Sunday, December 30, 2012

"Quiet Times" + Bacon | Post 16

Let's get this straight...
The Lord has not called us to storm the walls or conquer the land. 
*HE* has routed the enemy, beheaded the oppressor, liberated a people too vast to count, and sent *US* in with the good news. 
We're the ones throwing aside the unlocked gates and announcing in German prison-camps that the Allies have landed and won the day." 

[Though I've been a Christian for 20 years, the last three years have been a whirlwind of re-learning about God, His grace, and my faith. Caleb has gone through a similar transformation the last two years I've wanted to start writing and, yes, sharing on the internet some 're-learned lessons.' These things really are the dearest truths to me and I am starting to find myself unable to keep from sharing.]

My church and church-community placed great emphasis on "quiet times" or "times with the Lord" while I was growing up. Quiet-times or devotions were (or, are!) a time of Bible-reading, meditation and memorization, praying, and journaling - or some combination of those things (for some reason 30 minutes seemed to be the ideal minimum time to shoot for, but anytime was better than no time.), essentially a time of meeting alone and quietly with God.  During this time, I was a Christian with genuine repentance and Holy Spirit work in me, but I was a goody-two-shoes, I was an "elder son" not a "younger prodigal son,"and nearly every time I interacted with a group of adults I was praised for various character qualities I possessed. And I lived for that. I knew the lines, I knew how to search my heart, how to ask questions, how to worship "whole-heartedly", how to "be humble," I was an eager "servant" and I knew how to impress anyone. I could also point out the "bad kids" in any crowd. Their immodesty and flirtatiousness and over-all worldliness (eye-liner and jeans that hug your rump, anyone?) gave them away.

So, back to quiet-times. I remember Sunday mornings, bible classes, small group discussions, womens meetings, and youth meeting main points circling around testimony, example, illustration, challenges, specific passages and exhortation to be in the Word of God, daily, alone and preferably in the morning (I remember specific times hearing that it would be prideful to think you needed the newspaper, breakfast, internet, sleep, la-ti-da more than you needed God. Even in elementary school I made a "rule" for myself to not look at the beautiful, colorful Sunday comics until after church so that I could "put God first.") If I could sum up my thinking and interpretation of what I was taught at church all those years, it would be 1) The Gospel (which condensed to five words was "Christ died for my sins.") and 2) to continue in deeper understanding and personal sanctification of The Gospel, you need to be consistently in The Word of God - especially through quiet times. And it's even better if you have a solid plan for Bible-reading, and also a quiet-time basket nearby so you can easily get to everything you need without roaming around gathering it - efficient!

**Disclaimer: I'll be careful enough to add that this might not have been what was being preached, or at least not as "much" as I thought it was. I had - still do - a tendency to get an idea in my head, and hold onto it fiercely. If I heard a message or series or two about personal devotions, and I began to apply it well, I would have looked in any other message or setting for that "point" to be made so I could check it off and be all "Yuuup! Taking care of that! I so good."**

Another quick note: You might not think that what I've described is that bad. Isn't the Bible - the Word of the Living God, sharper than a two-edged sword - one of the greatest gifts He's given to humanity? And isn't it one of the best ways to learn more about Him? Shouldn't we be learning more of Him, and reflecting on His truth daily? Shouldn't we be praying constantly? What is better than starting a day in conversation with your Father - praising Him, asking for Him to do mighty things, humbling yourself before Him? I hear you. And we'll discuss in a moment. Stay with me.

I've had a number of conversations with various friends who have talked about taking a season of not reading the Bible, and how spiritually beneficial to them it's been. After these talks I realized how much I've changed that I'm perfectly comfortable with my friends not "having consistent quiet times" and I feel no need to push them to begin this *practice* as soon as possible. Even looking at my own life I see a very different pattern of "alone time with the Lord" than I did in my teenage years. My teenage years were far more impressive.  I really didn't have this topic on my heart to write about, but then I came across a blog post that triggered my concern with heavy emphasis on quiet times.

Stephen Altrogge, from The Blazing Center*, has recently written a handful of blog posts directed at mothers. For the most part, I loved his call for mothers to chill-out, stop stressing over the small things and to enjoy the crazy ride. But here's what Stephen said that caused me to stiffen:
Your job description is as follows: Love God. This simply means finding some time during the day to meet with the Lord. It doesn’t have to be before all the kids are awake. It doesn’t have to be in the pre-dawn stillness. Your job is to love God. How you make that happen can look a million different ways.
Your job as a mom is to first and foremost, love God with all your heart. Run hard after him. Pursue holiness and godliness. Read the Bible and pray your heart out.

Why do I get a little punchy and red reading something like that? Why do I so disagree with the mindset I held of "the spiritual discipline: quiet time" for most of my life?

To begin, "loving God" or "prioritizing the gospel" is NOT a first-thing-you-do-in-your-day-top-of-the-checklist-activity. It's not something to be done. It's who you are. I find it very misleading to put "love God" as the priority over "loving your husband." Loving God IS loving your husband! Loving God IS loving your children.  And... loving your husband and children is loving God!  Loving God is NOT (necessarily) doing the "God-things" like Bible-time, praying, and attending church meetings.  Phaaaariiiiseeeessss (dun dun dun duuun).

 Loving God is (also) eating food that thoroughly blesses you, loving God is talking with your friend and genuinely enjoying the conversation, loving God is talking with a friend who annoys you so much but you're willing to engage her because you love her, even though you don't exactly like her. Loving God is getting excited about a sweet deal on those shoes you've been eyeing, loving God is staying in bed all morning with your diapered kids because they just want to be with you a little longer, loving God is calling your husband to tell him about the funny thing that just happened on your walk. Loving God is having a dance-party to Taylor Swift in the car, while little faces glow, smile and bounce along in the backseat, loving God is singing hymns while you're sweeping, loving God is getting excited about making your house a home - however it is that you do that.  Loving God is paying the bills, going grocery shopping, decorating for Christmas, spring-cleaning, going to the pool and not getting very much sleep because your somebody needs you - a lot - in the night. Loving God is not about getting things done, but resting in what He has done. It's about really listening to what someone is saying - if that someone is two years old, or 87 years old. And not just listening, but caring about their words to you. It's about happily letting your schedule get interrupted or your to-do list left unfinished, because your husband forgot ____ and he needs you to run down to his office, with all the children, and bring it to him. It's about eating, laughing, rejoicing, anticipating, sharing, giving, enjoying, praising, receiving and delighting - and doing those things with your husband, children, family and best friends? Even better. And living this way so contagiously and constantly that strangers and unbelievers are like moths to a nightlight? Even even better.

In Christ, and with the right motives for both, the "life-things" like eating and playing and the "God-things" like prayer or corporate worship (or quiet times) are equally pleasing to Him. Why? Because God doesn't want us to become better people. He doesn't ask us to grow, change or sanctify ourselves (or, gracious, to "bear our own fruit"). He doesn't desire for us to work harder at sinning less. He isn't asking us to sacrifice for Him. He wants us to come. Come! He wants to give us every good thing. He simply asks us to receive it and enjoy it. Receive this bacon and eggs this morning as a good thing from God. Receive this boxed mac&cheese as a gift to you, mom, because your children don't care if it's blue box Kraft or homemade. Receive your child sleeping in this morning as a chance to do something you'd enjoy - sleeping in longer yourself, getting a head-start on a project, taking an uninterrupted shower, blow-drying your hair, reading that new book you bought, listening to music alone, praying. Receive it! Receive the gift of your husband! Receive the gift of your children! Receive the gift of your friends! Receive the gift of humor, food, sports and beautiful things! Receive the gift of My written Word! Enjoy it, and remember that I gave it to you because I love you. Receive your salvation - take it! Have it! I want you to know how much I love you, and how final and complete and sure your standing with Me is. You are free from having to worry about your sin and your holiness. Free! I've made you a promise, and I will keep it. Believe that I do only good for you. Believe that I can do it all on My own. Believe that I am able and eager to complete what I have started. Want my gifts. Want the good things I have for you. Want Me.  Delight in any and all things that I give you, and please remember that I wanted you to be delighted by them.  Share Me. Love Me. Enjoy Me.  I quite enjoy and love you.
"Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’" Matthew 9:13
I think the best way to "Love God" or "prioritize the gospel" is by being delighted, grateful and at rest. I disagree that loving God "simply means finding some time during the day to meet with Him." In fact, I think that's a false gospel.

Loving God isn't a "priority" we have. It's our new names, it's our DNA. I had it wrong. I thought that faithfully having quiet-times was loving God. Sadly, in my life and in my heart, it was primarily loving myself. It was my form of "praying publicly in the streets." I did it right, and yet I really didn't enjoy God. I performed for God. And when it came to other people? I required sacrifice, not mercy. I tied burdens on the backs of other people... and was then honored for it. Because it really did look good. It's been like living in an alternate universe to discover that my faithful, obedient, consistent actions do... not... matter. Because my unfaithful, disobedient, unpredictable actions don't matter, either. I'm no longer "in me." I'm in Christ. And His faithful love and obedient perfection counts for something - which means it counts for everything, thank goodness.
"He set His heart upon His people before time began. He spoke His promises, He sent and spent His Son, He resurrects souls through His Spirit, He is unstoppably building His church, His kingdom is an everlasting and extravagant kingdom and WE get the happy role of carrying His purchased, perfect gifts from under the Christmas Tree and placing them in empty hands that will enjoy them." 
Wives, enjoy being a joy to your husband. Moms, enjoy delighting your children. Friends, have fun having fun with friends. It's our happy role, it's how we love God, it's how to "prioritize the gospel."  I made "the Gospel" my God, and "spiritual disciplines" my job.  The way to get more "gospel" was to do my job better.  To do my job better, I needed the gospel.  Now, instead, I'd say: God is my God.  His name is Father, Jesus and Holy.  He is God.  And the way I "get more God" is by grace - by beholding Him, not be "doing" anything.  God + grace.  Not "the gospel" + "quiet times." God and grace.

"We are anxious, not because the task is hard, but because we think the task is ours. When we clear up that nonsense it gets much simpler and happier. My friends, let the celebration begin." D. Shorey

*I enjoy reading Stephen's blog.  I think he's a sharp, good thinker and that he's willing to say bold things and press through babble to find true, good things.  I don't always agree with his posts, but I more and more find myself "amen!"-ing his words.  So don't go bash Blazing Center!  But read it thoughtfully.  Like anything :)

ps. I believe in Bible study and memorization and meditation and journaling and quiet prayer times.  So much.  

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Broken Hallelujah | Post 15

"Love is not a victory march 
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah 
J. Buckley
Before Caleb + I got married, we talked a lot about children, "family planning" and what "we want" for our future.   The point of this post isn't to discuss our personal convictions, desires and dreams for our family (maybe I'll talk about that someday, though.)  One thing we wondered about was how "easy" getting pregnant would be for us.  Everyone assumed we'd have have kids quickly.  We both come from big families, and both of our parents got pregnant within three weeks of marriage.  My parents, in particular, got pregnant "when they weren't supposed to" or when the odds were very against them (because of birth control, age, timing, etc.)  Getting pregnant was never hard for either of them.

But.  Everyone is different.  And I had no idea what it would be like for me, for us.  I was especially curious because I've been on 18-months of accutane (three different cycles over five years).  More and more side effects comes out (seemingly monthly!) about the drug, and I always wondered if it would affect fertility.  

So, two months after our wedding when we discovered thrilling news that made us speechless for hours, I have to admit... I was not expecting it to happen to that quickly!  We were hoping to be able to have kids "right away" or relatively soon.  We were eager to start our lives together with each other, but also with our children.  We hope to have a big family.  This was only GREAT news and what we were indeed hoping for!  But I was still surprised.  And we still had a while to go before miscarriage-odds were reduced.

And here I sit, just about to the second-trimester, with a lot of pregnancy still ahead of me... a lot that could still happen or be discovered, but my heart and mind hovers at the people who don't have the same story as us.  The people who try and try and try to get pregnant, and so far it hasn't "worked."  The people who have had miscarriages early on (or later on!).  The people who have had adoptions fall through at the last minute - even after they've taken the child home with them.  The people who say "Yay! Congratulations!" to your face, and then go in the car and cry when they're by themselves.  The people who are single and wonder if they'll ever have life-long companionship and kids of their own.  The people who just plain ache at the thought of children.  The road hasn't been easy.  It hasn't been what they dreamed.  It's been a painful, slow, road with no promise that "Yes, someday this will happen for you."

I was listening to my forever favorite Jeff Buckley croon and these words sat on me this weekend: "Love is not a victory march // It's a cold and it's a broken 'Hallelujah' // Hallelujah."  I thought of many faces and names I know.  Women, in particular, who have been waiting for a baby to hold and keep.  So far the love they have for these future people hasn't been "victorious."  They still don't have them here with them.  At every turn it seems impossible for it to ever happen.  Maybe if you stop caring so much?  Stop wanting it so bad?  Stop hoping for it to happen?  Maybe if you try harder? Don't quit and give up? Persevere and fight on? You wonder if you're doing something wrong.  If God's "trying to teach you a lesson." If your hurting heart will ever be healed?  If a baby of your own (or another baby of your own) will ever warm your house, heart and home?  Or will it always be a cold and broken 'Hallelujah'? Or perhaps a cold and broken 'Why, God?' I think of the families who had and lost their children before they ever got to see, feel, name or know them.  These Mystery Faces that are real whose souls were real and live on today.  I think about these things.  

Someday we may walk the same road.  We may lose this baby and have to wait until heaven until we "meet" our child.  We may have this one easily, and then struggle with future pregnancies.  Or we may not.  We will have what the Lord deems best for us.  He will give us what is good.  He will not withhold one good thing from us.  He will do us good all the days of our life.  Even if we walk through the death or "absence" of our children. 

And I have a heart for those who are hurting over pregnancy, babies and death.  I want you to know that I care and that I'm aware.  I may not know every story or every situation.  But I care that you are hurting and I'm so so sorry.  I am praying for you - some by name, and some "in general."  I think about your children that we wait to meet in heaven.  I miss them with you.  I sometimes don't know how to talk about it or what is helpful (or NOT helpful) to say.  Sometimes I don't even know your story at all.

I don't know - I think I just felt like I needed to say this.  Though we have ONLY received happy faces, huge hugs and genuine excitement about our baby, I know in the crowd there must be some who wish it could be them.  Who maybe were frustrated that it happened "so quick" for us and it's been so hard for them.  No one has even hinted at that to me.  But in case there are private tears and secret heart-sinks, I just want you to hear from a young, newlywed who got pregnant fast:  Thank you for being brave, rejoicing with your friends and sharing in happy news... And I'm sorry that your hurt is very real and your pain is very deep.   I don't know what it's like, I can't relate, my hurts and struggles in life aren't "compatible comparisons" to what you are going through.  I feel like it's important for me to say that you and your life aren't forgotten because of "new life" nor is a baby you don't have with you a forgotten one.  

And Isaiah 44 is true:
For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground;
O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me. Sing, O heavens! Shout, O depths of the earth!
I'm praying for a "peace like a river" that streams into the darkest, driest crannies of your soul.  I'm praying that the words "You are not forgotten" will not be bland and empty, but will revive and tenderly comfort you.  I'm praying that you will be able to sing, even if it's a chorus of broken 'Hallelujah.'  I'm praying for the word 'promise' to be an anchor for you.  A promise from God is a fact from God. It just IS true.  I'm praying that that will be sweet to you, and not bitter.  I'm praying that you feel the freedom to cry, talk, share, stay home, feel and work through the process without feeling like a failure or wimp.   I'm praying that you will have good, genuine, patient, funny friends to love on, listen to and support you.  I'm also praying that your story, even in the smallest way, would speak glory upon glory to someone who really needs help someday.  I'm praying for babies in your arms, very soon.  And most of all, I'm praying for unmixed joy found in the Gift-Giver because of His sweet, to-hell-and-back joy in you.  

Life is fragile and it is not a right.  Each and every life is unspeakably precious and brilliantly valuable - including yours.  Hallelujah!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Letters To Baby | Post 14 | 13 Weeks

Dear Baby,

There are so many things I can't wait to tell you about - how dad and I became "us", how to build forts, how to burn desserts in the oven (maybe you can teach me how not to do that), how English is a ridiculous language with lots of hard rules... but it still matters to know them, how it's fun to wear socks that don't match, how to get dad to stop tickling you (he's a softie... it's not too hard), how we come from some incredible families who have lots and lots of stories, how to shoot a lay-up, how much we love you.

But right now I want to tell you about your Parent In Heaven.  I'm learning a lot about Him lately.  Mostly because of you.  Parenthood was very important to your Father.  He wanted a Family, a Home, a Lineage, Inheritance and Heir to His riches.  He wanted children in His house.  He wanted a bride for His Son.  He wanted to deliver, adopt, name, raise and keep His own.  Don't be confused with "want" and "need."  He didn't need a family.  He didn't need to go through the effort of making, providing for, having, feeding, caring, helping, sustaining, teaching, suffering for, bailing, holding, planning for, giving to and loving a motley crew of kids.  But He has this crazy, large, good heart that wanted that.  Children and family weren't a burden or problem, they were the goal and the prize.  Being their Father was what He decided would celebrate and display and express His Goodness the best.  
our favorite picture of you ;)
"He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world... In love He predestined us for adoption as sons."  "You shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip, and bounced upon her knees. As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you." "When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. I taught them to walk; I took them up by their arms, I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love, and I bent down to them and fed them." "We cry, 'Abba! Father!'  We are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God." "I am jealous for them with great jealousy... the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets. It is marvelous." "Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven." "In my Father's house are many rooms... I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you, that where I am you may be also.""The Father's name is written on their foreheads."  "He will delight in prospering you." "Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, 'You are not my people,' it shall be said to them, 'Children of the living God.'" 

It's not something that can be escaped when you read His Story.  This Father wanted to be known for His grace, and He wanted to be generous to and love us.  The people.  You're a person, little one.  You're alive.  Before there was a physical world and even time, The Father decided that He was going to make you and give you a soul, a body and life.  He decided that you would start life inside my body, through the life of your dad and I, and that of all the people who ever lived, you would be dearest to our souls.  He made these arrangements well before dad or I were alive.   We were "visions in His mind" and He knew us, and our parents, and grandparents, and entire family history way back at the very beginning.  He chose to make us because He wanted us.  He wanted to make you.

it's brilliant fun to "research" and think about getting ready for you.
I don't know how long your life on earth will be, but because you are a person with a soul, you will live forever.  Souls don't die.  I don't have a promise that I'll get to hold you in my arms (I pray everyday that I will be able to, however.)  I don't get to know if you'll live on earth for one day, or six days, or six years or 106 years.  But I do know this: you are God's joy and He has decide to give you to us.  So humanly speaking, you are ours.  You are a part of our family, our home and our heritage.  Dad and I are preparing a place for you. We are getting ready to provide for your needs.  We love to dream about bouncing, comforting and feeding you.  We try to imagine what you'll sound like when you call to us.  We wonder how soon you'll walk, if you'll be able to walk?  It is marvelous to picture a world where you can play in the city streets safely - because all the "dangers" of this place make me want to protect you forever and always.  We can't wait to do good for you and to prosper you.  You are "our people," or rather "our person."  And we will name you, keep you and love you.  We want you, and you are not a burden or problem to us.

Though, in order to have you, my body has to go through significant pain.  Your tiny body inside me causes my body to hurt, struggle and grow exhausted.  I've never spent so much time physically hurting like I have being pregnant with you.  Food, water, and vitamins are my daily "enemy."  I'm afraid of them, and afraid of what they might do to me.  Being hungry is also an "enemy" - a more predictable one, however.  I KNOW I will hurt - badly - if I don't eat.  So I have to try.  Nausea and throwing-up and a host of other special treats are common to me.  I hardly remember what it feels like to not "feel sick" or "feel queasy."  The physical toll directly impacts the emotional and mental part of me.  Discouragement, comparison to other newlyweds or mothers, fear, weariness and complaining come easily.  "God, I can't take this anymore.  Please make it stop.  I hurt so bad.  And I'm tired of having a sour stomach.  I'm tired of being able to do so little.  I'm tired of throwing-up my entire meal, out of my mouth and nose, and wetting my pants in the process - every time - because I'm so out of control of my body.  I'm tired of smelling throw-up for hours after the whole process because I can't figure out how to clean my nose out.  I'm tired of feeling SO fat.  I'm tired of canceling plans because I just can't do it.  I'm tired of being afraid of cars, sitting up straight and night.  I'm tired of feeling so boring.  And useless."  Oh, it comes so easily, little baby.  But here is where you are changing my life, for always and ever.  You are making this sink in: The Father's Son, Jesus, spent His life and body on me.  

He left beautiful bliss and came to hurt for me.  His body was destroyed.  He hurt, He cried tears of pain, He bled, He tasted sour vile, He was hungry, He felt sick, He was exhausted, He ached, He even asked The Father to remove the weight of the pain - if there was anyway possible, and yet, "like a lamb led to the slaughter, He opened not His mouth."  He didn't complain.  He didn't turn back.  He didn't lose sight of the goal: life for The Children of The Father, a way for them to come Home.   For the joy set before Him, He endured.  For me, He endured.  And after He championed the deepest pain of all - the sting of death - He proved His victory by rising from death, never to die again.  He did it because He loved us.  Because He loved me.  Because He loved you.  He was thinking of you - the joy of you, the worth of you, the jealousy He had for you - when He suffered.

And, sweet baby, I don't know if I could relate my heart to you.  I don't know if I can give accurate account of how I feel when I think of you.  You'll never understand, unless you one day experience it yourself, why I had to cry when I saw you on a screen in a doctor's office - with arms, legs, a torso, a head (with eyes, nose and mouth) and a large beating heart.  I can't explain to you why I started to cry again when I typed that last sentence.  Watching you for less than a minute move your body, bat your arms, kick your legs and frantically "swim" and spin and dance away gave me joy I have never known.  Dad and I have that image of you emblazoned on our minds.  We were undone and loved you in that moment more than we knew we could ever love anyone.  The Father knew I needed to see you that cold morning.  He knew how it would capture my heart forever.  He know how the pain I've felt and the extra work your dad has taken-up absolutely pale in comparison to the bliss of being your mom and dad.  

It is so worth it.  I would endure anything for you.  I would die to give you life.  Dad would too.  I love you. I love you.  I love you.  I would hurt and be nauseous for the rest of my life, if it meant I got to have you.  We wanted you before you existed, but now that you are here and "with us" and growing, our hearts race as we look forward to knowing and loving you face-to-face.  I wouldn't - I couldn't! - give up on you.  And what absolutely hurts my head and makes these eyes of mine dampen all over again is the realization that what I feel towards you is only a sparkle of the way The Father feels about me.  I was worth it to Him. He would endure anything for me - He would die for me.  He loves me.  He wants me and His pulse quickens when He thinks about me.  He longs for me.  He runs to me like a wealthy Jewish father who was snubbed and disrespected by his offensive son, who considered his father as good as dead and wasted his good inheritance on filth and misery.  The father ran to him!  He hugged and rejoiced and blessed him!  He celebrated, gave that naughty boy even more good and beauty, and announced a day of feasting! He reminded him "All that I have is yours!" His heart was full because His child was home.

Becoming a parent is not right we have or a decision we made, but it's a gift we've been given.  We get to share in the character of God by experiencing parenthood.  We get to understand in new colorful layers the sweet adoration a parent has for a child.   We are learning that our Father genuinely and happily enjoys us, that we bless His heart when He gets to bless us.  Not everyone gets to experience this.  We consider ourselves supremely blessed by the Gift-Giver and the Gift.  

I'll end with the scripture that is most-prized to me these days:

"When a woman has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish
for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 

So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, 
and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you

Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, He will give it to you. 
Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full."

Thank you for giving us the joy of giving ourselves to you.  We wait with baited breath and ever-growing love as we anticipate sharing with you the Story of Our God, and our very lives (I'm also excited about dressing you up in tiny, precious clothes.  You have NO idea.) You are very dear to us, tiny dancer.  And we long to bring you home.
With all our hearts and souls,
Dad and Mamma

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Biscuits | Part 14

The Easy Biscuits That I, The Terrified Baker, Made

pc: stranded in cleveland
 The other night Caleb was working late (heck, who I am kidding.  He works late every night.  Unbelievably attractive, that determination and work ethic of his is.  Praise God he's days away from finishing this current monster project) and I wanted to make sure he had a good meal waiting for him when he came home.  Except that I didn't get myself to the kitchen, ready to cook... until... about 45 minutes before he came home.  We had left over roast beef.  Perfect.  Green beans.  Done.  Mashed potatoes.  Easy.  And while I was looking for something to make for dessert, I discovered a biscuit recipe on the side of the pancake mix box.  The entire process was supposed to take less than 15 minutes and include only TWO ingredients.  How bad could it be?  At the worst the biscuits would just taste like pancakes, right?  I decided to take the risk and give it a try.  
Well!  They weren't bad!  Caleb ate about seven of them (But.  He eats a lot of any kind of bread.) and they were really really easy to make.  They're no Thanksgiving Dinner biscuits, but they ain't shabby for a weeknight!
- 2 cups of pancake mix
-3/4 cup of milk
In a bowl, mix complete pancake mix and milk. Stir and "knead" in bowl or on floured surface (I kinda did both. 
You can then make drop biscuits by dropping your mixture on a greased cookie sheet in large spoonfuls or cut into misshapen 1/2-inch tall triangles or circles. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 8-12 minutes or until lightly browned.
Remember, these were not THE BEST BISCUITS I'VE EVER HAD.  However, I am determined to try them again with a little more creativity.  Probably put some butter pats in the middle of each biscuit, and then coat with butter again as soon as it's out of the oven.  I also think they would be tasty with ice cream/whipped cream and berries.  Or apples cooked in sugar and cinnamon, and vanilla ice cream.  Or with honey and jam.   Oh!  Or maybe add some cheddar cheese and jalepenos to the dough?    WITH CHOCOLATE CHIPS TO DIP IN COFFEE (My boy would love that.)  I really think these easy little suckers have potential.   I would ere on the side of less-cooked than more-cooked.  And I would give them a shot.  Worst case scenario?  You wasted 5 minutes and, like $1.50, and have some crumbles to go on your dessert!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Fort Sleepover | Part 14

I've Never Really Been Real Camping
But we are incredible fort-makers. And Jim Gaffigan camping jokes are very funny.

"I probably wouldn't be so scared if I wasn't sleepng in a bag. 
Hey! Lets pre-package ourselves for the serial killer.
'I can't get away can you?' 'I can hop a little but I'm dead meat.'"

And I want everyone to know (in case you have never heard it before): living with your best friend everyday is other-worldly wonderful.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Quotes | Post 13

I Wish I Had Fully Understood This While Dating Caleb 
& That All Single Women Believed It Because It's True
“I used to think that finding the right one was about the man having a list of certain qualities. 
If he has them, we'd be compatible and happy. 
Sort of a checkmark system that was a complete failure. 

But I found out that a healthy relationship isn't so much about 
sense of humor or intelligence or attractive-ness. 
It's about avoiding partners with harmful traits and personality types. 
And then it's about being with a good person. 

A good person on his own, and a good person with you. 
Where the space between you feels uncomplicated and happy.
 A good relationship is where things just work. 
They work because, whatever the list of qualities, whatever the reason, 
you happen to be really, really good together.” 

deb caletti - the secret life of prince charming


ps.  Happy 49 Days of Sharing A Last Name, Bed and Covenant.  Remember when we were 49 days away?  Seems like years ago. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Date Night Hot Spots | Latin | Post 12

The Post Where We Pretend We Are Foodies and Like Bethany Frankel

Caleb and I love our grub.  It's actually obsessive.  We are obsessed with food and we plan our dates around food, then budget.  Here are some local Mexican/Spanish/taco favorites (in our mouths AND our wallets) so far:
pc: p-dub

  • TACO BAR // hands down best tacos I've had from a restaurant (also another FAVORITE soup comes from their kitchen.)  Don't be freaked out that it's located inside a gas station, inside a beer-and-wine store.  It's more magical like that!
  • TORTACOS // They knew what they were doing when they put "tacos" in their name.  Sensational tacos!
  • AY JALISCO // For their papusas and tortilla soup.  You'll think you're in Mami's casa in El Salvador.  Oh!  They have tremendous bean + cheese burritos as well.
  • EL TEJANO // one of my favorite soups - big, well-cooked vegetables with a broth you'll crave later... they also have papusas worth getting fat over and Caleb's favorite margaritas.  
  • RED, HOT & BLUE // Best Nachos In The Area.  Don't even get nachos somewhere else.
  • ACAJUTLA // Other Best Nachos In The Area.  If you do go somewhere else for nachos, go here.  This version is a little more "authentic" than RH&B's more "American" version.
  • JALEO // Expensive-ish and a tapas restaurant... I truly enjoyed everything I ordered (I know many people who haven't loved their Jaleo experience), but they best things on the menu were the surprising things:  like the duck risotto.  I've never fully recovered.
  • JAZMIN CUISINE // These guys actually make the best quessadilla I've ever had (outside of my own house.  My mom's still trump.)
  • CHIPOTLE // This is kind of a cop-out, but since it's so well-known and so good, I think it deserves to be on the list.  If you get a salad, make suresuresure you get the dressing and crunch chips on top to make it a "taco salad." 
  • FOR A NIGHT IN // Southwestern Pulled Brisket Tacos I could eat these every single day.  And I also drink the juices from a cup when I finish eating. (And, the magic happens in a crock pot, so it's impossible to mess up.  Boo-rah.)

Maryland people!  Where do you like to get your ay-ai-AY! on?  Any other Latin/Spanish/Taco places we should check out?

Next up: pizza! PEETSA PEEEETSA!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

My Life Wish List | Post 12

My Greatest Aspiration, Dream, Desire and Hope:  To Make A Home Like This:

"An ideal Christian home ought to be a place where love rules. It ought to be beautiful, bright, joyous, full of tenderness and affection, a place in which all are growing happier and holier each day.  

The home-life should be a harmonious song without one marring note, day after day. The home, no matter how humble it is, how plain, how small – should be the dearest spot on the earth to each member of the family. 

It should be made so happy a place, and so full of life, that no matter where one may wander in after years, in any of the ends of the earth – his home should still hold its invisible cords of influence about him, and should ever draw resistless upon his heart. It ought to be the one spot in all the earth, to which he would turn first, when in trouble or in danger. It should be his refuge, in every trial and grief."

j.r. miller

Bacon Quinoa | Post 11

The Day I Tried To Impress A Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Friend

Before the wedding, I promised one of my flower girls, Audrey, that once I was married she could come over and eat whatever she wanted at my new house.  She chose macaroni-and-cheese and pizza.  For weeks before (and after) the wedding, she talked about "Mac Roni Cheese and peet-zi at Titi Caylub's house?

This past week Audrey, accompanied by her gf/df mamma and baby sister, Piglet, came over for lunch.  I was not about to try making gf/df mac&cheese and pizza.  No way.  

Quinoa, sweet potato fries, and chilled cucumbers - now that sounded right Janet's alley, and right in line with my cooking abilities.

Even though I've never made quinoa before, I've eaten before, so I had a fairly good idea of what would taste good with the healthy little grains.  I also had a fairly good idea of how to make it unhealthy.


Trader Joe's Quinoa (or any kind.)

Oil (olive, coconut, whateveeeer)
Half an onion, chopped
Minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped, defrosted, raw bacon
The leftovers of frozen pea bag (it was probably about 3/4 a cup?)

Salt + Peppa
Garlic Salt
Cayenne Pepper/Chili Powder/Taco Seasoning (just something with some kick)

ONE: Make one cup of quinoa in pot according to box instructions.

TWO: While quinoa is cooking, heat up a good ol' dump of olive oil in frying pan.  Add onions and garlic. Cook for two-ish minutes.  Add BACON!  Once the bacon is cooked, add the frozen peas.  Feel free to salt + pepper as you feel led.  No legalism here.  You are free to cook as you'd please.

THREE: Once quinoa is done, dump from pot into pan.  Mix around.  Season with garlic salt, spicy seasoning, and salt'n'peppa.  Taste it.  If it tastes bland, season more.  


It's savory yet light, salty and fresh, and really, really good for the soul.  Janet had four helpings.  I was on cloud nine.  Some of her balsamic vinegar (drizzled fantastically on the cucumbers) slid over to the quinoa.  Her next helping she went ahead and poured balsamic on the quinoa on purpose!  Also:  I burned the pizza, Audrey didn't eat her mac&cheese, and not only did I burn the sweet potato fries, I completely forgot I was even making them so they kind of disintegrated in the oven.  Hip hip hooray for quinoa!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Our First Month | Post 10

"I have made my choice, Hori. 
I will share my life with you for good or evil, until death comes."
agatha christie
at the beach on 9.9.12
Caleb and I just celebrated our first month of marriage!  I know "the ninth" of the month will someday come and go without a thought in my mind, but for now, it's all brand new.  "Our first month of being married ever."  September 9th was very exciting.

This month was, in a word: sensational.  I want to be careful to be real when I write and share about my life and marriage - I never want to purposely make things appear better than they are so I can feel good about myself or have "everyone" think my life is impossibly perfect.  And I wouldn't want to make anyone feel like I was better than them because "it's just soooo good over here!  Too bad your grass isn't as green as mine!"

You get trained to do that a little bit when you run a photography business: I crop out the underwear, empty water bottles and trash can in the background, I clone out the car and stop sign, I heal the zit or wrinkles.  I'm selling something, so I want to advertise and deliver a good - maybe even impossibly perfect! - product.

But this is my life.  Caleb and I are nuts.  We have nothing to sell (unless you want to hire us, which you can do here and here.)  We're both disorganized.  We both make big messes while we work.  We both fall asleep anywhere... and as married people have woken up half-on, half-off the couch, fully dressed (with shoes) from the day before, with the 3:00 am infomercials screaming in the otherwise still night and we either just stay there or crawl over to bed for  a few more hours.  Caleb usually spills something getting from the couch to the bed.  I usually run into something.  It's like... our tradition! We miscommunicate about our schedules.  We often don't get as much done in a day as we'd like to (meaning: taking a shower, making the bed, doing the laundry.  Heck.  Getting the mail!).

Hopefully you'll find this relatable and humorous:

Two days after our honeymoon was my birthday!  And six days after my birthday was Caleb's birthday!  We demand a lot of attention in August.

Birthday's are something I've always loved.  I LOVE birthday parties, I love waiting for a birthday to come, I love the attention (keeping it real) and I love having an excuse to celebrate!  It probably started when I was a child and my mom threw blow-your-mind themed birthdays.  DIY moms these days have nothing on my mom back then.  Ironically, as a "big kid" my birthday has consistently fallen at a terrible time to party.  The end of August is when people are taking end-of-summer vacations, or starting college.  My church has a highschool youth retreat that occurred during my birthday for four years, and then I volunteered at the retreat for the next three years.  One year I moved on my birthday.  Another year I had soccer try-outs.  Another I had a church meeting where they brought cakes for all the August birthdays and sang "Happy Birthday"... and they forgot me.   One year I threw a party for myself and four people came.  Last year Caleb had a work deadline and almost had to cancel his big birthday date.
on the ferris wheel on the last day of the moco fair!  we barely made it back from our honeymoon in time to catch the fair.  but we rode the ferris wheel, got called really mean things from the dunk-tank-clown, and caleb won me a big stuffed puppy by hitting a free-throw!  take that suuuuckersssss! OW! that's my MAN!
Woe is me, right?  Woe is me.  Before you think I'm a big whiner, I really think it's funny.  I almost look forward to "What's going to happen this year?!"  Caleb tries hard to make me feel special and loved every day of the year, but he has been determined to make my birthday "go well."  I told him over and over that this year does not need to be a big deal. We just got married (see? bad birthday timing.)  And just spent a week in Jamaica.  All I want to do is relax and not have another "thing to go do."

This year he arranged to have a family-dinner where we ate some of my favorite steak sandwiches (my dad makes them the best.)  We had  ice-cream cakes and candles-that-do-not-blow-out.  We sang and they encouraged me.  It was so sweet and simple.  The night before we had gone to the fair, so I was giddy about spending the night with my husband in our own little apartment.  I made sure it was all clean, tidy and pretty.   We had a few wedding gifts to open.  I wanted to look through all our honeymoon pictures.  Watch one of our favorite Monday night shows.  Have some extra ice-cream.  And some Fun-yuns.  And Sour Patch Kids.  It sounded like bliss!

And then Bridesmaids Get Sick V.2 happened.  To my husband.  It started with "Man, my stomach feels weird" and ended with something so colorful, vulgar and distasteful I don't think I could live with myself if I wrote it out in words, let alone shared on the internet.  Just, yes, bathroom time.  So much bathroom time.  Lots'o'bathroom time.  My poor husband had a bad sub for lunch and his body punished him.  In exhaustion he fell asleep on the couch.  When I was ready for bed I woke him up and he barely made it to bed with me.  He slept through all three his alarms the next morning, but insisted that he felt better.  Praise the God Lord.

Before he left for work he promised me that we'd continue with our birthday gift/TV/dessert/together plans that night when he returned from work.  I worked all day, still soaking in all the kind "Congratulations!" and notes we received in every form imaginable.  Then late in the afternoon I received some troubling news.

"Hi there, I have your husband at my house.  His head got hit with scissors on the job site.  It's bleeding but I think he's okay."  I didn't really know what that meant, but I jumped in the car to go over to the lady's house (Caleb is building an addition on her neighbor's home.)  While in the car my dad called "Did you hear that a hammer dropped two stories and hit Caleb in the head?"  Oh my word.

I found my dear man in a friends' family room, shirtless, with an ice-pack and lots of care.  His brother's tool belt had fallen off and the tool started dropping underneath him.  One of them hit Caleb square in the back of his noggin.  We still don't know if it was a hammer or pair of utility scissors, but the cut was Y-shaped and about an inch long.  I took him to CVS for some liquid-band-aid and then home for rest. You don't want to mess with head injuries.  And he had bled a good amount.  So rest he did - he fell fast asleep.

The next day he promised promised promised we would have our birthday night.  But, sadly, right after dinner, the phone rang.  A summer storm had ripped off the tarp on Caleb's current home addition project.  In the darkness and rain he had to go back out and close off the home so there would be no leaks or flooding in the client's home.  My brother went with him.  He was gone for a couple hours and came back soaking wet.  We were both really tired and fell asleep on the couch in the middle of talking.

Before we knew it it was Caleb's birthday.  I was going to have a little "mini-makeover" and pretty pictures taken to give to Caleb.  I hate having my picture taken, but while I still had some Jamaica-tan and after-wedding-energy, I thought it'd be fun to get dressed up in new clothes, do something different and surprise Caleb.

Which, it was.  Except that at the shoot, I kneeled in a patch of poison ivy.  And the poison ivy rash didn't appear until a few days later.  I have no idea how much I touched while the oil was still "active" and I'm trying to clean everything  I can think of, but this stuff will.not.stop.  What started on my knee has spread all over my legs, made it's way to my back and now my arms.  I find new spots of it everyday.  And Caleb has it on his arms now, too.  I spend my nights rolled up in a clean-sheet-cacoon trying to avoid touching anything that might have been contaminated.   I also have a super sexy cleaning-routine.  I clean the rash with dishwater and salt, then rinse with hydrogen peroxide, then apply steroid cream and calamine lotion.  Sometimes I also add mouthwash and toothpaste to the agenda.  I come out of the bathroom like a freaking chemical painted cheetah.

Determined to celebrate Caleb's birthday right, we made plans to see the new Zach Galifianakis movie (Caleb LOVES that guy.  Jim Carrey? Nah.  Will Ferrell? Eh.  Jim Gaffigan? Whatevs.  Zach?  He'd adopt him.)  We started the evening with a romantic stop at Rite-Aid to get some Benadryl.  That was my latest effort - to battle this poisonous rash from the inside.  And then to a festive and always-delicious Italian dinner.  Don't worry.  I made a great decision and took two Benadryl so that I wouldn't be itching my salty, creamy, lumpy, leprosy legs all night (the box said adults can take two!)  One sip of sangria and a few slices of brushetta later, I was barely holding it together.  I kept nodding off during the meal.   I was seconds from face-planting into Sicilian Chicken Soup.  Caleb finally had me go to the car while he found the waiter, got our food boxed up, and paid.  Besides, my skirt was sticking to the calamine lotion and that's just embarrassing.  No one wants the Rash Date.

I slept in the car.  When he came out to me I drowsily opened my eyes.  "Lets go to the movie now?" "Kristen, you'll sleep through the whole thing."  "But I want you to go!"  "Yeah, this is a funny movie. I don't want to sit there and laugh all alone."  "Good point."  He drove me home around 7:45 pm.  He sat with me on his lap on the couch while he watched re-runs of 19 Kids and Counting on his iPad.  Close to midnight he carried me to bed.  I don't really remember anything until the next morning, around the 4:00 am hour, when I was ready to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed!  Time to catch up on twitter!

This week my family is battling some strange concoction of strep and stomach bug.  Caleb has a headache "that feels like someone is driving a stake into my forehead and cracking my head into two pieces."  I did lots of googling for remedies.  Advil, ginger tea, warm lavender compress, lavender oil aromatherapy, "therapeutic head massage" (I didn't know what I was doing so I think I made it worse), and even a Jamaican-wives-tale which consisted of hanging upside down off the couch and swinging your head back and forth followed by milk mixed with lemon juice (Caleb said it was "terrible.  All of it.")

And really:  marriage has been sensational.  Not because it's been "perfect," but because it's been amusing, bizarre, typical of us, and together.  

I'd rather fall asleep on a date with him than stay awake with anyone else. (Romantic, hey?  Feel free to quote me on that.  To make a little inspirational .jpeg and pin it.  Sell it on etsy.)  I'd rather clean up his, ahem, crap than not clean up anyone else's.  I'd rather battle poisonous vines and hammers falling from the sky, resulting in a funny memory with him, than have "normal" life happen and be completely forgettable.  I'd rather be married to him for 30 days, than to anyone else for 31 days :)

Happy 1 Month, Captain!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Maple Mustard Chicken | Post 9

My Stamp Of Approval On The Big Chicken Craze

A mass recipe re-pin is very suspicious.   Just because someone took (or stole) a pretty picture, claimed that the recipe was THE BEST fudge-cake/lasagna/biscuit/crock-pot-chowder/cupcake-in-a-can they've ever had, doesn't mean it is actually tasty.  But it's hard to resist a recipe that has been re-pinned 14,567 times.  Or maybe it's not?  

Anyways, when The Man-Pleasing Chicken from Witty in The City started "going viral," I was skeptical.  But Becca made it once, and we were all hooked. It really is one of Caleb's favorite dishes, it's embarrassingly easy to make and it's a sophisticated, savory twist on classic honey-glazed or barbeque chicken.  

1.5 pounds thawed chicken thighs (or breasts, or whatever you have, really)
Salt + Peppa

1/2 cup of dijon mustard (or any mustard)
1/4 cup of maple syrup (or pancake syrup.  Whatever!)
2 tablespoons rice/wine/white vinegar

Rosemary/Green Onions/Fresh Parsley

One: Preheat oven to 450.  Put poultry-parts (eeeeew!) into a foil-lined baking specimen (eeeeew!).  Salt and peppa the thighs or breasts (eeeeeew!)

Two: Mix together the wet goods (eeeeeew!).  Pour and coat and drizzle the mixture onto the chicken.

Three: Bake for 40 minutes (or so).  Baste chicken halfway through so it looks all burned and barbequ-ed and cool.  When finished let sit for five minutes, drown in more sauce, and sprinkle some green plant on top.  Looks AND tastes so good.  


I've made it about four times now... with all different kinds of mustards, syrups and vinegars.  It has always tasted great (albeit slightly different) and has not yet made it to the refrigerator to become a leftover.