Thursday, March 31, 2011

Chocolate Chip Memories

I got the munchies one afternoon while working on Greek homework.  I decided to make myself a snack that would take time to eat (the munchies often presents as a symptom of boredom) and would be neat (I didn't want to make a mess or spill food on my text books or LDK's lexicon).  I decided on chocolate chips and raisins and went about fixing myself a small bowl of them.  As I sat back down at the table, a wave of memories came flooding back.  I was transported back to Saturday mornings during my last two years of high school.
Every week my youngest brothers and I would get up super early.  They'd sit down for a quick breakfast (well, with Isaac nothing was every quick...his toast almost always came in the car with us), while I put together their lunches.  It was always peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on Saturdays (I had not yet developed a peanut allergy at this point, now me making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches would be a very bad choice).  Saturday was the only day they could have peanut butter and jelly because their school was nut free.  Church on Sunday was nut free too, but they showered Saturday night, so we took advantage of it.  With peanut butter and jelly packed for both of them (and something else for me...I wasn't a big peanut butter and jelly fan), I'd get out three small Tupperware containers. I'd fill the bottom 1/3 -1/2 the container with chocolate chips and then top it off with raisins.  I'd put the lids on them and into the lunch bag they'd go.  A few cookies, some fresh fruit if we had it, and Rubbermaid sippy-bottles of juice would top off our lunch bag.  I'd make myself a bowl of creamed rice cereal (for the road), make sure they had their school books and clean faces and we'd be off.
As soon as we were far enough away from home, we'd turn the radio on and listen to "Paws and Tales", followed by "Adventures in Odyssey".  If we couldn't pick either program up that day, there would be a CD or tape of German children's songs for us to sing along with. For the first year I'd drop them off at their school with instructions to stay out of trouble until class started and then head over to my school.  The second year (I'd graduated from my program after the first year), we'd just go to their school and they would play with the "German fun bag" while I directed traffic in the parking lot. Or I'd quiz them on their vocabulary while parking cars.  Then they'd be off to their classes and shortly after I'd go to the Kindergarten room where I worked as a TA.
After class we'd go to Kinderchor and I'd sign some of the songs while trying to keep Isaac focussed. Then, we'd load back up in the van and either go to the grocery to get things we couldn't get at home (and occasionally a special treat) or head straight for home.  They'd munch on their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and we'd all enjoy our chocolate chips and raisins.  We'd listen to the radio until we got close to home and then switch back over to CD or tape
Chocolate chips and raisins were as much a part of my Saturday mornings as getting out of bed.  I'm pretty sure the boys would have been more upset if I forgot to pack the chocolate chips and raisins than if I'd forgotten to pack their sandwiches. And now, as I sit here, eating my chocolate chips and raisins (and not so much working on my homework), I've been transported back.  Back to a time before seizures.  Back to a time before college.  Back to a time before seminary.  Back, back, back.  All the good memories, all the things I'd rather forget (I mean, who really wants to remember everything about high school?), all of it was coming back.

It's funny how something as simple as a snack can bring back memories.  What brings back memories for you?  Is it a food?  A place?  A song? A smell? Are the pleasant memories or unpleasant or a mixture of both?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Always on Guard

Last week I got to try out the hospitality of a local hospital (I do this more frequently than I would like). The hospital was nice.  I had my own room, I could have visitors whenever I wanted, there was a TV and an internet connection.  The food however, left me a little nervous...
When you live with multiple severe food allergies you learn to always be on guard.  You constantly read labels, check ingredients, and always second guess what you are putting in your mouth.  However, there are some places you think you would be home, with close friends, in the hospital. Right from the beginning we had stressed that I have multiple severe allergies.  We had copies of my list.  We gave them to the nurse, to pharmacy, to registration, to anyone we could think of.  The first morning that I was there, I called down to dietary for my breakfast.  I reminded them that I was ordering from the gluten free menu and then asked, very specifically, if any of their breads were corn free, egg free and dairy free (three big things that tend to sneak into GF bread and would make me very sick/kill me).  The person on the other end of the phone told me that the bagels met those requirements.  I ordered a bagel and some jelly to go with it.
Soon my breakfast tray arrived.  The jelly was in a little container, like what you'd get at a restaurant. I looked at it and noticed that the ingredients were printed on it.  I scanned them out of curiosity (I'm a compulsive ingredient label reader).   Corn syrup was listed twice, in different forms.  I put it back on my tray, a little leery about food in general, but more sad that I couldn't have jelly on my bagel.
I lifted the lid on my tray and looked at my bagel.  It looked good.  It also didn't look like the familiar, Joy-Friendly bagel I was used to.  I smelled it.  I poked it.  I wondered what the odds were that there existed a Joy-Friendly bagel that I was unaware of.  Then I remembered the jelly.  The ingredients were right on it and they still messed that up.  But I'd asked specifically about the bagel...I put the lid back on my tray and waited for the nurse to come in.
The nurse came in and I told her about the jelly.  I explained that I didn't want to be a bother, but I was nervous about the bagel. Could she please double check it?  She called down to dietary and asked about the bagel.  They assured her it was fine.  Being very wise, she informed them that I wouldn't eat it unless I saw the packaging.  (She was smart...I hadn't told her that, but it was correct).  Dietary brought up the packaging.  The second ingredient on the list was corn starch.  The third, skim milk powder.  The fourth, egg.  In short, if I had taken even a single bite of that bagel, I would have become very, very sick and they would have had to fight to save my life.  I cannot even have skin contact with egg without having a reaction.

I thought about this incident many times since then.  It would have been easy to let my guard down in the hospital.  These were people that were supposed to "get it".  I was supposed to be safe there.  And like with most things that I think about a lot, there was something to learn from it.  A verse came to mind from 2 Peter 5: "Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."  Be...alert. It's when we feel like we are safe and secure that we tend to let our guard down.  That's when the devil can attack us.

I could probably write more on this, but my brain is fuzzy so it might not make sense.  So I'll just stop. Think. Use your brain.  maybe your brain will know where my brain was going with this, because my brain forgot.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Message of Easter

When I started this piece, it had a different name.  It was called "Reaching for Hope" and it didn't look like it looks now.  The crushing Despair was there.  The light and fluffy Hope was there just out of reach. But that was it.  Just crushing Despair and Hope just out of reach.   When I started this piece, that's how I felt.  All I could feel was the crushing weight of Despair - despair from not getting answers in the hospital, despair from looking to the future and not being able to see anything except life with seizures.  I knew Hope was out there, but I couldn't find a way to reach it.
As I painted I realized I had to paint a bridge between Despair and Hope.  I thought of painting a rope.  I thought of a ladder.  I thought of a staircase. I thought of lots of things.  But then...I realized the only bridge between Despair and Hope was the cross.  The Cross meets us in our Despair and brings us to Hope.  We can't reach Hope on our own.  The only bridge between Despair and Hope is the cross. And that's what Easter is all about.  It's about Jesus being the bridge for us between Despair and Hope.  About giving us a way to get to Hope.  Here's the piece:
And that is the message of Easter, of the Cross as our bridge between Despair and Hope.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Color of Hope

After making The Color of Despair I had to make the color Hope.  Hope is a light color.  It doesn't weigh near as much as Despair.  Hope can be many different colors, depending on the type of Hope.  Sometimes Hope is like cotton candy.  Other times Hope is like fluffy clouds in a blue sky.  Today I picked the kind of Hope that is like fresh life in the spring.  This kind of Hope, like many kinds of Hope, is soft and fuzzy as well as light and fluffy.  Here's what making Hope looks like in my eyes:
Hope was fun to make because the colors I was using had very different textures. 

In my head this almost looks like Frog from the Toad and Frog books I used to read when I was real little, especially if you rotate it 90 degrees up. 

The Color of Despair

I took some "me" time earlier today and started working on a new painting.  One of my favorite parts of painting (other than getting all dirty) is mixing my paints.  I mix most of my own colors, so that I know I have the colors that will look right to my colorblind vision.  Sometimes I have more fun mixing my colors than I actually do making the painting. I like the designs that my toothpicks make on my palette.  I wish sometimes that I could make the designs on paper like I can make in my palette.
Today I had to make the perfect color for Despair. Despair is a dark color, but not black.  Black is Hopelessness.  Despair is not Hopelessness.  Despair is when you feel like the darkness is overcoming the light.  It is a heavy color.  It crushes you.  It is a hungry color. It consumes you.   Despair is like the sky when you want to have a picnic and there are thunderstorms instead and it washes away your favorite picnic location.  Despair is when Hope starts to fade, but there is still a little bit there.  Despair is place where Hope is just out of reach, but you know it's there.  You can see Hope, you just can't reach Hope. Here is how I made Despair:
Click to Enlarge

Saturday, March 26, 2011


I'm home from the hospital and we don't know anything new.  My brain did not cooperate at all.  I will follow-up with the neurologist in about 2 weeks.
I'm tired and my head is fuzzy, but laying in a hospital bed for a number of days will do that to you.
I'm very grateful for everyone who called, came to visit, etc. while I was in the hospital.

Friday, March 25, 2011


I know, real creative title. In my defense, I was up all night playing "make Joy's brain angry".  It didn't work. Which is good, bad, and frustrating all at the same time.  It's good because it means my brain is not going crazy and that is always a good thing.  It's bad because we were hoping my brain would go crazy so they would know what is going on. It's frustrating because we still don't know why I have seizures.
My friend Mommy Lisa came and spent the night with me, keeping me awake.  About 4am or so we resorted to singing camp songs, complete with actions.  I'm sure whoever was watching my video was amused.  I'm super grateful that she could come and I'm super grateful for her profs for being so understanding.
At this point I think the plan is to try one more time this afternoon and then send me home and have me follow up with neurology in Holland.  The EMU close at 7 tomorrow morning, so I know i'll be out of here by then.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Making Joy's Brain Angry

So, I had a ridiculous number of seizures over the weekend/the beginning of the week.  They put me in the hospital yesterday and wired me up (I counted 50 some wires).  And my brain decided not to cooperate.  I've had no seizure activity since coming in the hospital.  So the neurologist has decided that we are going to play a little game called "Make Joy's Brain Angry".  Basically this entails me not being allowed to sleep until tomorrow afternoon and they have said they are going to make me ride a stationary bike and flash lights in my eyes to try and make my brain grumpy. We'll see if this is a successful game or not.
In the meantime, I hang out here, in the EMU.  This is a rather boring EMU, compared to the last one I was in. I'm in a room all by myself.  I have a TV and a fun bed that goes up and down. The bed has a special mattress that keeps moving.  At first it freaked me out, but now it's just cool. My bed also has bumpers on it.
I'm considered a very high fall risk, so I'm not allowed out of my bed without direct supervision. So anytime I want to go to the restroom or anything I have to call a nurse.  I'm allowed to be on my computer, but not when it's plugged in.  So it's a bit limiting.
I have my crochet with me so I've been working on that a bit and watching TV and visiting with people who come to see me. (I had a wonderful visit from two people from home who happened to be in the area and some folks from school have been out).
My favorite fun story from this morning, is that about mid morning I got a phone call.  I didn't recognize the number but answered it anyways. It was St. Mary's.  They said they'd gotten a referral from Holland Hospital and I needed to make an appointment to see one of their neurology people.  I told them I was upstairs in the EMU.   Communication Fail.  :)
So that's the update as of now.  I'll keep you posted on how the game of making my robotic brain angry goes.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

In the hospital

Those of you who read my last blog post know that my seizure count increased dramatically over the weekend.  Yesterday I at least doubled my seizure count.  I ended up in hospital because I was having trouble breathing and such.  I also developed blurred vision in my right eye and severe head pain.  They discharged me from Holland Hospital with plans to admit me to St. Mary's in Grand Rapids on Thursday.  Grand Rapids called this morning and decided they wanted me there today.  So I'm in St. Mary's.
I'm in the Hauenstein building, room H334. Visitors are encouraged.

One of my indwelling electrodes.  You can sorta see the really fine wire coming out of my face.
if you look close you can see the wires coming out of both sides of my face.  They are really fine.  Look by my shirt collar.
all wired up
side view of my wires.  There are 42 external and 2 indwelling
I'm also on a heart monitor, but you don't get pictures of that.  :) Prayers would be appreciated, and if you are in the area, feel free to come visit.

Monday, March 21, 2011

No Easy Answers

Up until Friday I had had a grand total of 2 seizures all semester.  Since Friday I have had 6.  It's Monday.
I have no easy answers.  I don't know why I've had this sudden spike in abnormal brain activity. I've not been running a fever that I know of (jury is still out on whether or not I spiked a temperature this morning).  I've had some fluid (or makes funny noises) on my ear, but no pain, discharge or temperature to indicate infection.   I've been sleeping well and eating decently.   I have no easy answers.
My body is tired.  It has been twisted and jerked and slammed against the floor repeatedly.  Thankfully I have wonderful friends who have been there to take care of my head during the seizures, and throughout all 6 of them, my head has not hit the floor once.
My head is tired.  Living with the unpredictability of life with seizures is exhausting.  Planning exits, knowing where people are, always trying to stay one ahead step of the seizures, making up missed class sessions...
My spirit is tired. It's easy to give into discouragement and despair.  Spring is on the way and the kids are coming out to play, but I'm too exhausted from the seizures to join them.  I want to be out riding my bicycle in the warmer weather but with this much activity, I can't go far.
If you are the praying type, I covet your prayers.  Pray for strength, pray for healing, pray for the friends who stand by me during these, pray for my family who is far away, pray for my neck which has been wrenched in way too many unnatural positions, pray for my ear (I'm not completely convinced it just normal fluid on it...I haven't been in the pool for over a week and I wore my ear plugs when I was in), pray most of all though that somehow G-d is glorified through this.  If He is glorified, then I can bear this pain.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Purim Potluck

Before I write anything else, let me me make it clear that I am not Jewish, nor were any of my Jewish friends present at this potluck.  There was no offense meant towards any Jews, we were just wanted to have a good time.
So one of my roommates went home for winter break and came back with a very large ham. By "very large" I mean it was likely somewhere between 15 and 20 pounds.  In any case, it was much larger than the three of us could eat on our own.  The obvious solution to this problem was to have a party.  The less obvious part of this solution was figuring out a reason for having a party.  So we googled it. And by "it" I mean holidays in the month of March. Purim was the next closest holiday that was not on a school night (St. Patrick's Day was on a school night. I don't do parties on school nights usually).
Purim is a Jewish celebration in honor of Esther.  Esther was a Jew, who, through a strange set of circumstances ended up the queen to the Persian king. It involved the former queen refusing to dance (potentially naked, the text is ambiguous) before the king and a bunch of his very drunk buddies (they'd bee drinking for about 187 days) and a beauty contest that lasted about 12 months.  After she became queen, without the king knowing she was a Jew, there was a plot to kill all the Jews.  After some prayer and fasting and a couple banquets, an assault on the queen, and a huge gallows being built, the Jews were saved.  So now, every year there is a celebration of all this called Purim.  You can read rest the story in the Book of Esther in the Bible.  It's not very long.  In fact, it is read aloud at Purim celebrations and everyone makes noise when the name of the bad guy is said. Enough of a history lesson.
So we had this ham and we had a reason for a party.  So we decided to make it a potluck (less work for us!) and started inviting people. Potlucks scare me.  They are terrifying, so we found ways to make this as un-terrifying as possible.  We made the ham and Joy-friendly scalloped potatoes and when we set food out we set the GF food at the beginning of the line. That way, there was less chance of cross contamination.  And we asked people to be careful.  I didn't get sick. Which is always a good thing.  I like not getting sick.

LDK is cutting our very large ham.  She is the official meat-cutter in our house.
A very prettyful salad that someone brought
People waiting for the ham to be cut so we could eat.  There was more people, but I got distracted and forgot to take pictures. 
Our Purim cake.  For some reason blogger feels the need to orient it this way.  I don't know why, nor have a figured out a way to fix it.  Apparently they got funny looks at the store when they asked to have "Happy Purim" written on the cake.  Someday, if I'm bored, I will write about the appropriateness of the caterpillar (it's all thought out in my head)
So that is a glimpse of our Purim Potluck.  As life would have it, I did have a seizure in the morning and rearranged my knee a little.  Enough that it hurt and needed braced, but not enough to put me back on crutches. Some of you might recall that last time we had a big party at our house (Canadian Thanksgiving back in October...I don't think I blogged about it, just did facebook photos), I managed to have a seizure and completely dislocate my knee and was (supposed to be) on crutches for the entire preparation. I failed at using my crutches, my knee swelled up like a baseball, and my leg turned purple.  So I guess the moral of the story is, I need to be careful when planning big party type things. :)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Fresh Food Fixation

I'm not sure if the overall culture surrounding food is shifting or if I'm just shifting in who I spend time with and therefore my views of food are shifting. As I evaluate my eating habits, I'm realizing that I'm becoming more and more of a granola person.  (A granola person is not someone who eats granola or a hippie...I neither eat granola nor am I a hippie.  A granola person is someone who is very health conscious and tends to eat mostly natural the link for a fuller definition). In some ways, I was always sort of a granola person. My food allergies forced me to not rely on processed foods, so I did spend most of my life eating "real food" or "whole food". 
Usually our fridge is full of fresh, locally grown, organic vegetables.  (I say usually because it was Tuesday evening when I wrote this and we get new vegetables on Wednesdays...)  Many (most) of the prepared foods that I do buy are vegan, though I am not vegan or even vegetarian by any stretch of the imagination...I like meat way too much.  Things end up being vegan just because I can't have cow dairy or eggs.  The goat cheese sitting in my fridge is raw.  I'm not completely sure what that means, but I think it means it hasn't been processed as much as regular cheese.  The salad dressing I put on my pasta tonight was organic and vegan. 
However, I think I may have crossed a line the day that I had a smoothie made out of homemade soy yoghurt, home-canned peaches, and organically grown clover sprouts.  At least I didn't make the soy milk to make the yoghurt...
I'm not sure how I feel about this fixation with fresh food.  I mean, it feels good to eat it.  I'm sure my body is happier that it is not getting overly processed food, but is there a line?  Is there  line somewhere between trying to eat healthy and being fanatical about it?  Are processed foods all that bad? Are there certain foods that just shouldn't be eaten (aside from outright allergies) or are all foods okay in moderation?  I read about good sugars and bad there really a difference?
I'm not really sure what I think.  I just like food a lot and food that doesn't make me sick and might even be good for me is even better.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The First Time Can Only Happen Once...

It seems kind of self explanatory, you can only do something for the first time once, but it's easy to forget.  Sometimes, when we look at our churches, we try and look a them with the eyes of a first time visitor, but really, we can't do that.  Sometimes, we need a real first time visitor to come look with fresh eyes, but that isn't always practical.  So, what we can do, is try and look with fresh eyes.  Maybe visit a church that is new to you.  Pay attention to what you notice/don't notice and then come back to your church and look for those things.
One Sunday in February I visited a new to me church (I wrote about it some in the post entitled "come, for all things are now ready"). What I have to say next might sound highly critical of the church.  In some ways it is, and I feel badly about that, but at the same time, I want to be honest about how I experienced this, in the hopes that it will encourage everyone who reads this to look more critically at their own churches.
 My visit to the church started before I actually got there.  Because of the role I was going to be playing in the service, it was going to be important that I could hear what was happening. Otherwise, the group I was working with was going to have to make some changes.  We wanted to know so we could plan ahead.  I started by visiting the church website, looking to see if they had a sound loop or FM systems available. Their website was less than helpful.  There was no statement of accessibility of any kind on their website.  They even had a link to their bulletin for the Sunday I was going to be there.  I read through it, hoping for some statement of accessibility. Nothing.  To raise my anxiety, the picture of the church on the website looked as if it was a great big, old, beautiful church building.  I love old beautiful church buildings, but typically, they are inaccessible.  We decided to wait until we got there and see how bad things were.
We arrived at the church in good time, about half an hour before the service, mainly because we had to practice. I looked at the doors as we entered, hoping to see the familiar blue sign indicating the presence of the a hearing loop. There was none.  I look at the door to the sanctuary, hoping that there would be a loop (that would make things a lot easier for me).  There was no familiar blue sign.  Since I was there way early, and since, because of the role I was playing in the service I need to talk with the sound technician anyways, I asked him if the sanctuary was looped.  It was, which was a great thing for being able to hear the sermon.  However, the loop did not include the stage, which meant it was not very helpful for me being able to hear while I was on the stage (perhaps the most critical place for me to actually be able to hear what was going on that morning).  I was frustrated, both by the lack of signage indicating the presence of a loop, and by the fact that it didn't encompass the stage.  The first frustration was the greatest though.  I was there in plenty of time and need to speak with the sound technician anyways, so I could ask about it and get my answers.  A "regular" visitor would have had no way of knowing that the sanctuary was looped.  
I was already in a state of judging accessibility in the church, so I kept my eyes open to see their strengths and weaknesses.  Unfortunately, I didn't see many strengths. Their sanctuary was beautiful, with smooth wooden pews (very fun for sliding on), but there were no "short pews" to allow for wheelchairs to be present in the sanctuary in a non-conspicuous way. There was a wheelchair lift to allow wheelchairs to come up to the level of the sanctuary, but it was one that needed a key to operate it.  A visitor would not immediately know who to ask for the key.  I can't judge how conscientious the church was about having a person with the key (or a person who knew where the key was) at the bottom of the elevator (on the main level...the sanctuary was up a flight of stairs) to assist visitors because no one in our group was in a wheelchair.
I also didn't get a chance to check out the restrooms, but based on what I was seeing in the rest of the church, my hopes weren't too high.
The big thing that struck me about this visit, and what I took away from it is that accommodations are only useful if people know they are there.  If your church has accommodations available, make sure you publicize them.  If you offer gluten free communion, list the ingredients of the gluten free bread/wafer you use in your bulletin and on your website (people with gluten allergies may often have other food allergies as well) and make sure it is correct.  Check it frequently (every time you buy new bread or wafers!)  If you have a sound loop, make sure signage is in place at your church and on your website.  If you have FM systems available, make sure people know.  Same with large print hymnals or orders of worship.  It's great to have accommodations, but they are going to be under-used if people don't know they are there.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Rooted in the Word

On Sunday I preached my first sermon in church. I preached the evening service at First Reformed which meant that I not only preached, but also led the entire service.  To say I was nervous would be an understatement.  I'd had some conversations with Mom in the days leading up to it, and she'd been asking some rather pointed questions about where my church was, when I was preaching, how I got to church....I'd become a little suspicious and even told my roommate that I thought maybe mom would show up and surprise me.
The service was starting.  I'd given the welcome and call to worship.  We were singing the first hymns and I was getting ready to pray before the scripture reading.  I'd pretty much gotten my nerves under control (I'd spent the first 3 hymns praying and asking G-d to fill me with his Spirit, and I had a whole bunch of people praying as well, so it wasn't really me that had my nerves under control, but G-d).  I looked out at my (small) congregation and almost had a heart attack.  Mom and Isaac were walking in the back.  I almost lost it.  I wasn't sure whether to cry or laugh, whether to try and keep going as if nothing had happened or to stop and acknowledge them.  I opted to keep going, though my face did give me away...I will discuss this choice with my pastor later and we will decide if this was the best choice or not.
I preached from a manuscript, but didn't follow the manuscript exactly. I've tried to make some edits in my manuscript to better reflect what I actually said, but it isn't exact.  For those of you interested, what follows is my manuscript from the sermon.  If you choose to read it, I pray that it blesses you and I invite your feedback.  If you choose not to read it, that's fine.  Nothing comes after it so you can stop reading now.

Rooted in the Word

And Jesus was led by the spirit into the desert to be tempted.   The desert.  Hot, dry, and inhospitable.  This is where the spirit led the Son of G-d.  I’ve never been to the desert before, so I can’t attest to what life in the desert is like, but from reading about it in books and on the internet, I can deduce that the desert is not a very pleasant place to live.  The days are scorching hot.  The nights are freezing cold.  Human companionship is lacking.  Food and water are scarce.  But this is where Jesus spent 40 days and 40 nights. 
We don’t know what he did during those 40 days and 40 nights.  All the gospel writers tell us is that he fasted and was tempted by the devil. Perhaps he spent his days wandering around looking for a patch of shade to shield him from the scorching sun.  Perhaps he called out to his Father, asking why he had been brought to this place, this inhospitable desert. Perhaps he felt that this time of testing would never end. Perhaps he was not all that different from us when we go through times of testing.
The gospel writers tell us that at the end of 40 days, when Jesus was very hungry, the tempter himself appeared to him.  We can almost hear the challenge in Satan’s voice.  “If you really are the Son of G-d, if you are who you say you are, turn these stones into bread and eat.  After all, if you are the Son of G-d, you don’t need to be hungry.”  I can hardly imagine the thoughts that must have gone through Jesus’ mind with that challenge.  He had not eaten for 40 days.  He was hungry.  I’ve never even gone for 40 hours without food.  The hunger pangs must have been nearly unbearable.  Hunger tends to make people irritable and cranky, just ask a teenage boy whose dinner is late.  I imagine that this challenge of his deity grated on his nerves.  Of course He could have turned the stones into bread.  He was fully G-d just as He was fully human.   It would have taken just one word, one motion of his hand and he would have had more food than he could ever need.  But He didn’t.  Instead, He turned and looked at the Tempter and quoted a verse from Deuteronomy “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of G-d.”  These words were originally spoken to the Israelites by Moses as he reminded the children of Israel how G-d had provided manna for them in the desert, how G-d had provided their every need for them during their 40 years in the desert.  By recalling this event, by quoting these words, Jesus was giving testimony to His trust in G-d, testimony to the fact that He was trusting His Father in heaven to provide all His needs.   His trust in G-d was greater than His hunger. 
The tempter wasn’t finished with him yet though.  How often do we feel that we have overcome one trial or temptation only realize that another is waiting just around the corner, or in this case, on the highest point of the temple?   That is where the tempter took Jesus next, up to the very top of the temple.  Again, Satan challenged Jesus, but this time, he didn’t only challenge Jesus, but also G-d himself.  “If you are really the son of G-d, and if G-d is really who all you G-d followers say He is, jump. For didn’t He speak through His servant David and say that ‘he would command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone?’ Jump and let G-d protect you.” 
The temptation must have been strong.  By jumping, not only would he give evidence that he was the son of G-d, he would also give testimony to the fact that G-d was who he said he was.  This would be a way to show that no-good devil that G-d was infinitely more powerful than he was.  All it would take was one jump and the devil would have to leave him alone. 
But no.  He doesn’t jump.  He doesn’t stoop to the devil’s games.  Instead, he again turns to scripture, fighting the devil’s challenge which had come from the Psalms with a scripture from Deuteronomy “Do not put the Lord your G-d to the test.”  Again, these words were originally spoken by Moses to the Israelites, this time as a reminder of what a jealous G-d their Lord was.  Time and time again, as the Israelites wandered through the desert they put G-d to the test with their whining and complaining.  G-d never failed to provide for them, but over and over again, they continually tested Him.  And time and time again, their testing of G-d angered G-d and his wrath burned against them.  For Jesus, it wouldn’t have been much of test of G-d’s power.  He was fully G-d and he knew that G-d would protect Him.  There couldn’t have been a doubt in his mind that he would survive a jump from the top of the temple, but still, He wouldn’t jump.  He didn’t have to prove anything to Satan.  He didn’t have to prove anything to anyone. There was no need to play these games.  So, with those words, “Do not put the Lord your G-d to the test” he refused to give in.
The tempter was getting frustrated.  Twice now he had been foiled by Jesus. Maybe He didn’t quite understand just who Jesus was, or maybe he had deceived himself into thinking he had more power than he really did. For whatever reason, he decided to try one more time.  This time he took Jesus to a very high place, a place with a view. It must have been an incredible view, for the writer of Matthew tells us that he “showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor”.   In desperation the devil cried out “Bow down and worship me!  If you worship me, I’ll give all of this to you, all these kingdoms, all this splendor.  Just bow down and worship me.”  At this point, I’m pretty sure the devil was deluded.  Even if Jesus had bowed down and worshiped him, could he really have given all these kingdoms and splendor to him?  Does it not say in the Psalms “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world and all who live in it.”?  Satan could no more have handed over the kingdoms of the world to Jesus than I could hand over the apartment that I live in.  They weren’t his to give.
Jesus had had enough.  He was tired of these games.  He was tired of Satan’s weak ploys to try and get him to stumble and fall.  I can hear the anger in his voice as He turned to him and said “Away from me Satan!  For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your G-d and serve him only.”   This time He countered Satan’s request with a command, straight from G-d.  We know it from the 10 commandments “You shall have no other gods before me.  You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.  You shall not bow down to them or worship them;”  Jesus shot these words at the devil, along with a command for him to get away, and with that, Satan left and the angels came to attend to Jesus’ needs.
Three times Satan attempted to get Jesus to play his games.  Each time he tempted Him where He was vulnerable.  First, he tempted him in his hunger and need. He tempted him to give into what his human body wanted, to meet his own immediate needs instead of trusting in G-d to meet all his needs.  Second, he tempted him to put on a show of power, to demonstrate who he was and who G-d was.   He tempted him to make a name for himself, rather than remain secure in who G-d had made him to be.  Third, he tempted him with promises of wealth and splendor.  If he had all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor, he would be somebody in the eyes of the world.  People would want to follow him because he was a great leader.  He tempted him to follow a plan that made sense in the eyes of the world instead of the plan that G-d had for him.
Three times Satan tempted Jesus by playing on His vulnerabilities, on the places where he was weak, and three times Jesus countered these temptations by going back to the Word of G-d.  He didn’t try and argue with the devil, he didn’t try and point out that the devil was deluded in his thinking that he could give Him all the kingdoms and splendor of the world, when they didn’t belong to him in the first place.  He simply went back to the word of G-d.
Throughout our lives we go through times of trial and testing.  We go through periods where we feel like we are in the desert. We wander through our days asking G-d when our time of trial will end.  We seek even a moment of relief from the scorching heat of our problems.  Then, just when we are at the end of our ropes, just when it seems as if things can’t get much worse, the tempter shows up.  He hits us where we are most vulnerable, suggesting easy ways out, twisting the truth ever so slightly, trying to catch us up in his lies.  He plagues us with doubts, trying to convince us that G-d won’t actually meet all our needs.  That maybe this time, this month, the money won’t be there to pay that rent check or buy those groceries or make the mortgage payment.  Or maybe this time, the relationship is too broken to be restored.  Or maybe, I’m in a mess too big for G-d to get me out of this time.  We start to worry and we start to stress.  We start trying to figure out ways to meet our own needs, to settle things on our own, without trusting G-d.
He attacks us in our very identity.  Just as he challenged whether Jesus was really the son of G-d or not, he challenges our identities as the children of G-d.  He tries to make us believe that G-d’s promises don’t really apply to us.  He finds our weak spots and attacks us there.  Maybe it is our youth.  Maybe it is our age.  Maybe it is our future.  Maybe it is our past.  Satan knows where we are weak and vulnerable and that is where he attacks.   We start to try and find ways to create identities for ourselves, identities that the world will recognize.  The plans of the world look tempting.  If we can make a name for ourselves through sports or music or drama or clever business deals, then maybe we will be somebody important.  Maybe if we get power or influence, people will listen to us and we will be a somebody.
But it doesn’t work that way. Following our own plans doesn’t work out.  Thankfully, we can battle temptation much the same way that Jesus did. Jesus did have an advantage over us by being fully G-d as well as fully human, but he fought the lies of the devil the same way that we can -by turning back to the word of G-d that never fails. Every time that Satan threw a temptation at Jesus, Jesus countered it with scripture, and every time, scripture won.
As I began to work on this sermon I became overwhelmed with my youth.  What words could I offer?  What had I experienced in my life that could possibly have meaning for anyone else?  In the grand scheme of things, I’m still not much more than child, a youth. I still have so many things to learn.  There is nothing inherently wrong about these statements.  I am young.  Nothing is going to change that, except time. And I still do have a lot to learn.  Nothing is going to change that, except time and experience.  However, for a time I let these doubts paralyze me.  I became so consumed with them that I just sat and stared at my computer screen.  I tried to talk myself out of them, but I couldn’t do it.  A few friends tried to reassure me that I really could do this.  I couldn’t bring myself to believe them.  I had e-mailed a couple friends and told them how much I was struggling with this task.  A wise friend e-mailed me back with a promise from 1 Corinthians 1 where it says “You do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.”  With those three verses she dismantled the lies that Satan was trying to feed me about my inadequacies.  Shortly thereafter the Spirit brought to mind a verse from 1 Timothy “Let no one despise your youth, but set an example for the believers”.  The lies about being a just a youth were forced to crumble under the truth of G-d’s word and I was able to write.
I couldn’t talk my way out of the doubts.  I couldn’t reason my way out of my fear. Friends who tried to assure me that I was equipped for this task based on coursework that I had done couldn’t get through to me.  It was only when someone pointed me back to the promises in scripture that the fears and doubts could be defeated.   The Bible is full of promises.  Contained in its pages are promises for every situation in our lives. When Jesus was faced with temptation, these were the promises that He turned to.  Likewise, when we are faced with temptation, these are the promises that we can turn to.  However, in order to be able to turn to them, we need to know them.  We can’t use what we don’t know we have.   I encourage you in this time of Lent to make it part of your day to time in the Word.  Make it part of your daily life.  If you remain rooted in the Word, then the promise declared in Psalm 1 will be for you.  You will be like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever you do will prosper.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


So even though we had winter break on Monday and Tuesday of this week, things have been busy.  I blame it on the sermon I have been writing for Sunday and the fact that I am (still) dealing with mono, now complicated by prednisone.  So, this day, instead of lots of original thoughts and musings from me, I thought I would share some of the treasures I have found around my world lately (in no particular order), along with some commentary of my own.  Enjoy!

First treasure of this post: 
In honor of Lent, one of my friends posted this.It is her reflections on Lent and her experiences with Lent and fasting. Even though it is her thoughts and reflections, in many ways it mirrors many of my thoughts and feelings.  Read it and let me (or her) know what you think.  Also, she is getting married real soon.  If you feel like blessing her and her husband with prayers, please do.

Second Treasure:
A dear friend of mine sent me this video earlier this week.  I've watched it/listened to it multiple times a day since then.  Unfortunately it is not captioned.  It is a poem about waiting for the man that G-d has picked out for you.  I highly commend it to my single female friends, though I've had a single male friend listen to it and he says it is useful from his perspective too.  Even if you aren't single, listen to it.  What she does is beautiful.  Her plays on words and concepts is incredible.  Listen to it more than once even. 

Third Treasure:
At some point in the last week or so, my wonderful roommate LDK sent me this post about making gluten free communion in church work.  I've written before about gluten free communion in church, but I feel this post sums it up neatly.  Additionally, it is written by a pastor with Celiac Disease.  She discusses things that I had never thought of, such how to navigate not being able take communion yourself but still needing to serve it to your congregation.

Fourth Treasure:
Over the weekend, while working on my sermon listening project, I decided to try out a new recipe from one of my favorite allergy-friendly cookbook authors, Cybele Pascal.  She had posted a recipe for Allergy-Free Thin Mints (Chocolate Mint cookies, Girl Guide style for you Canadians) and I was eager to try it out.  So I did.  They were delicious.  After I was done making them, I remembered a campfire treat that my Scout troop used to make.  It was a modification on S'mores, but instead of using graham crackers and chocolate with the marshmallows, it  used Thin Mint Cookies with the marshmallows.  I'd never gotten to try it (Thin Mint cookies are not traditionally allergy friendly).  So, after rearranging a coat hanger, we made use of our gas stove and roasted some marshmallows.  Then we made S'mores using my homemade allergy friendly thin mints.
Olga enjoying a S'more (Photo by Olga)

Fifth Treasure:
I've been working on writing my first full length sermon.  I will be preaching in church for the first time this Sunday.  I'm doing the evening sermon (6pm Michigan time, Sunday the 13th).  Prayers would be much appreciated.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday.  That means the season of Lent has officially began.  Which also means Easter is right around the corner.  45 days to be exact (the 40 days of Lent don't include Sundays). This means I am getting more and more excited.  I like Easter a whole lot.
There will be more on this topic later.  Consider yourselves forewarned.

Monday, March 07, 2011

The Real Kangaroo

Sorry for causing concern. That was not my intention.
Here is the story about the kangaroo....Every once in awhile my immune system has a major freak out and I go into anaphalptic shock (usually it has a reason for this unreasonable behavior). In the aftermath of such a severe allergic reaction the doctor puts me on prednisone (oral steroids). Steroids are a strange thing and do strange things to a person's body. For me, it makes me feel like I have a kangaroo in my brain. That's really the best way I have to describe it. My brain jumps all over the place. The kangaroo goes crazy. Strange stuff comes out of my mouth. I write strange things on facebook and my blog without thinking about them. I talk really fast. The Kangaroo also gets super hungry and eats lots and lots of food. Sometimes he's grumpy too. Right now he's tired, so I have a bit of peace. the drugs also make me moody. Not fun.
Getting rid of the kangaroo is a long slow process, because if you kick him out too fast he gets super mad and you get super sick. Think drug withdrawal, because that is what it is. The kangaroo will be completely gone on Saturday and that will be a relief.
This is not a great week to be on kangaroo drugs since I will be preaching in church for the first time on Sunday and I'm really struggling with my sermon right now.
So that is the kangaroo story. nothing really to worry about.


There is a kangaroo in my brain.  He was grumpy earlier today, but now he is wide awake and going crazy.  I am feeding him homemade soy yoghurt with ribena and berries and black current juice.  He likes that.  That's because most kangaroos are herbavoires.  That means they eat plants.  Some kangaroos are omnivores.  They eat a little bit of meat sometimes.  My kangaroo is an omnivore.  He eats a lot of meat.  He likes meat.
That is all.  Time to make him some sausage.  Yummy!

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Lessons from an Epi-Pen

Those of you who know me well, or have been reading my blog for awhile, know that I have multiple life-threatening allergies, as well as multiple non-life-threatening allergies, to both food and medications.  I carry two doses of epinephrine on my person at almost all times (exceptions: sleeping, showering, swimming).  In fact, I carry epinephrine on my person so religiously that we used it as a memory device for the Greek preposition επι meaning "on" because the epi-pen is always on Joy.  If you do not know how to administer an Epi-pen, please stop reading this right now and go read these two blog posts (Post 1, Post 2). Please read them.  They contain life saving information.  For real. If you know how to administer an Epi-Pen keep reading...
Anyone who has ever used an epi-pen knows that it hurts.  Yes, it saves your life, but it also hurts. There is, after all, a rather large needle being forcibly pushed into your thigh muscle.  Anyone who has been with me when I have had an allergic reaction knows that I hate having to use my Epi-pen.  I will usually do everything possible to convince both me and everyone else that I really don't need it.  This usually includes taking lots of Benadryl and waiting until I have absolutely no choice but to use the Epi-pen.  By this point I am typically only semi-conscious (not breathing will do that to you) and unable to give the epinephrine to myself.  So someone else gets to do the honors.  Then it's usually a mad dash to the hospital where the doctors and nurses (and sometimes respiratory therapists) fight to bring me back to breathing on my own. It usually involves lots of needles, oxygen, monitors, collapsing blood vessels, drugs and organized chaos to keep me from dying.  As well as a lecture on using my Epi-pen at the first sign of a severe reaction instead of waiting, which I usually counter with some sort of excuse about the pens being so expensive and wanting to wait until I'm actually sure I need to use it. Overall, not a pleasant experience.

Last week I was blindsided by a snack that was not as Joy-friendly as I was led to believe it was.  Within moments of eating it, I broke out in hives around my mouth and throat, my heart rate started going crazy, I got sick to my stomach, and shortly thereafter my breathing became labored.  After a brief moment of panic during which I thought I was home alone and mentally ran through a list of people who might actually answer their phones if I called needing a ride to the hospital (I try and avoid the ambulance if I can), I realized my roommate was indeed home and went downstairs to tell her that I had loaded up on Benadryl and was maybe going to need the Epi-Pen.  Because my roommate is amazing she was super calm about the whole thing and we waited to see if the Benadryl was going to do its job or not. After waiting 15 minutes for the Benadryl to kick in, and feeling it kick in but not reverse the reaction, I realized that I was going to need the Epi-pen.  At this point I was still completely conscious and could even still kind of talk.  I actually gave the epinephrine to myself for the first time, while LDK called the library where she had to work in half an hour to tell them she would be late (I have awesome roommates, just saying) and went next door to grab a neighbor to help me to the car (epinephrine makes me really woozy).   On the way to the hospital the epinephrine did its thing and by the time we got there, other than my blood pressure doing silly things (side effect of epinephrine), my vitals were good.  I still had hives, but I was breathing on my own with a large degree of success.  After a round of oral steroids and some meds for my stomach, they kept me for about 2.5 hours and then sent me home - no needle sticks, oxygen, monitors, or organized chaos.
When all was said and done and I came out of the drug induced haze (okay, I'm still coming out of it and will be for a few days yet) I looked back on the whole ordeal and tried to figure out what made this particular reaction so different from past  reactions and what I could learn from that. The suspected allergen in this case was nuts of some sort, one of my major allergens. Past nut reactions had resulted in reactions similar to the ones described in the linked posts above.  It would take a couple days before I was anywhere close to back to normal and a week or more before the bruises on my arms would fade.  This time it was different.  Once I figured out that the prescription antacid that the doctor had given me was full of cornstarch and making me very sick and stopped taking it, I was pretty much back to normal (well, normal with a prednisone kangaroo in my brain).

I finally figured out the difference.  I had taken the epinephrine early on. I knew it was going to hurt like crazy, but more importantly I knew I needed it.  Usually stubborn gets in the way and even though I know I need it, the desire to avoid the pain overrules the common sense.  In the end, it results in an even more painful process (trust me, having nurses fight to start IV's while your blood pressure plummets and your veins collapse is way more painful than a dose of epinephrine).
As I thought about it, I realized that it is much the same way in my walk with Jesus.  I know that letting Him work in my life is going to be painful.  There's a lot of junk He has to deal with.  And I know I need Him to deal with it, because I can't fix it myself. But often, stubborn wins, and I try and fix things on my own.  And I fail.  In the end, the process of Him fixing things up is more painful than if I had stopped being stubborn earlier, because in the end, He always gets His way, just like in the end, the drugs needed to save my life always get into me.
It's easier on me (and everyone involved) if I just take the epinephrine when I know I need it instead of waiting until I'm almost dead.  Likewise, it's easier if I cooperate with Jesus when He is trying to make changes in my life instead of waiting until I'm at the end of my rope, dangling between a rock and hard place, with nowhere to go except down, but I can't even really go down because I'm already at rock bottom.
How would my life be different if I stopped being stubborn? Is it even possible?  And if it is possible, is it a good thing?
Enough thoughts for now.   The kangaroo is waking up.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Chicken Parmesan

Back in January my roommate and I made "Red Hooker Lipstick" soup, which was a little like tomato soup.   It got us thinking about what else we could make along that same theme - tomato-like, but tomato-free.  I've not had tomato in many years because I am allergic to it, so this prospect excited me.  LDK found a recipe online for tomato-free "Marinara" sauce and we'd talked about trying it out sometime, but never did. Until tonight.
LDK suggested we make Chicken Parmesan for dinner.  I had never had Chicken Parmesan before, but when she described it to me, it sounded good.  (Actually, the original plan was for chicken nuggets with roasted Jerusalem artichokes and turnip...somehow we strayed from that).  For those of you, who like me, are unfamiliar with Chicken Parmesan, it is a dish that has breaded chicken covered in marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese.  I'm not sure why it is called Chicken Parmesan because it has no Parmesan in it.  Go figure.
Anyhow, "normal" Chicken Parmesan would be bad news for me on so many levels: breaded chicken usually has wheat and gluten in the bread, and sometimes egg on the chicken to make the bread crumbs stick better, marinara sauce is full of tomatoes, and cheese is full of dairy.  So pretty much, in order to make this Joy-Friendly, we had to substitute everything except the chicken itself. However difficult this might seem, we felt we were up the challenge.
I started by breading the chicken using PaneRiso bread crumbs and put it in a lightly oiled pan, while LDK chopped up some onion.
click to enlarge

With the chicken safely in the oven I pureed a can of beets (15oz, instead of 8oz like the recipe suggested...mostly because I forgot to read/listen) and LDK started frying the onion and some minced garlic in a little oil.
Click to enlarge
When the onion was translucent and soft we added the lemon juice and balsamic vinegar and then the pumpkin puree, beet puree, chicken broth, and some season as suggested by the recipe.  Had we been thinking we would have realized that we had more than 8oz of beets and 2 cups of pumpkin and adjusted the lemon juice and vinegar accordingly.  Live and learn.
While the "marinara" sauce cooked I boiled some Joy-Pasta.  I kid you not, that is its real name.  See?

When the chicken was cooked we poured "marinara" sauce on it and sprinkled it with Daiya mozzarella cheese.  Daiya is quickly becoming a favorite of mine because it tastes good and behaves like "normal" cheese.  Then we popped it back in the oven to get all yummy while the pasta finished up.
Finally we were ready for the table.  Our main dish looked beautiful and smelled really good (sorry, scratch and sniff technology has not been invented for the computer yet).
We also had a big bowl of pasta and one of extra marinara sauce for our pasta.
 This is LDK's plate because it was prettier than mine...I failed at taking my chicken from the pan neatly.

And that my friends, is the story of allergy free Chicken Parmesan.

Overall this recipe gets a "thumbs-up" or "come again", depending on which recipe rating scale you are using. The idea of using beets and squashes along with citrus juices and vinegars has opened a whole new world of possibilities.  I can imagine chili's and ketchups and spaghetti with meatballs and cabbage rolls and pizza sauce and salsa and....the possibilities are endless.  It's like adding tomato back into my diet without actually doing so. 

How Not to Study for Midterms

Back in December I wrote a post about how to study for finals, now you get the "how not to study for midterms post", because really, it takes skill to study as awfully as I have this time around.  I do not recommend this.
1. About a month before midterms, get a sinus infection
2. About 3 weeks before midterms, get influenza and miss many classes.
3. About 2 weeks before midterms, while you still are trying to get over influenza, get mono and miss some more classes.
4. Sleep pretty much anytime you are not actually in class because you have mono.
5. Agree to preach the Sunday after midterm week so that you can stress about that during midterms.
6. The day before midterms, have a severe allergic reaction and go to the hospital.  By doing this you will end up drugged and groggy for the next week, thus impeding both the studying for and the taking of, midterms.
7. At about 5pm (or maybe 5:30pm) the day before take a large dose of Prednisone (60-80mg...I forget how much it actually was), so that at 3am the day of your midterms you are wide awake with a kangaroo in your brain and hungrier than a bear.  The kangaroo will impede both further sleep and effective studying.
8. Pray for understanding professors.
9. Show up to your first midterm a little early and explain to your professor what has happened.  Convince him to let you take the midterm early next week.
10.  Realize that you have about an hour and half of coherency between your 4am dose of Benadryl wearing off and your prednisone kicking in and your next dose of Benadryl.  Find your second hour prof and convince him to let you take your second hour midterm during first hour, since you'll be more coherent then than an other time during the day.
11.  Take your second hour midterm, go to chapel, go home, take your next dose of Benadryl and watch a Disney movie while you snooze on the couch.
12. Hope that you never have another round of midterms this bad.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Made for Community

I preached this sermon in preaching lab the other day.  I've shared it with a few people and gotten some positive feedback and requests for permission to pass it on, so I decided to to post it here, in the hope that maybe G-d's word would touch at least one life. 
My text was Luke 5: 17-26.

He sat there watching the world go by.  He’d heard his parents talk about a man called Jesus, a man who had made people walk, given sight back to blind people, fed huge crowds with small amounts of food and done all sorts of other marvelous things.  His mother said he should go see this Jesus fellow. The trouble was, he couldn’t go, even if he wanted to.  He was lame; completely paralyzed and unable to go anywhere.  How many years had he been like that? It was more than he could remember. His mama said that when he was a child he used to run and play with the others.  He wished he could remember what life had been like when his legs were not withered and useless, but try as he might, all he could remember was this way of being, this uselessness, this state of being completely unable to help himself. He sighed and wondered what this Jesus-man was like and wished he could go see him for himself, instead of just hearing stories about him. Maybe, if he could get to Jesus, he could find healing.  Maybe then, life would go back to the way it had been before.
He heard someone call his name and he looked up from his musings.  He saw a group of his friends walking excitedly towards him.  As they got closer he listened to what they were saying.  The Jesus-man he had heard so much about was in his town.  His friends had all been to see him. He tried to be happy for them, but in his heart, he wished he had been able to be there with them.  Suddenly, four of them came over and picked up the mat he was laying on and began to carry it down the street.  Rest of his friends followed.  He could see a house up ahead, so full of people that they were spilling out into the street.  “Jesus is there” said his friends.  His heart sank.  He was so close, yet so far away.  There was no way that his friends could maneuver his mat through that crowd so that he could see Jesus. Abruptly, his friends turned away from the door and headed up the steps to the roof. They carried him up the roof and working in the hot sun, made a hole in the roof. Then, they lowered him through the hole, right in front of the Jesus he had heard so much about.  Jesus looked down at him laying on the floor and up at his friends, peering down through the hole in the roof.  And then, the most wonderful thing happened.  Jesus healed him.  He stood up and walked through the crowd, carrying his mat.  He could walk.  This was even better than the before time, because now, he had met Jesus.
How often do we sit like that man and try to remember what life was like?  Maybe we want to remember what life was like before we got sick.  Maybe we want to remember what life was like before our parents got a divorce.  Maybe there was a time before alcohol, or drugs, or pornography, or work, or Facebook took over our lives.  Maybe we wonder if there was ever a time in our lives when we didn’t do battle with depression or bipolar disorder or food.  We try and remember that before time, and maybe sometimes we can get a little glimpse, a fleeting memory, but now, all we know is life the way it is now.  We’ve heard that somewhere, somehow there is healing.  We long for things to be different, to be able to return to that before time, but we don’t know how to get there.
We know the healing is out there.  We’ve heard it talked about it and we’ve longed to experience it ourselves, but we can’t seem to get there on our own.  Maybe we don’t know the way.  Maybe we don’t have the resources to afford it.   Maybe we just need that extra little push forward or the support of a good friend or group of friends.  Verse 20 says that it was when Jesus saw their faith that he healed the paralyzed man.  We were made to live in community, to give help and to accept help.  The paralyzed man could have refused to let his friends help him.  He could have resolved to do it all by himself.  His friends could have refused to help him.  They could have not bothered to make the hole in the roof.  In either case, he would not have made it to Jesus and would not have experienced healing.  Sometimes, we can’t do it on our own. Sometimes we need a friend to carry us along the way to Jesus, so that we can experience healing and go to a place that is even better than the before place that we had longed for.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

You can't catch me, I'm the gingerbread man!

This is an interactive blog post.  In other words, I need your comments on this.  If you are viewing from Facebook, leave your comments there.  If you are reading this from blogger, please comment do not have to have a blogger account to comment.  Anyone can comment.  So please, comment. Pretty please.
On to the post...
Over the weekend I made gingerbread.  It was yummy.  They were supposed to be gingerbread men, but I didn't have a man-cutter, so I used LDK's tulip cutter. They looked like dancing angels.  I got bored with tulip/angels after a time (my dough was a little sticky...there is a difference between 1/4 cup and 1/2 cup of molasses, just sayin') and switched to making gingerbread blobs instead.  Then LDK helped me frost them.
This gingerbread making adventure made me realize that I have never made a gingerbread house.   This is mostly due to the fact that making a gingerbread that sticks together and isn't a crumbly mess, yet is still Joy-friendly, has up until now been elusive.  Cybele Pascal fixed that in her allergen-free bakers handbook. (buy the book, it's great!)
The realization that I had never made a gingerbread house stirred a desire in me to make a gingerbread house.  Easter is only 53 days away and seems a fitting time to make a gingerbread house (before you assume I'm crazy, recall how I celebrated Christmas and why I celebrated that way). Beings as I have never made a gingerbread house, I do not know what kind of candy I should get for decorating.  Getting candy is a bit of a challenge for me because in the USA most candy has corn syrup in it and this causes issues for me.  So my options are to either convince Mommy to do a Bulk Barn run and mail (or carrier pigeon) me some corn-free candy or to order online.
Either way, this is going to take time, so I need your feedback now:  What types of candy are absolutely necessary for gingerbread house making?