Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Choices

Caleb and I went for a run the other night, and when we do that (like, the two other times it's happened), we usually do a cool-down lap around our apartment complex. I have a bad habit of looking into other people's windows. Just want to see what they're up to, you know. Most of them are watching tv. Do you know how boring it is to watch someone watching tv? It's like they're dead, frozen, completely immobilized. Vesuvius erupted and the gas asphyxiated them right where they were. 

Becca Ashton just wrote something great on her blog on this very theme, "the endless hours spent watching movies, playing games, or whatever other entertainment we mindlessly take in is just a means of avoiding silence, doing the things you know you ought to, and ultimately avoids the question of meaning..."

Doing the things you know you ought to.

The day after our little jog around the neighborhood, I was reading in 2 Corinthians 4. Verse 4 says, "The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ." What a crystal clear reason for people not knowing what they really need or what brings them meaning. Their minds are blinded. They don't know what their soul needs, so they try to fill that need with other things, things that Christians would call idolatry. They worship pleasure and try to find peace in things they think will satisfy, but ultimately do not. TV stops satisfying the moment you switch it off. Square peg, round hole.

2 Cor. 4:6 talks about the light of the knowledge of the glory of God that we have in our hearts. Part of this is knowing our need for God and also knowing that God IS God. We worship him, he directs our lives. The next verse, "But we have this power in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us."

Think about this verse in light of the tv question: in ourselves, we are mere humans. We might get to the end of the day and think, "Wow. I'm so tired. Time for tv therapy for the next six hours, time for a couple of beers, time to check out and turn off my brain until tomorrow." But, through the power of God we don't have to do that. We're not so weak that we have to turn to other things-- we can stay focused and keep our minds engaged through the day doing things that bring meaning to our lives and further the kingdom of God.

This is not to say that it's bad to rest after a hard day's work. I fully support rest and self care. It is also not to say that tv is evil. But, for me, this whole issue is a question of self-indulgence vs. discipline. I do not have a full time job, so the choices I make about time have become very important. Am I going to play brick-breaker on my phone everyday or not? Those kinds of things. Am I going to intentionally try to talk to Caleb about deep stuff in the evenings or not? Do I have the courage to make choices that are good for me? And what are they?

As a person with the knowledge of what my soul needs (Jesus Christ) and where it finds meaning (writing, being with people, singing, making things, teaching, being who I really am vs. tv, listlessness, inaction), do I have the courage to choose? These things bring meaning to me because they are part of how God has made me-- these are my gifts, these are the things I am here to do. At times when I am tempted to spend time in ways that I know will make me feel sick and purposeless later, will I remember that I have the power of God to help me choose something different?

My friend Brittaini and I went on a breakfast date yesterday and were talking about building a life. We both feel like we have some kind of people network here and friends we can call, and now we are thinking about the cracks. The time that connects the pieces of our days is the most significant part-- the part when nothing is scheduled and it is up to us to be who we are going to be. She said something awesome, "Having the life you want isn't doing what you want to all the time." This is the crux. I am spontaneous and follow my feelings when I make decisions. But to get where I want to go, I can't always do the things I want to do. I can't always say "not now." Discipline, discipline, you are so hard! 

Note: These are some loose thoughts. I don't have this idea completely nuanced yet. Let me hear the problems or other questions/issues so I can think it through more fully. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Saturday

Saturdays are great because I get Caleb for the whole day. This morning, I took him to my favorite breakfast spot downtown-- Marigold's. I always want to call it Gloria's, but that's not the name of it. It does have all the same letters, though. I have been to Marigold's about 4 times in the past three weeks, and I can't get enough of it. They have fresh flowers on every table, great specials, and some of the best coffee in Madison.

After breakfast, we went over to James Madison Park where I row, and I did a little demo for Caleb of how we take the boats out. Funny thing, there was little to no seaweed on the dock today... very interesting. Wish that could happen on the days I go out.

While we were walking back to our car, there was a French-speaking African church meeting in the park, so we stayed and listened to one of the pastors share his testimony, and then someone else came over to talk to us and persuaded us to stay and try some of the food, even though we were (at least, I was) stuffed from breakfast. And, let me just say, the food was so worth it. I loved the rice, and there was this delicious vegetable salad kind of like pico de gallo. The best thing was the egg rolls, surprisingly. I have never had a better egg roll. The music was great and we had some good conversation with people, some from Cote d'Ivoire, Sierra Leone, the U.S. It was an unexpected cool thing in our day. I loved watching the kids-- two of them tried to hula hoop in the same ring. They reminded me of the Haitian children I worked with in the DR. Afterwards we wished Jon my brother had been there to speak French to everyone. He would have loved it.

As we went through the food line, one of the women we had been talking to, Yolan, pointed to this thing that looked like lemonade and gestured for us to try it. She said "gin gin" and then she said "juice," so we thought it was juice. One of the guys at our table saw that we had gotten a huge cup of it to share and he asked us if we knew what it was with a smile that communicated that we were in for it. I had taken a big swallow a minute earlier, and it tasted kind of funny. It was really strong. It tasted sweet at first, but when you swallowed, some flavor kicked in and burned the back of your throat all the way down. I said it tasted like ginger and he said that they usually had it at their houses and it was ginger beer or made from ginger root. It seemed like he tried to avoid it. We switched to much smaller sips after that.

Friday, August 26, 2011

I heart rowing. I hate the squeak.

Happy Birthday Mike Mathias! Thanks for being a great dad and teaching me so much.

What a week. We're still trying to get that sick burnt pork smell out of here. This week was the week at the beginning of the change of the seasons where my allergies attack. I never know what's happening, even though it's happened for the past three years during this exact week. Last year, it was right before the first all-school communion where I had to sing. Two years ago, it was right after I got back from the Dominican. So, I spent the week sleeping and watching daytime television while doing laundry. I discovered that I really liked black TV(My Wife and Kids and Everybody Hates Chris). Yesterday, I realized that it was probably allergies and got a left-over prescription re-filled. Now I am back to being my chipper self.

I am really enjoying crew. So much. I always wake up before my alarm because I'm paranoid about being late and having to cox the next practice. I've never coxed. I don't know how. Don't make me responsible for the boat and everyone's safety please. Although, I have practiced the calls in my head and know exactly what kind of a coxswain (pronounced "cóx-in") I would be. My rowers would never be bored. I would keep them focused for every second of that piece.

On Monday, I counted from the wrong end of the boat. You see, in a shell, the rowers are numbered from 1 to 4 or 1 to 8, starting with the bow of the boat. Evens are ports and odds are starboards. But, the coach names people off starting with the stern, not the bow. I just figured that out today. So, on Monday, I was trying to put myself in a spot to be on the port side, and I counted 4 from the wrong end!! We got in the boat and pushed off the dock, and then I realized that I was in the 5 seat-- on the starboard side of the boat. I had never rowed on the starboard side, but you can't go back to the dock until the practice is over. It's a huge row boat, you can't turn it around just like that. So, I decided I'd just have to pretend like I knew what I was doing. It went pretty well all things considered. I definitely caught a couple of mini crabs ("catching a crab" means that the blade of your oar gets stuck in the water weird. A big one will knock you completely backwards. A small one will stick the handle in your stomach and cause a jerk to the boat) and missed water ("missed water" is what it sounds like-- you do a stroke but don't get any water in your blade. Also causes a jerk because your blade goes through too fast and you rush to the back of the slide) a few times, but for the first time on starboard, it wasn't so bad. The pieces we did that day really helped-- we did some drills and that was good for learning to row starboard. Today I was a port again, and that felt better.

All this green stuff gathers up on the dock everyday and in the morning before we go out, some rowers will pitchfork the dock and try to get all the seaweed and grasses off it. There's tons of it. And it's not just seaweed. There's yogurt cups and other trash and sticks and feathers and duck poop and things that I don't even want to know what they are. So today, I decided to help pitchfork the dock because there was so much seaweed on Monday that we had to walk over piles of it. Great idea, right? No. It turns out that there are other things in the grasses that are still alive! I got a nice big fork full of the stuff and was walking it over to the compost pile and I heard this squeaking, like a mouse would make when it's stuck to one of those glue traps. My grass kept squeaking, and I was freaking out. I wanted to throw my pitchfork and run. I set it down on the ground a couple of times, but there was nothing I could do and I had to get it over to the pile because three other people were all needing to use the same path. And then when I did dump it on the compost pile, I was afraid to look because I didn't really want to know what it was. I do alright with other gross things. Blood is no big deal. Feces are fine. Unclogging hair in the drain, throwing out month-old leftovers, raw meat is okay depending on the cut. But this I could not handle. I was terrified to the core. You have to imagine-- it's dark outside. It's like 5:28 am, and you can't see a thing, and something about arm's length away from you is squeaking and gasping for breath or something and you have no idea if it's going to get loose from the grasses suddenly and fall/jump onto you. One of the guys said it was probably a fish, but that wasn't comforting because then I just imagined its big eyes looking at me and its mouth opening and closing. And, how big is this fish? Is it bleeding? It's probably going to die a slow death now buried in seaweed. This happened twice this morning and I thought I was going to throw up or run away or throw down my pitchfork or all of the above. No more pitchforking the dock for me. I will encourage others from the sidelines.

I keep thinking of this analogy between rowing and faith. Actually, I keep thinking a lot of deep thoughts about faith. It's like I can't get away from them. Somehow, not being at Wheaton where I am surrounded by all things Christian makes me take the Bible more at its word (haha no pun intended). But anyway, the thing about rowing is that you can't see where you're going. You can only see what's behind you. The boat moves forward, but the rowers sit facing the stern so that they can see the stroke, the rower who sets the pace for the boat (the bow moves forward, the stern is the back of the boat). You watch the stroke at the stern or the rower directly in front of you the whole time, and the only way that you know where you are is by seeing the markers you pass along the shore, but you only see them after they have passed. This is like life where we don't really know where we're going, but we know we're going somewhere because we can see the markers along the shore. And we only see them after we've passed them. We've gotta be making progress. So then, who steers the boat? The coxswain. She knows where the boat is going and can see the destination the whole time. It's called picking a point. The coxswain is responsible for the safety of the rowers and will coach them to get to the destination. But the rowers have to listen to and trust the coxswain. There's your deep spiritual metaphor for the day.

Here's a race clip to help you visualize this. This is the Wheaton men's novice team in spring 2008 on the Skokie River in Il. They are going forward, looking backward, and the coxswain is in the stern. She can see the rowers and the race course. Oh, turn the sound down on your comp before you press play.

video

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Pork

Today I purchased and cooked pork for the first time in my entire life. I learned that curry will stain metal, and that there's a reason they tell you to brush the marinade on, and then put the meat in the pan: the marinade will burn, leaving the smell of burnt honey, soy sauce, curry, and other marinade ingredients long after you have eaten the pork. Thank God for candles.

On the way home from buying pork for dinner, I drove past the Oscar Meyer truck-- yes, the one shaped like a wiener. It was pulling out of a business intersection that no cars ever come out of except during rush hour. I wonder if they were doing a presentation at TDS, one of the local cable companies or for Johnson Bank, the only two office buildings in that plaza. I wanted to stop my car in the middle of the road, walk over to the truck and ask, "What are you doing?! What are your jobs? You get to drive the wiener wagon all day? What are you doing in Madison?" I thought of my friend Jessica on the Aha Moments tour with Mutual of Omaha and her giant air stream and wondered if these people were on a similar mission, only giving out hot dogs instead of recording people's life-changing stories.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Rowing/Time

Rowing is great. But what do I do when I get home from practice and it feels like I've been up for forever but really the day is just starting? Today I got home at 9 after a breakfast date with another rower and I didn't know what to do, so I facebooked and now I'm here. It's 10:13. What should I do today? Here is the day, stretched out before me, an interminable road until C gets home at 6. I already drank coffee. Now what? I seem to ask myself that a lot. I'm always looking for the next thing. It was nice when I didn't have to look and everything in my life was planned-- meetings, classes, practice, study, go here, every day was planned from 8am to 10pm. I can't get used to my new reality. I don't have enough energy right now to spontaneously create activities for myself, but I can't relax enough for that to be okay. I feel uncertain about what to do-- I like it better when there's the one thing that is clear must happen now because it has to get done and there's no other time to do it. That way it doesn't feel like I am creating my life. I usually like the feeling that I am in control, but somehow it feels like too much responsibility. Strange. Free time stops being valuable when you have an unlimited amount.


On the Water
1. Spandex
2. Red Crocs for wearing on the dock
3. Blisters, lots of them
4. Bottle of New Skin for blisters that I dropped in the parking lot. Of course, I drop the only thing made of glass. End of that particular jar.
5. Drive downtown in the dark-- all the lights flash yellow.
6. Park without difficulty and the 2 hr. limit doesn't start until 8am!
7. Warm up jacket from Mandy
8. Four oars
9. View of capital building and other downtown buildings
10. Sunrise on water
11. Little green bugs stuck to the girl's shirt in front of me
12. Rowers' heavy breathing
13. Pain-- in hand, back, legs, toes, shoulder, all muscles
14. Coxswain only calls power tens
15. Need to work on handle heights
16. Backsplash
17. Hate everything, can't go on, crave death. Finish, somehow.
18. Can't lift legs.
19. Rejoice.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Radio Slogan

Tomorrow at 5:30 am I will be rowing on lake Mendota!!!!! I am so excited and nervous I don't think I will be able to sleep tonight. I couldn't sleep last night because I was quizzing myself on rowing vocabulary and trying to remember if there is a difference in port and starboard oars (I think there is). I want to know what kind of shells they have and the pattern on the oars.

I've been wanting to talk about Christian radio station slogans. We heard one this past weekend that was truly unique. Caleb and I were driving home from visiting his parents. We spent the first hour of the ride with the windows down and Switchfoot blasting. We never ride like this, but we were happy and the weather was great and it was the weekend. When we got tired of driving like that (let's face it, you can't sustain that kind of drive for four hours), we rolled up the windows and switched to radio. After a couple of songs, we heard the slogan: "88.7... bringing the good news to sinful Iowa." We both sucked in our breath and exclaimed, "Whoaaa!!" at the same time. Caleb said, "and with such a soothing voice, too." We are bringing the good news to all you filthy sinners out there in the great state of Iowa, where we both happen to live and work. We have a church too, if you ever want to come to it, you sinner. What person who hears that slogan is going to want to have anything to do with Christians, judgmental or otherwise?

I mean, we're all in need of some good news, right? Wheaties, remember the chapter in Bonheoffer's Life Together when he talks about being shocked to discover a sinner in our midst? Christians still sin, so I don't think we should be so quick to create stark dichotomies between those who possess the good news and those who do not in terms of their sinfulness. It's not just one side that has sin issues. Both sides do. How about bringing the good news to ourselves and getting rid of that superiority sentiment? How about embracing an attitude of humility? If we put up walls and project to the world that it's so sinful and so different from us that we can't relate to it, the church will not grow.

It's this kind of pretending that causes even bigger credibility problems for the church-- like when it turns out a pastor has been sleeping with members of his congregation. Pretending that all sin and temptation has vanished from our lives and projecting that image to American society sets us up for big problems when the truth comes out that, oh, I'm really not perfect.

Another problem with this handy little slogan is that it assumes that non-Christians should, and do, try to live up to Christian standards for "holy living." Why would they when they don't believe in Christianity? Christians condemn non-Christians for not living in accordance with something they don't believe. Now, that's twisted. If a Buddhist condemned me for not following the Buddhist principles, I would say, hey man, I'm not a Buddhist. And he would say okay. And that would be the end of it. But Christians can agitate so much! and get away with it on the radio!

If I'm not a Christian and I flip to 88.7 on scan and hear "bringing the good news to sinful Iowa" I will either feel judged, confused, guilty for vague reasons, or angry. Calling people "sinful" creates distance instead of an environment of care and welcoming. What about getting to know someone instead of slapping on that "sinful" label? Ask them what they care about. People are very different, and a lot of times this creates fear in Christians. But what reason do we have to be afraid? Fear of people's thoughts, fear of things they're involved in, fear of being wrong, fear of being labeled. These are common fears. When we are firmly grounded in our identity (in Christ, etc.), we don't have to be afraid. Maybe who we are is just what was needed to reach someone (D. Klee). I'm not a pro, but it's somewhere to start.


Monday, August 15, 2011

A String of (Unconnected) Thoughts: Hope Abounding

Someone says that men's thoughts could be compared to a waffle-- everything has its own compartment and the divisions between individual compartments/thoughts are clearly defined, while women's thoughts are more like a spider web or a giant bowl of spaghetti-- thoughts lead to other thoughts and it's not really clear how. So, a woman can leap from talking about a recent lunch date to remembering that the trash man came this morning (oh darn). Here are some of the things I've been thinking about recently. Judge for yourself the semblance to waffles or spaghetti.

Cars: I don't like getting work done on my car. Here's why: everyone knows that girls get ripped off unless they know something about cars. Thought process: How do I know where to take it? Everywhere is expensive. How do I know if a cheaper diagnostic will pay off in the end or not? Is it important that the brake test is 25 at one place and 50 at another if they can both be applied to the end cost? Well, it depends if the problem ends up being with the brakes. Dahhhhhhhhh. Whichever decision I make seems like the wrong one.

Jobs: I got a job. From one Monday post to another, I got an email asking me to interview, interviewed, and got a job. It was a whirlwind. And I am thankful for it because I was getting to the end of my jobless rope. Not only did I get a job, I got my dreamjob using almost everything I am passionate about: teaching, Spanish, kids. In addition to these awesome things, my job is only 18 hours a week, which will allow me to continue doing wifely things and writing (and rowing! see end).

Before I knew I was hired, I had a conversation with a friend about defining ourselves by what we do. This is a BIG temptation for me. Last year, I was working all the time in a bunch of different roles, and I came out of that constant flurry of activity to a position of relative non-doing-ness, a position where I was forced to sit around and think about the source of my contentment with myself. Did it come to me because I was successful or because I knew who I was in God's eyes? It is hard for me to be still. I hope that I am growing to be more comfortable in stillness. Knowing that I start work soon helps, but I hope that the time that I was without a job was long enough to teach me that lesson.

Prayer: I got this job because people prayed for me. When I thought I was going to be doing the teaching program with conflicting hours, I sent an email out to the big prayers in my life and asked them to pray that I would get hired anyway. What happened was that the program didn't fill, I got interviewed, and I got the job. I asked them to pray because I got to the point where I realized that with doing the program, it was unlikely for me to get hired, but I really wanted the position. I asked for prayer because I was so desperate. (Why don't we seriously ask for prayer before we reach the point of desperation???)

During the past school year, a situation came up that was very desperate involving family. I had no hope that it would get better, and I was afraid, so I asked for prayer-- I asked my roommates, people I worked with, I asked pretty much everyone I was close to because the situation was so desperate, and God came through in a way that was so far beyond anything I could have imagined. Why don't we tap into the sweet resource of prayer all the time? Would we see more happen if we believed that God was the only one who could help?

Belief: I got to have dinner with a dear friend two Saturdays ago, and she said something that I have kept thinking about. She used this illustration to talk about belief: a homeless man stops referring to himself as "a homeless man" and starts referring to himself by the job he just got. He's choosing to believe that he's headed in a different direction. This is cool, because it actually works. It's exciting to talk about yourself with hope instead of despair. If I say outloud to other people, "I'm a writer," I'm closer to being one than I was before. I'm telling myself who I am instead of letting other people put labels on me like "unemployed," at the time. Saying who I am helps me to become it more. I ordered some business cards with my blog address on them. Self promotion is scary, but it also builds confidence.

Cooking: I made some awesome chicken tenders with ranch dipping sauce the other day. I didn't know ranch was so easy to make, and you could get it to taste like real ranch. I was amazed. It's just buttermilk, mayo, and some spices. Amazing. I also discovered the goodness of Japanese breadcrumbs: panko. Yum.

Joy: I want more.

Rowing: I found a rowing club and I am going to start again, as soon as my car is fixed. I hope I survive morning practices. I am itching to start, even though I know it's going to kick my butt. Caleb has promised that he's not going to let me quit in the first two weeks. Rowing is calming. There's the initial moment of hating everything because it's 5 am and why am I awake everyone else is sleeping I hate this. But then, you get on the water, and all is calm. The only sound is the oars dipping in and out of the water doing the warmup in pairs and the sun is coming up. No one is around. No one gets to see this except you. It's priceless.

Summary: I'm doing a lot better. Hope differed makes the heart sick... desire fulfilled is a tree of life, as my dad always says. Hope abounds.




Monday, August 8, 2011

Monday

Laundry day. Our sheets keep collecting blue fuzz-- it's the combination of our new towels plus either a too high or a too low thread count.

The teaching certificate program I was going to do didn't fill, so now it's not happening, which was surprisingly a relief to me. Now I can get a real job without worrying about class times conflicting or having to observe at a school during the day.

I set out for Panera this morning armed with that discovery and ready to get myself a job, but no one answered their phones and the lunch crowd was too loud and really I was too late to spend time working at Panera because the lunch rush is way too distracting. It's better to get there at 8.

The result: a rather grumpy afternoon spent reading Jacob Have I Loved in my underwear while washing sheets and lights. Food seems boring. I did call all the places I applied, poking around, asking questions. Why don't you want me? That's the real question.

The program not filling is an answer, for which I am supremely grateful. Whenever I talked about the program to other people, I never sounded like I was sure that I was going to do it, and I guess I really wasn't sure about it. I never treated it like something that was really going to happen at the end of August. I told everyone during my last semester of college that I was going to take a year off and I didn't want to go back to school right away. Little did I know how hard it would be for me to take a year off. What did I picture myself doing? Sitting around happily crocheting scarves and painting and cooking and reading and "being a good wife." I should have known I would be bored out of my mind. All of us do-ers who can't sit still-- time off is like a slow death. Reading all day isn't good enough. It's not a justifiable use of time. I can't bring myself to apply to Starbucks or Bed Bath and Beyond because I think about speaking Spanish with eight year olds and playing and doing craft projects and everything I want to be doing that doesn't involve stocking blenders or blending frappucinos.

I'm not in a bleak situation. It just feels that way. Somehow all the hope of the morning got squashed even though nothing has changed and options are still wide open and there are still jobs to be had in this booming city and writing projects for me to do and friends coming over tonight for pizza. Sometimes being melancholy just sucks. Emotions suck. Boredom sucks. Not being Jeff Smith or someone who can just walk outside and create their own destiny with only raw charm and initiative sucks, too.

One thing I did learn yesterday that I desperately needed to hear was about reliance. At our church small group, the pastor told a story about our reliance on God. If God is a pillar, are we clinging to him with our whole bodies wrapped around the pillar, or are we standing off to the side with our fingers barely touching it. I am being brought to a place where there's nothing to do except cling to the pillar. Even if I had enough charm or initiative, I wouldn't be worthy of relying on myself. I am not a safe bet for myself because I do not have the power to weave things together. I need that pillar to show me the way. That is the lesson in the midst of whatever this season is.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Letters from Cuba

The letters from Cuba
are like secret friends I have yet
to meet. I will find each one out--
their handwriting, how an "n"
looks like an "es" or how one
write in all caps and connects
every phrase with a comma.
These are friends in a town
with few known faces.
They take me to the only other
letter I have translated, for Marta,
asking for money to get her papers.
Today, there is no way to translate
Así es la vida with its finality.
I put their voices in the envelope
and take the grey road home
my vision shifting from Spanish
to English, from poetry to normal.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Rodent Stuffed Animals?

I saw the most bizarre thing driving around town today. I pulled up to a stop light and was singing with my music when I looked over to my left and in the passenger seat of the blue minivan next to me was a boy, probably 13-15 years old, holding this giant stuffed animal and waving its paw at me. I jumped a little and started to wave back without thinking. The stuffed thing looked like a cross between a rodent and an alien-- it was probably from some movie I haven't seen. For the whole duration of the stop light, he kept waving the animal and smiling at me. It was weird. They pulled away and I started laughing at how bizarre this was because I didn't know what else to do. At the next stop light, the minivan pulled up to a big white van and the kid did the same thing to the guy driving the van, but from the expression of the man's face in his side mirror, I don't think he thought it was as funny as I did. I think the best thing to do when you get waved at by large rodent stuffed animals is to wave back. I just re-read that last sentence and I am thinking to myself, "What?"

Homemade Gnocchi

A month or so ago, I read a book called The School of Essential Ingredients and felt inspired and a little bit outraged by how easy everything seemed in the cooking classes taught by the main character (for more, see my previous post The Mystery of Cooking). After I read the book, I found a recipe for homemade pasta in a cookbook I received as a birthday gift, and I determined that I would try to make homemade pasta myself without the aid of a pasta machine just like they did in the book. I bought all the tools at Bed Bath & Beyond a couple of weeks ago, and yesterday, I finally tried out my recipe for gnocchi. Below, I will explain some of the steps of the process. It wasn't too difficult to make, and I actually liked it so much better than the packaged kind you can buy at the grocery. The recipe is from A Taste of Home.

This is a potato ricer. I had never seen one used or worked with one until yesterday. It's like an over-sized garlic press or one of those playdough toys. After you boil the potatoes, you load them up in here, and then press away. I used about 1 lb. of potatoes.  
The potato ricer in action. It worked really well, and looked cool! 

One you've finished the potatoes, you want to make a well in them. After that, sprinkle the flour (2/3 cup) on top of the potatoes and into the well in the middle. Then, whisk an egg with some salt and nutmeg and pour it into the middle. Mix it with a fork starting in the middle and working your way out. 

It should make a really nice dough like this. After it's mixed really well, divide it into quarters. 

Then, flour up your surface, and roll out one of the quarters. The recipe says about a half inch thick, and I wish I would have made them that small! Smaller is better with gnocchi. 

My four rolls lined up. 

This tool is called a "bash n chop." I also had never used one of these, but it worked really well. It has a ruler on it, which makes it especially useful for jobs like these when you need to measure. Again, I wish I would have made them smaller. The recipe says 3/4 in. and that would have tasted much better than this size. 

I used two forks to make the grooves in them instead of one because my thumb kept wiping them off on whichever side the fork wasn't on. 

After this, all you have to do is boil them for 30-60 seconds or until they float up to the top. The potatoes are already cooked, so it's fast! 

The sauce was just butter, garlic, and some sage. Yum yum. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Waiting

Hebrews 6:12 "We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised."

This verse has never stood out to me before, but today I find it intriguing because I have been feeling pretty lazy. I've been comparing myself to a cat and wondering which of us would be getting more done, or which of us would be happier about what we were getting done. The cat probably wouldn't be upset with itself for spending its days lounging on the windowsill.

I don't like waiting to hear back from jobs I've applied for. I wonder if I will ever hear back at all. I wish they would at least guarantee a "no" so I could move on. The temptation in the meantime is to cross over into this sort of mind-laziness and just give up, turn to despair (this sounds so melodramatic).

This passage strikes me because on the surface, it doesn't seem like there are many differences between the way that laziness looks and the way that faith and patience look. I could be sitting on my windowsill drinking a cup of coffee and you wouldn't know which one I was wearing that day. I have always thought that the opposite of laziness was doing everything you could think of all at once. If you don't want to be lazy, you have to get up and move, get going, generate as much energy as the Tennessee Valley Authority.

But it doesn't say that. The verse doesn't say, if you're tired of waiting for something, here are all the things you need to DO to get it. Waiting can be one of the most passive and difficult things to do, because it means doing nothing. We've already done everything we can do towards getting what we want, and now we have to wait for someone else to do something. This is so hard for me! I want results and I want them NOW. When we are in a situation of waiting, we can respond with attitudes of laziness or we can respond with attitudes of patience and faith.

When I think of the word patience, I see this woman who is about fifteen years older than me, and she's a little bit weathered, but she has this smile on her face, this small little smirk in her eye like she knows something. She's the kind of mother who says, "Oh, ok," knowingly to her children's wild ideas and you know she's wise. She doesn't mind the waiting because she has belief, the faith element. She is secure, whatever comes. I love that the word "inherit" is in this verse because who ever did anything to earn their inheritance? "Inherit" takes the focus off of us and our "doing" and puts it back on the Father who is the giver of our inheritance.

I realize that I am talking about waiting for a job, while a lot of other people are waiting for things that are a lot more heartbreaking to wait for-- a child, to be loved or in love, a sense of belonging, to be seen and valued as a person of significance. Through patience and faith, God offers us a peace that we cannot manufacture on our own. The peace doesn't take away the desire or the felt pain, but it takes the worry and fretting out of it. This is the gift or the fruit of patience and faith, and this is what doesn't look any different from our conception of laziness. This is the look of the woman. She isn't disturbed and running around, frantically trying to put things in order. She is calm and her heart is at rest. She could be sitting and reading a book like one of those "typical lazy people."

It is tempting to say that you can't wait patiently if you don't have faith that God will come through in the end, but hopefully, what we learn through this exercise is that it isn't about us getting what we want. If "God coming through" means that I get exactly what I wanted every time, there is a problem. The second gift of patience and faith is that we are more focused on God than we are on ourselves. We are closer to him through calling out to him from a place of pain and longing. We believe and know that he has the power to answer us, however it looks when he does, and, turning full circle back again, this gives us the courage to have faith and patience.

I will always remember this quote, "There's no music in the rest, but there's the making of music." In music, there are notes where sound is produced, but there are also rests where no sound is produced. Although sound isn't produced in the rests, the pauses are necessary for the music to sound the way that it does because music is made of sound and the absence of sound. Waiting for something you really want can suck. But, waiting is also an opportunity to receive rest from God, to stop doing and try to be for a while. To listen.