Sunday, January 29, 2012

Of Interest to Adoptive Parents and Adoptees

On the way to Grand Forks yesterday, we heard a segment from the CBC out of Winnepeg, on a show called The Next Chapter that might be of interest to those whose lives have been touched by adoption. 

The show highlights the book, Somebody's Child, by Bruce Gillespie and Lynn Van Luven, an anthology of adoption stories, written by adult adoptees, adoptive parents, birth parents, and others.

Two of the contributors, Judith Hope and Christina Brobby, were interviewed on the radio show.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Raft of Children

I have a friend who likes to refer to our family as a raft, as in, "The Abrahamsons have a veritable raft of children."  I have always accepted this at face value, chuckling a little each time I hear it.  But this morning, just out of curiosity, I looked up this use of the word raft.  In what context, I was wondering, does the word raft mean many?

It turns out the context is a grouping of waterfowl.  As in a cluster of waterfowl, resting together, all bunched up, on the water...a raft.  Makes sense.  But not exactly applicable to a family.

But wait! Maybe it is!  Many are the illusions to life as a sea, waters, a river; the nice times are times of calm, the hard times are storms...So, yes, yes, yes!  I do have a raft of children.  God put us together to comfort and lift each other up, to provide protection and warmth.   We are bound together on the sea of life, through waters both calm and stormy.

Now particularly, the reason I was thinking of my raft of children today, in all their glorious variety and mystery, was because this morning I took the time to pray for each of my children.  It's not a new thing that I pray for my children.  My life, minute by minute, is one of prayerful surrender to God and His wisdom and grace.  I'd never survive otherwise.  But it's different to actually consciously pray for my children, both thanking God for the blessing each of them is, and asking God's grace and guidance for whatever particular struggles each child is dealing with.

Recently my friend, David, shamed me.  And it was a good thing.  A good kind of productive shame that brought me to a realization of something I have been neglecting in my life.  Dave mentioned his personal Bible study habits.  Check this out!  He has worked his way through the entire New Testament in the People's Bible series, and is as far as Isaiah in the Old Testament.  Amazing!

It dawned on me, though, through this conversation, that it has been a few years since I've been disciplined enough to spend any private time in God's Word.  Probably since I put my kids in public school.  I used to do my own Bible reading or study in the morning before everyone was up, but now I have to get them all up early.  What was formerly a time of peace and serenity has been replaced with a flurry of activity. 

We do try to have breakfast and bedtime devotions with the family, which might include any of the following:  memory work, Bible reading, singing a hymn, prayers.  So I am not totally "Wordless."  But just as sitting in church with a raft of children can make it difficult to focus on the message, so too, family devotions can be filled with many distractions.  I don't want to downplay the power of God's Word here.  I fully believe that God's Word can accomplish those things for which God sends It, even when we don't feel any particular concentration toward or uplifting feeling from It.  But it is also good for one to spend some time really studying and meditating upon God's Word.  I realized after my conversation with David that I had not done any of that lately.

One of my goals for this new year is to spend some time by myself, reading the Bible.  Really it was not so hard a change to make.  Generally my alarm goes off at 5:30 anyway, at which time I do any breakfast prep that needs to be done that early, and then crawl back in bed until I have to get the kids up and rolling at 6:15.   Now I stay up and have a cup of coffee and read my Bible. 

It helps that Matt found us a "new" coffee maker at the second-hand store.  We had been using a speckled blue enamel percolator on the stovetop.  That gets a little bit putzy, keeping half a brain on the stove, turning the heat down once it starts to perk, and setting a timer,...  But now we have a nice Mr. Coffee that even has a timer to start the coffee each morning before I get up.  Cool stuff.

Now each morning my coffee starts in all by itself at 5:15.  I stumble out of bed at 5:30.  I take care of any breakfasty things, such as getting a coffee cake in the oven or starting the oatmeal or rice.  I pour myself a cup of hot coffee and add my daily tablespoon of coconut oil.  Then I make my way into my favorite morning reading spot and pull out the Bible.

I've been trying to get through Romans, but sometimes I feel quite stupid in the early in the morning.  I've taken to reading two chapters each day, one I review from the previous day, and then I continue on to the next.  By the time I've read each chapter the second time through, usually I have a handle on it.  Some parts of Romans are still not easy, but whether I understand everything or not, it's still good.

Some mornings, I have extra time before I have to get everyone else up.  I've been using these extra minutes to pray for my family and friends, and for things of concern to me in the community and world.  Most times I tend to lump together all my family concerns.  I kind of metaphorically throw up my hands in one of those groanings and sighings that the Holy Spirit understands better than we ourselves.  There is so much to pray for, after all, where does one start?

But today, I took time to pray for each child individually.  I considered each child and thanked God for the good and wonderful parts of each personality.  I lay before Him the challenges and hurdles with which each of them struggle.  And I asked for wisdom in handling all that He has given me.  After thinking about each of my children, these many personalities, with their gifts and challenges, the various individual logs that compose our raft, I was humbled.  I am in awe that God would choose to entrust to such pitiful servants as Joe and I, the privilege and responsibility of raising such a raft of beautiful people.   Wow! 

God is gracious and good and full of compassion.  And He seems to have a higher confidence in us than do we ourselves.  But I pull out of the front pocket of my heart one of my favorite Bible passages (it's a good thing they don't wear out over time, isn't it?).  And trust what God told St. Paul after Paul asked three times for God to take away the thorn in his flesh, "My grace is sufficient for you.  My power is made perfect in your weakness."

Thursday, January 26, 2012

My Walking Team

Here's to my walking friends.  I consider your company during exercise an immense blessing in my life.  I love you all and am ever so thankful we have each other.
Mary, Jan, Lana, Connie
About a year ago, I started exercising with Connie L, in her basement.  We kept this up throughout the winter last year.  We used our pooled exercise equipment in Connie's basement.  And we cheered each other on.  Having another person to keep me accountable is good, but the visiting we did was even better.

When spring came, we walked outside.  Soon, Lana N. and Jan D. joined us, and we took turns walking along the roadways near each other's homes, throughout out the summer.   We jabbered away many miles.

When fall came, we looked forward with sad hearts for the day we'd have to move inside due to cold or snow or wind.  We tossed around several ideas of how we'd all fit in one place to continue our mutual conversation and consolation during the drudgery of exercise.  Then Lana had the idea of using the apartment that had been added to her house for her late mother.  Currently Lana uses it for a guest apartment and extra space.

When the cold weather loomed nearer, she got the space all cleared out, and we brought over our various pieces of equipment.  We have two tread mills, an exercise bike, a Cardio-Glide, a Gazelle, and a mat for stretching or floor exercises.

But the cold weather didn't come and we continued to walk outside.  Eventually, with the fall and winter wind becoming chillier, we settled into walking only at Lana's house.  They have an extensive home site on their farm, with roadways and paths around the various buildings and wooded areas.  It is quite sheltered, with several options for walking different directions, depending upon the wind.  We meet at 8:00 am and try to go for at least an hour.  Our rough estimate is that the primary route we go is about 1/4 mile long, and we usually walk 7 or 8 circuits.

Since Christmas time, we've have to finally resort to our indoor equipment.  When the temps sunk to 15-20 below with wind chills of 35-40 below, we surrendered.  But what a blessing that we had such a long and mild fall! 

We were able to walk outside again yesterday.  It was a bit breezy, but we chose a route that mostly avoided the southerly wind.  There was one section we had to pull our hoods a little tighter, but there was another section we all took off mittens or hoods, and talked about how warm it was.

I am glad we have the option of the indoor equipment.  And it's nice to have a change to work some different muscle groups.

But the fresh winter air just can't be beat!

Sophie's Birthday Dinner

Sophie and Stella

I'm not always very successful at pulling off a birthday dinner.  We don't usually have company, so that takes some of the heat off, but I still get stressed out.  I like to have something special for birthdays but when I am in a stage of barely handling the regular stuff, I get a little frazzled trying to do anything special.

The night before Sophie's birthday, she asked if she could pick a meal for her birthday.  Well, I had not planned on that.  I hadn't even really thought of it, because my brain is currently keeping track of many other things.  Her birthday really snuck up on me.

I felt pretty bad when she asked.  I explained to her that although I try to offer to fix a dinner of the child's choice on his or her birthday, it doesn't always happen. I told her I'd put on my thinking cap, and come up with something special.

A little while after I put the kids to bed, Sophie came back out with a couple of cookbooks.  She and Clara have each gotten a few simple ones from Grandma A., which they keep in their rooms.  Sophie had gone through a couple of them before drifting off to sleep.  She had picked out a pasta dish and a dessert that she asked me if I could do.

The pasta dish was pretty much the same thing as a pasta with Carbonara sauce. That would be easy enough.

The dessert she wanted was individually steamed pumpkin custards.  I make custard quite a bit.  I make it in a 9"x13" pan, however, and not individually.  I explained to Sophie that I didn't have any glass custard dishes, but that maybe I could do it in muffin tins.  She seemed fine with that, so everything was good.

But the day of Sophie's birthday did not go as planned.  Another thing I forgot was her birthday treat for school.  Homemade are not allowed (don't get me started on that one...).  I don't go to town very often.  So it generally happens on a child's birthday, that I've forgotten to pick up a treat for him or her to share with the class.  I end up running into town for the stupid store-bought treats (expensive, full of processed junk, lots of packaging...oh yeah, I was not going to go there.  Sorry.)  Where was I?  Oh, yes, in town.  I end up running to town for the treats, and then have to drive down to Plummer to drop off said treats in time for them to be shared.  Grrr.

But I love my kids; and I'm told that this is the sort of thing a "good mom" does.  And since I do so want to be a "good mom," ... well, you get the idea.

This time, it was a pretty quick trip. I only made two stops, but even so, it ended up being later than I wanted when I got home.  Going to town wears me out, so I always like to sit for a bit with a cup of coffee or tea when I get home.  I did a little writing while having a cup of tea, then pulled myself together for the supper rush hour, which that night would include a birthday celebration!

I started to get everything ready for the requested menu items, and realized I had forgotten to get pumpkin in town.  Now, I do have pumpkin in the freezer.  But since I had forgotten to get it out to thaw the night before, I planned to buy some since I was going to town anyway.  Shoot, there goes that plan.  By that time the kids were home from school, so I asked Sophie if I could make her a cake instead.  I offered to make custards for breakfast tomorrow.  That suited her fine.  But, alas, she asked for chocolate cake.

Now here I'm going to take another little side trip to tell you about something that tends to happen in kitchens where many different people help with the cooking and baking.  I'm sure it is familiar to some readers.  But I'm also pretty sure some of you will have handy little systems in place to handle such difficulties.  I'm pretty much a "systems" train wreck, so ... well ... , I don't have any such handy systems in place.  We pretty much just fly by the seat of our pants around here.

What happens is this.  I'm blessed to have girls who like to bake.  Just about every weekend, or any other day off from school, someone is in the kitchen baking.  I don't always keep careful track of what they make and what they've used.  So when I finally get into the kitchen to make something myself, often the supplies of several key ingredients have been exhausted. 

Now getting back to Sophie's birthday.  She agreed to have cake, but wanted chocolate. I planned to use the Fudge Cake recipe in the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, but adapt it for Gluten Free.  Alas, no sugar.  Very little cocoa powder.  No lard.  Hmmm.  Not to worry, though.  I'm pretty good at improvising.  The sugar, however, I couldn't improvise.  I suppose I could have done honey, but I already was adapting for gluten free.  Substituting honey for sugar is yet another risk factor in final product quality.  I wasn't willing to take the risk with a birthday cake at stake. 

So I called Connie.  And that Connie!  Not only did she have a brand new, unopened, four-pound bag of sugar, she even offered to bring it over so I wouldn't have to leave everything half finished to hop in the car and come over.  Thank you Connie!  What a friend.

Eventually I got the cake in the oven, and the Pasta Carbonara ready to serve.  I also made a wilted lettuce salad, since I had hot bacon grease from the Carbonara sauce.  We had whipping cream left over from the Carbonara sauce, so we whipped it up to serve over the warm cake in lieu of frosting, which I also couldn't make because I had no powdered sugar or cocoa powder.

This probably sounds very chaotic, and it probably was.  But unfortunately, this has become such a way of life that it didn't feel chaotic.  In fact I felt in control, and on top of things, all the snags considered.  When everything turned out great, I was very pleased.

Wilted Lettuce Salad
Gluten Free Pasta Carbonara
Gluten Free Chocolate Snack Cake

Gluten Free Chocolate Snack Cake

This recipe is adapted from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook recipe for the Fudge Cake, that they recommend for use with their Black Forest Cake.  I served it warm, with a dollop of whipped cream.

Gluten Free Chocolate Snack Cake
2 c gluten free flour mix*
1 c almond meal
1 3/4 c sugar
1/2 c cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 t baking soda
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 c coconut oil
1 1/3 c water (approximately) **
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
  • Mix dry ingredients together.
  • Work in coconut oil until mixture resembles course crumbs.
  • Make a well in the center and add eggs.  Mix them a bit with a wisk.
  • Add vanilla and water, leaving a little bit to add after mixing.  Add additional water to produce a batter that is about the consistency of pancake batter; it should pour into the pan and spread on its own without having to spread it with a scraper. (see notes below at the **)
  • Pour into greased 9x13" pan.
Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.
Cool on wire rack.

*I use Kelli and Pete Bronski's Artisan Gluten-Free Flour Blend.  This mix has a very small amount of xanthan gum already in it. If your flour blend contains no xanthan gum, you may need to add a little bit more than I did.  If it contains enough xanthan gum for, say, biscuits or pancakes, you may not need to add any.

**Because of the wide variety of Gluten Free flours available, and the ensuing differences in how liquids are absorbed, it's always hard to give an exact amount of liquid to use.  This recipe seemed very runny when I put it in the oven, but it came out great.  Soft and light inside, with a little bit of crispiness to the top.  Use your own judgement, and experiment to find the right amount of liquid for the flour mix you prefer.

Gluten Free Pasta Carbonara

Gluten Free Pasta Carbonara

1 lb bacon, diced
3 eggs
3 tbs GF whipping cream
3 tbs bacon grease
2 lbs GF spaghetti
1/3 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 c freshly grated Asiago cheese
  • Fry bacon until crisp.  Drain on paper towel and set aside.  Reserve 3 tbs for the pasta.  (A nice accompaniment to this recipe is a wilted lettuce salad, since you will have extra bacon grease.)
  • Cook pasta according to package directions; I always add a bit of olive oil to the cooking water to help reduce sticking.  Gluten free spaghetti in this volume seems to have an extreme tendency to get stuck into a big lump as it cooks.  I always check and stir it frequently, and come prepared with a fork and table knife handy to start separating the clumps as they cook.  
  • In a small dish, beat the eggs gently with a wisk.  Stir in cream.  Set aside.
  • When pasta is nearly done cooking, drain and rinse with cold water.  Return to cooking pot with a small amount of fresh water, just a skim of liquid on the bottom, 1/8" or so.  Stir in the bacon grease.  Cover and put on medium high heat.  Your goal here is to create a quick steam that will reheat the pasta without it over-cooking.  
  • When pasta is hot and steamy, stir in the egg and cream mixture, and cook until egg cream mixture is slightly thickened. Remove from heat.   
  • Stir in cheeses and bacon.
  • Serve.

Wilted Lettuce Salad

My mom always made wilted lettuce salad during the summer, using fresh leaf lettuce from the garden.  To this day, the taste of a wilted lettuce salad fills my heart and mind with summery thoughts.

Wilted Lettuce Salad

You will need: bacon, lettuces, onion, and grape tomatoes, apple cider vinegar, and sugar.

Brown four slices of diced bacon.  (More is good, too, but you will have to pour off some of the grease to save for something else, or there will be too much for a proper dressing.  A good rule of thumb is 2 parts vinegar to 3 parts oil.)  Remove cooked bacon pieces from grease and let sit on paper towel.  Reserve grease in the skillet or cooking pot.

Tear up lettuce or greens of your choosing to fill a big mixing bowl.  Add about 1/3 of a medium onion, cut into finely slivered pieces.  Toss in a handful of halved grape tomatoes.  Toss gently together.

Reheat bacon grease if it has cooled.  When hot, add 1 tsp sugar and 2 tbs apple cider vinegar.  Stir to dissolve sugar.

Make sure all your other supper things are ready; this is not a recipe you can make ahead or let sit very long once it's prepared.

When sugar is dissolved in hot bacon grease, pour over salad mix, add cooked bacon pieces, and toss gently.  Serve immediately.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Velma T.'s Vitamin Revitalizer

I'm really enjoying reading Moon Over Manifest, the 2011 Newbery award winner by Clare Vanderpool.  Ms Vanderpool combines a casts of colorful, loveable characters, a little history, entertaining news articles from the past, and advertisements for helpful remedies to whatever ails you.  Add several layers of mystery and a spunky protagonist, and the author hit just the right recipe for a really enjoyable book.  She also included within the book, a story within the story, and the ensuing two settings, both of which she does well enough that a reader can see and here and feel the story.  The primary story takes place in the late 1930s, the dust bowl, depression and prohibition.  The secondary story consists of flashbacks, in the form of old letters and the stories of the local diviner, which take the reader, along with the protagonist and her girlfriends, twenty years back to the days when the local boys were going off to fight in the Great War.

Considering the short, gray days of winter, and the blah feeling that often afflicts me this time of year, I'm thinking I might try to get ahold of some of this featured elixir.
Velma T's Vitamin Revitalizer
Need a pick-me-up? Try this 
chemist's solution to low 
energy and stamina. With a 
carefully tested combination 
of iron, potassium, and calcium, 
it will give you a new spring 
in your step and you'll be able 
to accomplish the many tasks 
asked of you throughout the day. 
Just one teaspoon at morning 
and night and you will have the 
wherewithal of your youth. See 
Velma T. at the high school to 
get your Vitamin Revitalizer today.

The Lengthening of Days, a Meditation

Joseph Farquharson   Glow'd with tints of evening hours

While the earth remains,
Seedtime and harvest,
Cold and heat,
Winter and summer,
And day and night
Shall not cease.
Numbers 8:22

Vincent Van Gogh   Enclosed Field with Rising Sun
In the heavens God has set a tabernacle for the sun,
is like a bridegroom 

coming out of his chamber,
And rejoices like a strong man to run its race.
 Its rising
is from one end of heaven,
         And its circuit to the other end;
         And there is nothing hidden from its heat. 
Psalm 19:4-6

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Golden Excerpt for a Cold Day

I drove into Thief River Falls today. Twenty-five miles. In the cold temps. In my car.

My toes froze. It took me about an hour to warm up once I got home.

But I had forgotten to get a birthday treat to send to school with Sophie. Since our school district does not allow homemade treats, I have to think ahead, and I'm not always very good at that. The check-out lady at Hugos commented on my boldness, coming out on a day like this. But when I explained that I was in hot pursuit of a birthday treat, she well understood my heroics. It's what moms do.

Remember in These Happy Golden Years, when Laura taught school in Brewster settlement, twelve miles south of DeSmet?  She stayed during the week with a family, the wife of whom was suffering from prairie madness.  Although they were not yet a couple, Almanzo, with help from his faithful Morgans, Prince and Lady, drove his horse-drawn cutter each Friday to pick Laura up so she could spend the weekend with her family.  He then returned her to Brewster each Sunday afternoon.

Laura was not quite comfortable with this arrangement, not wanting to be under any sort of obligation to Almanzo.  So one Sunday, she finally blurted out somewhat clumsily,
I am going with you only because I want to get home. When I am home to stay, I will not go with you any more. So now you know, and if you want to save yourself these long, cold drives, you can.
Little did Laura know that this would be the week Mrs. Brewster would become totally unhinged.  Laura was awoken one night by the sounds of uproar. When she peeked out the curtain that separated her bed from the rest of the room, she saw Mrs. Brewster standing in the moonlit room waving a butcher knife and screaming at her husband to take her home.

Laura knew she had two weekends left before the end of her term.  She knew Almanzo would not be coming for her on Friday, after her cold-hearted comments the previous Sunday.  She dreaded the thought of spending the weekend with Mrs. Brewster.

Friday dawned cold, with a fiercely blowing wind.  Laura could not keep the schoolhouse warm, so the kids studied with their coats on, and took turns standing near the stove. 
Laura dreaded the day's end.  She was afraid to go back to the house.  She was sleepy, but she feared to sleep in Mrs. Brewster's house.  All day tomorrow and all day Sunday she must be in that house with Mrs. Brewster, and much of the time Mr. Brewster would be at the stable.
As Laura's day trickled by, and the students studied quietly in the frigid classroom, Laura fretted.  She worried about the weekend; she wished she had not told Almanzo of her intentions so soon; she considered letting the students out early because of the extreme cold; and she worried about the students walking home.  And in the midst of all these worries, she heard a sound that brought joy to her heart,
Suddenly she heard sleigh bells.  They were coming!  In a moment they were at the door.  Prince and Lady passed the widow, and Clarence exclaimed, "That Wilder's a bigger fool than I thought he was to come out in this weather!"
Download the book to read about Laura's trip home in the chapter titled, "A Cold Ride."  Or just pull it off the shelf if you are like me and don't happen to have an e-book reader.  That way you also get to smell the paper smell and feel those pages slipping by.

I'll share this last quote, however, that it might bring a new perspective to anyone who feels aggravated at our mere twenty-something degrees below zero.  Especially considering all our modern conveniences, such as heated vehicles and cell phones, that make travel today safer and more comfortable than it was for Laura and Almanzo.
"You took a long chance, Laura," Pa said soberly. "I did not know that Wilder was starting until he had gone, and then I was sure he'd stay at Brewster's.  It was forty below zero when that crazy fellow started, and the thermometer froze soon afterward.  It has been steadily growing colder ever since; there's no telling how cold it is now."

Friday, January 13, 2012

Outgrowing our Mudroom

Yes, I know, I know, nobody ever feels like they have a big enough mudroom.  And we are fortunate and thankful to have one at all.  We even have a 1/2 bath right off it.  I really can't complain.

But today's despond is a little different than the desire for more space.  I mean the kids are getting too big for the mudroom.

When we moved in, Darrow L. immediately built us three rows of hooks.  Nice brass ones, with a prettily stained wood rail behind, and a nice shelf above the highest row.

One row on one wall, at a medium height.  Two rows on the other wall, with hooks for short and tall users.

Ten years ago when we moved in, our oldest kids were 5, 7 and 8.  Jeremy, Matt, and Louisa used the eight middle-sized hooks.  The three younger ones used the six short hooks.  Joe and I had the five tall hooks for our stuff.  

Over the years, we've had to limit everyone to two hooks a piece.  One for jackets and sweatshirts, and the other for a winter coat and snowsuit.  Right now, we have just the right number of hooks.  Well pretty much.  Joe and I, and Matt and Louisa, are all sharing the five tall hooks.  But that's OK.  We're allegedly all old enough to pick up after ourselves, and if we have extra coats or jackets, to hang them appropriately in our bedroom closets.  It mostly works OK.

But the problem I noticed today is with the short hooks.  This year, Stella's snowpants are too long for the short hooks!  Oh, no! 

How sad!  In just a few short years, I will have no more little ones.  There will be nobody with short enough snowpants to use the row of short hooks. 

I know it's silly.  But I can't help wanting to break down and shed a few sentimental tears.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A New Year, A New Day, A New Start...AKA Embracing Holy Baptism

I was bemoaning to one of my girlfriends recently how many things I'd like to change in my life and how frustrating it is to me when such things are resistant to change.

This is the story of my life and sometimes it drives me crazy.  Sometimes it makes me bitter.  Sometimes it just plain gets me down.
  • I want a more peaceful home.
  • I want my kids to be kind to each other and stop the physical  assaults they seem to perpetually rain down upon each other.
  • I want to re-establish the idea of inside voices.
  • I want to have family time and read aloud each evening.
  • I want to be able to finish a sentence with one child before having to listen to the next three coming at me from other directions.
  • I want to more consistently administer discipline in my home.
  • I want to allow my older kids to do some teenager type things, but without any disruption to our family life.
  • I want to feel less angry when such things do disrupt.
  • I want more concentration.
  • I want more energy.
  • I want more self-control.
  • I want to have more patience when I deal with my kids.
  • I want to love my husband better, and to think of him, and his needs and wishes, before myself and my own.
I don't ask much, really?  OK, well maybe I do.  But they're all good and wholesome things for which to wish and pray, right?

But in this sinful world, even such good and wholesome things do not happen simply because I want them to.  Even if I pray earnestly for them. In some of these things I may see gradual improvement over time; I may see periodic temporary improvements in others.  I may even eventually conquer one or two items on this list.  But most likely it would soon be replaced with another desire to fix something else that is broken in my life, family, or personality.

And that's because of the somewhat depressing reality that I am a broken creature.  We are all broken.  We will never attain perfection.  Never.  Most of us never even come close.

According to St. Paul in Romans 7:13-25, speaking of the Law of God and how it works in our lives,
Has then what is good become death to me?
Certainly not!
For we know that the law is spiritual,
but I am carnal, sold under sin.
For what I am doing, I do not understand.
For what I will to do, that I do not practice;
but what I hate, that I do.

If, then, I do what I will not to do,
I agree with the law that it is good.
But now, it is no longer I who do it,
but sin that dwells in me.

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh)
nothing good dwells;
for to will is present with me,
but how to perform what is good I do not find.

For the good that I will to do, I do not do;
but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.

Now if I do what I will not to do,
it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.
I find then a law, that evil is present with me,
the one who wills to do good.

For I delight in the law of God
according to the inward man.
But I see another law in my members,
warring against the law of my mind,
and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin
which is in my members.

O wretched man that I am!
Who will deliver me from this body of death?
I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, with the mind
I myself serve the law of God,
but with the flesh the law of sin.
I've heard people, people who who do not fully understand Christianity, say of Christians that we are focused on guilt.  I suppose one might say that after reading what I've just written.  But my purpose for writing such is not to dwell on my guilt.  Although there are moments of weakness in which I feel to an extreme degree the burden of my guilt, generally it does not rule me.

I know that in spite of having a such a sin-filled nature, every inclination of which is only evil continually, (Genesis 6:5) I have a clean slate before God.

St. Paul continues in the very next chapter, Romans 8:1-4,
There is therefore now no condemnation
to those who are in Christ Jesus,
who do not walk according to the flesh,
but according to the Spirit.
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus
has made me free from the law of sin and death.

For what the law could not do
in that it was weak through the flesh,
God did by sending His own Son
in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin:
He condemned sin in the flesh,
that the righteous requirement of the law
might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh
but according to the Spirit.
And further on in the same chapter, Romans 8:31-39
What then shall we say to these things?
If God is for us, who can be against us?
He who did not spare His own Son,
but delivered Him up for us all,
how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?

Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect?
It is God who justifies.
Who is he who condemns?
It is Christ who died,
and furthermore is also risen,
who is even at the right hand of God,
who also makes intercession for us.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution,
or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
As it is written:
“ For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
Yet in all these things
we are more than conquerors
through Him who loved us.

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life,
nor angels nor principalities nor powers,
nor things present nor things to come,
nor height nor depth,
nor any other created thing,
shall be able to separate us from the love of God
which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Now we have that straight.  That's a relief.  And I don't mean that flippantly.  I know that I'll be in heaven someday.  That's wonderful news!  The best news, truly.

But if you're like me, it still doesn't help much with the whole daily living thing.   I mean, I'm still a poor housekeeper.  I tend toward laziness.  I run out of patience and yell at my kids.  I snap at my husband.  I get busy with something and forget to make supper.  Yeah.  Really.  Sad, but true.

All my battles are still with me.  There is still this temporal life to be lived.

This is where I find it helpful to remember my baptism.  Remember back at the beginning of this post I mentioned a friend to whom I had been expressing my frustration over such things.  This is what she replied, "The Gospel means a constant new start, which, frankly, is mind-blowing and difficult to really absorb into the places that need it."

Yes. Mind-blowing. And difficult to absorb.

But this comment reminded me of what I memorized during my Sunday school days, and what I teach my children during theirs, from the section on Baptism in Luther's Small Catechism,
Such baptizing with water means that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts; and that a new man daily come forth and arise, who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.
And Luther continues as is typical, with a Bible citation to back up that truth,
St. Paul writes, Romans 6:4: “We are buried with Christ by baptism into death, that just as He was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
When I first learned this, I tended to think primarily in terms of God's Law.  Everything I was taught seemed like more work for me.  More things I had to be able to do.  It was a bit daunting.

So too, this section from Luther's catechism and the included Scriptural quotation, seemed like more work for me.  Something I have to accomplish.  I have to get up each day and bury my old Adam.  I have to somehow dredge up this illusive new man and carry him around all day without dropping him.


But what I've learned since then is that I don't have to do it.  Really.   Not only does baptism work faith in the hearts of those little babies who are given the Sacrament.  It also gives us, perpetually and continually, the blessings of baptism.  It's not a command but a gift!


My baptism gives me daily contrition and repentance.  For me it drowns and kills all sins and evil lusts.  And it brings to life for me and in me that new man who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.  It's not a command but a blessing.  A gift.  A promise.

Not a threat, but a comfort.

I'm still not perfect.  Believe me, my old Adam can cook up enough temptation and sin to keep my New Man hopping.  But in faith, I cling to the knowledge that it's all good.  Through Jesus, through His perfect life and sacrificial death, I am given purity.  I am righteous before God.  I am a new creature.

Mind-blowing.  But true.

(Edited at 4:35pm: coincidentally, Lutheran hymn writer extraordinaire, Mark Preus posted a new baptism hymn today on his Lutheran Hymn Revival blog. Check it out.)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Word Games

Because I was feeling a little bit snarky while writing my previous blog post, I asked Joe to preview it for me, specifically to temper any snarkiness that crossed the line of decency.

"Could you check to see if my facete is too cruel?" said I.

Joe got to chuckling and smiling to himself, so I assumed I had said something wrong.  Joe and I are both word geeks, so we kind of go around in circles, each trying to catch the other in some error.

"Why are you giggling?  It's facete, isn't it? I suppose it isn't a word?"

"Oh, I"m not saying it isn't a word.  I've just never heard it used that way."  Then he rambled a bit about word roots and the definition of other potentially related words, such as facet, facetious, etc.  But soon he got up from the table and rummaged around to find a dictionary.  He simply couldn't let it go.

After a few minutes of flipping pages, Joe asked, "And how might you spell facete, if it is a word, that is?"

Yikes!  I got to thinking maybe Joe was going to win this round.  But I spoke out more confidently than I felt, "F-A-C-E-T-E,"  and then a few minutes later, "or maybe it's ...E-E-T, " and then, a few minutes later still, when it became quite obvious Joe was finding no such word, "I don't is facetious spelled?  Maybe it's F-E-C..."

Using the  Second College Edition of Webster's New World Dictionary, published in 1970, Joe did not find facete.  He found facet, facetiae, and then facetious, but no facete.  Interestingly, facetiae is a plural, a collection of witticisms.  But apparently there is no singular, or at least was not 1970.

But I was not inclined to be beaten so easily.  Today we have google.  We can find nearly anything we search for hard enough.

In the Merriam-Webster online dictionary I find, as did Joe, facet, facetiae, and facetious.  But hold everything!  I also find facete, although it is labeled, archaic.  And, oh snap!  It is also alleged to be an adjective.  What's up with that? 

I was all excited thinking I might get to call this round a draw.  But even in it's archaic form, that word did not mean what I though it meant. 


Major Logical Disconnect

I feel really bad about the shooting of Mt. Rainier National Park Ranger, Margaret Anderson.  Please do not take the following rant as in any way an attitude of disrespect for the deceased.  In fact, the reason I've been following this story is because of the way the story pulled at my heart strings.  Ms Anderson had two young children; it is a tragedy when any young children are left motherless.  It is also hard when any law enforcement officer is killed in the line of duty.  Certainly a two-fold tragedy!

However, a quote included in the Huffington Post article by Mike Baker, portrays a major lack of cohesive thought. I can't see why Mr. Baker even included it unless he was hoping the Huffpo readership is so anti-gun that such readers would not stop to think about the content.  I suppose to be fair, I could imagine that he only wanted to highlight the stupidity of the anti-gun crowd, ... but ... somehow ... well ... it is Huffpo ... sorry if I have trouble stretching my imagination that far.

Let me set the stage here, according to the information included in Baker's article.
  • Benjamin Barnes was under a restraining order, because of his violent tendencies, thought to be due to post traumatic stress disorder related to his military service.
  • Barnes was released from his army service due to driving under the influence and transporting private weapons illegally.
  • Barnes appears to have fled to Mt. Rainier National Park to escape investigation regarding a shooting at a house party south of Seattle at which four people were injured.  The article stops short of alleging Barnes was the shooter, but only just.  It is certainly implied.
  • Barnes disregarded the Park Ranger checkpoint set up to enforce vehicle chain requirements.
So, we already know Barnes was given to violence.  He didn't respect weapons laws. We are lead to assume he had recently shot several people.  And he blew through a Ranger checkpoint in the moments preceding the shooting.

And yet according to the article, this tragedy is refueling debate over a 2010 law that allows legally permitted gun carriers to carry their weapon in national parks.

As proof of this refueled debate, Baker found Bill Wade, outgoing chair of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees.  Hmm.  Already I'm convinced.  Nothing against Mr. Wade; I'm sure he's a decent guy.  But by including this big long position title, "outgoing chair of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees," the author calls upon readers to listen carefully to the quote.  To respect the opinion.  But instead, I think to myself  sarcastically,  "Oh, a prestigious position, indeed! Kind of makes me wonder how long Baker had to search to find the opinion he wanted." 

(For any couch logicians out there, Joe just informed me this is called the fallacy of appeal to authority.  It actually has a name.  The gentleman has been the chair of a reitree group.  He is a former Park Service Employee. The title says nothing about his knowledge of guns, gun laws or gun crime statistics.  But the man's title is included to give credence to the assertions being forwarded.)

According to Mr. Wade, as quoted in the article, "The many congressmen and senators that voted for the legislation that allowed loaded weapons to be brought into the parks ought to be feeling pretty bad right now."

Mike Baker continues the article with more of Mr. Wade's opinion, "Wade called Sunday's fatal shooting a tragedy that could have been prevented. He hopes Congress will reconsider the law that took effect in early 2010."

So, in spite of Barnes' violent tenancies, a previous firearms citation, the fact that he was fleeing a crime scene at which numerous people were injured by gunshot, and the obvious disregard he showed for Park officials by ignoring their checkpoint, we are supposed to believe that were it illegal to bring weapons into a National Park, Barnes would have stopped somewhere along the way to deposit his guns for later pick-up.  Or perhaps he would have turned around when he got to the park entrance.  Or maybe, if he simply forgot about the law until the checkpoint, when he got there, instead of racing through it, he would have stopped, apologized for having weapons in his vehicle, and surrendered them at that time.

But sadly, history shows people are swayed by such arguments.

Reminds me of the Gun Free Zone parody that circulated a few years back.