Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Not What But How

My Mom never actually said those words.  Lots of moms do... and I've heard the phrase, or something similar expressing the same sentiment, most of my life... but I never heard it come from my Mom's lips.  I did see it in her actions though.

She was soft-spoken, gentle, intelligent beyond her education, and patient about getting what she wanted in a life that was frequently difficult.  She grew up in a home where an alcoholic father spent money for beer rather than feeding the family and where his drunkenness could turn violent.  She had to quit school after the 8th grade to work and help support her mom and siblings and, while she always wanted more education, she never returned to school.  Being saddled with so much responsibility, she gave up a lot of personal goals and freedoms and married late in life.  I was a long sought conception, an easy pregnancy and a very difficult delivery... hence my only child status.  And then by the time I was 12, my Dad was disabled by a lung disease his doctors blamed on his younger years farming and breathing the grain dust thrown up by threshing wheat on his father's Wyoming ranch.  Because of her limited education, her employment opportunities were also limited but my Mom always worked.  She worked hard doing things like pressing clothes in a dry cleaner, waitressing, cooking and washing dishes in a cafe and sometimes being a cleaning lady in the homes of people who were financially better off.  There were slights and hurtful things said to her, and about her, by her family and my Dad's family and by members of the predominant Church in our community (which in a such small town is basically the lifeblood of the community) and yet, I'd say her life was quite successful.  She loved people.  And there were those around her who loved her.  And rather than hold a grudge, she was always willing to give people another chance.  I know there were disappointments that broke her heart many times in doing that... but I so admire that she was always willing.

And I hope that I am, too.

I hope that my words and actions can:

  * bring you moments of
   * the feeling of being
   truly loved and
   * peace in troubling
   * comfort in grief.
   * relief from weariness.
   * hope for a better

Yes, there are times when I feel very acutely the "lack of" in my life.  And yes, I've been known to complain about it.  Sometimes bitterly.  But what I'm finding is that I really want to use knowing how it feels to do my little part in making the world a better place.  And I want to share, hopefully not in a bragging sort of way, what I'm doing to get past the lack and into a place of abundance again.

If you feel so inclined, I invite you to comment about the things that would help me give these gifts of joy, love, peace, comfort, relief and hope to you.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Even the Laundry

Photo credit: Womanhood with Purpose Facebook page
There's a Facebook group that I follow called A Farm Wife where the administrator posts each day something she calls "Celebrating the Daily Ordinary" where a little thing we may be taking for granted is called out with gratitude.  One day it might be indoor plumbing, or that we have vacuums (instead of having to tie straw to a stick to sweep out our kitchen) or readily available electricity coming into our homes to power lights, appliances and entertaining toys.  You know, the things it's easy to overlook because they are just part of the everyday ordinary stuff of life.

Laundry needs to be celebrated, too!  Did you know that taking care of the laundry is even something God asks of His people?  Take a look at Exodus 19:10-11.

"And the Lord said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them to day and to morrow, and let them wash their clothes,

And be ready against the third day: for the third day the Lord will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai."

I think it's interesting that Moses was asked to tell the people to sanctify themselves (cleanse the inner man) AND to wash their clothes (cleanse the outer man as well) in preparation for meeting the Lord.  In Church, and sometimes just in life generally, we spend a lot of time talking about the status of the inner man and about how concerned God is with the condition of our heart... as in how well we loved and cared for our fellow man... but we shy away from discussions about taking care of ourselves feeling like that is being selfish and unGodly.

But... if you take a literal look at the Lord's words in Mark 12:29-30 when He was asked about the greatest of all the commandments, He says:

"And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.

And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these."

Love thy neighbour AS THYSELF.

Part of loving yourself is taking care of your body, your home, your clothing... whatever your physical surroundings may be.  And God just told us that it's important to Him.  Very very important!

As a child I was taught a song to remind me not only about when to do them but that they were important details to take care of each week:

Saturday is a special day.
It's the day we get ready for Sunday:
We clean the house, and we shop at the store
So we won't have to work until Monday.
We brush our clothes and we shine our shoes
And we call it our get the work done day.
Then we trim our nails and we shampoo our hair
So we can be ready for Sunday.

(words and music by Rita Robinson, 1920-2011)

We always sang it 'wash our clothes' instead of brush them but the point is, we got things done during the week, and especially on Saturday, to be ready to spend Sunday - our Sabbath - with the Lord.  Isn't it wonderful to think about all our mundane daily tasks this way?  Doesn't it help to elevate them and give the things we do in the home a more proper importance?  We are doing them to prepare for our time communing with the Lord and being refreshed and re-energized by Him.

Something to think about... celebrate the ordinary daily things in life.  And do them, even the laundry, with enthusiasm!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Hallelujah, Anyhow!

You know how different denominations of churches have different behaviors and words that are particular to themselves?  I'm not saying one is better than another just noting that there are some differences in that some are quiet and simple and others are more vocal and physically active in their worship services.  I'm thinking about the hands raised to welcome in the Spirit of the Lord, the swaying back and forth, and fervent audible 'Amens' spoken in agreement with points of the sermon in what's typically thought of as a 'Black Church.'  Anyway, that's the observation of a simple white girl...

My church is much more on the quiet and simple side of the spectrum.  The main worship meeting consists of a couple of hymns, a communion service where the sacrament is passed to the congregation, and a speaker or two drawn from the congregation.  Once a month, the pulpit is opened up for anyone who feels the urging of the Spirit to share a brief testimony.

And, in my congregation, each month there is one particular woman who does so.  It's obvious her background has been in a more vociferous church because she approaches it just a little bit differently.  And I mean that in a very good and refreshing way!  One time she sang her testimony to us very soulfully.  And another Sunday, she told us about sitting down to watch a news program the night before and it was all doom and gloom with the stories being pretty exclusively those of murder, rape, robbery and political corruption.  She was starting to feel down about it, but then caught herself and declared "Hallelujah, anyhow!"  She went on to talk about some other things that happened the same day that could have been very depressing but she chose to greet them with the same enthusiastic "Hallelujah, anyhow!"

I love that attitude!  It's one I'd like to develop in myself... the ability to look at anything going on around me and declare, no matter how terrible it is, "Hallelujah, anyhow!"  It kind of goes along with these song lyrics that spoke to my soul a few days ago.

I know there's a lot of versions of this song out there, some probably more worthy of a listen than others.  Many of them are attributed to Leonard Cohen, as is this one, and curiously the lyrics vary between them on some of the verses.  I don't know which is authentic but I like this one.  And I like these particular words in it:

"There's a blaze of light in every word...
It doesn't matter which you heard -
The Holy or the broken Hallelujah."

I've made no secret that lately I've felt quite too acquainted with "broken" and doing a lot of exploring on personal, physical and spiritual realms trying to put all the pieces back together in an even better way.  Maybe a good way of saying that is that I'm seeking out the "Holy Hallelujah" times in life and find the sweet sister at Church to be an inspiration.

So whatever today brings... Hallelujah, anyhow!

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Crawfish Boil

Do you call them Crawfish, Mud Bugs, or Crayfish?  All the same thing just depends, I guess, on where you are from.

Raw (live) crawfish pre-boil.
Photo courtesy of Deni Lynn Hall.
I remember my Dad pulling a few Crayfish out of Wolverine Creek when we'd go camping up there when I was a kid.  They were considerably bigger, at least in my memory, than those we had last night but they weren't something we ever ate.  I think I was aware that you could eat them, but we didn't.  I just played with them and brought a few home in a bucket of water to try to make into pets.  Poor tortured creatures...

This is how we spent Easter this year!!  Last night was my first boil.  Hard to believe I made it so far through life with virgin taste buds, huh?  It was really quite yummy!!  And I'm excited to do it again!

Photo courtesy of Deni Lynn Hall.
Using big pots that sit over a propane-fueled flame (think turkey fryer only twice as big - at least twice the size of ours) you mix up some peppery crab boil with water, beer or some combination of those liquids.  The brand name on the boil was Zatarain's.  Old Bay is another.  (And if I understand it all, Old Bay is more what you'd find in Maryland and Virginia and the more northern part of the coastal region while Zatarain's is a spicier New Orleans style boil.  Both are good, in my estimation, but the spices are a little bit different.)

Ready to peel and eat!
Photo courtesy of Dana Reynolds.
To your boiling liquid you add a few pounds of Crawfish, stir them around with a long wooden paddle, and let them cook.  Then they are skimmed out and left to cool until you can handle them.  You eat them by twisting the head off, and sucking the juice out of it, and then you peel back the first ring on the tail and devein it and using your lips and teeth pull the meat out.  They are delicious!!  But it's a lot of work for only a little reward...

Once the Crawfish are cooked, you do the vegetables, sausages and hot dogs.  We had a combination of whole red potatoes, corn cobettes, artichokes, carrot chunks, brussel sprouts, cabbage wedges, giant button mushrooms, and whole pineapples.  The pineapples were the biggest surprise to me!  And an insanely yummy item to include!!  They came out soft, sweet and tangy with just the occasional hint of saltiness and spice.  It was so unusual and unexpected and acted almost as a palate cleanser when the spice overwhelmed you from the other foods and you needed to cool your mouth down enough to feel your lips again.

Getting the veggies ready to cook.
Photo courtesy of Deni Lynn Hall.
We also had some raw veggies and bread and things like that to nibble and several different cakes and cookies for dessert.  And there was dancing and singing along to the music and games to be played and lots of talk around the firepit once it started to get dark.
Our host's backyard firepit... The big metal bowl
features fleur de lis cut outs.  This family are all BIG Saints fans!
One made this way is on my wish list for our someday backyard!
Photo courtesy of Deni Lynn Hall.

It was really a wonderful evening!