Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Bake day!

Yesterday it was nice and cool outside, which means it was cool inside too! So after I got the laundry out on the line I decided that it would be a good day to do some baking. Mommy had been at the store on Monday and had picked up a GF mix for pumpernickel bread from The Mix Company so that was first on my list of things to bake. I generally stay away from mixes because they are trickier to alter to suit my needs and they are expensive, but mommy had picked this one up so I had nothing to lose.  And, I'd never had pumpernickel bread before.  It was simple enough to make and I only had to make one substitution and that was for eggs.  The mix required two eggs, so I made up some Ener-G egg replacer, equal to the amount of 4 eggs (I have found it works best just to double it from the get go, or use another binder such as fruit sauce or xantham gum).  I mixed up the mix and put it on a tray to go in the kinda looked like a blob of brown stuff, so I didn't get my hopes up to high.  It held together quite well in the oven (I had visions of it losing its wonderful round form and being a flat mess by the time it was done)  After the bake time I pulled it out of the oven and tada!
He doesn't look as beautiful as the ones from the store, but he is gluten free, dairy free, egg free, etc, etc, etc. Having never had pumpernickel bread before I wasn't quite sure what to do with him so we just let him cool on the table until mom came home from the mill.  Then we had him with supper and he was tasty!  There was some left over and I used it for sandwich bread for my lunch today.  Also yummy.  But, at $7 a loaf, he won't be gracing my kitchen too often. 
Next on the list was cheese crackers. I'd been wanting to try them for some time now, but the milk thing had been problematic.  However, on Monday I was cleaning out the freezer and found a part bottle of goat milk left over from bottle feeding alpacas last summer.  It was almost exactly the amount I needed to make cheese crackers, so substituting goat cheese and goat milk for regular cheddar cheese and regular milk, I set out to make cheese crackers. Amazingness.  They were super easy to make and extremely yummy, almost addictive.  So yummy that I left a tray of them on the counter when I went out to get the mail and this is what I found when I came back in:

The dog had come with me to get mail, this left Reuben and Isaac in the their defense, I had given them permission to sample, provided they did up dishes from lunch and they did do dishes.  

After the definite success of the cheese crackers and the tentative success (we hadn't tried eating it yet) of the pumpernickel I decided to try my hand at dinner rolls.  The only substitution I had to make was to use goat milk (I found more in the freezer) instead of regular milk.  I had high hopes for these rolls.  Maybe too high.  The dinner rolls looked fine, but when I ate one for bedtime snack, it was about like eating a soft rock.  I had another, sliced in half and toasted and slathered in chocolate, for breakfast this morning and decided that texture wise it was about like a bagel (which lead to having to explain what a bagel was to Isaac), or at least like any bagel I've ever had.  So I think my dinner rolls will be relegated to the breakfast table as toasted somethings.  Either that or soaked in soup....
There's still some goat milk left in the fridge and the cheese crackers are almost all gone (there are approximately 3 left) so more will likely get made later this week or early next, since the weather is supposed to stay cool.

Monday, June 28, 2010


Over the last few weeks I've had a number of conversations with people about what it means to do life together/live in community. These people have had a variety of life experiences and various amounts of life experiences, so I was able to get some different perspectives. 
It seems to me that there are certain times/places where a sense of community is much stronger than others.  Mission trips, conferences, and retreats are all places where a strong sense of Christian community tends to prevail.  Central college was also a place where I really felt a sense of community.  At school we were really doing life together.  We laughed together, cried together, prayed together, worshiped together, played together, etc, etc, etc.  We had a real sense that we were the body of Christ and we were all part of it.  If one of us was hurting, all of us felt the pain.  When one of us rejoiced, we all rejoiced.  I think many people have had experiences like that and I was very blessed to be able to live in that kind of community for 4 years. Now I miss it and I keep asking why that kind of community can't exist elsewhere.
It's true that some environments (such as mission trips, retreats, conferences) act as a sort of incubator for spiritual growth and foster a sense of community, but why can't we have that kind of community outside of the incubator?  Some one (potentially more than one someone) told me it was because real life got in the way. At first I accepted that, but then I thought about it more.  Is it just because life gets in the way or is it because we don't expect to be able to live in that kind of community?
Central might not have been the same as "real life" (whatever that is), but it wasn't an incubator either.  We had very real struggles that we dealt with.  We had a classmate die this year. We had classmates diagnosed with serious illnesses, classmates with serious family struggles, classmates who didn't know how they were going to pay tuition of the next semester or how they were going to afford books, or gas in their car to get home, classmates struggling to discern the next step, whether they should continue education or if they were being called elses, classmates getting married, classmates breaking name it, we probably dealt with it.  If that's not real life, I don't know what is.  Yet through it all, we were together as a Christian community, supporting each other, being excited about Jesus together.  Christianity wasn't a Sunday morning deal, it was a 25 hours a day, 8 days a week kind of thing.
Reflecting on that, I think that part of the reason we don't live in that kind of community all the time is because we don't expect to or make the effort to. I wonder how life would be different if we were intentional about living in community. Outside of college, where we all live at different places, it's a little tougher to be intentional.  I can't just walk upstairs and pray with some when I'm at home, or go down the hall and have a life chat with a friend. Often I don't get to eat my meals with a dozen other people or worship multiple times a week with the community.  I'm thankful for the ways I can still be connected to the community though.  The internet is a great tool for that and I love the conversations that I have during the week with my Central friends, the ones where we talk serious about what G-d is doing in our lives.  I cherish the time that I do get to spend face to face with people here and the conversations we have.  I long for place where I can be real face to face, a place where I can be engaged in Bible study and prayer and supporting others and being supported by others.  The tricky part is, I'm only home for three months out of the year, so I can't really expect things like that to be part of life here.
So for now, I cherish what I do have and wonder at how things could be different and why things are they way they are.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Meet Atarah

This morning I was out in the pasture with Moria trying to get my hands on Duchess to give her some medicine when I noticed Moria's mama, Zabrina straining at the poo pile.  Zabrina had been in labour on and off all week so I didn't get too excited.  After we finished with Duchess, I noticed Zabrina lying down and knew we were ready for some action.  I sent Moria inside for the camera and the cria towels and went to the barn to grab the record book and iodine wash.  Zabrina is a second time mom, so I expected things to move fast...The didn't. Within a few minutes we had a nose showing, but no toes at all.  This is a problem.  We like both a nose and a two sets of toes.  We stood back and watched and waited...and waited.  No progress. Time for a frantic phone call to mom (she'd gone into town to sort out an ice cream mix-up) and to get a pail of water ready so we could scrub.  Moments later we had legs out, on their own (along with the head), but baby was not positioned right.  I've seen a lot of cria births and this wasn't looking good and Zabrina was not happy.  Mom pulled in the drive and went in the house to change back into barn clothes and scrub.  Zabrina decided to lay down, right on top of baby's head. We stepped in, helped baby out, hung her upside down to drain the fluid from her airways (usually the fluid drains on it's own when the baby is hanging during the birthing process, but this one had an unusual birthing process), dried her off and started taking pictures.

Atarah working on the whole breathing/being alive thing

Atarah using Zabrina for a chin rest while Duchess tries to convince her to get up and play.  Duchess was very impatient for Atarah to be mobile enough to play.

By mid/late afternoon, Atarah was quite lively.  She did not want to be caught to be weighed and given her vaccines.  By tomorrow I expect Duchess will be playing with her just fine.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I can't hear you if I can't see you!

"Please look at me when you talk to me."  "I can't hear you if I can't see you!"  I can't count the number of times a day I say those things (or something similar) to the people around me, generally to people who know that I can't "hear" them unless I can read their lips.  When I'm talking with some one, it takes a lot of effort for me to listen.  I have to really focus in on them.  I can't be listening to two things at once.  If there are too many distractions I can't listen at all.
I was thinking about this a little ago, after another frustrating episode where I missed the larger part of a conversation because I wasn't focused enough to read lips fast enough and it made me think about listening to G-d.  If I wanted to have a voice to voice conversation with you, I'd make sure that we were in a place without background noise, with good light, with no distractions so that I could understand what you were saying.  If we were having a phone conversation, I'd make sure I was on the amplified phone and there was no background noise.  To talk with people, I take the effort to create an environment conducive to talking.  I stopped and asked myself, what do I do when I want to talk to G-d?  Do I take the same amount of effort to ensure that I can hear G-d?  Do I put myself in a quiet place, without distractions, where my focus can be solely on Him?  Or do I crowd my time with so much "noise" (music, teachings, etc) that I don't focus on Him?  What would it mean for my life to take the time and effort to listen to G-d, the same way that I take the time and effort to listen to other humans?
How do you quiet yourself to hear G-d?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Babies, Breathing, and Books

Everytime I think things are going to slow down for a bit, plans change and life goes crazy.  I guess I should just stop hoping for things to slow down.
We had our first baby on Wednesday (Duchess) who is doing well, followed by a big boy on Friday (Otatop).  Otto was so big that he got stuck on the way out and had to be manipulated, but he is doing well now. Hopefully there will be a few more little ones in the very near future.

Thursday was grocery day, so Mom and I were all over the place getting regular groceries, gifts for grade 8 Sunday school graduation, birthday presents for Ben, and Father's day presents...Then we picked Isaac up from school and he informed us that he had an open house/presentation at 7, back in the city, so it was quick home to eat and clean up and head back into the city.   Isaac did a great job presenting his Nobody project and then it was up to the classroom for a "tour" of the micronations that the class had created. And that is where plans changed. One of the micronations was serving coconut icecream.  Gluten free, dairy free, nut free, etc, etc, etc.  Mom and I both checked the ingredient label, twice and determined that it was safe. So I had some.  It wasn't so safe.  

If you want to skip the details, just know that it was very bad and go to the next paragraph.  If you want the medical details, keep reading...within five minutes of eating it my tongue was swelling and itchy so I took 50mg Benadryl and sat in a chair to try and breathe.  Benadryl takes about 15 minutes to kick in if it's going to work.  20 minutes later I knew I was in big trouble.  My chest was tight, my tongue and skin was itchy and I felt like I was going to puke.  We made a quick exit to the car where I proceeded to throw up in the parking lot.  That's when I told mom there was no way we were making it home.  The hospital was 5 minutes away.  I don't think it took mom that long to get there.  Mom says she stuck her head in the door and told the nurse I was having anaphylaxis.  The nurse asked if mom could get me into a wheelchair, mom said she'd try.  Somehow I got into the wheelchair, mom got me through the first set of doors and the nurses descended.  Mom said there were 6 nurses and a doctor by my side before we got to the treatment room.  She went to move the car from the ambulance lane and they started working.  I was hooked to every monitor possible.  My initial stats were: O2 = 70% and dropping, pulse = 120 and rising, BP = going crazy, but mostly low (top number was below 80).   They shot me full of epi, benadryl, steriods and who knows what else.  I wasn't asking questions, I was just trying to stay alive. 6 hours later they were convinced I was stable enough for the hour trip home (with no hospital between the city and home), so we got home shortly after 4 am.  My arms are purple from elbow to finger tip from where they tried to start IVs.  Every time they'd hit a vein it would collapse because of low blood pressure and they'd have to try again.  Lots of bruising, but I'm alive and that's what counts.

Enough of the medical details. The other part of Thursday was a stop at the Christian bookstore in a little town near a place (I was paying really close attention as mommy drove...can't you tell?).  Mom was looking for books and cards for her grads, so I took some time to browse.  I found some ASL and baby ASL books and was browsing through them, when I found a book called: "On the Fence:  The Hidden World of the Hard of Hearing."  I started paging through it and realized it was a collection of short stories and poetry by people who are Hard of Hearing (HOH), about their experiences, their struggles, their joys.  I found it delightful.  When you are HOH you find that you don't fit in either aren't deaf enough to be Deaf, but not hearing enough to be hearing.  You kind of get lost in between.  It can be a very lonely place, especially when you are my age and don't know very many HOH people your own age.  I eventually decided to buy the book and I devoured it. It was so great to read about people who understand what is like to go through life only hearing parts of it, to be the only one in class with hearing aids, to be lost anytime more than one person starts talking, to not remember what it's like to actually hear... If you want a better picture of what it's like to live in my world, I highly recommend it.  These people have a way with words and took time to tell the stories that I've never taken time to tell, but can relate to.  It's called: "On the Fence: The Hidden World of the Hard of Hearing" and the author/editor is Mark Drolsbaugh.  If you want to borrow my copy, let me know and I'll get it to you.

Otatop glaring at me cuz I woke him up from his nap to take his 3 hour old pictures.   He is white with brown markings, and yes, his mother is black.  His father was brown.  go figure.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Our first baby of the year was born this morning.  Her name is Duchess (after a potato dish which I will likely be required to make in the near future) and she weighed in at 16.5 pounds.  Her mama is Dandylion and her daddy is Imagine.

Duchess trying to figure out her legs for the first time

Duchess has the legs figured out and can now run and play. 

Monday, June 14, 2010

Every time I fall

It's been awhile since I've written poetry for sharing.  Wasn't sure at first if I was going to share this one, but I decided to, so enjoy.
Every Time I Fall
How many times must I fall,
Before I learn to walk?
How many times must I fail,
Before I learn how to succeed?
How many fights do I have to fight,
Before I learn how weak I really am?
How many bad choices must I make,
Before I learn which the good ones are?

Every time I fall,
Every time I fail,
Every fight I fight,
Every choice I make,

Everything brings up the same lies:
I have fallen too far,
I am too bad,
I don’t deserve your love.

Everything drives me back to the same place:
I am a wretched sinner,
Completely unable to do any good,
Inclined to all that is evil.

Everything drives me back to the same truth:
I am Your child,
Washed in Your blood,
Saved by Your grace.

I am weak, but You are strong.
I am foolish, but You are wise.
I am tired, but You never grow weary.
I am undeserving, but You gave Your son anyhow.

I am human, You are my G-d.

Every time I fall, catch me in Your arms.
Every time I fail, teach me how You succeed.
Every time I fight, fight in my place.
Every choice I make, keep me within Your will.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


By the time I was 2, my parents knew that I had multiple food allergies and intolerances.  At that point none of them were considered life threatening, but avoidance was the rule of the game.  My parents got very good at making substitutions and finding "safe" foods, so I could eat pretty "normal" just different.  Since the allergies weren't life threatening, occassional small exposures were allowed, often on special occasions (or without permission...).  When I was about 12 my immune system had a major freak out and went crazy (we know why it did this, but that's a different story).  Things that used to just make me stuffy or give me a stomach ache or hives were suddenly causing respiratory reactions requiring the use of inhalers to keep me breathing.  My blue inhaler became my constant companion and the doctors started to use the words "anaphalaxis risk".  By the end of highschool I was carrying my inhaler and benadryl with me everywhere and there were no more small exposures allowed.  The risk was too great.  After my first year or so of college, anaphalaxis entered my life and I began carrying two epi-pens with me everywhere, in addition to my inhaler and lots of benadryl.
From the age of 12 on, one food after another was taken off my "safe food" list and put on to the "this will likely kill you if you eat it or at least make you miserably sick" list.    The hardest things to do without: wheat, gluten, corn, and dairy.   The other things (eggs, nuts, some fruits, other random stuffs) are easier to deal with, but those four are tough.  Eliminate those four and you eliminate a lot of food.  
One thing that it eliminates is S'mores (graham crackers, chocolate, roasted marshmallows).  I camp a lot.  I love camp fires.  S'mores go hand in hand with camping and campfires. I used to love marshmallows, but they are full of corn and that's just not worth it for an ooey-gooey treat.  Graham crackers are full of wheat. At about the age of 12 I kissed all hopes of ever eating a s'more again good-bye. At campfires I would just roast marshmallows for my friends and watch them enjoy them.
Until this year.  One day I was shopping at the local grocery in Pella and I found a box of gluten free, wheat free, egg free, etc, etc, (Joy friendly) graham crackers.  I bought them to sample and loved them.  I hadn't had a real graham cracker in a real long time so I don't know how close to real they taste, but I thought they were pretty good.  I e-mailed mommy and asked her if there was any chance that there existed a Joy-friendly marshmallow.  Mommy said she hadn't seen one, but she'd ask around and keep looking.  When they came to get me after school I brought a couple boxes of graham crackers home with me, just in case.  Besides, if we couldn't obtain marshmallows, I could at least make graham cracker crumbs for a cheesecake crust...
When we got home there was a surprise waiting for me.  Mommy had found a bag of Joy-friendly marshmallows!  There were s'mores in my future! (we've had a Joy-friendly chocolate substitute for a long time)  Now the timing just had to be right...
...That brings us to last night.  Birthday party with campfire for a friend.  I packed up my Joy-friendly s'more materials and brought them with me.  Here's the story in pictures:

Take Joy-Friendly graham crackers from Kinnikinnick Foods (which I have learned are also available in Canada), Joy-Friendly marshmallows from La Nouba Inc., and dairy free chocolate melting wafers.

Add some good company and a beautiful fire...

and you get a very happy Joy.  Photo credit for this last picture goes to Olga.  She took it because my hands were busy.
So that is the story of my first s'more in more than 10 years.  There was a second...  It kind of reminded me of the time that Campus Ministries got Joy-Friendly communion wafer and I took communion for the first time in many, many years, but on a completely different way less spiritual level.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Lentil Lessons

Today Mom and I went in to the City to get some grocery shopping done.  We had a long list of places we needed to go and things we needed to get.  One of our stops was Bulk Barn, a delightful store where you can get most anything in bulk.  We often order very bulk quanties of flour, sugar and oats from them, but today we were there for "small" bulk (no more than 15 pounds of any one thing).  One of the items on our list was lentils.  We found the lentil bin and it looked like it was almost full.  Mom held the bag while I scooped.  I scooped and scooped and scooped.  Every once in a while I'd glance up at the top of the gravity bin and notice that no matter how much I scooped it didn't appear to be going down at all.  Mom noticed to and warned me that when it decided to give, it would give all at once and we would be flooded with lentils.  They must be stuck further up.  I scooped until there were no more to scoop and still the flood of lentils hadn't come down.  We closed the bin and shook it and banged on it (gently of course, but with force) and still the lentils wouldn't come down.  Finally I looked closer at it.  The gravity bin had a false front.  No matter what we did, we were not going to get those lentils to come down.  The bin was empty.  The false front had led us to believe that there were more there than were really there.

As I thought about it more, I remembered how we had discovered we were out of lentils.  Early last week, when we were discussing supper plans, mom suggested that I make honey baked lentils, since we had a big bucket of lentils in the fruit cellar. I had seen the lentils down there as well so I agreed and we began prep work.  I went down the cellar and picked up the bucket labeled (very clearly in two spots) lentils.  I gave it a shake.  It didn't feel like lentils or make very lentil-like noises.  It sounded an awful lot like pasta (pasta makes a loud noise when it is in a plastic bucket, lentil hardly make any as far as I can tell).  I opened the lid and sure enough it was a bucket of rice pasta.  I checked rest the buckets and they all had what they said they had in them.  I came upstairs and reported my findings to mom.  The bucket was mislabeled, we did not have any lentils.  We thought real hard for about 30 seconds and then decided that split peas were almost like lentils and we would make honey baked peas instead (the "we" in this case being mainly me).  The peas were on the top shelf so I sent R down to get them down for me and he brought them to me and supper was saved.  The bucket labeled lentils had been a type of false front.

The more I thought, the more thoughts I had. This false front thing seemed like a theme that I was supposed to be thinking on more.  I started asking myself if I knew any Bible passages about lentils (when I get in a thinking mood it generally seems to be a good idea to look to the Bible).  I thought of one right away.  Way back in Genesis, there is a story of two brothers, Jacob and Esau.  They were twins and as different from one another as night and day.  Jacob was a mama's boy and Esau loved to hunt.  One day, Esau had come in from a long hunting trip and was very hungry.  He was a yougn man, so he was likely always hungry, but he was especially hungry on this day.  Jacob had spent all day in the kitchen cooking and had a pot of lentil stew simmering away over the fire.  The smell was amazing and Esau, believing he would soon die from hunger demanded a bowl of the lentil stew.  Jacob, being a nice twin brother, agreed to give it to him, on the condition that Esau swore to let him have the blessing reserved for the oldest child (aka, the birthright).  Esau was the older of the two twins, but not by much.  Esau, being young, foolish, and hungry agreed.  Esau sold his blessing for a bowl of lentil stew.   Many years later when their father, Isaac, was dying, Jacob dressed up like Esau and tricked his father into believing he was Esau so that Isaac gave him the blessing.  (Isaac either did not know about or did not approve of the selling of the birth right for a bowl of soup).  Once again, lentils were paired with deception and false pretenses.

I wasn't satisfied to stop there, so I opened up my super cool Bible search software that my parents got me for graduation (Thanks mom and dad!) and did a search on the term "lentil*".  The story from Genesis of Jacob and Esau and the birthright popped up, but so did a story from 2nd Samuel 23.  It was a more obscure passage (at least to my mind...I need to work on my OT history) so I had to spend some time reading around it to get my mind into the right place.  In 2 Samuel 23 the author tells of  King David's might men: Josheb-Basshebeth, Eleazer son of Dodai the Ahohite, and Shammah son of Agee the Hararite.  If you were a king going into battle for the Lord, these are the people you wanted on your side.  They knew who was on their side (G-d) and they were prepared to take a stand for G-d, no matter what the cost.  The story that involved lentils spans all of 2 verses (11 & 12) and is short enough that I will put it here:
2 Samuel 23:11-12 (NIV)

Next to him was Shammah son of Agee the Hararite. When the Philistines banded together at a place where there was a field full of lentils, Israel's troops fled from them. But Shammah took his stand in the middle of the field. He defended it and struck the Philistines down, and the Lord brought about a great victory.
This time the lentils don't play any big role, they were just there.  And where the lentils were, Israel's troops believed the lie that G-d was not with them and would not help them concur the Philistines.  So they ran away scared.  Except of course for Shammah.  He believed G-d's truth and stood his ground (in the lentils) and fought the Philistines.

I'm not sure I 'm ever going to look at lentils the same way again.  I think they will serve as a good reminder not only of how tricky deception and false fronts can be, but that also, like Shamah, I can stand even when others believe the lies, because no matter what, G-d is on my side.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Story Time: Joseph, Part 4- Out of the Pit

It's been awhile since I've visited Joseph.  When we last left him (back in February) he was in the pit his brothers had thrown him into.  If you want a refresher on any part of the story, you can check out part 1, part 2, or part 3

Part 4
Joseph sat at the bottom of the pit.  How could this have happened to him?  How could his brothers have been so cruel?  What was going to happen to him next?  So many questions, so few answers.
He listened hard to what was going on above him.  He could hear his brothers starting to settle down and eat.  His stomach growled. 
"Hey guys!  Can I have some food?"  no reply from his brothers.  "Please?  I'm hungry..."  still no reply.  It was as if he wasn't there.  Had they already forgotten about him?
Suddenly the sounds above him changed.  What was going on?  He wished he could see or at least hear well enough to know what was happening...
Suddenly a rope was lowered into the pit.  He grabbed on to it and soon he was being pulled up.  He breathed a sigh of relief.  His brothers had come to their sense and were going to let him have some food and life was going to go on, with them hating him as usual and him being his father's favorite.  His head cleared the top of the cistern and his heart stopped.  There were more people there than just his brothers.  There was a whole caravan of people there.  Midianites by the looks of them.  Why were his brother's pulling him up with them there?  Surely they weren't going to...
He was out of the cistern now and his brothers were tying him up.  The Midianites were pointing and talking rapidly amongst themselves.  They seemed pleased.  This wasn't happening, this couldn't be happening.  Surely his brothers weren't selling him to the Midianites.  Not his own brothers!
Before he could process what was happening to him, he was tied behind a camel and walking away from his brothers.  The sun was hot and shone down on him without mercy.  What was going to happen to him?  Where were the Midianites taking him? How could his brothers do this to him?  What about his dreams?  What about them bowing down to him?

That's all for tonight.  Theoretically, now that I'm home I can write more regularly about Joseph...of course this is just a theory and might not be incredibly reliable, but we'll pick up with Joseph again next time.

Steel Magnolias

Some time ago now I was at a prayer gathering thing (Encounter...I've written about it before) and while I was being prayed over some one siad they kept hearing the phrase "Steel Magnolias"  so they wrote it down and I tucked it away.  At the time, I didn't even know what a magnolia was.  I looked it up and learned that it was a type of flowering a tree and I learned that there was a movie called "Steel Magnolias".  A friend of mine even owned a copy of the movie but told me I wouldn't like it, so I haven't ever watched it.  I just know it exists. 
A short time later I was walking around campus and found myself a magnolia tree.  It was in full bloom and very pretty.  I got close to investigate it further and took a picture of one of it's blossoms.  See?

Then I noticed a single petal lying on the ground, all by itself.  Just like this:

I carried those images with me in my mind (and on my hard drive) for quite some time.  I knew they were reminding me of something, but I just couldn't quite put my finger on it.  I finally figured it out.  It was reminding me of the body of Christ.  Romans 12:5 says:  "so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others."   It also reminded me of some verses from Ecclesiastes, chapter 4, verses 9-12 "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." 
The magnolia blossom was most beautiful when all the petals were together, in community with each other.  Although the petal on the grass was beautiful, it was not as beautiful as it was before it fell.  I think we humans are a lot like that as well.  On our own we are still beautiful.  We still have value.  We are still loveable, but that beauty increases when we are in community with others.  We were not created to live alone.  After G-d created Adam, he created Eve because it was not good for man to be alone. 
I tried to pick a magnolia blossom so that I could get a closer look at it, but as soon as I had it off the tree it fell apart in my hands.  It made me a little sad because then I couldn't bring the beautiful blossom back to my room with me.  That reminds me of another set of verses, these ones from from John 4, verses 4-9: "Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."
The magnolia blossom could not be a blossom apart from the tree...well, it could be, it just couldn't hold itself together.  I don't believe that we can exist very well apart from G-d...we'd still exist, but we wouldn't really have it together.  The blossom needed the tree and the community of the other petals in order to exist in it's form of greatest beauty.   Humans need both our tree (G-d) and the community to exist in our greatest beauty.
I know I sometimes try to do things on my own.  I can do's just not the way I was created nor the way that I can function to my greatest potential and beauty.  The petals on the mangolia are each very delicate, but when they come together, they are steel.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

I went to the store one day....

This one day, a long time ago, when it was still winter, I went to the store with a friend and we spent a very long time at the store.  While we were at the store we found a display of very brightly colored washclothes.  They were on sale...really cheap.  I like bright colors, but I didn't have a use for large amounts of washclothes (they were in 12 packs) so I took a picture of them to remember them by (and because I thought if I looked at the picture enough I'd come up with a use for them).

I couldn't come up with an idea of my own so I e-mailed mommy and asked her if she needed large amounts of brightly colored washclothes for her Girl Scout troop (for crafting purposes, not because they are dirty).  She said she did and asked me to get 48 washclothes...So I did.  She wasn't going to need them until I came home from school, so I just packed them in a box and they waited in my room until I came home.
Once I got home mommy explained her idea and we got to work. 
First, Mommy cut all the dishclothes in half and organized them so they were in groups of two and no two groups were the same.  It's a good thing Mommy did it and not me because some of the colors looked awfully much the same to me.  She put all the pairs on the table:

Then I took each pair and sewed one short edge together with my favorite triple zig-zag stitch to make a long strip. I was careful to make sure that the long edges with seams were not both on the same side...that would have caused problems later on.

Once they were in long strips I folded one end three quarters of the way up the strip and sewed all the way up, even past where the fold was and along the raw edge of the top so that it wouldn't ravel.  It kind of looked like a sleeping bag when I was done:

Then, I cut five inch pieces of elastic.  I got to use my rotary cutter and cutting mat. That was fun.

Then I sewed the elastic into the seam on the "sleeping bag" that wasn't sewn yet.   The first time I did it, I started with the loop at the top of the sleeping bag.  That was a bad plan.  Much better to start with the loop nearer the fold.  When the elastic loops were sewn in you couldn't hardly see them:
Finally I turned them right side out, sewed two straight stitch seams from fold to top of the pocket dividing it into thirds, and painted the name of a every girl in the troop onto the outside, and presto!  you have a camp eating utensil holder and a cloth for washing up, all in one!

And that is what happens when I go to the store and spend a long time there....

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Lesson from a Yearling

A couple weeks ago we had shearing day on our farm.  Shearing day is kinda  a big deal, both for the animals and the humans.  For the animals they get their winter coats off, for the humans, it's a lot of work (and good food). The animals don't always appreciate being put on the table and shorn, but they sure appreciate it afterwards when it's real hot and they don't have 10 pounds of fleece keeping them warm.  Because they are animals and not human, they don't always understand what is happening and try and fight it.  When that happens sometimes they get hurt.  If they kick or flinch at the wrong time sometimes the clippers catch a bit more than fleece and they need tissue glue or stitches...that's what happened to one of our yearling boys, Zechariah, and that's what led to the lesson I learned.
Zech had gotten his stitches in on shearing day because of a small cut on his belly.  Yesterday it was time to take them out.  Mommy, Papa and I went out to the pasture and very calmly caught Zech.  He was fine until Papa caught him.  Then he started to fight a bit.  Papa rolled him onto his side and Mommy and Papa held him still while I worked with my scissors removing the stitches.  Zech cried his little alpaca cries and tried to kick at us the entire time.  He didn't know what was going on and he was scared. Even though we have ever only wanted what was best for him, he didn't trust us.  Even though I bring him food and treats and make sure he has water and spray him with the hose on hot days, he didn't trust me because he didn't understand the big picture.
It made me think.  Sometimes I behave a lot like Zech.  I have a G-d who has never wanted anything but the very best for me.  He provides for me the things I need and blesses me with things that I don't need, but make my life more pleasant, yet I don't always trust Him. Often when He is working on me or in me, I fight it.  Like Zech I cry and kick (okay, maybe not just like Zech, since I'm not a yearling alpaca, but figuratively).  I tell G-d  that He doesn't know what He's doing, I cry because I'm scared and can't see the big picture.  Even if Zech could see the big picture, I don't think he'd understand, because he has an alpaca brain.  If he could see the big picture it would prolly overwhelm him.  I can't see G-d's big picture for me either, and even if I could, I'm sure it would overwhelm me - I just have a human brain.
Taking the stitches out would have been easier and been done quicker if Zech had held still.  In fact, if he had been trusting and held still earlier, he wouldn't have needed the stitches in the first place and we wouldn't have had to take them out.  I wonder, how much easier things would be for me if I just trusted G-d, if I just held still and let Him have His way with me, instead of crying and fighting the whole time?  How would my life be different if I really submitted to Him in everything?  If I took the hard stuff from Him (the scary shearings, the stitches) as easily as I take the good stuff (food, clean water, hosings on hot days), how would I be changed?  How much quicker would the hard stuff be over if I didn't fight it?