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Tattered Thoughts

Updated: 2018-03-06T00:31:24.945-08:00


A dose of perspective


I've been trying to face my food responsibility issues with a little more proactive energy. I'm hoping to find ways to cook most of our meals on the weekend to freeze ahead for the week. I don't expect to do the marathon "Once a month" cooking frenzies that are described in many places on the net, but if I could get even 3 or 4 meals cooked ahead, that would ease some of the daily burden of cooking.

So this afternoon I'm sitting here planning my cooking, feeling a bit overwhelmed at just figuring out what we need. Then I go check my email, and read a message from my pastor that one of the leaders of our church died this afternoon. I don't understand quite what happened - something about a blood clot or intestinal blockage or something - he was only in his 30's and was a beloved member of our church family.

Please pray for his wife Amy and his parents and family, and for our church. There is much sadness and grief.

All of a sudden, having to plan our meals doesn't seem like such a big deal.

Today's thought - Self Care is Hard


Wow, I was feeling overwhelmed and slightly flippant when I wrote that last post, and never went back to write my imagined follow-on post.

Right now I am trying to understand how to balance my need, desire, and obligation to care for others in my life with my need to care for myself. Too often in the last few years I have cared for others and not for myself. I can be fairly strong and disciplined in my care for others, but allow myself to be weak and undisciplined when it comes to my own well being. The end result of this path is not good for anyone.

So yes, there are a lot of varying food requirements in my family right now, which can be a little overwhelming at times. But I'm realizing that really the central issues for me are the interior issues of choice, control and communication. Can I choose to care for myself enough to plan ahead for issues like food planning, preparation and the like, rather than squandering my time and forcing myself into a crisis reaction mode? At the same time, can I let go of my desire for everything to work out perfectly (and to realistically know where compromise is acceptable)? Will I have the guts to communicate clearly with the others in my life about what I can and can't do, and what I believe they need to care for themselves? And maybe most importantly, will I face myself with honesty, letting go of my "all or nothing" thinking that I can either care for others or myself, and really face the reality of what I am responsible for, without whining or manipulating.

So that's what I'm thinking about today, along with my typical pre-Christmas busyness. Today I am living with compromise, trying not to be perfectionistic as I finish making some Christmas gifts and try to clean my house to have some friends over tonight.

Our Family's Current Food Requirements


1 husband – no gluten, no dairy, no potatoes, no tomatoes, no broccoli/cauliflower or related veggies, no onions, garlic, or related foods (even the smell of these being chopped or cooked will cause stomach upset), no peppers or related foods, limited sugar and starches. High protein - but only chicken, turkey, some buffalo (lower fat red meat), limited tuna (gotta watch out for that mercury), a few mild white fishes, and eggs. Some fruits OK. No pork. Rice and buckwheat cereal are good, rice pasta not currently tolerated. Has “bumpers” between his teeth for new braces which do not allow his teeth to meet and can not chew his food, which means that all foods have to be mostly ground, flaked, or pureed (no salads for now, mostly pureed soups). Needs to gain weight. Everything should be organic. Special nutritional supplements taken 5 or 6 times daily (per nutritionist). Hates to shop or cook. Helps with meal preparation and dishes.1 wife – no gluten (or very little), no dairy (or very little), no tomatoes, low (only healthy) fats, limited sugar and starches. High protein with poultry, some buffalo, most any fish (only watch out for mercury levels), and some eggs. Some fruits OK. Loves onion and garlic (see restrictions above). No pork. Rice & rice pasta are good, and salads are good (only no commercial dressing, should be made from healthy oils and lemon juice). Needs to loose weight. Everything should be organic, and specially washed before being prepared. Special nutritional supplements taken 6 times daily (per nutritionist). Fine with shopping and cooking (most of the time), only occasionally does dishes.1 82-year-old father-in-law – would prefer mostly beef (NO buffalo, please, and new dentures not working out so well so only ground beef for now), ham, loves shrimp, tolerates chicken (learning to like it more – but none of these new-fangled chicken or turkey sausages, please), salmon is better than white fish, loves mashed potatoes, gravy, yams, tomatoes, peas and corn. Some rice OK (but far prefers potatoes, pasta & bread). Salads are good (chicken good in these). Loves to shop and loves sweets - especially pies, donuts, pastries and anything that is a really good deal at Safeway or Costco. Eyesight not so good for reading labels to avoid partially-hydrogenated fats and high-fructose corn syrup. Basically, no problems with weight. Loves to shop for groceries, but doesn't retain good understanding of family's food needs (and doesn't like the health food store) and frequently brings home foods that can't or shouldn't be eaten by most members of the household. Does almost all the dishes.1 13-year-old daughter – would prefer very few vegetables (mostly broccoli, green beans, carrots, peas, corn, artichokes, and lettuce tolerated), no “evil” foods (as defined mostly by father – onions, garlic, bell peppers, mushrooms, raw tomatoes), potatoes and yams good. Beef (no buffalo, please), chicken, turkey, ham, white fish OK, salads are good in moderation, likes bread, pasta, rice (is OK) and some fruits, can eat dairy, loves sweets (especially almost anything grandpa brings home). No problems with weight. Needs to learn about shopping, cooking, and doing dishes.1 9-year-old daughter – would prefer very few vegetables (see list for older sister), no “evil” foods (as defined mostly by father – onions, garlic, bell peppers, mushrooms, raw tomatoes), potatoes and yams good. Beef (no buffalo, please), chicken, turkey, ham, salmon OK, salads are good in moderation, does like pasta, does not like bread, loves rice, does not tolerate dairy well, likes some fruits (though not the same ones as older sister), loves pickles, beets, and sweets (especially almost anything grandpa brings home). Prefers to have separate foods and does not like anything “mixed up” (learning to tolerate soups on good days). No problems with weight. Needs to learn about shopping, cooking, and doing dishes.Upcoming post - typical afternoon of food related activ[...]

63rd Marathon tomorrow!


He's almost done it!!!!!

One more day!

63 days straight of running 26.2 miles. All to raise money for research for a cure for Ataxia-Telangiectasia, a rare degenerative genetic disease that affects children. Since September 3rd, Tim and his family have traveled all across the country in a motorhome, each stop and marathon-distance run planned by a family of a child with A-T.

I do not know how he did it, how they all did it. Tim's wife Michelle is a friend of our family, and I'm hoping and praying that Michelle and the kids have held up OK as well. From the itinerary it looks in the last week especially, they had to travel about 6 or 7 hours each day (with two kids age 1 and 3, in a motorhome), between daily stops on their trip. They must be so exhausted.

But the most amazing thing is how Tim has pressed through this physical challenge, all to try to help the kids who struggle everyday to overcome obstacles equally as challenging as running as a marathon. If you have a little time, check out the youtube videos of some of his daily runs and the families of A-T kids involved, at the AT Cure Tour website.

Is it really November?


I think I lost October. I know I saw it around here somewhere, but it slipped by me so fast that I'm feeling a little disoriented.

So I keep clicking on the time in the top bar on my computer, reading again the date that is revealed and trying to convince myself that it really is November. That whirlwind of costume sewing and classroom parties and candy (so much candy) that happened earlier this week did actually culminate in Halloween, the last day of October. And now - November. November is starting a little slow - even the Great Pumpkin came to our house a day late this year, lazy guy that he is.

Does the Great Pumpkin visit your house? He only started visiting our house a couple of years ago, after I learned from a friend that a simple request to the Great Pumpkin hotline could result in yearly visits from this fine rotund friend. He is quite an accommodating holiday hero, tailoring his services to each individual household's needs.

At our house, the Great Pumpkin only visits after my children have sorted through their Halloween trick-or-treating haul and saved out only as much will fit into a quart-sized ziploc bag. Then they leave the rest of their empty-calorie-laden bounty on the table when they go to bed, and during the night the Great Pumpkin takes the sweets and leaves a gift. Reasonable gifts - a single DVD or a modest iTunes gift card.

My girls have made the transition to this holiday tradition quite easily, and the significantly smaller collections of sugar bombs hanging around our house has made me a much happier mom. This year my 13-year-old did finally have a problem with the whole transaction. A direct quote of her reaction to my handing her the quart sized bag: "But I worked hard to get this huge haul of candy!" After some not so memorable snippy comments back and forth, though, she agreed to trust the Great Pumpkin, and was happy with her new iTunes buying power.

OK - actually, the Great Pumpkin wasn't even organized enough to get an iTunes card - rather he left her a twenty-dollar bill with the note that it could be used to buy a DVD of her choice or used for iTunes downloads (her younger sister got a DVD). Next year he'll probably know to plan ahead and get a gift card, if he's not to sidetracked by other Halloween issues.

Well, now it's November and I need to convince my husband that the trash can is the best place for this huge bag of candy that he hid somewhere around the house the other night. I hate to be wasteful, but so far I can't think of any better options. Any ideas?



I've been playing with my blog - decided it was time for some new wallpaper around here. Please let me know if it's impossible to read or has horrible formatting on your computer.

I found the beautiful background graphic at Squidfingers, via this famous blog.

Bento-inspired lunches


I thought I'd post a couple of pictures of the lunches that I have made my youngest daughter in the last week. She thinks that I am very funny to be taking pictures of her lunches in the morning!

This picture shows a rolled turkey and tofutti-cream cheese sandwich in one tier of a two-tier bento box. The second tier has a selection of veggies and a few bread-and-butter pickles (one of my daughter's favorite treats). I'm not sure how nicely the veggies stayed in their places by the time this lunch was actually eaten, considering how backpacks and lunch boxes get thrown around at school, but I didn't hear any complaints!

mini pita burgers
Originally uploaded by ChrisA
This lunch has mini burgers made of meatball-sized chunks of meatloaf mix, slightly flattened and baked, which fit perfectly into the mini pita breads that I found at Whole Foods. The pitas were a little dried out, but the girls dipped them into ketchup (in the little container), and didn't care. Chunks of nectarines (dipped in diluted lemon juice & honey to keep their color), snap peas, baby carrots and bread&butter pickles finished off this lunch.

Mom's Overture


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Anita Renfroe has taken "what a mom would say in a 24 hour period, and condensed it to 2 minutes and 55 seconds".

This is SO funny!

hat tip to my friend Annette via email

update 10/2/07: I see I'm not the only one taken with this video. Since posting this, I've seen this posted on another person's blog, and now on the front page of Yahoo. I think Anita Renfroe's public visibility just went up a major notch! I read that she's speaking at the Women of Faith conference this week in San Jose - it would have been fun to see her, but I'll be out of town and I'm not sure if I would have attended the whole conference just to see her (and I hadn't planned on going otherwise), but I may be checking out her books and/or dvd's soon!

Wanna win a Wii?


Can you say that 10 times, fast? I can't.

The other title I thought of for this post was "If it's Tuesday, it must be... Wichita Falls, TX?"

That's where Tim Borland ran today - Wichita Falls, TX - for his 23rd consecutive Marathon. As I mentioned in my post a couple of days ago, my friend Michelle's husband is undertaking to run 63 marathons in 63 days to raise money and awareness for A-T, a rare childhood disease. Tomorrow Tim will be running in Guthrie, OK. I've been watching the daily video updates of Tim's progress on the ATCureTour blog, and the glimpses into what an impact this effort of Tim's is making on the lives of children and families afflicted with A-T is very inspiring.

They just announced on the ATCureTour blog that they are running a contest to give away a Wii, and all you have to do to enter the contest is post the following section of text about the project, along with the appropriate links. Here's my entry in the contest - and if you have a blog or website and want to enter the contest as well, just follow the Win a Nintendo Wii link to the blog entry describing the contest and follow the directions for how to post the text on your blog. Please help spread the word about Tim's efforts!!

Ultra-runner Tim Borland is running 63 marathons in 63 days in order to raise funds and awareness for the A-T Children’s Project in their quest for a cure or life-improving therapies for ataxia-telangiectasia (A-T). A-T is a rare, neurodegenerative disease that affects children, giving them the combined symptoms of cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, and cancer. Children with A-T — born seemingly healthy — are usually dependent upon wheelchairs by the age of 10 and often do not survive their teens.

To run with Tim, join a tailgate party, or make a donation, please visit the A-T CureTour website. There, you can also view the daily video blog produced by filmmakers who are making an independent documentary on the A-T CureTour or enter a contest to Win a Nintendo Wii.
If you are at all interested, check the itinerary for Tim's tour at the ATCureTour website, and if he's coming to run near you you could stop by for a tailgate party and show him some support for his efforts! If you do, say hi to Michelle from "Chris and the girls from back at home"!

Bento Box Lunches


Warning: long blog post ahead...One of my desires is to live, shop and eat more responsibly and ethically. I am attracted to the concept of buying foods as locally as possible, and eating organic fruits and vegetables in their appropriate seasons. I also would love to decrease our use of disposable, unhealthy food packaging materials. This is not an easy shift to make, and I am making slow changes towards these goals.The lunches that I was packing for my daughters (and my husband and I when we are working), have really bugged me in how much they missed the mark. We were not eating to the nutritional standards that I would hope for, and we were using an excessive amount of disposable packaging.Then this summer I stumbled onto blogs and pictures of bento box lunches, and I am hooked. As best I understand it, bento lunch culture has developed in Japan into a basic standard for packing healthy lunches in attractive, appealing ways. The resources I have found encourage adapting these standards to our own, usually American-style, cuisine. I now find lunch making fun and creative, which makes the work involved much more satisfying.So what am I doing different? I have purchased a few different types of plastic lunch containers (bento boxes), which I now use to pack our lunches. A Japanese $1.50 store called “Daiso” opened near me this summer, so I was able to purchase a few lunch boxes there very inexpensively (like these).I also love my new lock & lock boxes from Target. They aren’t quite as cute as the other bento boxes but are very versatile (and the Target price was much better than what’s listed at the website I linked to).I have not adapted to the bento practice of cooking hot food, letting it cool to room temperature in a bento box, then packing it up and eating it at room temperature three or four hours later. Evidently there is a whole body of knowledge developed in Japan around how to do this safely, but I am not comfortable with the practice – I still pack either cold foods in our bento boxes, or hot foods into little thermoses (we use these Nissan thermoses, they are truly dishwasher safe and very durable).My favorite bento blog is Lunch in a Box. The author has put together a wonderful resource of ideas, techniques and supplies for bento lunches. Her blog is my main inspiration. I’ll try to put together a list of links of other blogs and resources that are inspiring me another day.Most days, I am packing lunches for my daughters with usually either a rolled tortilla-type flatbread sandwich and a selection of fruits and vegetables, or I am putting some hot leftovers in a thermos and packing a small box of fruits and vegetables. When my husband needs a lunch, I am packing a lock & lock box with half chicken salad and half lettuce that he can mix together when he eats. I also sometimes make potato or pasta salads for protein and carbs. I send these lunches to school in lunch boxes with ice packs.My daughters think that my obsession with the cuteness of the bento lunches and accessories is a little crazy – they do not share my love of “cute”, and will not consciously eat any differently just because mom put it into a cute box! What I have found, though, is that the natural influence of well-presented food is changing the way they are eating.A typical lunch that I made last year would have included a small thermos of leftover spaghetti, and plastic sandwich bags with some baby carrots and some fruit, and maybe a couple of cookies. They usually would eat the spaghetti and cookies, most of the fruit and maybe one or two carrots. I was continually stressed at the amount of food that we wasted, as well as how many plastic sandwich bags we used up and threw out.Now I will pack almost the same foods, but - inspired by the pictures of bento [...]

Knock, knock! Hello? Anybody out there?


Hi again. It's been a long time.I'm still not sure what I'm doing here, but I've missed at least giving writing here a try while trying to figure that out. So here's a quick update...I'm in a much better place than the last time I wrote here. Though I still don't understand exactly what was going on with my body last spring, I am much healthier now and working on improving that even more. Both my husband and my parents had some very difficult health problems in the last year as well, and they are all doing much better now too. This feels like a very hopeful time.I love fall and the sense of new beginnings it brings. I think I will always feel like fall is more a time of new beginnings than January - involvement in school systems of some sort has definitely had it's imprint in my life. My girls have been back in school for about 3 1/2 weeks, so we are beginning to settle into a regular routine. I've begun to pick up some substitute jobs, as well, and I am loving this work. This will be my second year of substitute teaching, and it is already so much easier and more enjoyable than when I began last year.I have a fun new passion - learning to make bento box lunches for my family! I had never really heard about bento lunches (besides a few references to classic bento lunches in some children's literature) until recently, when I stumbled on blogs about them. There is a whole community of people who have adapted the bento box culture from Japan to a way to provide healthy lunches of all different types of food. I'll have to write more about what I have learned, and put up some links to some of the wonderful resources I have found. Our bento lunches are far healthier than what I used to pack, and much less wasteful of resources (I'm barely using any disposable products in our packed lunches now). With my husband's health issues and living in an extended family home, providing food has been such a time consuming part of my life for the last couple of years - it's fun to take something that has become a chore and turn it into something new and creative for myself.I have one more thing that I want to mention here now. This is really what woke me up from my blog-fast - if anyone even reads this blog again, I want to tell you about my friend and her husband and what they are doing!!My friend Michelle is on a trip across the country with her husband Tim Borland, trying to raise awareness and money for research for a rare childhood disease called A-T, or Ataxia-Telangiectasia. Tim is running a marathon a day for 63 consecutive days. It is unbelievable what he is attempting to do! He started on September 3rd at the Disneyland 1/2 marathon (which he ran twice), and today he finished his 17th marathon in Portales, New Mexico. Tomorrow he will be running in Austin, Texas.Michelle has been my daughters' horseback riding instructor for the last couple of years, and we just adore her and her kids. Please consider keeping Tim and Michelle and their kids (who are only 1 and 3 years old) in your prayers as they attempt this project. Tim is being followed by a couple of documentary film makers, and they are maintaining a video blogs with clips from each day's run and event here. The entry from the beginning of the blog does a good job of explaining the whole undertaking. The clip from day 15 shows my friend Michelle and her children.The itinerary for the tour can be found here at A-T Cure Tour website. Please keep Tim and Michelle in your prayers, and tell your friends about this! It would be so wonderful if Tim could get a lot of support for all his efforts. Consider going out to cheer him in from his run, if you live near one of stops on his itinerary![...]

Taking a break


I have tried over and over to start writing here, and just keep erasing what I write. I’ve always tried to avoid writing “why I haven’t written” blog posts, but I’m not sure what else I can say right now.The last couple of months have been pretty hard. Evidently, I finally reached the place where the accumulated stress of the last few years has started to affect my body and I’ve had what I believe are a flair-up of the residual effects of having had Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) eight years ago.GBS is fairly rare auto-immune disorder where the body’s immune system attacks the peripheral nerves, resulting in varying degrees of weakness and/or paralysis. I had a fairly mild version (no complete paralysis or problems breathing) originally, and healed rapidly after treatment to stop the progression of the nerve damage. My neurologist told me then (and still believes) that basically once you reach whatever degree of healing you will after the initial event, you are healed, and there is only a extremely rare chance that you will be affected by GBS in any way again in the future. I loved that prognosis.But as is the case with most auto-immune issues, I’m finding that I now don’t believe it’s all that simple. I “hit the wall” from stress a few months ago, and began to have lots of fatigue and eventually a return of some of the neuropathy (nerve tingling and some pain and weakness) symptoms that I experienced with GBS. My neurologist believes it doesn’t have anything to do with the GBS and looked for other explanations for the neuropathy I was experiencing, but couldn’t find any. Thankfully, the worst of these symptoms have gone away again, though not all of them.So I’ve been resting a lot, still dealing with more fatigue than I’ve ever had before, and researching a lot of stuff online. Many in the community of people that I have reconnected with at the GBS Foundation forum believe that there is probably a post-GBS syndrome, very similar to post-polio syndrome. I have met many people online who, like me, thought that they were completely healed from GBS for many years, only to struggle with fatigue and neuropathy issues years later. In this possible post-GBS syndrome theory, it seems that the nerve healing that happened after the GBS doesn’t necessarily last your whole life, and can break down with age and/or stress.What I haven’t felt able to do was write. In many ways, writing is what I want to do most right now, but I feel very blocked. It’s time for a radical re-ordering of priorities in how I spend my time and I’m not sure how to go about that. Thankfully, it’s summer and the school-year pressures of kids in school and working part-time as a sub are gone for now. We’re about to take off on a 2 ½ week road trip for a family reunion and to see my 104-year-old grandmother. I hope to write during this time, but I probably won’t be blogging much still.So I'm officially acknowledging what's been obvious here for weeks - I'm taking some kind of break from blogging. Have a great summer, and I'll see you when I see you. And if you are experiencing stress in your life, I encourage you - as I am saying this same thing to myself - to look at how you are ordering your life and what you can do to counteract the stress. Too much stress is not good for our bodies.[...]

Moving Slowly out of the Tomb


The woman who leads my Ignatian Retreat group warned us ahead of time that we may not feel very joyful on Easter. And I’ll admit it was not a very joyous time for me, though it was very meaningful. I had expected to feel more joy on Easter (despite the warning), after having walked so closely with the Story these last few weeks.

My Ignatian group met on Sunday evening, and I sat and prayed with the scripture from John about how Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and found the stone rolled away, then after running to tell some disciples, came back and stood outside the tomb weeping. Those linen clothes lying in a heap in the tomb were what spoke to me the most. Before Mary looked in the tomb and saw the angels sitting there – what must have gone through Mary and the disciples’s minds when they first saw those strips of fabric lying there?

As I imagine it, those disciples and followers of Jesus did not move from their grief to happy dancing in one stroke of the clock. I find it interesting that even though we as a church have rituals that somewhat follow the timeline of events leading up to the crucifixion, we do expect to jump straight to joy and celebration on Easter morning.

Now, I’m not really complaining, because with the wisdom of time and hindsight and the scriptures telling us the story of what the disciples learned from Jesus through the resurrection and after, we do know now what the empty tomb signifies. Or at least, we hope we have grasped it. So we can celebrate on Easter day in a way the disciples weren’t prepared to. But for me this year, I’m still moving a little slowly out of the grief of the tomb and into the joy of the new day, as I try to follow along with the Story.

Imagine that!


Lent is over, Easter has come and gone – but I’m still moving slowly out of the tomb.

I’ve been learning to “pray with my imagination” through this last seven months of participation in an Ignation Retreat. What a different experience this has been for me! As we have followed the church calendar into lent and Holy Week, I have imagined myself there at the scene – walking with Peter and John to find the man with the water jar, sitting with Jesus’ disciples while he washes everyone’s feet, praying and sleeping in the garden, and watching as the horrendous scenes of beating and torture unfold, walking through all those stations of the cross along the leading right up the to crucifixion, and now beyond that.

I have learned a lot about myself through this time, especially when I realize I can relate to what I imagine different people in this story might have been feeling. I think of Peter, walking into town to follow Jesus’ instructions to prepare for the Passover. We know now the story of what an emotional time awaits Peter in the next few days, and I imagine that maybe he is already conflicted by the intensity and complexity of his emotions – did he miss his boats, his fishing, his old familiar life? That’s what I imagined – his dreaming of the peace of his old life, maybe a little worn out by the stress of this new life he had chosen. And I realize that I too often tire of the new challenges that life brings me, and it is tempting to look back at my “old life” as something that was better or at least easier. And I know that I might not live up to my highest ideals in the future, even as Peter goes on to deny being a disciple of Jesus. I am not alone in my struggles.

I identified with Pilate. Can I claim that I have never turned a blind eye to injustice, never “washed my hands” of responsibility for situations where I know that there is unjust suffering, because it just seems to hard to figure out what could be done? Because there is too much public pressure to ignore the injustice? It grieves me to realize that I have that much in common with Pilate. I am still pondering that one, holding this knowledge before the Lord.

And I want to explain what I mean by “still moving slowly out the tomb” – but I promised my daughter I would help her clean her bedroom this morning, and I need to stop now. Through lent I have been trying to learn to keep my “online” time in perspective in my life- and this is part of that. Trying to find a way to read blogs and write my own posts, without letting it take over. So I’ll stop for now.

It's wonderful to be back! I missed reading all your blogs more than I ever expected.

Lent, fasting, and how I spend my time


I am not good at making commitments to discipline. There is a good reason that the only New Year's resolution I made was to give up all chips for the month of January - it was doable. Not necessarily easy for me (I love chips, they are my comfort food), but I deliberately decided on a resolution that would be only mildly challenging, and I did it.I have never fasted for Lent, partly because I wasn't sure I could follow through with the commitment to self-discipline required by most typical choices of fasting, and partly because of motive - I didn't really feel called but rather I mostly felt tempted to follow the choices that others whom I respect made to fast, in the hopes that I would somehow become more spiritual if I did it too. Sometimes I was tempted to fast from chocolate or alcohol (or chips) because if I gave them up I might loose weight. But these motives never made me feel like I would really be honoring Jesus, so I reasoned - what was the point?This year things are different for me. I don't feel any more "spiritual" than before (what would that look like, anyway?), but I am much more serious than I have been for years about trying to spend time praying and journaling daily, and in trying to understand and follow what I think God wants for me. I also am seeking to understand more deeply the experience of Jesus during the time leading up to the Crucifixion, and it seems appropriate to me this year to be more conscious of my experience of Lent.So when I read about Lisa and Will Samson's decision to give up blogging for Lent (and in searching for those links I stumbled on the fact that another favorite blogger of mine, Katy McKenna, is also blog-fasting for Lent), something really struck a chord in me. I thought at first that this was just another case of "oh - aren't they spiritual? I'd like to be like that, to do that too!"; but after thinking and praying for a few days about this, I have decided that I feel called to this same action. Blogging has been a wonderful blessing to me over the last few years (even though I am only a sporadic blog writer), but I also struggle with an ongoing tendency to use my blog reading as a "numbing agent" - it's all too easy for me to spend hours at a time reading blogs, when I know I should be doing other things.At this point, I think that it is a good choice for me to face myself during those times when I want to "numb out", and see if I can chose to use my time differently. I am going to attempt to spend some time daily in creative expression (something I have felt a call to), as well as make a stronger commitment to my attempts at daily prayer and journaling.We have been on a family vacation for the past few days, away from the Internet. My decision to fast from blogging was about 90% made during that time (I know - Lent started on Wednesday, I'm coming to my decision a little late!). Today, as I fired up my computer for the first time after a few days, I started to look through my feed reader at all the blog posts I have missed over the last few days, and the familiar draw to escape by reading starting tugging at me and I didn't like that feeling. I think now is a window of opportunity for me to learn something that I need to walk through.I'm still not sure I've got the best motivation, but that's OK too. I'm just going to try. So I'm going to turn off my feed reader and not start it up until after Easter. I will be checking email, but I'm also committing to not spending more than 1/2 hour at a time on the Internet, except for writing emails when that is called for. I can check some news headlines, but no hours-long forays into web searching or reading of articles. Instead, I plan[...]

Teenager in the house


I am now the parent of a teenager. My oldest daughter (of two) turned thirteen today. That is so hard to comprehend in some ways, and at the same time not at all surprising as teenagerhood has been obviously approaching for many months.

I am so proud of my daughter. She is intelligent, an independent thinker, and very caring and giving. For the last few months she has worked hard most days to get her homework done as soon as possible after school so that she can go to the house of neighbor who is a newly divorced young mother with four young children to play with the children and help out this mother. She works as an aide in her school office and has earned the nickname "the best aide", because she really works hard to help out the staff rather than treating the time as a chance to socialize or goof-off. These kind of things are not the only things I value about her, obviously - but they are sweet to see. I really look forward to watching her grow through the next few years.

And now I am exhausted from subbing in a kindergarten classroom all day, followed by a mad couple of hours of cleaning and cooking, and the out-of-the-ordinary experience of an extended family birthday dinner on a school night. It was a good day.

Like being in a family


Last night I was listening to the Speaking of Faith program from December 28, 2006 called "Approaching Prayer", and I loved this quote from theologian Roberta Bondi:
We often have a kind of notion as part of this highfalutin, noble picture of ourselves as prayers that when we pray we need to be completely attentive and we need to be fully engaged and we need to be concentrating and we need to be focused. But the fact is, if prayer is our end of a relationship with God, that's not the way we are with the people we love a large portion of the time. We simply are in their presence. We're going about our lives at the same time in each other's presence aware and sustained by each other, but not much more than that.

Well, let me tell you a story about when I first started teaching in the seminary where I teach now. And I would just find when I came home at the end of the day I would be so exhausted that I could hardly contain myself. And I would be met at the car, usually, pulling into the driveway by my two children and my husband, who would all come out to tell me all the things that had gone wrong in the day, like the washing machine had overflowed and the rug in the dining room was soaking wet. And I would think, "Oh, I just want to go back to school." I would come into the house, and Richard and I would fix supper, and then we would sit down and eat and I would fall asleep with my head in the mashed potatoes. But the fact is that I knew all along that, however it was, it was better that I was there than that I wasn't there, that my family needed me, that being part of a family means showing up for meals. And prayer is like that. However we are, however we think we ought to be in prayer, the fact is we just need to show up and do the best we can do. It's like being in a family.

Movement and Body


I had the wonderful opportunity to go see a friend of mine dance tonight. She's a part of a modern dance company here in San Jose, and the evening was a delight. It is so amazing to watch these dancers use their whole body to tell a story and communicate such depth of emotion.

During the last few weeks, I feel like I have been learning more about living in my body. Bobbie had a great post a few weeks ago about this topic, with some links to great articles about body issues.

I feel like God has led me through a series of events that have helped me to connect more deeply with living in my body, and at the same time to connect more deeply with Him. This week I attended two yoga classes for the first time, and that was a very powerful experience for me. I really enjoyed the stretching, movement and breathing involved, and I loved how moving my body had an impact on my sense of God's presence during the meditation/prayer time.

Tomorrow I go on a half-day retreat. I am really looking forward to this time, eager to see what else God will reveal to me.

My current favorite scripture


1 Corinthians 13:12-13

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.

But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.
(The Message)

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

For now we are looking in a mirror that gives only a dim (blurred) reflection [of reality as [in a riddle or enigma], but then [when perfection comes] we shall see in reality and face to face! Now I know in part (imperfectly), but then I shall know and understand fully and clearly, even in the same manner as I have been fully and clearly known and understood [by God].

And so faith, hope, love abide [faith--conviction and belief respecting man's relation to God and divine things; hope--joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation; love--true affection for God and man, growing out of God's love for and in us], these three; but the greatest of these is love.
(Amplified Bible)

Ahora vemos por espejo, oscuramente; pero entonces veremos cara a cara. Ahora conozco en parte, pero entonces conoceré como fui conocido.

Ahora permanecen la fe, la esperanza y el amor, estos tres; pero el mayor de ellos es el amor.
(Reina-Valera 1995)

Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
(New Living Translation)

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
(New King James Version)

Happy New Year!


a little belated, but sincere nonetheless...

I am feeling so un-original, so classically and predictably drawn to hoping for a fresh start for the year with shiny new resolutions and hopes and dreams. But I don't like the feeling of failure that often accompanies my resolutions after about three or four months (or maybe weeks, or days) into the year.

So this year, though I hope for and plan to strive for many good things, I am resolving on one thing:

I will not eat any chips during the month of January. No potato chips, no tortilla chips, no wonton chips, and no pita chips. No chips. For one month.

Do you have a resolution?

This left my emotions spinning


Last night I was finally able to watch the movie "Lonnie Frisbee: the Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher". This movie tells the story of Lonnie Frisbee, from his conversion experience while on a drug trip during the late 60's, through his incredible influence on the growth of both the Calvary Chapel and Vineyard church movements, to his death from AIDS in 1993.I can't begin to describe the jumbled mix of emotions that kept me awake for a long time afterwards. Sadness - an incredible sadness - had to be at the top of the list. Lonnie was an integral part of the founding of the Calvary Chapel and the Vineyard movements, and it was bittersweet to see all those pictures from the early days of both churches and stranger still to hear this portion of the history of the Vineyard portrayed on TV.My history as a Christian is so tied up in this story. Not as a central character, by any means - but this story is part of my story. I prayed to accept Jesus in March 1979, after talking to a guy I was supposed to be studying with while hanging out in the student union at Cal Poly, San Luis Obsipo. Within a few weeks, I started attending the rapidly growing Vineyard church in San Luis Obispo. I had been to church very little prior to that time in my life, but what I experienced at Vineyard was very different than what little I had known of church before that. We were a group of mostly college students led by a very young pastor. There were no pews or choir - we were packed into a rented Oddfellows hall and the pastor led worship with a guitar.So when John Wimber invited Lonnie to come and lead the famous (in Vineyard history, and now in this movie about Lonnie) "Mother's Day Service" at his Calvary church in Yorba Linda in 1980, I had been a part of the San Luis Obispo Vineyard church for a year already. I have a really bad memory for that time period in my life, but I do remember how John Wimber, and I think often Lonnie, began to come visit our church and lead us in the beginnings of learning to pray for healing and the move of the Holy Spirit. It was an incredible, exciting and heady time, even before Wimber's influence began to impact and shape the direction of the church.This is something that I have often remembered when reading about and watching the growth of the emerging church. Much of what I read about the emerging church reminds me of those early years of the Vineyard. A few times I have mentioned this on blogs or forums, and I feel like I have been told "Oh no, this is not the same at all". But I suspect that those people only equate the Vineyard with John's ministry of Signs and Wonders, and miss the fact that there were Vineyard churches ministering to us young people, speaking our language and reaching us in a way that we felt was authentic and relevant to our lives, well before the Signs and Wonders ministry began.It was heart wrenching to watch this documentary about Lonnie Frisbee. I remember hearing at the time that Lonnie was being pushed out of his role in public ministry in the Vineyard, but I was oblivious to any more than that. There are other stories of how incredibly human and flawed some of the people involved in the very public ministry of the Vineyard of the time were. I think it is sad and shameful that Lonnie's failings (and I am sure there are many different definitions of what those would be) were treated differently and with much less grace than most others'. This has reminded me to look at the entire chain reaction of recent events in the blog[...]

This encourages me today


I picked up Richard Rohr's "Everything Belongs, The Gift of Contemplative Prayer" again recently, and some things I read are really sticking with me and encouraging me.

As an introduction, he starts with:
We are a circumference people, with little access to the center. We live on the boundaries of our own lives "in the widening gyre," confusing edges with essence, too quickly claiming the superficial as substance.
Our "skin" is not bad; it's just not our soul or spirit. But skin might also be the only available beginning point for many contemporary people. Earlier peoples, who didn't have as many escapes and means to avoid reality, had to find Essence earlier -- just to survive. On the contrary, we can remain on the circumferences of our lives for quite a long time. So long, that it starts feeling like the only "life" available.

And here's the gem that's talking to me today:
The ordinary path is a gradual awakening and an occasional quieting, a passion for and a surrendering to, a caring and a not caring at all. It is both center and circumference, and I am finally not in control of either one. But we must begin somewhere. For most of us the beginning point is at the edges. This reality, felt and not denied, suffered and enjoyed, becomes the royal road to the center. In other words, reality itself, our reality, my limited and sometimes misinterpreted experience, still becomes the revelatory place for God. For some reason we seem to prefer fabricated realities to the strong and sensitizing face of what is.

Oh Lord - today, let me look full on into the strong and sensitizing face of what is.

A Rant about what I want


I want to not be tired and worn out.

I want to not lose my temper when I come home from being gone for an hour late in the evening to find my girls and grandpa watching a movie which I assume they must have started much earlier, before their dad/son left for a meeting, only to find out much later that they must have just started right before I got home, and then hurting grandpa’s feelings because I am so upset that my girls broke all the rules and manipulated their way into staying up an hour and half past bedtime on a day when everyone is already fighting colds and need all the sleep they can get.

I want to not be frustrated with everyone in my family.

I want to not be worried about my mother, undergoing daily radiation treatment and fighting exhaustion brought on by other underlying health problems combined with the radiation, fighting the exhaustion brought on by a doctor mistakenly not believing that this other underlying condition could be responsible for a few hours of disorientation and his temporary (probably, hopefully, almost assuredly mistaken) fear that cancer had spread to her brain and our fears that cancer had spread to her brain.

I want to not be tired and worn out.

I want to not be overweight, always tired, a messy housekeeper, a procrastinator, and too often grumpy.

Did I mention that I’d like to not be tired and worn out?

I want to be above all worries about money, health and relationships.
I want peace and joy and happiness, with liberal doses of laughter.

But really,
I want to come to peace with the life I have, which is not necessarily the life I thought I would have.
I want to accept reality, live in reality (even with worries about money, health and relationships), and love.

Straight Up


Please first read previous post: I am a picky reader. I wrote that to bring some context and background to my observations here.

I received my copy of Lisa Samson’s new novel “Straight Up” a couple of days ago (and I want to say that I only “know” Lisa through her blog). I had been dealing with some very painful news all that day and was quite ready to be transported to another place for a while, so I allowed myself to set aside my “shoulds” for the evening, and dive right into reading.

I finally put the book down, finished, at about 12:30 a.m.. And I didn’t regret it the next morning, even when the alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. and I had only had about 4 ½ hours of sleep.

Let me just say right up front that I really liked this book. I was a little worried when I started reading, because Lisa uses the technique where chapters switch between different characters’ point-of-view – and that is often not a favorite style of mine to read. I think it takes real skill on the author’s part to lead us through those transitions between different characters and how we have visualized what is happening with them. If the transition happens too quickly, we feel jerked around and discombobulated; if it is too long between switches, we have a hard time transitioning back to the details of the characters. I think Lisa nailed those transitions pretty well with this book, and the multiple points-of-view really enhanced the story.

My favorite aspect of this book is that the characters that Lisa portrayed rang true-to-life for me. They were rich, with emotions and actions that were often contradictory. Like in real life – or at least in my life and the lives of my friends – their faith was not cookie-cutter, did not seem written out of some stereotype of “how a Christian should think and act”.

It was also very fun to see the echoes of some of the life situations that, through their blogs, I have read of Lisa and her family living through. This may have helped to lend an air of credulity to some of the scenarios for me.

The book takes a rather surprising turn mid-way through, that at first I was afraid would set off all my “I’m being emotionally manipulated here” bells. But as the novel went on, this situation really seemed to advance the story and definitely was not a “cookie-cutter” predictable scenario, and did not lead to an entirely predictable resolution.

More than just appreciating some of the literary techniques – I really liked that the story portrayed Christians who come from different backgrounds in their faith, who have made mistakes and who have to live through the consequences of those mistakes, who wrestle with their faith and their doubts, and who continue to pursue understanding God’s call and purpose for their lives well past early adulthood.

So I say a big "thank you" to Lisa Samson for writing a book that was a joy and an encouragement to read. I will be recommending it to my friends.

I am a picky reader


I grew up reading voraciously. Starting in college, I began limiting the number of books that I would allow myself to read, because once a book grabbed me I had very little self-control and would stay up all night reading, at great expense to the rest of my life. I found that, especially as I slowed down the steady diet of books, TV, and movies that had characterized my teen years, I became ever more sensitive to the emotional tenor of these books and media.Now, almost thirty years later, I very rarely see a movie in the theater (a complete sensory overload for me) and I don’t watch many on TV, either. I’m quite selective about the TV shows I watch. I still struggle to put down a book once I am engaged in it, and the cost to my 40-something body of staying up all night reading has become much more severe. I usually am compelled to continue reading a book, even if I am frustrated by how it is affecting my emotions. My family and friends are often mystified as to why I get so angry when I read a book that I feel is overtly manipulating my emotions to achieve some conclusion that the author has in mind. I don’t completely understand it either, but I know that I get very upset at books that seem gratuitous in their attempt to grab hold of my emotions, who take those emotions and drag them up and down mountains or into the gutter. Especially if it’s done in a manner that seems unnecessary for the telling of the story, or if I feel that they are blatantly trying to push me to come to the some specific (and by implication “correct”) moral, spiritual, or emotional conclusion. I hate that.I recently read a Christian novel where it seemed that the only characters to display depth, complexity, and richness were either the non-Christians, or in a pre-Christian state. Once the author began to describe the Christians, or especially when a character became Christian, the character became shallow and dimensionless, completely predictable. I long to read Christian novels about characters that are more real, that show some complexity, some depth, some uncertainty in their faith. I don’t trust people who tell me that all their doubts, all their fears, all their problems disappeared after they became a Christian – and I don’t want to read a book that portrays that either.In defense of all Christian writers – what bothers me in a novel is probably not the norm for most readers. I’m not saying that the way I am sensitive to books or movies is any better – or more morally correct – either. I actually can tolerate many things that might be on a list of Christian moral “don’t”s – some bad language, some expressions of intimacy. It’s the sense of being manipulated, beyond what is needed to make the point of the story, that angers me. I don’t completely understand this sensitivity, and there’s a good chance it springs from some of my own emotional need for healing rather than some place of greater discrimination.And as far as writing about Christians in a shallow manner, I’ll brazenly give my take on what this issue is about. I think it’s one of the great challenges of any creative process in our culture right now, to bring art that is Christian back into the realm of real depth and beauty and richness, not narrow predictability. I think that we Christians, many of us who consciously attempt to grapple with the awesome creativity and richness [...]