Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Dinner and two recipes

Tonight we had lentil soup for dinner.

I will be teaching my third and fourth graders about Jacob and Esau in two weeks. That story almost always makes me hungry for lentil soup. This time, I guess I got the craving just thinking about the story coming up.

Along with our lentil soup we had homemade oat bread and sun butter, which is like peanut butter, only made of sunflower seeds. I felt pretty virtuous, eating such tasty vegetarian fare.

Now that food prices are up, the stock market has crashed and we are still waiting to find out if we are actually purchasing 20 acres so we can start the family compound... I thought maybe it would be a good time to share my recipes for soups made with legumes. Healthy and economical, what more can you ask for? Flavor? Oh, these have nice flavor, and thick, satisfying textures. We better all get used to eating these types fo things. Soon we might be very thankful just to have a bag of dried beans in the cupboard. I hope I am jesting.

For our family, less is more when it comes to soup ingredients.
Keep it simple, make it delicious.

Tomato Lentil Soup

8 cups water
1 lb. lentils
2 tsp. chicken base
1 tsp. salt
sprinkle of red pepper flakes
3-5 cloves garlic, pressed

Put ingredients into a large pot. (They say to rinse the lentils--I never do. I kind of eyeball them to check for stones.) Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for a few hours until the lentils are tender. It doesn't take more than three hours. They might even be done in two hours. Cooking longer will not hurt anything, either, but you may need to add some water. Shortly before serving, add:

2--15 oz. cans petite diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp. dried basil (or a bunch of fresh basil, if you have it)

Check for salt level (it's usually fine), heat through and serve. This is good, especially with a lot of garlic.

Split Pea Soup

8 cups water
1 lb. green split peas
1 Tbsp. diced dried minced onion
1 tsp. salt
1 ham bone or 1-2 cups diced ham

Put ingredients into a large pot. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on very low heat for a few hours until the peas are soft and mushy. Taste for salt level and add a bit if needed about 1 hour before serving. This soup smells delicious. One of DJ's sax students came over while this soup was simmering, and she said, "What smells so GOOD?" If you can jut get your kids (...or yourself?) past the fact that it is green and made of legumes, they will like it. It tastes like ham with mild oniony undertones. As it thickens, it gains something like the consistency of soft mashed potatoes. What's not to like about that? Keep it simple though, and for goodness sake never put in any carrots. I hate carrots in my pea soup! The only chunks in pea soup should be soft pieces of succulent ham. I'm dead serious.

So here's to saving money and eating cheaply. Split peas and lentils are good legumes to start with if you don't use legumes much... they are pretty foolproof, unlike bigger beans that sometimes won't get soft, and other times mash when you want them whole. Legumes can be frustrating, but these recipes are tried, true and easy.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The wrong signals

So Clay Aiken and Ray Boltz are gay.

I have to admit, I wasn't all that surprised about Clay. I like him. I love his voice. When we visited Grove City College, we listened to his Christmas CD on the way down, and not knowing his "secret," we were cheered by its innocence and traditionalism. But you know, he does lisp his way through "O Holy Night," and I have always wondered. It all makes sense now, but I feel sad, a tremendous sense of loss.

The news about Ray Boltz was like a thunderbolt. I have been incredibly blessed by many of his songs. He was a thinker, almost a theologian. How can this be? How does it work? What about his wife and four children?

If Michael Card is next, you can just shoot me now. I'm just saying.

But back to Ray. Here's the thing. Apparently he couldn't talk to his wife about the struggles he was facing. She should have been able to be his best friend and prayer partner as he wrestled with these issues, but he just couldn't tell her, "Honey, I'm struggling with temptations of attraction towards men." Was he just so frightened of rejection? Of making her feel that he was repulsive? The only way he could face his temptation was to embrace it. That is where the church is failing. Failing.

Conservative church people say, "There is no such thing as a gay person. It's just all sin, lies and deceptions from the devil. You are a sinner if you choose to be gay, and that's it. Repent or go to hell, you miserable sinner."

Liberal church people say, "Jeus loves everyone and he loves you if you are gay, too, so go ahead and be yourself. Jesus came to save, not to condemn."

I think they're both wrong. I think it is very well possible that there are "gay" people, that they are born with a predisposition to be attracted to the same sex. We must not negate this. At the same time, the Bible is quite clear that sexual acts between partners of the same sex are detestable to God, an abomination (Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:27).

The Bible is clear that it is not being tempted that is the problem. Jesus was tempted to sin, for goodness sake (Matthew 4, Luke 4). It is not wrong to be tempted. What can be bad is what you do with that temptation.

If you are "gay" then your responsibility before God is to master those urges and depend daily on Him for the strength to live a pure life. Conservatives think it is a great victory when a "gay" person is "brought out" of the lifestyle and marries and has children. I think gay people within the church should be able to celebrate victory every day that they do not pursue a form of homosexual relationship, whether or not they pursue a heterosexual relationship. It is not about becoming "normal." It is about not being in bondage to sin.

We are all prey to different sins. I struggle with anger and judgmentalism and a critical spirit. I am not proud of this. There are people who hate me when I even admit these things and think, "Wow. There's one to stay away from!" I try to hide these things while I work on overcoming them. I think this is true of many of the sins we battle. Who feels free to admit, "Yes, I struggle with lust and it is hard for me not to commit adultery." Who has ever said in a small group Bible study, "I just can't stop abusing subtances, " or "Wow, I tell about 30 lies a day," or "Please pray for me to not be so caught up in materialism and vanity.."? We know the response will be, "You do WHAT???" followed by a resolution never to have that person over for dinner, and be sure to protect the children.

We all struggle with different sins, and we are all afraid to admit it and ask for help from our Christian brothers and sisters, because we know we will be judged and rejected. So we struggle in isolation and sometimes the isolation leads us to phenominal failures. Whatever happened to James 5:16--"Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed"? Oh, I forgot. People don't like James. He said, "So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone," (James 2:24). Since the Christian mantra is Sole Fide (Latin for "by faith alone"), there is a consensus among some that James should not even be included in the cannon.

If we could just confess our sins to each other and pray for each other. If we could just rejoice together when by the power of the Holy Spirit we are able to make a righteous behavior choice in the face of temptation. If we could just stop judging each other for being sinners and being tempted. Hello! We are all born under the curse of Adam. We live in a fallen world. We all have an inborn propensity to one type of sin or another. Could we please stop being shocked to learn this about each other? We already know it about ourselves. Or, if you don't, I can tell you right now that your propensity is to sin in pride and self-righteousness. I know this because I am critical and judgmental. But, in this case, I am also right. :)

This summer Shawn's car started to do something I didn't like. The idiot light that said, "Service engine soon," kept coming on. The car ran fine, but the idiot light was always on.

Finally I convinced (nagged) him into taking the car to our garage. They could not figure out the problem, but they reset the idiot light so it would not be on, and they recommended we take it to the dealer for a diagnostic on the computer if we had any further trouble.

The idiot light came back on after a day or so.

So we took the car to the dealer who charged us big money to run a diagnostic. The diagnostic came back--"The pipe that leads to your gas tank is weakening." So this is what makes a "Service engine soon" light glow?

I will spare you the frustrating details of the following few weeks. No, I have to tell you some. We made an appointment for the part to be replaced. Shawn took a whole morning off work and we drove out to the dealer and dropped off the car, and I took Shawn to work and then headed home in my van. Halfway home I got a call from Shawn, telling me that... the dealer did not have the part in stock, so he needed to get the car back and make another appointment for after the part had been ordered.

Ultimately, about three weeks later they finally had the part, and we finally got it replaced.

It was a few days after that when our car died. The engine was totally dead. But the lights and displays still came on. And, ironically, none of the idiot lights were lit at that point. Not a one.

Yesterday we had the car towed to the garage where they replaced a starter wire. Now the car starts and runs like a champ. Guess what? The "Service engine soon" light is back on, too.

It is totally dysfunctional when a light that is supposed to warn of trouble comes on when there is no apparent trouble, and goes off when there is obvious trouble. Our churches are just about this dysfunctional when they make it impossible for people to confess, repent and be healed. When the only way for a sinner to find relief is to jump headlong into an accepting sinful community, you know there is something very, very wrong with the way the church is working.

It is the wrong signal to flash that "You can join us if you have it all together, but stay away if you have any dirty little issues--we don't want to hear about it. We don't want to have anything to do with gross sinners. If you are a believer who struggles with sin, well then shut up and stay away until you get yourself fixed." Clearly, such an approach drives people further into sin. That is not what we are here for.

We must not condone sin. We must not reject sinners. Our job is to love each other, encourage each other through our struggles towards holiness. When are we going to start doing this?

Actually, I think my church is making strides in this area. We have Monday night groups that meet to work on sin issues and other "touchy" circumstances. Unfortunately there is such a stigma to these groups that the church is set up to allow people to come and go with minimal chances of being seen. People share only in groups where everyone else struggles with the same thing. It is good that we are addressing these issues, but it is sad that there has to be such protection from stigma, such fear of being discovered.

Life is pretty sad, isn't it? It is hard to live the way Jesus wants us to. "So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples." John 13:35-36

Thursday, September 25, 2008


I mentioned that our car died last weekend. That was while Shawn and I were in Pennsylvania with DJ and Lu, visiting Grove City College. Shannon was unable to take Jonno to his trumpet lesson, but I say praise the Lord that they were at home and not stranded at the trumpet lesson when it happened.

Shawn replaced the battery on Sunday afternoon, which solved nothing. However, by fiddling and prodding, he was able to get the car started on Monday morning and drive it to work. I was so proud!

Yesterday (Wednesday) found our household on its last roll of toilet paper. I had let DJ and Lu drive the van to school, and after school I got busy with "stuff"--I was making a beef roast and two pumpkin pies and could not just up and leave the kitchen. So it was after supper, when we took Jonno to his karate class, that I finally carved out an opportunity to go out and buy toilet paper. Say what you will, it is not good to be without toilet paper.

Shawn and I drove his car. Well, he drove and I sat in the passenger seat, clutching my list which was written in blue colored pencil, which was the only working writing implement I had been able to lay hands on. We went to WalMart and bought a big package of toilet paper. Then we went to Wegman's to pick up a few groceries that I had been unable to get at Sam's Club earlier in the week.

We got out of Wegman's just in time to go back to karate and pick up Jon. Unfortunately, the car would not start. There we were, in the best parking spot in the lot, with a completely dead car. Of course things like this never happen when the repair shops are open.

So Shannon took the van and got Jon, who had earned his green belt, except we missed it and forgot to pay the testing fee besides, so we are thankful that the coaches trust us and awarded him anyway. Then the kids came and got us and we all rode home in the van, leaving the car at the store overnight.

This morning we had to call a garage and a tow truck, all that monkey business. But, as I was drying my hair before we headed out to work on solving our problems, I thought to myself, "If I had to go without a car for a day, or without any toilet paper for a day, I would definitely choose to forego the car." And to me that was a very encouraging thought. We are well-stocked with toilet paper. For under $5. Compared to the cost of car repairs or a new car, that is nothing. Nothing! And yet, it meets such a profound need, much more profound than the need to go somewhere in a car.

You need what you need, and you can be thankful when you have it, and staying at home is a blessing. Especially when you are not out of toilet paper.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Our land?

We found a plot of land we like. It is twenty acres, with a stream even, and it is next to some good friends of ours who (get this) happen to be custom home builders. Imagine that!

The land was for sale, but it was listed at a ridiculously high price. Shawn got online and checked the county records and found that it was about 45% higher than what was reasonable, even when you figured a few different ways.

When the real estate listing ran out, Shawn sent the land owner a personal letter offering to buy the land for a reasonable price. The man called him back, but he said he wanted quite a bit more than we were willing to pay. He said he'd had an offer that was a good $15,000 over what we were willing to give him, and he had walked away from it. We figured he was either lying or crazy, because if had really received the offer he claimed to have received, he would have made about a 30% profit on an investment in two years, which is not something one walks away from.

This all went down last spring. A couple of weeks ago, the man called back and wants to sell--he has entered reality. Or maybe he just doesn't want to pay any more property taxes on the land; property tax bills are mailed round about the first day of school.

So we drew up a purchase offer with our lawyer and sent it to him. Now we are waiting. Waiting.

I do not want this if it is not God's will. With the economy the way it is, it seems insane to be buying 20 acres. Or maybe not. Maybe if all else fails and there is no longer a food supply, we could grow food on our twenty acres.

I feel confused and up in the air. I just want God's will. But I'm studying Job, so I am seeing, daily, that God's will, while the best for me, holds no promise of comfort or ease.

I'm kind of scared. The Psalmist says, "When I am afraid I will trust in You," (Psalm 56:3)

Why is it so hard to trust? Please give me more faith, Lord Jesus.

BTW My current house looks better to me every day.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Do you ever notice how you need a password to do anything?

I have a hard time remembering my passwords. I do not know my password for Facebook, Netflix, or BMG music. All the online companies I've ever ordered from also require passwords. When I try to create a new account (because I can't remember my password), they tell me, "There is already an account in existence with this email address."

Then they send me cryptic emails and I have to choose a new password---which of course, I promptly forget. My husband says you aren't supposed to write them down. Anyway, if I did make a list of my passwords, I would lose it.

My life is on a crash course right now, headed for a major explosion. I am overwhelmed with mail, email and phone calls. Oh, and weeds in my garden and mold in my refrigerator. I can't get the health insurance paperwork organized. How come when we had to switch to a company with a high deductible (read: you pay out of pocket for the first $2500 of medical expenses in the year), the paperwork doubled and the benefits evaporated?

I'm tired, I have a cold (or allergies, or something), and I am studying Job. Our car broke down, but Shawn got it going again. He is amazing. We thought we were going to have to have it towed because it was as dead as a flat skunk all weekend. But Shawn finally got it to start on Monday morning. Laura says, "I so have to get married when I move out. I so could never handle a car on my own."

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. I wonder if she has trouble with her passwords?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

When everything seems bleak

You need to have faith. You need to trust not only that God knows, not only that He cares but....

God is up to something good.

Yes, He is.

It may not seem like it. As far as you can see, it may not look like it.

But God is up to something good. God is for His children. He is on our side. And He is the sovereign ruler of the universe. AND He is almighty, all powerful, omnipotent.

1 Corinthians 2:9--'However, as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him"--'

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

An idea

I bought a bag of Hershey's miniatures. I thought it would be good if we trained ourselves to end meals with a small piece of chocolate rather than, say, a large bowl of ice-cream.

Friday, September 12, 2008

A memory from 1988

This picture has nothing to do with the aforementioned memory. I just thought people might like my blog better if I put up more pictures. I have trouble posting pictures, because for some reason my camera software thinks my camera is incompatible with my computer, and it only works about 30% of the time, and I don't have hours and hours of spare time in which to sort it out. In the spirit of yesterday's post, here is one more thing I grew this past summer--columbine. I like it. So, unfortunately, do the rabbits. It has since been eaten down to the ground.

Amy recently moved to Kentucky and can't find her shower curtain. This sparked in me a memory of my past, which I mused on over in her comments, but I'd like to keep it for posterity and the pleasure of my chidren and grandchildren and all that, so here I'm putting it down again:

In 1988, my husband and I graduated from the University of Minnesota, and he got a job with GE in NY. GE sent packers to put all our wedding gifts (still mostly in boxes) into their moving truck. We drove our car and knew we would arrive in NY a day ahead of the truck. We took a couple of suitcases, two sleeping bags and… a shower curtain. That was what we moved into our empty appartment on the day we arrived. Although we had to sleep on the floor and eat our meals sitting on the floor, we were able to shower.

Later, when the truck showed up, we had a whole lot of china, a bed, a card table and two lawn chairs. Beautiful.

We never even thought to bring any money. As in, liquid money. We had a cashier’s check in the amount of our life’s savings, and approximately $7 cash left after the cross country drive. When we deposited the cashier’s check at the bank, they told us it would be a week before we could draw on the account. We bought a gallon of milk and a bunch of boxed macaroni and cheese, and rationed it until our checking account became active. Oh, young love. Actually, I don’t miss it.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


I don't feel very good very often.  I have chalked it up to fibromyalgia, the mystery disease, and taught myself to bear up under it.

Lately I've developed a paranoia.

I have a fair number of diabetes symptoms:

flu-like symptoms (achiness, lethargy, etc.)---check

extreme fatigue---check

bad circulation (cold extremities; feet, legs, arms falling asleep)---check

troublesome gums---check

bladder issues---check

excessive thirst---check

retinal (eye) problems---check

irritability---check (um, yes, and especially when I haven't eaten for a long time and my blood sugar dips)

OK.  So.  This is really scary.  Especially for someone whose favorite lunch is a serving of chocolate milk.  I looked up the diabetic diet, and you can't eat anything.  Literally.  You have to totally moniter your carbs, obviously, because they mess with your blood sugar levels.  You can't have too much protein because it is hard on your already over-stressed kidneys, and you can't have too much fat either, for the same reason.

Low carb, low protein, low fat.  Um.  Hello?  Is there a kind of nutrition that doesn't fall into one of these categories?  I suppose vitamins (they never filled anybody up--also here's betting that vitamin metabolism is hard work for your kidneys, too, if you don't take exactly the right amount).

They suggest eating unlimited amounts of things like chopped onions with chili powder and shredded cabbage with vinegar.  I really don't think I can do this.

To be truthful, I don't need to lose a lot of weight.  And already there are only so many things I can eat with braces.  I've lost apples and almonds, which used to be staples in my diet.  I get hungry just thinking about it all... then I get sick to my stomach.

Here's to V-8 juice.

Oh wait, that's high sodium.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Problem

The problem with keeping up my online journal is this: I use up all my computer time trying to take care of email business.

I am going to try to discipline myself better in computer usage; a certain amount of time allocated to email, and then... STOP.

Also, a certain amount of time to blogging and then... STOP.

I hope I can do it.

Here are some random pictures from our Texas vacation. This first one shows Shawn at the beach near the house we rented. We had this beach basically all to ourselves, which was pretty nice. There were some people there on the weekend, though. The beach was on a calm bay, and it was very redneck. I hope it is not too discriminatory to say that. The people could drive their trucks right up to the water, which they did! There were lots of coolers of beer and boats being docked right off the back of trucks. At one “beachsite,” we drove past just as a pet pig was trotting around from the far side of the truck. What a hoot!

This is a picture of Jon, Laura and Shannon in the water at the beach. It reminds me of a lagoon. The water was very warm. Very warm. The only problem was all the sea life. Lots of little fish nibbled on one's legs as one tried to frolic in the water. When a jellyfish stung my ankle and left a big, ugly red mark, I was done with this beach. Fortunately, that was near the end of our stay, because I had trouble relaxing in the water after that.

Here are our four kids with their great grandparents. Actually, GD is Great Grandma's second husband. Her first husband died a couple of weeks before Shannon was born. GD and Great Grandma have been married for nearly 19 years. The dog's name is Buffy.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

First Day of School

Today is the first day of school.  Well, Shannon has been commuting to college for awhile, but the other three began today.

The first day of school is not my favorite day of the year.  I guess it is for some moms, but not for me.  To me it spells the beginning of stress, deadlines, homework battles, missing assignments, teacher conflicts, scheduling conflicts, and relentless trips to the store to buy supplies.

I'm lazy, that's the problem.  Lazy and unorganized.  And the beginning of school smashes these facts right in my face and twists them around like a lemon in a juicer.

Also, I am just a little bit crazy, and I feel much safer going shopping if one of the kids is with me.  Laura is the ultimate shopping buddy--she always knows what we need and is a great reminder.  She never loses my list (like I do).  Also, when she is with me, I can talk to her.  If I am alone, I sometimes talk to myself, which is disturbing to me and to others.

So here I am at home with miraculous time to, say, clean the kids' bathroom and tidy the kitchen (which miraculously STAYS tidy for a few hours) and do a little writing.  It's not so bad.  Is it?  Plus it's the first day of school, so I am basically caught up on the laundry... it does happen once or twice a year.

And yes, I suppose I could save myeslf some of this angst if I would homeschool.  That is theoretical, though.  I am not a good homeschooler.  I think to be a good homeschooler, you need to enjoy getting out once in awhile.  I hate getting out.  I am, truth be told, a little weird (or maybe more than a little).  I'm a loner.  I do not think it is healthy to instill this personality trait in my kids any more than it already manifests itself.  None of us, except Jonathan, really likes to go out and socialize.  So going to school is a good discipline for them.  They meet people--people besides me, who might actually help them to have a little more balance in who they become.  They learn to face their fears and stretch themselves and get out there for a few hours every day.  

Ugh.  Why can't we just live in a cottage in the woods with a lake and a stream, fruit trees and a garden, chickens, a cow and a woodburning stove.  Hey, if we had all that, we would never have to go anywhere or see anybody.

I suppose that's why God is holding back.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


I believe that a church that puts evangelism in first place is like a family that puts the children in first place.

It isn't healthy.

I'm NOT saying that churches should not evangelize.  Clearly, evangelism is commanded and important.  Just as parents are called to love, protect and care for their children, so churches should evangelize.

BUT it has to come in the right order.  The priority relationship in the family is the marriage relationship between the father and the mother.  The priority relationship in the church is the relationship between the believer and the Lord.  The priority relationship must be nurtured and not neglected.  If the priority relationship is neglected rather than nurtured, the secondary relationship is doomed anyway.

If you love your children, nurture your marriage and make it strong.

If you long to reach the lost for Christ, nurture your relationship with Jesus and grow in faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection and love (see 2 Peter 1:5-7).  Find a fellowship of believers who will love you and encourage you to grow in holiness.  Contrary to what sometimes seems to be a growing new popular belief, this is neither self-absorption nor legalism.  This is good spiritual wisdom.

On the airplane, they always tell you, in case of emergency, to get your own oxygen mask in place before you try to help someone else with his.  If you do this, you may be able to get an oxygen mask onto even an unconscious person and bring him back.  However, if you neglect yourself, you may expire before you finish helping the other person, causing great harm to both of you.  If you don't nurture the priority relationships in your life, you will be unable to help others.

In a family or in a church, when the main focus is shifted a few degrees off the main thing, the institution is headed down a path where health and functionality will be short-lived.