Snack attack

Confession: One good thing about having kids underfoot is that I can’t sit around eating all the time, like I wanted to those first weeks of pregnancy. This is a good thing.

But there is one snack I can always find time for, a perfect little creation of my friend Shaunda (whom I mention too often on this blog but I can’t help myself)…

Take a saltine cracker…

Top it with a slice of pepperoni…

Add a daub of cottage cheese…

And top it off with a sprinkle of black pepper.

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I can tell more than half of you are gagging by now. Honestly, it must be something about pregnancy hormones. Shaunda convinced me to try it one time when I wasn’t expecting, and it was… fine. You know. A cracker and cottage cheese—okay, little weird, but no problem.

I tried it the other day, pregnant, and it was (briefly) the culmination of everything I’ve ever wanted in my life. That good. I might be eating it every day from now on.

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How many of you are brave enough to try it now, hmmmmm?

Snippets of life

…a.k.a. “Confessions and Newsflashes from my Multi-Faceted* Life”

* {Multi-faceted} meaning we have breakfast dishes, lunch dishes, snack dishes, supper dishes… and I am good at washing all of them.


Confession: If I were a wiser girl, I would be making lunch right now. But sometimes words are food too, and I chew on them to stay alive in the midst of chaos.


Confession: My son took a dead snake to school. He also took his stomp rocket—but he needed a back-up plan in case his teacher didn’t allow him to do show-and-tell outside, so  he dropped our cat’s kill into his backpack and didn’t tell me about it until afterwards… when I wondered why he was spraying the air freshener so liberally in the vicinity of his backpack. The teacher (who was a substitute for the day) will be forever blessed to have said “yes” to going outside, though she probably never knew the alternative. Smart girl.


Newsflash: I have come to an important realization. I can raise either children or rodents, not both.

Free to a good home: one large gerbil who bites everything.


Confession: Sometimes I amuse myself by imagining how future history books will speak of The Americans, or The Westerners. I imagine informational books recreating what we ate, what we wore, how we spent our days, and what we thought was important. Today, drenched in all things girlie, I am thinking how odd it will seem to someone, someday, that we considered pink a feminine color and would never wear it on our baby boys.


Confession: I’ve never entered summer vacation with so little Plan. I usually take a strategic few days in the spring to come up with all my systems and brainstorms for keeping (them) busy and (me) sane. But suddenly, here we are.

I was talking with some friends lately about how much we can learn from Organized People Who Know How to Plan—and how much we can learn from Flexible People Who Roll Graciously with Whatever Comes.

I have given up hope of attaining the perfect balance.

Meanwhile life seems to keep me hanging in a place that is not quite either one.


Newsflash: Silent Grief: Hope for Surviving Early Miscarriage is available for pre-orders in printed form. I promised I’d let you know when it came out. Also available is a lovely gift packet, with a journal and a bookmark and things. Check it out here at Kendra’s site.


Confession: I can never discover the truth of my own motives until after I hit publish. I thought my recent discussion about controversy was a general one about life online; afterwards I realized that I was responding directly to one particular thing that got me, which makes me no wiser than all the hens who ruffled their feathers and bickered. Then I was ashamed.

I’ve never done that before, and I don’t plan to again.

You had excellent thoughts, and I thank you.


Confession: There is no friend like an old friend.

becca and girls

After Becca and her girls came last weekend I was going to write a whole post about it, how we talked and cried and laughed, how we sat on the grass and the couch and the lawnchairs, how we tended babies and cooked and cleaned together. I was going to write about the last time I saw her, eight years ago, and how the years melted away when she arrived. I was going to write of our friendship, how it stretches back and back through first-time motherhood, early marriage, Bible school days, teenage years, to the time we first met at thirteen, shy and eager and lonely. I was going to write all this, but I found that our memories are our own, and not to be shared yet.

There is no friend like an old friend.


Newsflash: Last week I dreamed that each of our goats gave birth to two kids, and when I woke up in the morning, I found it was true. They are pure white, and darling—two billies and two does. They are the first of the babies due this year on the Zook homestead: kittens, possibly puppies, and a newborn child. I am beginning to hope again in dreams.

goat 3


Confession: Life is strange. And selecting donuts? Even stranger.

When I pulled up to the drive-through of Tim Horton’s, my sons had carefully planned the donuts they wanted, but the male voice through the intercom informed me that he was sold out of both kinds. In a hasty decision, the boys both picked Maple Dip as a substitute, and I picked what I knew Ryan and Kelly would like, as a take-home treat for them. The cashier repeated my order back to me. “Two maple dips, an apple fritter, and a maple dip.”

“That’s right,” I said, distractedly.

“Whoa,” he said. “I said that wrong. Two maple dips, an apple fritter, and a vanilla dip.”

“That’s right.”

“I just wanted to make sure,” he said.

As we pulled up to the pick-up window, Aarick said “I wish I had ordered an apple fritter.” I thought quickly. Should I ask them to change it? The prices were probably not the same, and we’d already confused our worker enough. “I’m sorry, son,” I said. “I think you’ll need to go with what you picked. It will be okay.”

We paid and drove away, and I opened the box to find two apple fritters, one maple dip, and one vanilla dip. My sons and I sat and laughed. What are the chances the cashier could give us what we wanted instead of what we ordered? That was awfully sweet of God.


Confession: And now I need to stop ignoring my messy living room and fussing babes.


What have you been up to?

Productive controversy

There’s no doubt about it: Mennonite bloggers are getting braver. Ooh, and this is a good thing, for voices to be found and viewpoints to be expressed.

It does have its issues.

I read three articles in the past couple of weeks, by three of them—

(Don’t you love the lumping all-conclusiveness of “them”? As though they are one of a kind?)

Correction: I read three articles by three different bloggers in the past couple of weeks. Though their topics differed widely (from Anabaptist ministry to multi-level marketing), each presented a fairly pointed critique of a problematic situation. Each posted an appeal to a wide group of people. Each was brave, and well-worded, and raised important though controversial issues. Each was followed by quite a hubbub of agreement or disagreement.

Only one article was difficult for me to read. Though I agreed with many of its points, I found myself on the defensive throughout the article. Surprisingly or not, this one sparked the sharpest feedback, with numerous people objecting to the “attitude” of the writer while others found her “funny” and “spot-on.”

Hmm.

I am thinking about this now.

On social media, it’s so easy to slant the rules. For example, “My blog is my own space for airing whatever I wish to address.”

??

We never give that right to physical spaces, as if “in her house” or “in his pulpit” or “on that street corner” a person may say anything, at any length, to anyone, without accountability…? I don’t think so.

However, I seldom question the “right” to speak, but the courtesy of the speaker.

What do you think? What makes it possible for you to hear a viewpoint you disagree with without becoming defensive in response? Does it have anything to do with the speaker? Does it have anything to do with your own heart?

Of course the same questions may be asked in any social group, not only online or in the media. Families, churches, and businesses all have to find ways of communicating differing opinions productively. How do we do this? What adjectives describe the kind of pushback people can actually hear and receive?

Personally, there are two things that (rightfully or no) put me on guard against the proponent of a viewpoint, especially online.

First is facelessness. If you are going to claim the right to speak, and particularly to criticize, it’s only fair that we can see you—your real face, your true name, something of your actual self. I may be too incautious here personally, having never been burned by masked gunmen or irate readers showing up at my physical-address-which-I-was-too-free-with-online. But I’m frustrated by the number of times I show up at someone’s site only to find no identifying information whatsoever. No real name, no photo, no history, nothing by which the writer could be caught hold of and taken to account.

Now—I’m Mennonite, right? Which means I don’t properly know you until we’ve discussed your grandfather, your older sister who went to Bible school with my big brother, and the farmhouse you lived in as a child.

But isn’t there a happy medium between the two? Must we have full disclosure or… lurking? We are becoming a generation of eels, uncatchable, untraceable, slipping in and out of deliberately blurred backgrounds. I think I understand our wish to escape our histories, to be known only as “ourselves,” but it’s simply not possible. (Nor is it the way to influence people and situations.) We can’t reinvent ourselves to suit. We have real lives, guys—with real faces, real ancestors, real problems.* Can we have them online too?

*(Sometimes the faces, the ancestors, and the problems are all the same thing. Sorry. Couldn’t resist.)

The second turnoff for me is ire*, though I have trouble with this one myself—biting my tongue until I HAVE HAD IT UP TO HERE WITH THESE IDIOTS AND NOW I’M GOING TO SPEAK UP. This doesn’t work, does it? It only makes your listeners raise their shields. And then their swords.

*(The definition is worth clicking on!)

If the explosion approach isn’t successful in real life, with collegues or church families or close friends, it’s not going to work in the cyberworld either. Oh yes, I have the right to speak! but depending on the tone I choose I may find no one to listen. (And then it’s fun to label them “intolerant” of “a valid viewpoint no one is willing to consider!”—but could it possibly be my method?)

It’s so easy to demand a respect for myself and my position that I am unwilling to extend to others and their ways. If I am so passionate as to pour ire on those who disagree with me (cynicism, belittling, blame throwing), I need to take a deep breath and a large chill pill before putting the world through what I have to say.

(Shari Zook, take note.)

I like to hear different opinions. I like when they are well said, when they are respectful, when they are meaty. I don’t even quite believe all our words have to be “kind.” The last time I checked, Jesus’ flaming epithets of “whited sepulchres” and “dead men’s bones” probably had the emotional effect of a punch—though I am not so wise and good as He is, by a long mile. Truth in love is at times sharp-shooting and intense, but there’s a long stretch between cowardly and brutal. Can we permit others the space to disagree with us without making them feel like utter nincompoops?

What makes controversy meaningful? productive? good? What pushes you to engage with a speaker or writer you disagree with?

*****

Your turn! Here are the questions I asked above.

What do you think? What makes it possible for you to hear a viewpoint you disagree with without becoming defensive in response? Does it have anything to do with the speaker? Does it have anything to do with your own heart?

Families, churches, and businesses all have to find ways of communicating differing opinions productively. How do we do this? What adjectives describe the kind of pushback people can actually hear and receive?

What makes controversy meaningful? productive? good? What pushes you to engage with a speaker or writer you disagree with?

(briefly) The mother of seven

On this amazing day

I get to nurture seven children in my home.

Three born to me, children of love—

our kids

Angel Boy, for one more day—

angel boy

Little twin sisters, arrived last week to stay for a time—

twins

And—

announcment

(yes, this is an announcement)

An unborn child, due to join us in December.

My heart is full to bursting.
The Lord has given and taken away, blessed be His name.

Happy Mother’s Day, to all women who pour love every day into the heart of a child.

The Lord’s Prayer – My turn

Confession: I have a tall glass of iced coffee in hand, and if I am not very careful I will pick up The Count of Monte Cristo and be lost to the world for the night as a reader instead of a writer. This too would be good. Dantes is an airhead at this point in the story, but the Abbe is nearing his fatal attack and Mercedes is growing paler and more interesting every day.

What did I learn when I prayed the Lord’s Prayer every day for a month?

(I’m still learning.)

Some days the phrases played over and over in my mind. Some days the words pierced me, and I cried as I spoke them. Some days I could hardly speak them at all, and instead let the celestial voice of Andrea Bocelli sing them into reality.

I learned things about myself, and prayer, and God.

First, I learned that I pray some really dumb prayers, ordinarily. Not only on the tip of my tongue, but also in the depths of my heart lie some truly ridiculous requests. They bloop out of my mouth when I’m least expecting them, and they embarrass me.

Like—

Please help me not to say anything silly…

??

I can only imagine the look on God’s face.

Please help me to hold it together…

????!

Sorry, darling. Not on My list of goals for your life.

It was a relief to pray the Real prayers, for the Kingdom and God’s will and His glory and my daily needs, without falling into such catastrophically selfish and ungrantable petitions.

I’m not trying to say that ad-libbing in prayer is a bad thing. I know God cherishes the words we shape to Him, the words that come from the depths of our hearts or the tips of our tongues, however silly they occasionally are. But are they really what we want to say?

I loved the gentle alignment of my words with His, my requests with His, my will with His. I loved skipping “I know you want me to be okay with this but I’m really not, but I’m trying to be. You know I struggle sometimes, Lord. Are you sure you really know what you’re doing? I’m trying to trust you, and so I pray (I think I pray) that your will be done (except not if it hurts too much)…” and instead moving simply, so sweetly, to His heart. “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Second, I learned that I am terrible at forgiving. I’m not sure if it was the Prayer itself that brought my grievances to the surface, like scum atop a cooking vat, or if I am always this vengeful. “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” seemed like an impossible mouthful for the first week or two, especially on the days when I was really steamed about something that happened months ago.

Then I started thinking about the real mouthful.

“Forgive us our debts.”

Honestly? Such a light and simple request.

I don’t pretend to know more about forgiving than I did a month ago, except for this piece: I cannot claim the forgiveness of the Lord Jesus for my own sins if I am unwilling to release those who have sinned against me.

I know we say His grace is free, with no strings attached, and I told you I don’t pretend to understand these things. But I know from the parable of the two servants who owed the lord money, and I know from experience in my own life, that it just doesn’t work to claim the one and refuse the other. And oh, I have been forgiven so much! The two parts of forgiveness must go forth hand-in-hand into the world—or neither.

“Forgive us our debts while we forgive our debtors…”

My acceptance of His bountiful, generous release, His wiping away of the debts I owe Him and cannot pay, not only inspires me or prepares me or enables me—but truly impels me to offer that same free release to others, at the risk of losing it myself.

Third, I learned something about the nature of prayer itself: that it is a way of holding two opposite things simultaneously and in the same space—the brokenness of the world, and the loving provision of the Father. (This idea came straight from N. T. Wright’s book The Lord and His Prayer.)

The prayer of Jesus stands as a powerful bridge between two realities. On the one hand, you have hunger, debts, temptation, evil. On the other, you have forgiveness, deliverance, power, glory. Mr. Wright says this is a crucial function of our prayers—bringing the brokenness of the world into the light of God’s presence, and holding the two together in our hearts.

There is more to this world than meets the eye. We are surrounded by brokenness without and within, but the kingdom is come! and coming! and coming more! Aslan is on the move.

Now that is a prayer I will be clinging to for months.

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