31 January 2013

thing #3: blessed

Lamia by J.H. Waterhouse
Third sequel to this post.
Love is patient and kind . . . Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
-1 Corinthians 13:7-8
I seriously cannot figure out how I ended up with him.

This man who comes home every day glad to see me. This man who, when I put my hands over my face in embarrassment, pulls them away and insists on kissing me hello. Who holds me while I cry in frustration. Who tells me that I'm beautiful when I feel anything but. Who assures me that he loves me no matter what I look like.

Just why am I so blessed?

He knew when he married me that my skin was like this, and he didn't care. Since then it's gotten better, then gotten worse. I've had sleepless nights and morning meltdowns. In all of that he's cared for me with compassion, more than fulfilling his promise to cherish his wife in sickness as well as health.

I would not have chosen this trial for us, but I will say that because of it, I love my husband more. His gentle, faithful response to my pain has repeatedly amazed me. His character has been illuminated by this challenge, and it is a grace to see it.

30 January 2013

Well Written Wednesdays: His voice is not to be mistaken

Snowstorm by J.M.W. Turner
I read All The Pretty Horses last year and liked it. Then this month I read The Crossing, and . . .

Oh my, friends. Love. Love love love. Dr. Somerville was right, and I am now convinced of McCarthy's genius. When we have a boy we will name him Cormac. (Well, maybe not. Jared already decided that we're naming him Yul.)

In any case, I can't wait to get the final book of the border trilogy. Then I will take the plunge into Blood Meridian . . . eep.
And the priest? A man of broad principles. Of liberal sentiments. Even a generous man. Something of a philosopher. Yet one might say that his way through the world was so broad it scarcely made a path at all. He carried within himself a great reverence for the world, this priest. He heard the voice of the Deity in the murmur of the wind in the trees. Even the stones were sacred. He was a reasonable man and he believed that there was love in his heart.

There was not. Nor does God whisper through the trees. His voice is not to be mistaken. When men hear it they fall to their knees and their souls are riven and they cry out to Him and there is no fear in them but only that wildness of heart that springs from such longing and they cry out to stay His presence for they know at once that while godless men may live well enough in their exile those to whom He has spoken can contemplate no life without Him but only darkness and despair. Trees and stones are no part of it. So. The priest in the very generosity of his spirit stood in mortal peril and knew it not. He believed in a boundless God without center or circumference. By this very formlessness he'd sought to make God manageable. This was his colindancia. In his grandness he had ceded all terrain. And in this colindancia God had no say at all.

-from The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy

28 January 2013

thing #2: beauty beyond today

Boreas by J.W. Waterhouse
Second sequel to this post.
I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
-Job 19:25-27
As it destroys my fantasies about independence, a physical trial like this one also demolishes the confidence I may try to place in outward beauty.

Now, as I have said, I don't believe that pious women are called to denim jumpers and self-flagellation: physical beauty is a wonderful thing, something to be celebrated and intelligently pursued. Yet neither should its loss pitch me into the slough of despond. Admittedly, it often does. But less so than in times past.

You want to know the reason? Though there are many, two truths in particular have comforted me in this less-than-lovely season: 
1) Today's body is passing away, and I'm getting a new one.
2) God has redeemed my soul, and it will stay redeemed whether I look like Helen of Troy or Jabba the Hutt.
On the days when I cannot even remotely fool myself into thinking that I meet this world's standards of attractiveness, you better believe I'm grateful. Grateful to remember that I shall see God-- that the beauty of His kingdom will shine brighter than any cosmetics commercial, and that I will share in its glory with my resurrected, renewed body.

25 January 2013

Weekend linkage

"Listen. Your mom is good at words and cooking. Not math."
-Jared tells Tadpole the facts of life

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Pregnancy happenings: Just over 10 weeks until my due date (though of course, who knows when she will actually decide to come). Dear me. That doesn't sound like very long, does it? Unsurprisingly, my belly is now big enough to make sleeping on my back a less than appealing endeavor. Armed with a pillow for my head, a pillow for between my legs, and a pillow for beneath my stomach -- Jared is in awe of the apparatus I seem to require for a good night's sleep-- onto my side I go!

We have a murder mystery costume party tomorrow night. I promise to take pictures and post them next week. :)

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Downton Abbey, Facebook-style. ("O'Brien is no longer friends with Thomas.")

A waiter stands up for his customers.

"Cuisine plagiarism": fierce conflict over the provenance of stuffed grape leaves. I can't decide if I am amused or annoyed that a country would keep an official Intangible Cultural Heritage List and then fight over it.

Excellent post about taking spiritual responsibility. "The Lord has given me family and friends to walk with me and be a blessing to me, but they are gifts--not fixers. He is the fixer."


Sequins!

A reflection on Proverbs 3:11-12. "It does not honor God to dwell on our sin, and in our sin. It honors Him to flee from it into His arms."

What is the real value of "artisan" coffeemaking? (This article covers far more than coffee culture. I recommend reading it even if you could care less about the process behind your espresso.)

23 January 2013

thing #1: accepting weakness

First sequel to this post.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
-2 Corinthians 4:7
Ophelia by J.W. Waterhouse
I don't like feeling frail . . . I certainly don't like it when other people see me as such. In fact, I tend to view dependence as a moral failure. As if I ought to be able to run my life in a self-sufficient, airtight little sphere and if I can't something has gone terribly wrong.

Foolish me. I'm not meant to be alone. Even in the best of worlds, I am only a creature. And this is not the best of worlds-- it's bent by sin. Left to myself I'll run straight off the path, thanks to the sin within, and my day can brim with hurdles and frustrations thanks to the sin without. I need help!

In my physical struggles I have heard, however faintly, God's voice. What is He telling me? Just that: I need help. It's an inherent part of who I am. I like to forget it, to pretend that I live by my own strength, but God reminds me.

When I have to take Benadryl just to get to sleep. When I feel as if I live with a bottle of moisturizer glued to my hand. When I can't scrub away, paint over, or in any way obliterate the blemishes on my face. He reminds me. It's impossible to maintain the pretense of independence while I rely on a cold washcloth to keep me sane, or tremble at the thought of a campfire because I know that the dry heat will aggravate the inflammation. Yes, I am quite frail. Can I accept that? I'm trying. God is working acceptance in me.

22 January 2013

making carrots exciting since 2010

Hummus
{image credit: Second Floor Walkup}
I first posted a hummus recipe over two years ago, and it's still mighty tasty. Here it is with a few updates.

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Simple Hummus

1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup tahini
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1-2 cloves garlic (cloves can vary in size and strength!)
delicious additions: a big pinch of ground coriander, an even bigger pinch of cumin, a couple tablespoons of dried parsley, some fresh chives or basil . . . spice it up as you like

1) Dump all your ingredients into the bowl of a food processor or blender. I use my Blendtec and it works very well; if your blender is less powerful, you'll want to mince up the garlic first.
3) Process until smooth. Refrigerate in airtight container.

Smitten Kitchen's been talking about hummus too. Hers is more labor intensive and heavier on the tahini. I'm sure it is scrumptious!

21 January 2013

something I haven't written about before.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
-2 Corinthians 4:16-18

I don't intend this to be a pity party, just an explanation of a particular physical challenge I face, as prelude to some reflections on God's faithfulness.

The closest I can come to an explanation is that every time something's off kilter in my body, my skin reflects that. Anything from a large amount of gluten or sugar, to imbalanced pH levels, to an overtaxed liver, to low thyroid hormone can result in a very nasty skin rash. We've discovered levels upon levels of causes but no surefire cure. At least not for the past 13 years, and I've tried a lot of cures.

Skin irritation may not sound like much, and sure, sometimes things look great: hardly a mark on my face, skin that's soft and healthy. More often, though, a red rash covers my arms and neck (since the age of 12, when the problem first surfaced, I've become accustomed to solicitous strangers asking me about poison ivy). At the worst moments I deal with reptilian dryness and/or intense itching and inflammation. Hardest of all is when that inflammation centers on my face, as it has done especially since the beginning of my pregnancy. Those are the days I want to hide, because I feel ugly and because I can't concentrate on anything but my own physical misery. Those are the days when I wonder if God has any purpose at all in this.

The past month has been remarkably difficult; I have felt as though I was being attacked by my own body. Most of the time my skin is simply a minor affliction and I give thanks that I don't face anything more serious, but in seasons like this, I can truly say that it is suffering. Painful and confounding.

But I do believe, even if through tears, that God works in every trial for the good of each of his children. As John Piper has recently put it, God is always doing ten thousand things in our lives . . . though we may only see three of them. (Or maybe none at all.)

I plan to write a small series of posts in the upcoming weeks. They will be my attempt to perceive, and to capture, some of those things.

18 January 2013

Weekend linkage

Pregnancy happenings: I love going to the midwife, because I always leave feeling like Supermom: "Blood pressure's good! Perfect weight gain! Baby's heartbeat sounds great! Your diet is excellent! Keep it up!" :)

When I went this past Thursday, I hadn't been for six weeks; since I don't even own a scale, I was a bit nervous about how many pounds I may have packed on over the holidays. I've felt like a vacuum cleaner these past few weeks (yogurt granola banana eggs broccoli hummus salmon cheese apple peanut butter pineapple chicken mashed potatoes green beans muffin and still hungry . . .). Delightfully, however, I have only gained 9 pounds total. I guess my enormous appetite is for a reason.

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Foods that make you hallucinate. "It's worth noting that hot peppers are in the same botanical family as potatoes, tobacco, and deadly nightshade."

Settlers of Cataan drinking game . . . made me laugh.

Little Red Riding Hood matroyshkas. Cute!

14 January 2013

crafting, not spewing

Oversharing On Social Media.

If we were still in the pen-and-paper age, I would say that gallons of ink have been spilled over the topic ("legions of keys have been tapped" doesn't have nearly the same effect . . . oh, the drawbacks of the digital revolution). But ink or keys notwithstanding, the topic has been well worn. We all realize that the Facebook-Twitter-Pinterest-personal bloggery universe is chockablock with useless information.

This kind of sharing often occurs in order to get outside validation; consciously or not, we angle for comments, likes, and retweets in order to feel more confident about our own lives. We want the world to tell us that what we've done is worth a thumbs up. We want others to tell us we're good enough. And in the process, it seems that we have lost the capacity to revel in blessings on our own.

Consider. Doesn't it seem strange that anyone would post a status like "Making fresh guacamole for lunch!" or "Had such a great time getting coffee with my sister!" or "A hot shower makes the whole day better!" Now I love guacamole, sisters, and hot showers as much as anyone. Yet announcing their existence to my Facebook friends-- 99.99% of whom did not actually participate in those events, and who stand to gain nothing from the knowledge-- seems to me both gratuitous and a touch self-indulgent. (I mean, people were enjoying indoor plumbing long before they were able to broadcast its delights hither and yon over the internet. Why start now?)

It's as if our generation can no longer experience something true and beautiful without immediately sprinting to our computers to "share" it.

In my experience, a lot of today's young Americans aren't very good at reflection, analysis, or any of the mental habits that require independent thought. We have nothing useful to say. Is it because we are so accustomed to "sharing" that we would rather say something banal in public than mull over something meaty in private?

I probably sound very snarky here, but I didn't intend to take a condescending tone. I just think that this phenomenon is rather sad.

Do you have a different perspective on this? I am genuinely curious. If you are one who tends to post about your lunch choices, tell me: why do you want other people to know those things?

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I deeply appreciate the social media users who harness their corners of the internet for worthwhile purposes. Lately, I've been trying to imitate them and keep a closer watch on my own writings. I want to know that everything I release into cyberland has a real purpose: to provoke thought, to provide useful information, to encourage, to amuse. I don't want to be a virtual litterbug. Words matter-- my words matter-- and if I truly believe that, I'll be keeping a close watch on what I say. I'll be crafting sentences, not spewing them.

So hopefully, if I tell you that I had coffee with my sister, it's because I think that within the story lies something that will enrich your life. If I tell you that guacamole was on the menu it's because I want to share the recipe.

I know that in the past, I've posted some truly ridiculous things that did not fit these standards at all, but I am determined to meet the goal from now on.

I guess you could call it my New Year's Resolution?

11 January 2013

Weekend linkage

"Goodbye, feet!" said Alice.
Pregnancy happenings: I seem to have lost my feet. Tadpole, on the other hand, is making good use of hers. Sometimes my upper abdomen resembles an overactive lava lamp. Bubbles here, bubbles there, and hey, what are you doing under my ribs? I rather enjoy it.

I just bought a Moby wrap off Craigslist, and while I'm very excited, I am also a bit intimidated by the prospect of wrangling 25 feet of fabric. I am sure I'll get the hang of it, but . . . any tips from you babywearers?

Putting together baby registries is way too much fun. Shopping without the sticker shock. :) What were/are some of your must haves?

Also, Tadpole acquired another aunt this week, because my little brother got engaged! woooooo

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Yes, exactly.

This apron is spot on.

We just discovered a nice new wine: AlbariƱo by Martin Codax. As I said last week, a $25 bottle is a huge splurge for us, so if you're a wine snob you may find something to complain about here, but I thought it was very good. And it has a pretty sweet label. So, obviously.

07 January 2013

Turning Island fish

Fresh Fish sign in Monterey, CA.
{image credit: keanmatthams}
Jared says that when (not if, mind you) we open our cafe, this will be on the menu. So there. What more incentive do you need?

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Turning Island Fish
(enormously adapted from Whole Food for the Whole Family)

1 lb mild white fish fillets, preferably wild-caught*
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup minced red onion
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons minced fresh herbs**
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika

1) Preheat oven to 450 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Pat fish fillets dry and arrange in single layer on baking sheet.
2) Whisk together remaining ingredients and divide evenly among fillets; spread into a thin layer over each.
3) Bake in preheated oven for 15-17 minutes, until fish flakes easily with a fork. (And if your oven runs hot, try a slightly lower temperature so that the topping does not burn.)

*For a few of the reasons I buy wild fish rather than farmed, read this and this ("industrial strains" of tilapia? urgh). Also, I've found that fish with thick fillets (such as cod) work better in this recipe than very flat fish like tilapia or flounder, which have more chance of burning or getting overdone.
**Dill, marjoram, basil, parsley, and oregano have all been great. I mix it up every time. And yes, fresh herbs are really important here.

04 January 2013

Weekend linkage

"You're so fat, I can't even shut the car door!"
-Jared

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Pregnancy happenings: not much, honestly. She moves a lot, the belly is bigger, I waddle up the stairs. You know, the usual. I did have an aggravatingly sleepless week, but not because of Tadpole-- I caught the flu and have been sniffling my way through it for the past three days. (I guess she'll inherit these antibodies, right? That's my tiny consolation.)

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The fiscal cliff just got a lot more entertaining. (Thanks Hannah.)

"Secret Lives of Kitchen Spices" from The Atlantic.

 A New Yorker profile of world-class pickpocket Apollo Robbins.

02 January 2013

3 years: the kind you can't afford

You travel private jet
I stand by overnight
You romance with chandeliers
And I use candlelight

Oh, there's one thing I got more 
Where I'm rich, you're poor
It's that real good loving
The kind you can't afford

-Madeleine Peyroux
 
We have taken three trips round the sun since our wedding. In that time, my husband has taught me to appreciate many things, like sweatpants, sour cream, baseball, Mac computers, The West Wing, hip-hop, and the beach. He has failed, alas, in his campaign to convert me to a football fan. (I am not sure if I have taught him to appreciate anything other than bourbon, but he says I'm the best thing that ever happened to him, which is quite satisfactory.)

This is going to be an exciting year. New house, newborn, new adventures all around. I count myself fortunate to have a husband who is both a fearless leader and a tender-hearted helper. Forward march!

Shepherd Piping to a Shepherdess, Francois Boucher c. 1750
Last week a few of us watched a new documentary, The Queen of Versailles, which follows an insanely rich family-- he a timeshare mogul, she a former beauty queen-- through the economic meltdown of 2008 and beyond. I was struck by the hollowness of their marriage. As stress swelled, so did tempers, and divorce seemed to loom large by the end of the film. They never really had love; they only had mutual enjoyment of wealth. Once the wealth started to trickle away, so did the affection.

Jared and I? Well, we own a 1,280 square foot house. Our living room furniture currently consists of a coffee table. Buying a $25 bottle of wine is a big splurge. My husband won't be taking me to Versailles any time soon, let alone building me a replica.

But we have that real good loving, the kind you can't afford.

01 January 2013

He has become my salvation

You will say in that day:

"I will give thanks to you, O Lord,
for though you were angry with me,
your anger turned away,
that you might comfort me.

"Behold, God is my salvation;
I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the Lord God is my strength and my song,
and He has become my salvation."

-Isaiah 12:1-2

Happy New Year! The Lord is indeed our strength and song . . . I pray that this would be my heart's confidence all year long.