Thursday, February 24, 2005

A Lesson at Stater Brothers

I was mildly irritated this afternoon for no good reason. Little things didn't go little, I can't remember them. I had a small headache.

Just got back from the market, where I was behind a youngish woman in line with three small kids. She looked old beyond her years, with circles under her eyes and no make-up. Her hair was pulled carelessly back. Her eyes and mouth never smiled. It was odd...she seemed melancholy and powerless, not angry.

She quietly snapped at her oldest daughter, maybe nine years old, to watch the two year old, who kept running away and grabbing candy bars. The four year old whined and...well, whined. The kids had uncombed hair and shabby clothes. The oldest had tears in her eyes at not pleasing her mother.

I felt my irritation growing. And my heart went out to the oldest girl. That mother...has she no control? Where's her parenting? Can't she control her kids? What's wrong with her? I confess. I was judging her in my mind. Judging her harshly.

She picked up her squirming, giggling two year old with one arm, and tried to pay with the other. She blushed with embarrassment and exhaustion. And frustration.

Her plight touched me. Finally. I wanted to say something, and...thank you, God.....I said something remotely kind. "You have your hands full," I smiled.

She turned to me and said," It's so hard. I take care of them alone."


"My husband...he's in Iraq. His third tour of duty." She sadly sighed. "It's hard. And my children get emotional when he leaves and he's gone. It's hard for them." She seemed relieved to tell someone.

"Uhhh" I mumbled, feeling shocked and rightfully stupid. "Uhhh....I hope you have good support."

"Not really. Sort of....I go sometimes to a support group for military wives at a church."

"Do you go to church there? There's a lot of support at church. "

"No.... Maybe sometime. " Two of her kids were screaming.

"I have to go" she nodded her head. And she walked out.

Thank you, God, for slapping me with my shortcomings. I should have done more, though.

"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?...You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." --- Matthew 7: 3, 5

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Corn Chip Salad - 2005 New Recipe # 4

I confess....Ron, and not I, made this unusually hearty salad for dinner the other evening. I gave him the original recipe printed out from All, and then told him all the trial & error changes I've made to it over time. Poor guy...he was so confused, I actually had to write my modifications down.

Well, my investment of time is your gain. Here is the best casual dinner salad imaginable. I have yet to find anyone, even the fussiest family member, who doesn't adore this dish.

Corn Chip Salad
1 lb, lean ground beef
1 lg head, iceberg lettuce, chopped
1 lg brown onion, chopped
2 cups, diced fresh tomatoes
1/2 cup, grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup, grated Monterey jack cheese
8 oz, French salad dressing
1-15 oz can, kidney beans, drained
12 oz , corn chips
Cook ground beef until evenly browned.
Drain and set aside to cool for an hour.
Mix together all ingredients, including cooled beef, except chips and dressing.
Cover and chill not more than an hour.
Add dressing and toss.
Add chips, mix thoroughly and serve immediately.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Pastor Hands Out Parable Money to Congregation

I love this AP story from Oklahoma....

A pastor handed out $14,000 to congregation members to invest for seven weeks, after which they are to bring the money and profits back to the church to be used in missionary work. "The idea has always been in the back of my mind," said Pastor Steve Dyer of the Newsong Church.

Loud gasps were heard throughout the 125-member, interdenominational church as the envelopes containing $100 and $50 bills were ripped opened after the Sunday sermon. Some members thought the bills were counterfeit. Others shook their heads in bewilderment.

Dyer had placed crisp $100 bills in red envelopes for adults and $50 bills in green envelopes for school-age children. "That is going to be a lot of fun," Dyer said. "A lot of people already have ideas."

Teacia Williams, 14, said she is going to use her $50 to purchase newspaper ads advertising her availability to baby-sit. "I plan on doubling the money," she said.

Dyer said the church isn't keeping track of who has the money, but did give one stipulation: it was not to be used to buy lottery tickets or to gamble.When asked what the church will do if someone steals the money, Dyer replied, "That's between them and God."

Dyer preached Sunday about the Parable of the Talents found in Matthew 25:14-28.

The parable is about a landowner who leaves for a trip, but before leaving gives five talents to one servant, two talents to another servant and one talent to the last servant. When he returns from his trip, the landowner finds that the servants with five and two talents have doubled their talents, but the servant with one portion hid his talent in the ground.

"A talent was worth approximately wages for 15 years," Dyer said. "So this wasn't a small assignment."Scripture shows the servant with the one talent was afraid, he said."

Fear paralyzed him from using his God-given creativeness," Dyer said. "I wanted to challenge our church to not be afraid."

Monday, February 14, 2005

Reluctant Faith

As a mother, I've never embraced the emotional aspects of a child growing up and away from me. It happens and I do it, because...well, that's God's plan. I do it cheerfully. But it feels like a small death each time a child moves one step farther into their own lives.

Andrea went to camp this weekend, and came home just a bit older. I can see it in her eyes and smile. I can feel it in her touch. The independence. The joy of discovering her own wings. The restlessness of teenage rapture.

I recently tried to interest her in delicate make-up to accent her pretty coloring. She rebelled...I was "controlling" her. So I quietly stored the pale lipgloss in her bathroom drawer, perhaps for another time at her discretion.

She came home from camp yesterday with faint traces of eye shadow, blush and lipgloss...the whole works. Seems two of her make-up savvy girlfriends suggested a "makeover" for her. They spent camp time redoing her hair (something I've attempted, to no avail, for five years!) and giving her a whole new, sophisticated look.

And she adored it.

Seems when mom suggests something, it's controlling. When your girlfriends suggest the very same thing, it's cool.

I miss my little girl. She's my youngest. But she looked happily beautiful in her new make-up.

I have faith in God's plan for her growth. Reluctant faith.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Hear the Voice of Adventure

"There is a rawness and a wonder to life. Pursue it. Hunt for it. Sell out to get it. Don't listen to the whines of those who have settled for a second-rate life and want you to do the same so they won't feel guilty. Your goal is not to live long; it's to live.

Jesus says the options are clear. On one side there is the voice of safety. You can build a fire in the hearth, stay inside, and stay warn and dry and safe....

Or you can hear the voice of adventure---God's adventure. Instead of building fire in your hearth, build fire in your heart. Follow God's impulses. Adopt the child. Move overseas. Teach the class. Change careers. Run for office. Make a difference.

Sure it isn't safe, but what is?"

Max Lucado, "Grace for the Moment - Inspirational Thoughts for Each Day of the Year"
Entry for February 13 (today!)

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Peace of Mind on a Budget

We've been on a tight budget for a couple years now, so splurges are few and smallish. One indulgence I savor is gorgeous screensavers. It's a special delight to take a mini mental-vacation from a chaotic day by gazing at a tropical sunset, a rapturous waterfall, mountain wildflowers or a New England autumn.

I bought my third screensaver package yesterday from Second Nature....colorful butteflies in their natural habitat, from photo archives of the Smithsonian. Perfect to celebrate Spring. And to make a good thing even better, a portion of all purchases from Second Nature are donated to The Nature Conservancy, the Smithsonian Institute and environmental causes.

Support the beauty of our God-created environment. Treat yourself to some lovely peace-of-mind today at Second Nature.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Uneven in the Valentine Tally

I need to shop for a valentine to give to Ron. I love to give him sweet cards, but I can never catch up. You see....the score will always be uneven in our valentine giving tally.

Our anniversary is February 9th, and we were on the last days of our California coastal honeymoon on Valentine's Day. We awoke in a romantic inn in Solvang, had a delicious Danish breakfast and went for a stroll. And then he did it. He made the gesture that will apparently give him the hearts & flowers & candy edge for our entire marriage.

He gave me a valentine. A big, pink, pretty, expensive, multi-page valentine. I still have it, 15 years later. "To My wife, With All My Love" the front says. "A Valentine to Thank You for Your Beautiful Love." My forgetful husband remembered a valentine, and remembered to bring it on our honeymoon.

Inside it rhapsodizes, "Thank you for the warmth of your caring, the honesty of your sharing, the beauty of your love. Happy Valentine's Day " The perfect card. Women long for such a sentimental card from their men. It's incredibly, wonderfully, breathtakingly romantic and loving......
But here's the thing.....I forgot to buy a valentine for him. Yup, perfect planner me. I forgot. It was a humbling, even embarrassing moment, to say the least. I felt like a selfish heel.

In the hustle and bustle of our 60-person Newport Beach wedding and sit-down 4-course luncheon reception (I'm still trying to rationalize my unforgivable valentine omission...the wedding was a lot of work!), a valentine for Ron slipped my overstressed mind. Like so many women, I got swept up in the wedding details, and forgot thoughtfulness for my new husband.

He was fine. He easily forgave me. He made me happy; that seemed to be his reward. He didn't care much about not receiving a card....for a while. Then he realized.....I'm one up! I have permanent exemption from the big D...disappointment... for neglecting an occasional birthday or anniversary, for missing a small moment. A lifetime free pass. A perennial "get out of jail free" Monopoly card.

Ask him. He'll confirm it.

Over the years, I've canvassed friends and family for their opinion on this so-called valentine exemption. Men unanimously and immediately express admiration for Ron. They're openly dazzled by his immunity status. He's been called a hero to husbands everywhere, an inspiration, a role model for remembering when I forgot. A tall man among men. A man who remembered to buy and take a valentine on his honeymoon.

Well, he's never forgotten my birthday or our anniversary or a Valentine's Day. And neither have I again forgotten a special romantic day.

I admit it.....we wives sometimes fall into feeling smugly superior in our organizing and budgeting, planning and carpooling, cleaning and buying. Then I remember my honeymoon valentine.

As I touch this card right now, I feel grateful for my loving, thoughtful husband. And humbled by my own shortcomings.

It's OK if our valentine tally is forever uneven. I am blessed.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

East-Indian Chicken Curry - 2005 New Recipe # 3

It's our 15th wedding anniversary next week. We celebrated by indulging in this superb dish last night, since Andrea was away at a slumber party. Once the chopping prep is done, this dish is easy to create. The taste is rich, slightly sweet and absolutely addictive. We ate too much, and never touched our blackberry pie dessert. I really should rename this recipe East Indian culinary nirvana.

East-Indian Chicken Curry
8 chicken thighs, fat trimmed off
2 cups, half & half
1 cup, canned coconut milk
2 yellow onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 bunch parsley, chopped
1 lg cucumber, chopped
2 apples, chopped
3-4 tspns, curry powder
1 tspn, nutmeg
1 tspn, dry mustard
1 1/2 tspn, garlic salt
4 tbspn, flour
4 tbspns, canola oil
3 tspns, butter
Put 2 tbspns canola oil in a stock pot. Saute chicken thighs in pot over
medium heat 15 minutes, or until golden.
Add 3 cups water. Simmer for an hour.
In skillet, put 2 tbspns oil and saute onion, garlic,celery,apple. parsley, cucumber.
Melt butter in veggie mixture. Once melted, add flour to thicken.
Add mustard, nutmeg and 1/2 curry powder. Let simmer.
Take chicken from stock pot, remove from bones and set aside.
Blend veggie mixture and garlic salt into chicken stock in stock pot.
Slowly stir half & half and coconut milk into stock pot.
Add remaining curry and simmer for 30 minutes.
Add flour to thicken, if needed.
Stir in chicken, and simmer for 10 minutes.
Serve over steamed white rice.
Suggested condiments are peanuts, grated coconut, raisins and your fave chutney.
(I added a shot of Tabasco for muted fire. Yummy!)
We have enough leftover for another hearty meal or two. We can barely wait.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Rick Warren on Lowering the Divorce Rate

Interesting thought from Rick Warren, pastor and author....

"Marriage and Divorce magazine discovered that one out of every three marriages ends in divorce, but when the couple is married in a church ceremony, and they attend church regularly, and they pray and read the Bible together, then the chances for divorce drop to one out of 1,105."

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The Inspiration of Friends

Friends inspire me.

Susan plays her golden harp like an angel. I assumed she'd played for decades. A while ago, I asked how long she'd been studying her musical art.

"Two years now" this middle-aged wife and mother of three replied.

"Just two years? But....what caused you to start?"

"I asked myself...if I could do anything, what would it be? The answer was play the harp. So I did. Why wait? "

Susan inspired me to return to writing. I've loved to write since I was a junior higher. Always wanted to be a paid, professional writer. So I did. Why wait?
Laurie and Dave got a call just last week from a longtime friend in the child-placement field. A six-year old Russian girl needs a home. She's in foster care right now in another state. For unknown reasons, the friend thought of them.

These parents of two teenagers lead busy, Southern California-style driven and committed lives. Another child was the farthest thing from their thoughts.

But they prayed and pondered. They stopped to survey the possibilities. They stopped to consider where God may be leading them. That beautiful brown-eyed girl, who looks so much like Laurie, will be joining their household soon as their third precious child.

They were flexible and open to change. They were available for God's will. They truly opened their hearts and home to help another.

They inspire me.