Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Deviled eggs and such

This last weekend Trinity had a good-bye for Sandy Oster. Pending sale of her house, she’s moving to Auckland, NZ, to teach nurse practitioners and join Travis and Brooke’s core group to begin a church in central Auckland. She’s been a close friend since 1987.

The open house was at L’Abri - Nancy did most of the work and I helped.

Prisca and Erin waiting for water to boil and tea to steep.

I thought some orange-y spray roses in teapots would be the thing for Sandy since she was an "A" student helping at Mrs Schaeffer’s high teas back in the day. I’m not so good at tea sandwiches and teeny tiny yittle goodies. More of an AR-ARRR-AR cook. Maybe I’m lazy. I decided to make deviled eggs. Easy.

Denis helped by squishing the filling through a cake decorator thing. Lots of grown-ups like them in spite of years of avoiding eggs, so do kids. They snarf them faster than you can replenish the platter. To deter the little boogers for a second or two I added a sliced olive on top of each. I could see them pause, then recalculate: “I can REMOVE that.” Lots of people dropped in to wish her well.

Here are some of the folk, and Emmaclaire, my fave baby, who dropped by. We're going to miss Sandy a whole lot.

I think there are times when being single is an especially hard, lonely business. It’s difficult enough for a couple to sort, throw, sell, store, keep when moving. Sure, two might argue over what, but when it’s just you deciding about each item and you’re closing down a home…there is something more sorrowful and isolating about the process.

I can’t be as much physical help, but we’re looking forward to the next few weeks, having Sandy join us for supper each evening, and maybe staying with us until the house sells and the remains of the day get put in a container and shipped to New Zealand.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


In his book on prayer, Jerram Barrs writes about Jesus’ temptation and his response to the devil when he said, you shall not put the Lord your God to the test:

Jesus knows that there is no shortcut to serving his Father, no easy way to gain the support of the people, no quick and spectacular resolution to this ministry. There is rather faithfulness, doing his Father’s will day after day, trusting him in the troubles that come along, believing in his care when times are tough. Any other way is the way of presumption and pride.

Not much in our American cultural life prepares us for this way of thinking and living. I don’t mean to blame the culture. I know quite well that I can find trouble all on my own. I’ve given plenty of thought as to how I might get through please-fill-in-blank with spectacular results and without pain or bother.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Love of God

In Chicago taking care of The Great Aunt this week. She's in a mood today. She’s annoyed because I’d like to shower and take a walk. When I tell her after two hours of coffee, looking at pics and chatting up the charm of grandkids that I need to do some work, I read her disbelief. I tell her I’ve got a writing deadline and some mail to answer. She rolls her eyes. She says severely: I can SEE things are AS USUAL.

I know I shouldn’t respond. Soon she reappears in her turquoise teddy bear sweatshirt to glare at me from the lazyboy, waiting for lunch. I fix her a chicken sandwich and she declares it the best she’s ever had. We watch a Law and Order rerun because she’s in love with the detective, Brisco. I mix up some ginger molasses cookies. When the dough is made into little round balls dipped in sugar, she helps by flattening them with a glass bottom. Then she tells me she’s never liked ginger cookies. She might, she says, if they had chocolate chips in them. When the first batch is cooled she eats four with a cup of tea.

Last night I read to her from her “Choice Gleanings” calendar. The scripture verse was Who can separate us from the love of God? Nothing. She got misty eyed. It was her husband’s favorite verse. “Gleanings” always ends with a poem that gags me, but she finds them familiar and lovely. I asked if she ever painted or wrote when she was younger.

“No. None of us five girls ever did anything. We weren’t encouraged!” She remembers liking hymns from a book used at her New Bedford church in the 1920s. One day she wrote her own verses to a tune and showed them to her mother who was petite, prim, and permanently pissed off -- though the Great Aunt would never say so -- who said, OH, RUTH! The tone must have been derisive because she said, I never (ne-vah) wrote again.

Wasn’t your father artistic? “Oh, yes. He took painting lessons when we were little. But he quit.” She pointed to a painting of her father’s boyhood home in Scotland. No droopy vines and dripping purple sunsets with little windows aglow. Just a worn path leading to a thatched cottage, and a few golden flowers. Sort of impressionistic. Nicely done.

Who wants to be eighty-eight with Alzheimer’s? The Great Aunt has not asked for this.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Jesus will not hear us better

Reading through Jerram’s book on prayer, I hear his kind voice intoning this advice. Good for the soul like crusty bread and fine cheese. I’m often corrupted by either pride or despondency, so in hearing this I say to self, “Now, EAT this.”

“…discipline in prayer has to do with reminding ourselves, moment by moment, how much we truly need the Lord. It is a matter of developing a consistent mealtime pattern of saying “thank you” to the Lord; a habit when we rise in the morning of telling him we love him and need him; a routine when we walk by the way (or drive along the way) that we long for him to guide and direct us; a custom of when we meet people of asking him what we should say or do; an instant recognition that when we face temptation we must turn to him for strength; a glad remembrance at the end of each day, when we lie down at night that we are thankful for his support and sorry for our failures. This is the discipline we need.

“…Yet a word of caution is needed. Personal discipline in any area of our life has value. But legalism (making a set of rules that measure how well we are doing in praying regularly) because it almost always leads to either pride or despondency: pride because we are keeping the rules and we congratulate ourselves and become puffed up about how spiritual we are compared with others or with our previous practice; or despondency because we are not keeping our rules, and so we feel unspiritual, useless, and condemned. The Lord desires neither pride nor despondency from us.

“We are always to remember that the Lord will not hear us better because we have observed our disciplines. This is a truth we need to have engraved on our hearts and minds. Nor will the Lord hear us less well because we have not kept to the letter of our disciplines for prayer. He is our completely loving Father who does not condemn us or turn us away because of our lack of spiritual discipline. [my emphasis] It is just because he loves us that he desires that we set aside time for prayer…he longs for us to show him how much we love him and how much we are aware that we need him. [from The Heart of Prayer: What Jesus Teaches Us by Jerram Barrs]

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Glory, all glory

On our way to the Yarn Garage today Anita, Sandy, and I stopped to pick up Becca. We ran in for a minute to see her and Joe’s chicks. They’ve got 180 two-week-old peeping babies in a pen in their basement. In about four months they’ll begin laying colored eggs ranging from coffee to chocolate. My favorite might be the araucana’s teal blue egg. Who ever thought of eating so strange, lovely, and nutritious a thing?

When they hear or see a person, they all flee to the far corner, running over the tops of their mates heads, as though we were approaching with an axe.

A continuous chorus of peeping hangs in the air.

Just as suddenly they sit down, fall asleep, and waken to peck at another's eye.

It was worth the hour drive to the Yarn Garage past farms with dairy cows standing in the sun, the fields still dormant in buff and gold, water running in the creeks. I can’t even imagine how this place sprang up in an old farming town just south of the Twin Cities. Who knew? It’s run by a flamboyant designer from NYC, who designed and knitted many of the creations scattered through the store. Crammed and colorful, awed and overwhelmed by choices I stood nearly paralyzed. Corn fiber? Bamboo, wool, cotton?

Becca chooses ochre colors.

Anita likes Japanese Toro and milk fibers.

I thought I could sneak over and try on this amazing red and pink cowl sweater. Hiding behind a small mountain of yarn, I tried to get it on properly and was suddenly surrounded by a crowd giving advice, and a lady, not even an employee, who tried to adjust the sleeves and then the owner arrived, pushed everyone aside to arrange the collar, fussing and buttoning the front “under my girls.” And then yelled, where’s the camera? I think it’s my white hair?

Though I love tones of earth, I’m tempted by glitter so I finally choose these for some little projects I have in mind. Then Sandy surprised us by handing us each a gift certificate right there in the store. (She is moving to New Zealand and maybe we won’t see this dear friend for a long time.)

Feeling creative, beautiful, it’s 50 degrees outside, I think spring may be coming and this feeling may not last. But that’s okay. Just a taste now and then - a precious reminder of impending glory. Tomorrow I leave for Chicago to take care of Aunt Ruth for a week while Marsena works on a screenplay.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Meatloaf Cake

Just finished a bowl of tomato basil soup with fennel. But maybe coulda gone for this today.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Panic Prayers

Last week after Dad’s funeral I stayed on with Mom for a few days following. On Monday I drove her minivan into Baudette to check email and pick up a few groceries. Hardly anyone who lives up there locks their vehicles or even takes the keys out of the ignition, so when I got out I debated. Should I? With my computer on the front seat? I don’t care how little crime there is. I reached in grabbed the key and locked up. Moments later I was back and dug into my bag only to see I’d somehow lost the key off the ring. Everything else was there – all the buttons including the panic (which I hit a few times), but no ignition key. I began searching. The floor, under the seat, dumped my purse, tramped back and forth to the store scouring the snow and ice. Went inside and asked if a car key had been turned in and the clerk looked so suspiciously at me and pointed to a pay phone that I said no problem, I’ll call my brother if I have to… and I don’t know why I felt compelled to add, my brother is the county sheriff, you know. Dallas Block…and she looked at me then like I was really crazy since I was obviously not local. I felt even more embarrassed.

I don’t know why on that day it seemed such a huge crisis. It was so cold. And the wind was blowing. And aren’t our emotions sometimes so close to the margins we haven’t room for anything extra? I sat for a while resting my forehead on the steering wheel cussing at myself and praying a stream of nonsense, though I’m sure God could knew what I was saying. I didn’t want to walk over to Dallas’ office. Further humiliation. (Oh. THAT’S his sister?) Getting out my cell, I called his home hoping Marijean, my sister-in-law, could put me in touch. I explained my problem and she instantly knew what was wrong.
I had the KEY all along, I just didn’t recognize it. What insane engineer decided to design an ignition key that looks something like a flash drive? I was so relieved I almost cried. I’m not going to figure out the moral of the story…but one thing’s sure, I’m never going to buy a Chrysler. Irrationally. As if I’d have the chance…