Friday, January 29, 2010

Quick Takes Friday

1.
I'm still thinking about Haiti, all the time, watching the news and reading blogs and feeling overwhelmed with sadness.  Last night I couldn't sleep, thinking about it, and thinking God I know you are there, I know that you love the Haitian people, but I just don't understand . . . got up to eat a bowl of cereal and a friend from Haiti had posted this video on facebook.  It brought me to tears.


2.
Today I read this, Does God Hate Haiti?, by Albert Mohler, linked to from Janet at Across the Page
. . . we have no right to claim that we know why a disaster like the earthquake in Haiti happened at just that place and at just that moment.
The arrogance of human presumption is a real and present danger. We can trace the effects of a drunk driver to a car accident, but we cannot trace the effects of voodoo to an earthquake -- at least not so directly. Will God judge Haiti for its spiritual darkness? Of course. Is the judgment of God something we can claim to understand in this sense -- in the present? No, we are not given that knowledge. Jesus himself warned his disciples against this kind of presumption.

Why did no earthquake shake Nazi Germany? Why did no tsunami swallow up the killing fields of Cambodia? Why did Hurricane Katrina destroy far more evangelical churches than casinos? Why do so many murderous dictators live to old age while many missionaries die young?
3.

4.
I'm reading the Little House in the Big Woods to Sami, and I am sure now that our kids are totally overly-entertained.  Laura and her sisters had to be quiet and not run or play all day on Sundays . . . mittens for Christmas . . . one rag doll named Charlotte . . . I need to stop feeling guilty every time my kids are bored.
5.
Last week was our first weekend without kids in at least two and a half years.  The girls stayed with my in-laws for two nights.  And it was glorious.  Jim and I actually got to speak in complete sentences, we watched movies and ate out.  A lot.  
6.
We finally got to eat at the cafe at Breitenbach, my new Best Local Place for Lunch!!  (worthy of double exclamation points).  
7.
I am drawing a total blank for number seven . . . Seven is the time I fell asleep last night . .. seven is the time the girls wake up . . . seven is the number of times per minute that they say MOMMY! all day long . . .  I am seven months preg-o and have seven weeks until my due date . . . after I hit publish I bet I can be asleep in seven seconds.  Good-night!

Quick Takes is hosted at Conversion Diary

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Books 2 and 3

The earthquake occurred while I was on vacation in Florida, and as sometimes a change in location offers time for reflection, a new perspective on myself and my life, the quake was a catalyst for even deeper self-evaluation.  Similarly, the book that I was reading that week was The Help, a novel set in Mississippi in the 1960s, telling the stories of black maids and their  complex relationships with the wealthy white families they worked for.  

In addition, the theme that I chose for this year is LOVE, and I had just begun to ask God to show me what love is, what does it mean to love, where do I lack love, how can the goal of my life be to love?  I had begun to pray each day that God would show me how I can accomplish the most love that day. 

These three things occurring in the same week created a revealing, and disturbing, reflection of myself and my great lack of love.

The Help is a beautifully written and hopeful story.  I would highly, highly recommend it- endearing characters and a story that unfolds lightly and with humor, and yet rich layers of plot and emotion.  

The book was probing and disturbing, as well.  As I read I couldn't help but try to identify who is my character in the story, and had to admit that I would have to be cast among the pampered and privileged, and yet still self-righteous white women in the story.  When confronted with the book that was written anonymously (by their maids) about them, they were for the most part completely unaware that the book told their own story.   They prided themselves on what "good Christians" they were, collecting donations to send to Africa and yet were cruel and merciless to the people who worked in their homes.  

I was reminded of how much courage is required to truly love people, how many social barriers must be crossed, how many people you will offend.

I wonder how I profess to serve and follow Christ, and yet overlook people, or contribute to systems that abuse or take advantage of people.  In what places do I choose to look away rather than to defend the defenseless, or take on the difficult and messy work of loving my neighbor as myself?  I wonder who are the "forgotten" people in my town, the people carrying the heaviest loads and being treated poorly or who never get a chance to build a comfortable life for themselves and their family.  And what can I do about it?

The second book I just finished is the Mommy Manual, planting roots that give your children wings, by Barbara Curtis.   I purchased it on a whim from Amazon last year based on the rave reviews, but just now got around to reading it and don't have that much to say about it.  I was hoping to learn more about a Montessori approach to parenting, which I did, but nothing earth-shattering or all that memorable, to be honest.

The Greatest Activists

Still grieving for Haiti . . .

I went to Haiti as a single woman, understanding in some cerebral way my Christian call to service; to love my neighbor as myself.  With the conviction and desire of many college grads, I understood that there was injustice and poverty and suffering in the world, and that I had a responsibility to become aware, to try to do something, however small, about it.

Then I became a mother. 

Before I became a mother, I believed in the rights of every person. 
Now, I believe in their beauty and dignity and immortality. 

Before I became a mother, I understood with my mind that every person has value. 
Now, I understand it with my heart and soul and open arms. 

Before I became a mother, I understood that the world was full of need. 
Now, I imagine that need on the faces of my own children, and am compelled, driven, to do something about it. 

Before I became a mother, I hoped to do something good before I settled down and had children. Now, I believe the greatest activists ought to be mothers.

The great revelation of motherhood was the unspeakable value of every human being. For the first time, I felt the immeasurable love of a mother for her child; something that my heart had not yet come close to comprehending. And as I adapted to this new role and these new emotions; the mother-bear roar of protectiveness, the weeping fear for my child and for the world she would grow up in; as I got used to my heart beating, now, forever outside of my body, I understood in an overwhelming way that not only my daughter, but every mother's son or daughter is this precious, bears this immortal value.

Charlotte Gray said, "Becoming a mother makes you the mother of all children. From now on each wounded, abandoned, frightened child is yours. You live in the suffering mothers of every race and creed and weep with them. You long to comfort all who are desolate".

Mothers, unlike any other person, hear our children cry with our entire body rather than just our ears. Our response is more primal than practical, we nurture and protect them with an animal-like instinct that trumps every other call. And God help the person who dares to hurt, or threaten our child. There is a maternal vein of rage and courage that will propel us to protect our children at any cost. 

And so, shouldn't it be the mothers of the world, who hearing the children cry will reach out, body and soul, to fight for every child, to comfort other mothers, to care for the motherless? 

Perhaps it was mothers who God intended, expected, would become the healers, the proclaimers, the activists among us.

Imagine, if we were to unite our mothers' heart and mothers' passion, our mothers' conviction and mothers' raw courage, what mothers could do to change the world?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Quick Takes: Haiti

1.
It has been over a week since Haiti's horrible earthquake, and I am yet unable to think about anything else.  I've tried, several times, to blog about it, but what is there to say?  I have been so thankful for social networking as blogs and facebook have allowed me to follow closely the friends I know, or wish I knew, and whose updates I trust more than the media.

One difference, they say, is that the media reports of looting and violence have been greatly exaggerated.  Most of their descriptions are of the people singing and praising God, praying, flying paper plate kites over the tent cities.  This is the Haiti I remember.  Their resilience is unbelievable.
2.
I am amazed by all that is happening on the school campus where I taught, the massive amount of work and coordination happening from this one place that seems to have endured little, if any, destruction.  I was excited to stumble upon this blog of some current teachers at QCS, giving vivid updates of all the activity happening on campus.  I loved being able to see the school in pictures, visualizing the command center that it has become.  

My friend Jodie's status update describes it:  Our campus is like a mini UN, with all different nationalities working together for a common cause. At times like this, the church becomes The Church. I feel so blessed to be a tiny part of it.
3.
When teams arrive without those skills and without their own supplies, they drain resources that could better be used for actual victims . . .
If you buy a can of peas and it costs 59 cents, it’ll cost about $80 to get it where it needs to go,”
So what is the best thing to do?  At times like this it seems, for most of us, the greatest good, though least romantic or heroic, is to pray and send money.  (May I suggest here or here or here?)
4.
Among Jennifer's Ten Best Links of 2009 List, I found this, Where Is The Body of Christ?  I would nominate it as my favorite blog post of 2009, or ever . . .
I DO NOT BELIEVE that the God of the universe created too many children in His image and not enough love or food or care to go around. In fact I believe that He created the Body of Christ for just that, to help these little ones, the least of these. And I believe that except for a handful, the Body of Christ is failing.
. . . That is 168.8 million needy children like Michael and Patricia. Seems like a big number, huh? It shouldn't, because there are 2.1 BILLION people on this earth who profess to be Christians. Jesus followers. Servants. Gospel live-ers. And id only 8 percent of those Christians would care for just ONE of these needy children, they would all be taken care of.
5.
If there is anything good coming from this tragedy already, it is in the number of  adoptions being expedited.  My friends Jake and Kristen didn't expect to bring their son Kemly home for another year, but were able to fly today to bring him home!
6.
In honor of Haiti, here's a recipe for rice and beans that is super, super easy, cheap, healthy, and delish . . . (nothing at all like Haitian rice and beans, which I have been unable to find anything quite like since I left).  
The easiest black beans and rice ever:
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup chunky salsa
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
(next time I think I'll add some cilantro and garlic, too)
sour cream
The recipe says to puree it all in a blender, but I didn't.  Just heated and served over rice, with sour cream if it's too spicy for your 4 year old.  YUM.
(Why do rice and beans make me so very, very happy?)
7.
I love our Mennonite church . . . and I loved this post by Greg Boyd:  I told Mennonites to Go To Hell (and they liked it)!

Quick Takes Friday is hosted at Conversion Diary.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Did they REALLY SAY THAT???



The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Haiti Earthquake Reactions
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

Oh, Haiti . . .

There is nothing, really, to be said.  

Only to pray, sometimes with words, often only with groaning.  I cannot bear to watch the news any longer, but I cannot look away.  I try to imagine what can possibly happen, where the healing can even begin . . . there was so much despair already.  So few basic resources like water or sanitation.  Now- I just can't imagine.

I am so so proud of my friends and former colleagues at Quisqueya Christian School in Port-au-Prince who are working tirelessly- endlessly- to relieve suffering and help with the rescue effort since the earthquake on Tuesday.  I have been glued to facebook and their brave, heartbreaking status updates.  I was tempted to post a few of the most notable, but thinking of their privacy, reconsidered.  As far as I know, all of the staff survived the quake, and the school facilities are miraculously intact, all of which are being vitally used in many many ways.

When I first learned of the earthquake I had no doubt that these brave people would begin immediately to do anything they were physically capable of . . . and yes, by the time internet connection was established they were already hosting the homeless, orphans, organizing a medical clinic . . . After the first quake hit, the people at the school learned of the Caribbean Market collapse, ran up the hill and were able to pull 38 people out of the rubble.  The school is currently being used as a temporary hospital/surgery room and trauma center among other things . . . even a command post for the US Army.

Steve, the director of the school, is one of the people who I respect most in the world.  He is a wise, compassionate person.  I learned so much from him and his wife when I lived there, and he would be the first person I would want to be in charge in a crisis.  The staff who I still know are some of the most authentic Christ-followers I have met.  I know that the school is in kind, prayerful hands, and have no doubt that significant work has and will continue to be done there as this crisis continues.  

The school has set-up a paypal account for the relief effort, and if you have at all considered donating money, this is the first organization I would recommend.  They are a small organization doing some of the earliest relief work in the country, without any kind of budget or preparations for a crisis such as this. 

qcsrelief@quisqueya.org is the paypal account, or visit their website to learn more.

I will also be posting links to some of the people I love, and ongoing relief efforts in Haiti on my sidebar.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Quick Takes Friday

1.
 (In reference to my previous post), I often forget that there are Christians who would be alarmed at the thought of their kids listening to secular music.  I would submit to them this: 
If it’s bad art, it’s bad religion, no matter how pious the subject.  
-Madeleine L'Engle

2.
I don't believe we've left the house all week!  It is rare for me to say this, but it's been quite nice.  We were all ready for some cozy quiet after the busy weeks of Christmas and New Years.  There has been a steady snowfall all week, and yesterday and today we are getting hit with a snowstorm- LOVE it!  
3.
These are the days that I am so thankful to get to stay at home with my kids.  We've done a little crafting, some cleaning and organizing, read a lot of books . . . fixed cozy wintertime suppers and baked bread.  I am definitely a summertime girl, but I really appreciate the rhythm of the seasons, the slow silence of this time of year, as well. 
4.
I am also thankful to take a break from winter and enjoy some Florida sunshine!  The girls and I are flying tomorrow, and will spend a week with my parents and Grandma.  Can't wait!!
5.
I am getting so much blogging done this week- as well as journaling, Bible reading, and general delicious peaceful alone time- because I have been getting up EARLY.  Like, between 4 and 5 o'clock early.  I didn't intend to begin this routine, but we're dealing with some sleep issues this week, and 4 a.m. seems to be the time that both girls wake up needing something, which has been prompting me to get up and start my day.  I love early mornings, but have been so exhausted with pregnancy, and usually sleeping with one or the other child, that for the past few months I haven't been waking up until one of them wakes up.  Our mornings were beginning harsh and jarring, I wasn't getting ANY time to myself, Annie is in a particularly demanding phase, and I was becoming increasingly grumpy.  This week, although I have been a little more tired by the end of the day, I am finding myself far more pleasant and able to enjoy my kids because I've gotten to begin the day with some time to myself.  Being tired is totally worth a few precious hours of quiet.
6.
This is the time when pregnancy begins to take a serious hit to your self-esteem.  Even my maternity clothes are starting not to fit, I feel like I'm heaving this giant belly around, wondering how I can possibly keep stretching for another two and a half months!?  Rather than daydreaming about tiny baby toes and shopping for sleepers, I am finding myself daydreaming about finding my ankles again, and wistfully flipping through spring clothing catalogues.  I remember somebody saying one time that there is nothing more beautiful than a pregnant woman.  That person was clearly delusional. 
7.
I suppose if I'm going to be this fat I may as well enjoy it.  This is one of my favorite bar cookie recipes, because it is so simple to make and everything in it is healthy (well, besides the butter).  It was given to me by my friend Jodie in Haiti:
DOUBLE CRUNCH BARS (similar to Nature Valley granola bars)
4 c. Quick Oats
1 1/2 c. chopped nuts (walnuts are a healing food)
1 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. butter, melted
1/2 c. honey or corn syrup (I use honey, another healing food)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt

Combine all ingredients, mix well.  Press firmly into a well-greased 15 1/2 by 10 1/2" jelly roll pan.  Bake @ 450 for 10-12 min., or until golden and bubbly.  Enjoy!

(time is 7:49 and girls are still asleep!  Glory!)

Quick Takes Friday is hosted at Conversion Diary.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Giving Gifts

It has already been determined, by this week in the new year, what of the Christmas loot will make a lasting impression. This year the gift we are still unwrapping, still holding a sense of excitement and offering the most delight, and (the mother will include in this criteria), the least annoyance to the rest of the family, are a set of new music cd's.

But these aren't just any cd's. Rather, we have been told, they are legends; the Holy Grail of albums, the foundation of music as we know it; selected by my musician-brothers and presented reverently to my children, along with a brief treatise to a two and four-year old on the enduring significance of this music upon their lives, and a lecture to the parents on our inherent responsibility to provide our children with a proper foundation of good music.

This year, it's the Beatles and the Beach Boys. And my girls love them. They'll sing and dance to anything, but these songs filter through our home like warmth on these cold, snowy days. Perhaps even more than the kids, the parents appreciate this music. It is the music we were raised with, as well, carrying with it that familiar energy and nostalgia. And I cannot help but adore this gift of music even more for what it is not- it's not music for children. Finally, my kids want to listen to something that doesn't stress me out or make me want to bury my head under a pillow.

I am amazed at how much really bad music is marketed, and deemed acceptable, for children. Shouting kids, a hyper rhythm, and a few lines repeated over and over seems to be all that is required to make music for kids.  I suppose if there are no other options, they will like it. Kids love music, any music will make them dance and sing. But why do we offer them music that we ourselves cannot stand to listen to?

I have to take the same issue with the books we read to kids. Books with flat characters, a shallow plot, and garish illustrations are to kids what cheap novels or low-budget t.v. is to adults. And yet we offer it to them without asking the same questions we would ask when choosing a book for ourselves- Is it true? Is it lovely? Is it good? "Good" in the sense of containing mystery and inspiring wonder, not "good" because it is labeled "Christian" or contains a lot of moral lessons. For children, books and music are for joy, not behavior lessons. They will quickly see the lecture hidden in the story, and lose interest in all books.  
Madeleine L'Engle answered the question, "Why do you write for children?" with, "I don't. ... If it's not good enough for adults, it's not good enough for children. If a book that is going to be marketed for children does not interest me, a grownup, then I am dishonoring the children for whom the book is intended, and I am dishonoring books. And words. Sometimes I answer that if I have something I want to say that is too difficult for adults to swallow, then I will write it in a book for children. This is usually good for a slightly startled laugh, but it's perfectly true. Children still haven't closed themselves off with fear of the unknown, fear of revolution, or the scramble for security. They are still familiar with the inborn vocabulary of myth. It was adults who thought that children would be afraid of the Dark Thing in Wrinkle, not children, who understand the need to see thingness, non-ness, and to fight it."
I love this Christmas present given to my kids by their uncles because we all enjoy the music, but most of all I appreciate the value of passing on a passion from one generation to the next. My brothers have spent years listening to music, learning about music, and playing music. It is the subject they care about most, and so it is with great affection that they begin to educate their young nieces and nephew in good music.  Perhaps this is what gift-giving is meant to be: passing on what we love best.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A New Year, and Book #1

I haven't come up with a lot of resolutions for the New Year.  One big one is to have a baby, and past experience tells me to lower my expectations for what I think I can pull off in the coming year, hopeful as I may be.  It seems I often enter into January with this renewed confidence that I'll be able to accomplish everything that I'd been unable to do the previous year, only to discover that the new year apparently has the same number of hours in it's days as the last.

I really like Lisa's approach to setting New Year's goals at Simple Mom; winter is for reflection, springtime is for action.  This resonates with me because I tend to set my goals for the year when slowing down feels like a necessary and welcome change.  By spring, I'm happy to be busy and productive,but my New Years Resolutions by this time are usually long forgotten.  

For now, my only New Year's goals are to take care of my family, cook and eat healthy, and to read more books. 

As far as cooking and eating healthy, I should clarify that at this stage of my pregnancy I eat often, and a lot.  But I am attempting to at least eat foods that my body needs, especially because I am anemic and for the most part yet unable to digest a lot of vitamins or supplements.  This year my aunt turned me on to the book SuperFoods Rx, and I tried this year to implement more of these foods into our diet.  This article is a good summary of some of the ways that food is our medicine.  

I have often wished that I kept a better record of books I read, and I like how my friend Ruth reviews and lists the books she reads on her blog.  Though I highly doubt that I will ever read the number of books that she reads in a year (she is an inspiring reader), and I am quite certain that I won't attempt to read War and Peace, like she did this year, I am going to at least keep track of my reading here on my blog.

The first book I read of 2010 is The Lost Symbol, by Dan Brown.  This book's most redeeming quality is that it kept me turning pages and in suspense for the past three nights.  And that was all I wanted in a book this week.  Though I agree with the criticisms of the book, this week I was happy to have a fast-moving, easy-reading mystery that kept me guessing, and just like the Da Vinci Code, took me completely by surprise.  The entire book spans one night, and though I understand his historical detail is questionable, it was interesting to learn about the masons, some new angles on American history, and the idea of hidden portals and secret codes and ancient mysteries is intriguing, if not entirely plausible.   

(*spoiler alert*) 

I did feel that the end was inevitably anti-climactic.  Aside from a few ominous and rather cheap references to the year 2012, it seemed difficult for him to deliver on the build-up of underground pyramids and classified science and cataclysmic secrets.  But I will heartily agree with his conclusion to seek wisdom by reading ancient sacred texts, the Bible.