Friday, October 25, 2013

Things I am Loving

Coming home from grocery shopping to this hobbit/kid in an apron.

The way things are coming together for a study with both chinese and foreign friends.

The smell of these pumpkin cookies in the oven, and the excitement they will produce when my kids walk in on a Friday afternoon from school.

The way food makes my children adore me. I have many faults that make me hard to live with, but the food thing is one way we make peace and promise to live happily ever after together.

Studying Jesus in the gospels. The unexpectedness of it... the way he seems ever more real to me. 

The things that make me laugh. Like remembering Jen Hatmaker's quote about her reaction to surprise information that came home from school about costumes. "What fresh hell is this??
It is so where I am at right now. It is my new motto.

Other funny stuff like these taglines

Starting the Fellowship of the Ring with my boys after not having read it for maybe 10 years? We started in, and then... I remembered why... and I can't wait to get to know them all again.

Listening to Johann Sebastian Bach on Pandora. And then I came across this article.  The man's life: not easy. His music: equally challenging and difficult. But was his music a true gift of God, a divine inspiration? I love this line...But in the end, [the author] finds, it comes down to an act of faith. Other composers, among them Monteverdi, Beethoven and Mozart, have achieved greatness in various ways, “but it is Bach…who gives us the voice of God—in human form.”

Kneading bread. It's so contemplative to me. It's my favorite way to be quiet right now.

Helping my eldest study for his spelling bee. For as many as he gets wrong, I am still amazed at what the kid can spell! Where do they pick up these things?

The dimples, the uneven cowlicks, the jolted run, the constant jibber jabbering of our littlest man. (Not loving the endless forays into the sugar bin, the rice bin, the emptying of the water tower, ad infinitum).

Starting Chinese classes again, which translates into the hope of someday not sounding or feeling like a moron. Incidentally, I learned the word for "hope" this week... xiwang 希望. 

The way my Man rallies. He pulls himself together. He pulls me together. He pulls us all together. He's a rock, a steady force. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

On Making Ravioli and Children

Hey, I have a good idea. Feeling frustrated? Irritated by some circumstance in your day? Why don't you go ahead and try to make one of the more difficult pasta dishes by hand, from scratch? It's sure to be therapeutic in an opposite sort of way.

Yes, that was me today-- plunging ahead into a ravioli making endeavor even though I spent most of the morning struggling to look at my children without losing it on them, listening to whining and fighting, missing my husband who has been gone most of the week and last night and now today as well, dealing with the same water spilling and bowl breaking issue over and over again with this little one year old.

So after the little guy was down for his nap and the other two were happily engaged, I started rolling out the pasta dough and brushing the edges and filling the little squares, some with pumpkin and some with a spinach/ricotta filling. Starting out, I really did think I was kind of an idiot, knowing how foul a mood I was in and thinking that if this didn't go well it was only my own fault for attempting it on the least patient and long-suffering of days.

Thankfully, it all went fine. The dough did not stick to the counter in a huge sheet of gluey mess as it had in my one and only previous attempt at fresh pasta making. The filling was ready thanks to prep I did earlier in the week, so the process overall was less tedious and time consuming. The kitchen was not a flour covered sea of disaster and did not take long to clean up. The cute little things looked good with their rustic fork pressed edges, and were even kind of fun to pull together.

And the quiet, hand-consuming work gave me a little time to reflect, to let my mind wander over the day and the little people that have filled it. Imps, urchins, cantankerous little devils with wills and selfish needs all their own. That is how I responded to them most of the morning. There were a few glimpses of hope, a few moments where goodness seemed to seep in the edges of the conversation and sprinkle a few drops of grace on an otherwise stormy situation, but most of the time I was on edge and raw. I could see the mirror slapping me in the face as I implored one child to think not of his own interests... but remember that Jesus always ignored his own rights and poured out his love for us, even when we were at that very time sinning against him. I just kind of sat there, quiet-- the child waiting for me to say more-- and all I could think of was my own need to digest this.

Later, as I was carefully pressing the edges of each little pocket of pasta, all the words I had read over the week seemed to converge in my mind.
"If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all." And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, "Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me." Mark 9:35-36
One of the more staggering things about our great God is the very particular way he cares for each and every human life, and calls that one life sacred. In that, he calls me to join him, even as he knows I am an impatient, selfish woman who is constantly veering back towards my own needs and wants. He must have known all that when he looked at his flesh-crusted disciples and said to them, "whoever receives one such child in my name receives me." He knew he was calling incapable people to act like him.

I have to find some kind of precious hope in that, when feeling incredibly full of incapability. How do you get there, from I am super irritated and can't say nice things to you, to receiving and responding to these children as if they were the God-man himself?

A little like ravioli making maybe? You confess that you are an idiot. You admit it seems a task with little prospect of going well. You believe that it is still worth your time and effort to go ahead with. You plunge ahead. You pray for grace, for help. And the Spirit of God always helps us in our weaknesses. He is real, our faith is required, trust is implied, and obedience is the way forward.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Why I {Love to} Live in China :: Neighborhood

Every Monday and Friday morning I head out with my three-wheeled scooter and stash of grocery bags to pick up fresh goods from the market and other weekly necessities from the large grocery around the corner. The side streets are a throng of other morning shoppers. The three-wheeled bikes and scooters piled high in the back with whatever is in season are dotted along the roadside, surrounded by people from the neighborhood looking for the best bargains for their evening meal. I am a bit of an oddity, buying vegetables to sustain me for the next 4 days of meals. Everyone else is looking for one chive, a head of greens, maybe a potato or handful of green beans. The red peppers are a must have.

Grandmas are pushing little trikes with their fat grandbabies who stare at the morning melee with big, curious brown eyes,  the young women xiaojie's carefully pick through the crowd and stalls with their high heels and short, colorful dresses, old men shuffle by with pipes or a cane or both. Some sit listlessly in wheelchairs, simply gazing, out for their morning air. The house helper baomus are there, looking for the  bargains. They talk and haggle with one another, laughing and pointing out the best prices, the greens or melon that will best be suited to this day and this type of weather.

It is not sterile. It is not well lit. Something about it though reminds me of the small town we visited this summer, where in the span of one day I saw the same 5 people at the post office, the antique shop, the grocery store, on a walk in front of our house, and in a newspaper article. It's close. It's a neighborhood.

I think too, on the streets here the realities of life seem so smack dab in your face. There are no pretensions. This is not a row of clean, well manicured lawns type of place. The store fronts are open, the shop lady is there, cooking her lunch on a hot plate and wok beside the steps. The dirty laundry is literally hanging up all around you, outside apartment windows, in the back of a store, along an alley. We all air our dirty laundry for everyone to see around here. The blind masseuse stands just inside his shop doorway, shuffling in his manner that betrays a lifetime of getting along without seeing. He is there, living his daily routine out in front of you.

I am not entirely sure what it is about all this that endears itself to me. I like cleanliness and manicured lawns and a good Wegmans as much as the next girl. I don't think you need China specifically to make this happen, but I do like that it forces me not to take my life as the status quo. I have to think about my surroundings, I have to take it in and digest it and most of the time it points to a way of life so different than my own, in a way that challenges my own assumptions about what is necessary, what is worth my time, what is important, what is missing, what is the good I am aiming for and the the purposes I am striving for.

And some days, when I find I am taking myself too seriously, I just buy my fruit and go home.