we can gather around the table and be fed.

Maybe it’s steak and potatoes.

Maybe it’s Hamburger Helper.

Maybe it’s dinner out.

Maybe it’s sukuma wiki and you are pushing and stretching the week as far as you possibly can.

Maybe it’s an explosion of spices and memories, like it was for Jon tonight.

Maybe it’s not quite enough and you’re going to be a little hungry like my kids who “don’t like mom’s kenya food”.

Maybe it’s ugali – not very flavorful but getting the job done.

As I strive to simply survive, to stretch the week,  I am reminded of another feast in front of me.  A different table to which I have been invited.

A basic feast, to be sure.

Bread and wine.

That’s it.  Nothing more, nothing less.

So simple, yet so central.

Bread and wine.

Body and blood.

 I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.

As I approach the communion table on Saturday night, I will bring all of my stretching and striving and hunger with me and trade them in for blood that has been shed for me, a body that has been given for me, a feast that has been prepared for me, a table that has been set for me, bread that is fulfilling for me, wine that is cleansing for me, a God that is good to me.

This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.  “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes has eternal life.

Yes, I am the bread of life!

Hakuna mungu kama we we.  

There is no one like you, Jesus. 

Amen.

*Ugali recipe

*Sukuma Wiki recipe

*My weird cooking approach

Dining with India. (And, my husband thinks I’m crazy)

Food is simple, right?.  Eating is simple.  Plants and animals are prepared in various ways for our energy and nutrition.

Three meals a day.  Simple.

I go to the store.  Or you go to the garden.  Or he goes out back to get the chicken.  Heat or chop or stir.  Simple.

Five food groups.  Simple.

However…

There are entire book shelves at Barnes and Noble dedicated to the unhealthy relationship women have with food.  Complicated.

There are Internet wars on GMOs and pesticides and preservatives.  Complicated.

There is childhood obesity, and there are starving bellies.  Complicated.

I’ve been feeling complicated lately as we are on a bare bones grocery budget this summer (the fact that my children eat like teenage football players isn’t helping the situation!) and are eating lots of, well, whatever the opposite of “whole foods” are.  Partial foods?

Should I be as thankful for partial foods as I am for whole foods? (This is a very familiar place for me, if you remember this piece I wrote awhile back involving Hamburger Helper).

Food, a gift of God, envisioned and designed to be fulfilling and delicious and simple; cursed.  Complicated.

As I was dealing with these issues by having one of those unhealthy relationships I just mentioned with chocolate chip cookies praying and thinking and pinteresting I realized part of my particular frustration was from attempting to cook my usual menu items and familiar dishes without really being able to afford to do so – along with the feeling of constantly failing to keep our food costs down.

So, for example, a simple and inexpensive meal we have had this summer is grilled cheese sandwiches. But rather than whole grain bread (or you know, home made bread.  Ahhh, more guilt!!!) and yummy extra sharp white cheddar, I am using the $1 Walmart bread (what in the world are all those things on the ingredient list?!) and orange “Pastuerized Prepared Cheese Product”.

This is gross!

But we have food!

But it’s not whole food!

But we have food! 

(I don’t think my husband realizes how lucky he is that I am not an external processor)

As a mom who cooks breakfast, lunch and dinner 7 days a week it is easy to get stuck in a rut.  Meal planning, grocery shopping and cooking take up a lot of my time and energy, and so it makes sense that it should be something I don’t hate. 

Enter: My Solution.

A solution that I came up after these internal monologues (and after eating several bowls of ice cream.  Homemade icecream. Whole foods.  Booyah!), a solution that needed to be outside the box is to throw my traditional approach to cooking and menu planning OUT THE WINDOW.

I am not an expert in other cultures, their food, nor their economies but I think that we probably have more money than a lot of the world, or at least as much as (you know, the 99% and all that…)  How does the developing world eat?  How does the rest of the first world eat? Most importantly, Are they eating plastuerized cheese food in India? 

Well, I still don’t know, but I made a guess and went from there.

Every week in our home, we are ‘adopting’ a different nation or area of the world and eating like them (to the best of my limited knowledge, like I said, not an expert).  Here is what it has looked like so far:

Week 1:  India   Every meal we had homemade naan and/or rice and for that seven day period I made three different curry dishes, two of which were vegetarian, to eat with the rice and naan.  We prayed before our meal for the people of India, for the poor, and for their salvation.

Week 2: Latin America   Every meal we had tortillas, rice and black beans.  I made a chocolate mole poblano (fail!) and ropa vieja.  We prayed for Mexico and for Cuba in the same ways we prayed for India.  (We also listened to lots of Buena Vista Social Club, but that’s not really out of the ordinary for me…)

Week 3:  Britain  Can you say potatoes?  For three days we will have a beef Irish stew with homemade bread.  For one day we will have a cottage pie.  For one day we will have Irish potato pancakes with sausages or cottage pie if it is leftover.  I know that is only five days but we had hot dogs one night and have a birthday party another night.  We’re not legalistic about this, folks.  We get to pray for Jon’s family over there and of course, the new royal baby!

Week 4:  I don’t know yet!  I am thinking Thailand or Uganda.  Suggestions on where I might find and butcher a goat?

The benefits of my new menu planning are:

1) I am only cooking big meals 2 or 3 times a week, instead of 7.  As we enter the school year and Jon and I are working nights this will be a lifesaver.

2) We are using up ingredients and not wasting as much, especially since when you cook from one ‘wheel house’ you overlap ingredients.  I bought a bunch of (non-organic) cilantro and used it all up last week without throwing any out!

3) We are saving money.

4) We are exposing ourselves and our kids to other cultures and foods.

5) We are in prayer for the nations.

6) I am excited about cooking again.  This is HUGE.

Disadvantages:

1) You put your whole day, heart and soul into making a mole and it’s gross and you’ve ruined three nights of dinners.  I promise I will get over this…some day…

2) Although there is a lot of variety from week to week, after DAY THREE of coconut curry red lentil soup Jon was more than ready for something else (he didn’t say so but I could see it on his face!)

You should try it.

And you should definitely come over some time and break bread with us.  Or naan.  Or tortillas.

Mi casa es su casa. 

Togetherness.

Thankful.

Potatoes.

Joy.

Creativity.

Frugality.

Prayer.

Full.

Spicy.

Simple. 

The Gospel according to my mole

Not like a skin mole people.  Gross.  The Mexican sauce that is rich and nutty and chocolatey and delicious.  Mo – lay.

I had been standing over the stove ALL DAY working on my mole poblano sauce como una abuelita mexicana and feeling pretty darn accomplished.  Four different kinds of chiles.  Pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, almonds, peanuts, raisins, thyme, majoram, a stick of cinnamon, cloves, allspice, salt, pepper, fennel seed, corriander seed, roasted tomatoes and tomatillos, day old bread and corn tortillas.  I was even up before dawn to roast my own chicken and make my own broth.  (Not because I really needed to be cooking that early, but because my 2 year old likes to torture me and I thought I might as well make myself useful while he inhales his two bowls of oatmeal)

This mole was going to be delicious (see how I said “going to be”.  Foreshadowing).  How can you put so much work into something and not have it turn out tasting like heaven?  My kids even played nicely outside where I could watch them from the kitchen window while tediously de-stemming and de-seeding anchos, pasillas, mulatos and chipotles.  It was hard work now, but not having to prepare much for the next two nights would make it worth it.

(side note: In an act of desperation to save our budget and save my sanity in meal planning and celebrate our love for other nations and cultures, I have drastically changed how I cook and menu plan – last week we did all Indian food – I cooked three curry dishes that we ate with rice or homemade naan for a week.  This week is mole with chicken 2-3 days followed by a cuban ropa vieja for 2-3 days, all served with rice and black beans and tortillas.  Yum.  Last week was AWESOME I could eat those curry dishes forever…)

Jon had been out of town all weekend, planning to arrive back in Tucson just in time for dinner.  As I was giving a final stir to my mole, about ready to add the final, special ingredient that makes a mole a mole – chocolate – I realized I had accidently bought semi-sweet chocolate instead of unsweetened.  I called Jon, who was getting off the Freeway, and asked him to pick some up.

I snatched the chocolate from him as soon as he walked in the door and dumped it all in.  But the thing is, I shouldn’t have dumped it all in, I should only have added 6 oz.  As I tasted my labor of love, my perfect, rustic, authentic mexican mole poblano all I could taste was awful bitterness, followed by a lot of spice.  The chocolate had overwhelmed the whole batch.

My mole was ruined.

An entire day’s worth of blood, sweat and chile peppers had been spoiled at the last second because of a hasty move by a frazzled mom too impatient to care how much freakin’ chocolate got put in the pot.  Not just Sunday’s dinner, but Monday’s and Tuesday’s as well.  And the extra batch that was to go in the freezer.

Ruined.

Why couldn’t I have just not put that chocolate in?

Why couldn’t I somehow extract the chocolate from the sauce?

How come adding more broth isn’t fixing the situation?!

How could all my effort be in vain because of ONE STUPID ACT?

I had the recipe right in front of me.  SIX OUNCES!  Why couldn’t I follow simple instructions?

All these questions were not salvaging dinner for us, just making me more depressed and helping me realize how much I am like this mole.

And I don’t mean nutty, authentic or rich. Or Mexican for that matter.

I mean ruined.

I had been so patient and gentle with Evangeline.  Working hard not to shame, not to scold too much, not to lose my temper.  I could see it working.  I could see her responding, and dare I say modeling, my calm and loving attitude.  And then in a moment of exhaustion I snap at her, loudly and hurtfully.  And  I can’t undo that yell.  I can’t undo that look in her eyes.  I can’t erase that moment from her memory. 

That money I wasted.

That judgement I passed.

That time I said no.

That time I said yes.

Ruined.

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

The instructions are right in front of my face.   Why can’t I just follow them correctly?

Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

Those words you said. 

That person you slept with.

That hatred inside.

That darkness you run to.

Ruined. 

Ruined, like a Mexican mole, impossible to extract the bitter chocolate, like a cancer, incorporated fully into the chiles and the almonds and tortilla and tomatillos.

No matter how much I try to fix and add and dilute and do damage control, the flavor isn’t changed.

Is that my destiny?

Is it too late?

Ruined? 

For tonight? For tomorrow night?  Forever?

Can’t ANYTHING be done?

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

Ruined?

Yes.

Yes I knew better.  Yes I caused harm.  Yes there are consequences.  Yes there is regret.  Yes I fail.  Yes I am hurt.

But, I will make a way for you.

The biggest “but” ever uttered.

Forgiven. 

In the ways that I couldn’t go back in time to prevent my careless hand from dumping too much chocolate into my mole, nor take out the bitter after it had blended homogeneously with the other ingredients – Jesus can. 

Jesus, in his sacrifice, is able to do that with my sin. With your sin, too. 

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Dirtied, bloodied, tainted, ugly, broken, depressed, regretful.

Cleaned, healed, innocent, beautiful, whole, joyful, free.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Not ruined.  Redeemed.

Simpler Times

The tent lay in a pile of confusing mesh-y fabric on the ground in front of us, along with a handful of poles and some metal stakes.  It had been a little over a decade since Jon had gone camping and much longer than that for me, and actually when I went camping as a girl I am pretty sure I stood around in my cut-off jean shorts and over-sized t-shirt while my mom and dad actually did all the work setting up camp.

“Okay, a tent is not rocket science, we can do this!”  we both agreed.

And we did, and it didn’t take very long at all. Later that evening as we were making dinner we marveled at the bounty before us.  Fish, a can of corn, and some dinner rolls.

“What a magnificent feast!” we proclaimed as we delighted in this delicious meal and gushed over the gourmet seasonings of salt and pepper and brushed flies off our fish and scooped more canned corn out of the pot with a plastic teaspoon.

We laughed and talked as we washed our dishes and cleaned up our dinner.

“I like talking to you.”  I thought.

Afterward, we pulled up our camp chairs to face the aspen forest that lined our campsite and sipped our Simpler Times beer from the can ($3.99 for a six-pack from Trader Joe’s, if you’re curious about where to find such a classy beverage) and talked about the kids and God and life as the sun set behind the mountains.

“We are so well suited for each other” I said silently to myself.

And it’s true.  We have always been in strong agreement on our political, theological and parenting views and although how we interpret and express them can differ (classic story, INTP marries INFJ), I have always known I have a true partner in Jon.

Jon and Kirsten.  Mountains and trees.  Canned corn and Simpler Times.

Why didn’t we fight while putting up the tent?  He didn’t annoy me.  I didn’t frustrate him.  We didn’t rush.  We just worked, together.  We accomplished, together.  

Why didn’t I mumble my over-used “sorry this isn’t anything special” apology over an under-seasoned meal of fish and canned vegetables?

 Why do I feel so content?

Why is it so easy to forget how much I love this man?

The easy answer is because it was just us.  No kids hitting each other while we are trying to clean up after dinner.  No students’ spiritual lives dependent upon whether we could put up our tent effectively (or not).  No busy bedtime routine moving us along.  No TV shows or blogs or podcasts calling our attentions away from each other.  The rocks and trees and wildflowers in our mountain meadow didn’t require that we attend to them in any way.

It was just us.

I want to walk with you
On a cloudy day
In fields where the yellow grass grows knee-high
So won’t you try to come

Come away with me…

Isn’t that the song we first danced to on our wedding day?  

So all I ask is for you
To come away with me in the night
Come away with me

Our seven year anniversary is just about here, and for such a relatively short time to be married, and for such a happy, like-minded, non-confrontational, Jesus-loving couple; baggage and scars and fatigue and fighting and hurting and burdens and failure have played their parts well.

“And I have missed you.” I think.

Come away with me and we’ll kiss
On a mountaintop
Come away with me
And I’ll never stop loving you

Just call me… Laundry?

One of my kids’ favorite movies right now is the Lorax, which I think is great because it has awesome music and a nice message.  In typical little girl fashion, my daughter is drawn to the puppy love storyline between two of the main characters Ted and Audrey and she will frequently invite them into her imaginary role-play time.  She pretends she is Ted cruising around on a scooter and I get to be Audrey.

Except she doesn’t call me Audrey, she calls me Laundry.

I’ll admit it is cute to hear her come up to me and say “Hey Laundry, I have a tree for you!” but there is a part of me that cringes because this name is just a little too appropriate.

After all, let’s be honest, I am not the red-haired. willowy, passionate dreamer played by Taylor Swift in the Lorax.  I am, at least in Evangeline’s eyes, mommy, (complete with mommy hair, mommy clothes and mommy sayings), who seems to have a laundry basket attached to her hip.

Although this is just a cute mispronunciation on the part of my daughter, it is true that sometimes the things I do, especially the less glamorous ones like dishes and laundry and diapers become who I am.  Like instead of saying “I do laundry” I could say, or should say, “I am laundry”

This can get real depressing, real quickly, for moms everywhere.

On the flip side, when the the things I am doing are a little more glamorous, at least compared to folding underwear, it doesn’t seem like such a bad method for identity.

I am a writer.

I am a chef.

I am a minister.

Yo soy profesora.

It is so easy to confuse our identity with our actions and our jobs and our hobbies and our chores, regardless of whether or not those things make us devalue ourselves, or puff us up with pride.

I think we all long to be called to something deeper and lasting, and so we look at what takes up the hours in our day and BAM! we have a new name.  A new identity.

Just call me Laundry.

Actually, like my Evie, Jesus wasn’t a stranger to re-naming people either.

During his first conversation with Simon, Jesus says:

“You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter[g]).

 

To James and John he gives them the nickname “Sons of Thunder”.

I’d like to think that if I were one of Jesus’ disciples, I would get some prophetic bad ass Kingdom of God name, too.

But, maybe I would just be Kirsten.  Or Laundry.

Perhaps Jesus does have a special name for me, as some scriptures allude to like this one in Revelation and perhaps I will get to hear it some day,

I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it. Revelation 2:17

but for today I can wear the titles of wife and mommy and teacher and writer and diapers and laundry with full knowledge that these names are kind of like decorations on a Christmas tree or icing on the cake.  Beautiful decorations.  Important decorations.  (Okay, some more beautiful and important than others). But not identities.  Not who I am.

Therefor if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation

I am identified by the fact that God, in His very mysterious and Godly way, took away what was my old self and created something completely new in and only through Jesus Christ.  I don’t know if it matters so much what my name is, only that it is written in heaven, that it is something I couldn’t create for myself, and that it is more lovely in the sight of God my Father than I could ever see for myself (especially on my frumpiest of mommy days).

What does this mean for me today?

1) I am free from having to identify myself by the things I do, they are simply that: things I do.

2) I am free to find joy in the daily mundane and the spiritually weighty and the occupationally important, because I don’t have the burden of needing to find identity in them.

3) My daughter is hilarious and I am going to miss these little quirks of hers as she learns how to successfully pronounce things.

The dirty side of being clean

Last week we received our cloth diapers in the mail and they are just so darn cute! They are soft and washed and clean and ready to be put on our baby’s bottom hopefully within the next week, and I was thinking how it was just too bad that these pristine little diapers would soon be filled with some nasty messes! This spurred me on to look at all the other things in our home that are just waiting for a baby to arrive, evidence that there will be a little one living here soon.

There are washed bottles taking up our cupboard space.

There is all natural baby shampoo in our shower, never opened or used (except by me to smell it once in awhile because it has such a yummy scent!)

There is a small Rubbermaid bin in the baby’s dresser that is full of pacifiers that are completely new and sanitized.

There is a closet full of seriously the most adorable little pink and yellow and green and purple outfits, all brand-new.

There are receiving blankets and burp clothes and bibs that are so soft and cuddly and sweet-looking.

All washed in baby-safe detergent.

All smelling wonderful.

All free of drool and spit up and poop.

All clean.

All unused.

And while I love all of these items and I love that they are so clean and unsoiled, if they were to remain that way permanently that would be a sad, sad thing because that would mean that our baby wasn’t here with us.

How much more beautiful will it be to have dirty diapers and drooled-on bibs and half-empty bottles of baby shampoo; because that will mean we have a REAL, LIVING BABY.

So often I feel like my faith is a little bit like these unused baby items. God gives us so many spiritual gifts that remain on the shelf or hanging in the closet.
They are prepared for use. They look beautiful. They are clean. But they are unused. And for that they are not really fulfilling any sort of purpose, and that can mean that I am lacking a REAL, LIVING, FAITH.

This morning I realized that I was starting to get a little anxious/upset about something on the way to church (I honestly for the life of me can’t even remember what it was now!). There are so many ways to feel like a failure in life and work. There are so many reasons to be worried about my family and about money. There are so many things that will come into my day that can cause me to experience anger and frustration and irritibility and pain. And so often I ignore the gifts that God has given me and am brought down by these various troubles and temptations.

I forget about God’s love and leave it hanging in the closet.

I fail to take advantage of God’s word and let it sit in my kitchen cupboard.

I underestimate the power of God’s renewal and keep it sitting in the laundry basket.

And so all of these good gifts that God gives so abundantly go abandoned. Unsoiled by life’s messiness. They stay pristine and new and I am comforted to know that I have them available, but sometimes that is the extent of it.

This happens all too often I think among Christians. For some reason we like to talk about how there is grace and love and peace through Jesus but I wonder how often we actually allow these things to transform us. In my own life I sadly feel like these things are too clean, that they haven’t been used enough.

This morning however was not one of those times! As I entered church I remembered God’s love and was able to just abide in that. I remembered God’s word and was filled with peace after reading a particular verse in 2 Corinthians. I took God’s wonderful spiritual blessings off of the shelf and dirtied them up a bit!

And God, being rich in love and mercy, will have them laundered and ready for my use again tomorrow morning.

Ephesians 1
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. 9 And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.