27 February 2013

Well Written Wednesdays: always right to pursue the thing he loves

Venice couple
{image credit: stager57}
Thoughts on love from my most recent reads.

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Freddy took his eyes from the road and looked with interest and respect at his wife. "Sometimes," he said, "it is right only to be unreasonable."

She felt wonderful. Marriage is, among other things, having someone deeply and unreasonably on your side, and Freddy had often been infuriatingly impartial. They ignored the traffic, and stared at one another.

-from Freddy and Fredericka by Mark Helprin

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My future parents made an odd pair, he wearing a dark suit and a lugubrious expression, she in a plain white sari, without jewellery, and wearing minimal make-up. (Many years later, she confided to me that "I was always certain of your father's love, because when he fell for me I was looking less attractive than a water buffalo.")

-from The Ground Beneath Her Feet by Salman Rushdie

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You think I'm a fool.

No. I do not.

You would not say so if you did.

No, but I would not lie. I dont think it. I never did. A man is always right to pursue the thing he loves.

No matter even if it kills him?

I think so. Yes. No matter even that.

-from Cities of the Plain by Cormac McCarthy

26 February 2013

to the soul who seeks Him

Indian sunrise with flower
{image credit: puss in boots}

I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath;
he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light;
surely against me he turns his hand again and again the whole day long.

He has made my flesh and my skin waste away . . .
he has besieged and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation;
he has made me dwell in darkness like the dead of long ago.

He has walled me about so that I cannot escape; he has made my chains heavy;
though I call and cry for help, he shuts out my prayer . . .

My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is;
so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.”

Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord . . .

For the Lord will not cast off forever,
but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion
according to the abundance of his steadfast love.

-from Lamentations 3



25 February 2013

yet I will rejoice in the Lord

Withered Vine (288/365)
{image credit: nicoyangjie}
Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer's;
he makes me tread on my high places.

-Habbakuk 3:17-19

22 February 2013

Weekend linkage

Me: I look so fat.
Jared: You're pregnant. You're supposed to look fat.

Oh right.

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This is extremely interesting: What Day Most Changed the Course of History? Scholars weigh in.

Also from The Atlantic, a Frenchman accidentally leads police in a high-speed chase up the Atlantic coast.

Cute.

A little cool, a little freaky: model metamorphosis.

18 February 2013

the lesson still most difficult

Psyche Entering Cupid's Garden by JWW
Last post in a series (find the rest here: introduction, I, II, III, IV, V).
Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love.
He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot.
You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.
You will show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham,
as you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old.
-Micah 7:18-20
Is the Lord there? And if He is . . . does he love me?

I suppose these are some of the deepest questions a human can ask. Although a redeemed child of God might be expected to answer them with confidence, doubt still gnaws at our hearts in the midst of pain. Is He? Does He? Really?

A Scriptural answer is found in Hebrews 11:6: "Whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him."

Yes. He exists, and He loves-- loves enough to pay close attention to what His children are doing, to answer those who seek him, and to faithfully bestow rewards as He has promised. Even more, as that passage from Micah proclaims, He delights in loving us.

God delights to love me. What a marvelous truth! It's wonderful. It's life-giving. Yet it has been the hardest thing for me to internalize during this particular trial, because to believe it now, I need to look past what I feel. (If He loved me, wouldn't He pay attention to my suffering? How in the world does this display His affection? Why do I feel so alone?)

This is where I just don't have a logical bridge between feeling and truth. Faith is the only bridge, the only way to get me from anger and pain to resting in God's care. And He graciously gives that faith, a bit at a time . . .

I loved this post by Lore Ferguson: "When He Feels Far Off." An excerpt:
He is near because his Word says he is near. Because he is Immanuel, God with us. Because he came to earth as a baby wrapped in rags and humility. He is near because he was a suffering servant, drinking a cup that wasn't taken from him, even when he asked. He is near because he walked through the valley, in the shadow of his own death. He is near because he is God, encompassing, creating, drawing, loving, shepherding. He is near not because we feel his nearness, but because he says he is near.

15 February 2013

Weekend linkage

Almost 33 weeks!
Mya: Aunt Rebekah, where is your baby?
Me: Oh, in my belly.
Mya: Still?!!!

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Pregnancy happenings: Tadpole is big enough that when she moves, she creates enough pressure that it actually tickles on the inside. Better than hurting! She can get pretty crazy at night. :)

This picture was taken in the kitchen at our new house. I can't wait until it's painted and cleaned so you can see the finished product! Isn't that big window great? It looks out onto the backyard, and even though the kitchen is at the back of the house, the window lets in a lot of natural light. Anyway, last night we had a "Valentine's picnic" at the house. Jared was busy spackling all evening, so I took food over-- spinach bacon quiche, pasta salad, and rather enormous cups of YoFro as a special treat-- and we enjoyed our dinner amidst the plaster dust and Sheetrock buckets (which make good chairs, as does the radiator). We're very romantic.

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I love Les Mis, quinoa, and crunchy kitchen experiments, so this song cracked me up. ("Have you ever milked an oat?")

What a cute way to tie a scarf!

Another Cheap and Tasty wine recommendation: Elena de Mendoza Malbec. I think it would be great with grilled lamb chops (though I guess that would counterbalance the Cheap bit).

We are painting the bathroom blue, so while we're at it, why not add a squid?

14 February 2013

in which I am not as cynical as might be expected

The Golden Knight and His Lady by Daniel Eskridge
It seems that modern teenage girlhood involves, to some degree, falling for the latest “it” boy. Whatever the decade, you've got your Justin Timberlakes or your Justin Biebers, with the accompanying fangirls screaming and throwing their shirts onto the stage. Sometimes I'm tempted to dig a hole and hide my daughter in it once she hits ten years old.

Then, comfortingly, I remember that I mostly managed to escape this stupidity.

Except for my Orlando Bloom phase.

(I don't want to talk about it.)

Anyway, I gather that One Direction is one of the hot new things right now. As a woman far, far out of their target demographic, I don't get the draw. (But I have seen posters that say things like “Perfect boys only exist in One Direction.” Ooookay?) Also, being an old fogey, I'd never even heard one of their songs till this morning.

Every so often I do an official investigation of American culture that consists of listening to the local pop music station, and when I turned it on today, I heard this:


Well then. If these are typical One Direction lyrics, I think I just understood the appeal. In sum: You are beautiful even when you think you aren't. I am so crazy about you that any other girl fades in comparison. That's the peanut butter to any woman's jelly, let alone the insecure, emotional, zit-popping teenagers at a One Direction concert. He likes me! He doesn't want to take advantage of me or turn me into something else! He finds me valuable and beautiful just like this, and he wants to be with me!

If I heard assurances like this coming out of the mouth of a cute boy with a bright smile and great hair, hello, I would want to believe it too.

And . . . you know, there's nothing wrong with that. While it can be tempting to respond to boy band idolatry with cynicism (often dressed up as “realism”) I hardly find it helpful, and it's certainly not realistic: “Haha, you dumb teenagers, you should never believe a boy when he says that! Love never gives you warm fuzzies and you'll never feel as beautiful as the songs promise you will!” No, no, no. I refuse to say such discouraging things to a younger woman. Because guess what? I do believe my husband when he tells me that he loves me. It does produce a lot of warm fuzzies. I do feel incredibly beautiful around him. Sappy songs like this tap into a lovely reality. They may twist it, they may leave out all the hard parts . . . but love is very real and very sweet.

While I do not want my daughter to obsess over the members of some random music group-- boys who couldn't care less about her at the end of the day-- there is nothing wrong with longing to find a man who will be committed to her, praise her, and make her feel cherished. I'm certainly going to be praying that she finds that kind of man! Sure, he's going to leave his socks on the floor, forget to call her, and say stupid things when he's tired. He's going to make bad decisions, and eat the chicken she was saving for tomorrow night's dinner. But that is because he'll be human, not because every romantic ideal in the world rings hollow.

So. Yay love. Perfect boys don't exist (not even in One Direction), but love is a wondrous gift from God, and even in the middle of a messed-up sinful world, we find it gracing our lives.
Set me as a seal upon your heart,
as a seal upon your arm,
for love is strong as death,
jealousy is fierce as the grave.
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
the very flame of the Lord.
-from the Song of Solomon
(Ironically, I'm not a Valentine's Day fan. I have nothing against those of you who enjoy it, but I resent the social pressure placed on men to buy roses and take their ladies out to a fancy dinner, for no other reason than that Hallmark decided to make a big whooping deal out of it. Grump grump grump.)

13 February 2013

Well Written Wednesdays: it is mine

Reading by Candlelight by Matheius Stom
"Fly to the Word of God, then, in every sorrow! You will know more of the mind and heart of God than you, perhaps, ever learned in all the schools before. Draw, then, O child of sorrow, your consolation from God’s Word.

"Oh, clasp this precious Word of comfort to your sorrowful heart, and exclaim, 'It is mine! The Jesus of whom it speaks is mine, the salvation it reveals is mine, the promises it contains are mine, the heaven it unveils is mine, and all the consolation, comfort, and sympathy which wells up from these hidden springs, is mine.'"

-Octavius Winslow in The Precious Things of God

11 February 2013

thing #5: a discipline of humility

Spring Flowers by J.W.W.
Fifth sequel to this post.

In at least one respect, I am still a three-year-old: I always ask "why." (Why did you say that? Why do we believe this? Why does that work? Why is this happening?) So of course, I have often asked "why" of my current circumstances.

Recently D.A Carson wrote some really helpful thoughts on this matter-- i.e. trying to find a reason for suffering-- and two points stuck out to me.

First, we cannot always know why.
In any suffering, or in any other event for that matter, God is doubtless doing many things, perhaps thousands of things, millions of things, even if we can only detect two or three or a handful . . . sometimes we have to cover our mouths and confess, in faith, that we cannot possibly grasp all that God is doing when someone suffers.
Second, however, we should be ready to accept trials as discipline and to repent of any sin they are highlighting.
God may be speaking to us in the language of a wise heavenly Father who chastens those he loves. Such chastening may be God's response to specific sins in our lives; it may be a more general way of toughening us up in this broken world so we will stop thinking that God owes us good health, or that our clean living and organic food guarantees us long and robust life.  
Oooh. That last part. Me to a tee. Humility in my pursuit of natural health was also something God pressed upon me during our season of infertility. It's so easy for me to slip into arrogance. Whenever I see good results from my efforts, the puff of pride begins.

With my skin, though, I have nothing to be proud about; I make tiny steps of progress now and then, I figure out something that helps, but mostly I just don't know what to do. I don't know the why. And then I must admit that all my kale smoothies and probiotics and organic shampoos, no matter how much I love them, are no guaranteed salvation. I cannot presume to control my health, for I am in God's hands, not my own.

It is a good place to be.

08 February 2013

Weekend linkage

"You're the best wife I've ever had."
-Jared

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Pregnancy happenings: Tadpole is reportedly head down, and I believe it. Those are definitely feet I feel under my ribs. (I think she's also got a pretty good left hook, though . . . she seems to be using my bladder as a punching bag. Heh.)

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"Declining fertility is the root of America's problems." Yea or nay?

I may have a cabinet full of herbs and homeopathic tablets, but modern medicine can indeed do wonders. What a lovely story.

Oh, this made me laugh: animals audition for Shakespeare.

Whoa. This Russian family lived in isolation on the taiga for 40 years . . . they didn't even know about WWII.

I think golf is boring, but this article on golf ball divers was definitely not.

Should we cheer for God? (More precisely, should we really feel guilty when we don't?)

07 February 2013

creamy Parmesan chicken

This picture amused me.
Ol' Pinterest is a great way to collect and organize potential recipes. And yes, I do actually use what I find there! This one was taken from my poultry board.

I applaud any recipe that makes chicken breasts-- so simple and easy to find, but often so dull-- into an interesting dinner. This dish is moist and flavorful and very easy to pull together. Serve over rice or quinoa, with a green salad on the side.

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Creamy Parmesan Chicken
(original at The Recipe Critic, where you can also see a tantalizing picture)

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese + a bit extra
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees and lightly coat 9x13 baking dish with nonstick spray.
2) Pound chicken breasts to about 3/4-inch thickness so they will cook evenly. (Instead of pounding, I simply cut a slit in the thickest part of the breast and flattened it out.) Arrange in prepared baking dish.
3) Stir together remaining ingredients, except for extra Parmesan, and spread evenly over chicken breasts. Sprinkle reserved Parmesan on top.
4) Bake chicken for 45 minutes, just until cooked through (check at 40 minutes in case your oven runs hot).

06 February 2013

Well Written Wednesdays: how many breakfasts you can eat

Another from The Crossing. Told you I loved it. This section made me laugh. NB: McCarthy has an odd way of writing certain contractions. (He seems to have an aversion to apostrophes, not to mention commas.)
He slid into the booth and laid the papers on the table and looked at the menu. When the waitress came he started to order the plate lunch but she said that lunch didnt start till eleven oclock. She said he could get breakfast.

I've done eat one breakfast today.

Well we dont have no city ordinance about how many breakfasts you can eat.

How big of a breakfast can I get?

How big of a one can you eat?

I've got a mealticket from the recruitin office.

I know it. I see it layin yonder.

Can I get four eggs?

You just tell me how you want em.

She brought the breakfast on an oblong crockery platter with the four eggs over medium and a slice of fried ham and grits with butter and she brought a plate of biscuits and a small bowl of gravy.

You want anything else you let me know, she said.

All right.

You want a sweetroll?

Yes mam.

You need some more coffee?

Yes mam.

He looked up at her. She was about forty years old and she had black hair and bad teeth. She grinned at him. I like to see a man eat, she said.

Well, he said. You're lookin at one I believe ought to meet your requirements.

-from The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy

04 February 2013

thing #4: gratitude in the minute

My Sweet Rose by J.W. Waterhouse
Fourth sequel to this post. Goodness, there's much more to this series than I thought. Perhaps that always results from actively looking for God's work? :)
For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,
"In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength."
-Isaiah 30:15
By minute I mean both "measure of time" and "adjective denoting smallness."

In this period of frequent discomfort, I've learned to prize the tiniest moments of relief, to really rest in them. I have often spoiled such moments by worrying about future trials. (Sure, my face feels okay now, but what about tomorroooooow? and then I stress myself out and make everything worse.) Instead, God's taught me to enjoy each bit of peace He provides, praising Him for the gift so long as it lasts. A blessing need not be permanent to be enjoyed. At least, that's what I am finding.
"The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord."
-Job 1:21
Even something as apparently insignificant as a cool, refreshing breeze deserves gratitude. A fleeting grace is still a grace.

Also, I am indeed obsessed with Pre-Raphaelite paintings. Waterhouse seems to have one for every post in this series, so eh, why not?

01 February 2013

Weekend linkage

Fabulous, no?
"I think you would like being a partridge."
-Jared

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Pregnancy happenings: Being an inveterate snoop, just as I did with our wedding registry, I regularly check the baby registry to find out what has been purchased. Jared is horrified by this. He says it's cheating. I told him that he can be surprised if he wants to, but I like knowing things! (And anyway, I still don't know who bought the items. So there is still a surprise, see?)

Here is the promised photograph from last weekend's murder mystery, which was actually the annual holiday party hosted by Jared's employer. (Since his mom and brother also work for that company, the family was quite well represented.) Jared's character was Gambling Jack, and he did, in fact, rake in the most money at blackjack! Who knew I married such a cardsharp? I was his sophisticated Southern wife, Anna Belle. Wish I could wear that hat every day.

Finally, I really never thought I'd say this, but . . . I am tired of eating.

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This is pretty cool: Justice Scalia wore a replica of Sir Thomas More's skullcap to the inauguration last week.

"Facebook provides the most accurate NFL fandom map ever." Hmm, Alaska is confused.

Dr. Seuss subtexts.

An active-duty female member of the military gives her opinion on gender integration: "I naturally have a lot more upper body strength than the average woman: not only can I do pull-ups, I can meet the male standard. I would love to have been in the infantry. And I still think it will be an unmitigated disaster to incorporate women into combat roles. I am not interested in risking men’s lives so I can live my selfish dream."

Now some videos for your weekend. A pep talk guaranteed to produce smiles, the greatest dance number ever filmed, and a brilliant sendup of "club" music.