Wednesday, December 27, 2006

In every high and stormy gale

Well, I just really appreciate being able to be honest. And I love knowing that people pray for our family and that people identify with our family. 'Cause ya know, misery loves company.

I am feeling better! Hurray! I still don't have my voice back 100%, but it feels so much better. I'm obviously on the brink though. I really needed to feel better because I am just losing it! My sister sent me some vitamin supplements that are supposed to be great for right after having a baby and nursing and everything. I have just recently run out of pre-natal vitamins and when I went to get my refills our insurance has run out and they wanted like $65 for them! Whoa! Those were some 'spensive vitamins! So her gift could not have come at a better time. I am hoping the vitamins will help with my general energy and happy hormone levels and also with this major shedding I am experiencing. Not that I don't have three times as much hair on my head as anyone else you have ever met, just that that means there is oh-so-much more to shed. It is gross. Sorry for sharing. Anyway, the vitamins might help, and hopefully getting home will help.

It is so very odd to me how personally people have taken my distaste for St. Louis. One of my very best friends started at Auburn my senior year there and hated it. She felt so bad for hating my home. I felt so sad that she did. I never dreamed of being personally offended that she was unhappy where I had been so happy. I just wanted her to be happy too. I was so happy for her when she decided to transfer. I missed her, but I would never want her to force herself to stay in Auburn- it so obviously just wasn't her thing. And I don't mean it personally that St. Louis is not my thing. I am sure I have not handled that so well all the time. The first post where I mercilessly made fun of St. Louis was written when I thought only about twelve people read my blog. I had no idea there were other people reading who might be offended. But really, I have no idea why it bothers people so much. I recently heard that some celebrity said something bad about Philadelphia in Rolling Stone and then had to issue a public apology to the people of the city. Ridiculous! Besides that I refuse to give into the silliness that is someone having more feeling and loyalty for a city than for a live human being, how could I expect to like St. Louis? Really.

We ended up here after several years of applying, being accepted, and then deciding against coming to seminary because our lives in Birmingham were so comfortable. George didn't really like his job there and we weren't rich by any means and we lived way out, but it was pretty good to be us- we had a handful of friends that were like family, we were saving to buy a house, we were well settled into our church, and had two adorable, healthy children. Shortly after August was born, George was laid off with a couple hundred other guys from BellSouth. With so many guys with the same job experience floating around Birmingham looking for work, you can imagine there weren't a whole lot of options for us. George was unemployed for five months. After five months a friend from church helped him land a temp job with minimal pay and no benefits. We were very grateful for the job, but we were seeing pretty clearly that our big comfortable reasons for not pursuing seminary no longer existed. In fact, we really couldn't afford to stay in Birmingham anymore; and while seminary seemed unaffordable, George clearly needed more education to find a better job. He really wanted to go to seminary and we really had nothing more to lose. We decided to make the move. Through the course of the unemployment and move, we used up all the money we had saved to buy a house. We also went through a miscarriage during that summer. It was just miserable. And then we had to say goodbye to all our friends and move away. St. Louis never had a chance.

I have tried to give it a chance. I told George coming that I was exhausted and I just didn't know how I would manage. It has gotten harder and harder the longer we've been here; and I don't manage very well, I know. Today was one of many days where I thought I might just have to beg George to drop out of school and move us back home. Trust me, it would not have been anything like the first time. With Christmas behind us, I began thinking of bills and of insurance and our budget. George has had to stop work at the bank to keep up with his new job as apartment manager. While the job as apartment manager does pay our rent, it does not provide benefits or much additional income. So we are pretty much the worse off when compared to our situation before having to move last year (though undoubtedly much better off than the four months this summer!). On top of that, some of our supporters have found themselves unable to continue support and others found it necessary to cut their support in half. But it is not just our situation. The seminary community seems to be exploding with needs. It's not even just the seminary community; we know people in many places with real needs. I found myself overwhelmed with all of this today, with homesickness, with the great task of parenting, and with the great task of today- packing my family for a week (in order to help soothe the aforementioned homesickness), and weak from illness and missed sleep, and with somebody that really hurt my feelings and doesn't want to reconcile and everything you all find yourselves overwhelmed with. And I prayed, almost triumphantly, "This is too much! This is just a giant storm, and no human being could weather it," as if I had finally reached that point after years of praying that sort of prayer (oh yes, I'm very dramatic) where God would see it my way and let up a bit. And ironically, though as is usually the case, I was the one who came out of the moment seeing things differently. I don't want to say his way, 'cause you know I hate being all hoodoo voodoo about things. The Holy Spirit is such a mysterious Being and I don't want to go crediting things to Him that are not from Him. (Like don't ya just hate it when someone who kinda rubs you the wrong way or gets on your nerves a little tells you that she thinks you and she are just so much alike? Yikes! I don't want to be doing one of those... Anyway,) I started thinking about Peter walking on the water during the storm. And how, literally, no human being could do that, but Peter was able to as long as he was fixed on Jesus and not fixed on that storm. As soon as he started freaking about the storm, he started sinking too. And I thought the reason I am weathering this storm so badly is because I am focusing on it so much and not on Christ enough. And trust me, I am not one of these people that is saying that I don't have a two hour quiet time every day so my life is going to hell in a hand basket. I have actually been aware for a while that I'm pretty distracted.

Well, that's about all I guess I should share with a couple hundred of my closest friends. I'm kidding. I flatter myself. But however many people read this, I hash out enough confusion and doubt that I thought it only right to post something encouraging, if it is that. I just know everyone's got a storm. And my storm was less of a problem, though just as big, when I thought about my Savior who loves me, and not about homesickness and bills and mean people and insurance and fevers and a year and a half more of seminary. I have no idea how all of that will be resolved. And I will probably freak out about it again. But for today, I feel better.

When darkness seems to hide His face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil

On Christ the Solid Rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand

His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood
When all around my soul gives way
He then is all my Hope and Stay

On Christ the Solid Rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand

Saturday, December 23, 2006

A Blue Christmas

I love blue at Christmas. Blue looks really great with red and green don'tcha think? So a blue Christmas is not a bad thing- unless it's the overly played Elvis song or Christmas this year. There's still time for things to turn themselves around, but we have been trudging through high fevers, coughing, and sleepless nights for eight days now. Amabel started our festival of fevers and had no other symptoms except the high fever. August followed soon after with even higher fevers, restless nights, and much phleghmy coughing. Nice eh? George pulled one true all-nighter, not sleeping for a good long 40 hours at the beginning of the week. It is amazing to me with the lack of sleep he has gotten, he has not fallen victim to the fever. But something must be going on because he has put at least twenty hours into a paper over the week and is still not finished. I am ready to delete it from our computer and let him get a zero. His work is constantly being interrupted by plumbers and landscapers and whoever else has work to do on the apartment grounds as well as by me or the children. But I'm so sick of that paper hanging over all of our heads. I get the big baby of the year award because this whole being sick thing has knocked me out. Ya know how they say kids are resilient? It is usually about some sort of emotional trauma one of them has endured and I am living proof that that whole resilience thing is too often relied upon. In other words, I don't like it when people use that as a cop out. But physically speaking, it appears to be somewhat true. I remember skinning my knee at a high school retreat and losing all control. I shivered and cried and basically made an enormous baby of myself; it was horribly embarrassing. It just hurt so much more as a big sixteen year old than it did as a little six year old. Well, fevers seem to be much more disorienting and cold/hot as an adult than they ever were as a child. And sore throats are a major downer too. I have lost my voice and found a throat as raw and scratchy as ever I can remember. It almost seems like hot tea and lozenges, while helping for a few minutes on contact, make it worse. And I find all of this horribly depressing. I went to bed earlier this afternoon and woke up at six to Elspeth crying. George and the other two children are nowhere to be found. I have a guess that they may have gone for dinner somewhere or to deliver Christmas gifts to George's family as we have had to cancel Christmas Eve dinner over here because of all the illness. But why no note? It's not as if I can call- I have literally no voice. So I am blue. I am very blue. I'm all alone, hot and cold and with a very sore throat with no idea of when anyone is coming home. And when they do come home will they just go to sleep? I have slept most of the day, will I be all alone into the wee hours of the morning? Or will I be able to sleep? And if so, how many times will I wake up soaking wet from sweating?

I hate that all of this is happening right before Christmas. I am going to have to miss church on Christmas Eve. I am not getting to eat the yummy Christmas goodies I made. And there were so many things I had still left to bake. I still hadn't made my wreaths- and I even had holly for them this year! I haven't been to the grocery, and even without having to make the Christmas Eve feast, we've got to get a few things before all the grocery stores close. The grocery stores all close here on Christmas Eve afternoon and all day Christmas Day. I like that. I didn't know there were places that still did that. Everywhere here does. Anyway, I've been trying to wait it out and hopeful of healing, but now I'm just hacked off. Nice attitude right? Well, if I'm not mistaken, I'm known for great attitudes. This is all so appropriate though; it has truly been the year from hell for me. I know God's hand has been on us and there is much to be thankful for, especially for darling Elspeth, but I'd not do this year over for all the money in the world. Wait, I guess I'd have to since Elspeth comes out of this year. Well, thank goodness that's not possible and it's almost over. And here's to 2007! I am sorry I didn't get all my yummy recipes posted for y'all. I know you understand- if people are even still reading. And I may not get another post in this year. I am hoping for healing in time for our trip to Nashville and Birmingham for New Years. I am in that feeling so awful stage right now that the idea of ever being healthy and happy again seems delusional. See how quickly I despair! Not sure if any of this makes sense right now, somewhere over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. But I do hope everyone else is well. And Happy Christmas to all, even me, the biggest Baby of 2006.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Taking Things Out of Context

I have been meaning to post this for a while. It is posted on the wall in the cry room at church- appropriately, right over the changing table. I Corinthians 15:51 "Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed." So true. And it cracks me up all over again every time I see it.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Recipe Teaser

Sorry about that. I said I'd have recipes and it's been days. In those days though, I have been quite busy. I still had a lot of work left on Elspeth's baptism gown which I finished yesterday, of course, because she was baptized today. It would be too smart to finish it a week or so before, right? Nevermind that I also had to clean the house for my parents coming into town for the event, or that I had mounds of food to make for their visit, or that two of my children are running a fever of 103, or that I had eighty Christmas cards to address and sign five names to, or that in all of that madness I had Christmas gifts to send halfway around the world. $45 in shipping! Can you believe it?! They give you two choices: freight, which takes 6-8 weeks; or air, which takes 6-8 days! I was thinking something in the middle, more economical, but also not like sending things by way of the Mayflower. I reckon I should go ahead and buy next year's gifts soon if I want to send them for less. Or for about the same, I could just fly over there and deliver them myself. Wouldn't that be awesome if you really could get international flights for $50? Anyway, I don't really know what the solution is; if you've got family in France, you're going to have to pay a little extra to send them stuff. They also make you declare everything on a custom's slip which they tape right on the box. So Rach, if you're reading, don't read the custom's slip or you will know what you're getting before you even unwrap your gifts.

But back to the whole mounds of food thing. I think I have made five batches of biscotti. George keeps eating them before I can give them away or stash them for serving guests. I was able to get some to Frank the other day. I think everyone will remember Frank, my hair stylist who went Roanoke but then George tracked him down. I love Frank! So I took him a little Christmas goodie bag this week. He opened it when I was leaving and said "Oh, I love biscotti!" Then, the next day I got a phone call from him. He said it was the best biscotti he ever tasted and that I should go into business selling it. Now don't you want his number? He's just the kind of guy that always makes you feel good about yourself. And what a dear man to track me down just to praise my baking! So, against my better judgment, I'm posting my million dollar biscotti recipe. If you know of a market for selling these things, let me know. Maybe I'm on my way to being the next Famous Amos. Don't think Wally Amos would publish his cookie recipe online though... Hmmm, now I can't decide. Remember when I said I would send y'all cookies back in the spring and I never did? Maybe if you really want, I will send you some biscotti. And maybe, if nothing else than to drive Rebekah crazy, I'll keep my recipe a secret! Besides making a delivery to Frank, I also managed to send some in the big box to France, but that particular batch had to forfeit its chocolatey coating in order to get there before Christmas. I will give the secret away for that part, just melt some chocolate chips and add a smidge of cooking oil to thin it out and dip the bottom of the cookies in to coat. Haven't had an unsatisfied customer yet!

Another family favorite around here is sugar cookies with royal icing. It's not the same royal icing that you use to glue gingerbread together- which, incidentally, we did this past Monday with some little girls from our neighborhood. It turned out so cute! We have an entire snow covered gingerbread village in our living room! Ahem, anyway, it's not so stiff as that, but it has the same basic ingredients: egg whites and powdered sugar. Anyway, I think there are probably lots of good recipes out there, but this one is guaranteed- it's from Martha Stewart, you know! But you will also benefit from my own personal experience after making these cookies for every holiday, year round, for seven years. I made a giant double recipe just this week!

Sugar Cookies
4 1/2 c. sifted flour- sifting is actually pretty important so don't skip out- measure after flour is sifted to be sure you don't have too much making your cookies too puffy and cakey!
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 pound unsalted butter, softened
2 c. sugar
2 eggs
1/2 c. milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla

- sift together dry ingredients.
- cream butter and sugar until fluffy. add eggs and mix well.
- add dry ingredients 1 cup at time, alternating with the milk and vanilla, beating well after each addition.
- divide dough into fourths and wrap each quarter separately.
- chill for at least on hour.
- take one piece out at a time to roll out (with a floured pin on a floured surface) and cut.
- place cut pieces on parchment lined and baking sheets and chill sheets for several minutes to firm dough back up.
- bake cookies at 375 for 8 to 10 minutes.
- cool on racks.
- ice with royal icing

Royal Icing
1 c. confectioner's sugar
1 egg white
gel food colors
- mix and spread or pipe onto cookies
the gel colors just keep the icing from getting too runny. I have the Wilton kind that you buy at Michael's. You might could also get those from Walmart, but as you know, I do not shop at Walmart (three years and counting!). I also think the size of your egg matters. If you buy extra large, don't. My mom always did and it messed up all my recipes. It took me a while to realize she buys the big ones to scramble/fry etc. As far as egg cooking alone goes, bigger is better, I guess. But for baking, extra large is no good. Even with large eggs, I usually probably use closer to 1 and 1/4 cup of sugar for my icing. And if you do use just regular food color liquid stuff, you will have to add more sugar too. But my experience is that the liquid food colors are no good for these. Dried egg whites and water is even better than egg whites too as far as not being too runny, but it is much more expensive to use that than eggs.

So that is my laborious explanation of how I make sugar cookies. But several people actually asked me, so I wanted to be as helpful as I could.

I've been busy with lots of other recipes, but I have already been writing too long. I haven't gotten to bed before one AM, or two for that matter, in at least a week. And if I go straight up, I can just make it! More recipes soon though. In hindsight, I was a total bonehead to plan Elspeth's baptism smack in the middle of George's finals and right before Christmas. I was thinking it would be great for everyone to get to see Elspeth for her first Christmas. In my defense, it did work great with Amabel and August who were also both baptized the week before Christmas. Didn't have quite the turnout this time though, and I essentially bumped Christmas up one week this year. It was crazy trying to have everything done so early, but now I have a week until Christmas and not too too much to do. Well, except I haven't shopped for anyone living in St. Louis yet. Yes, that includes my husband and three children. Do ya think that might be a problem? All I know is, I'm gettin' some sleep! I'll think about it tomorrow!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Celebration Begins

Christmas officially started at our house yesterday. And my blog had a birthday too. Happy Birthday, Pretty Funny for a Girl, you are one. The sixth is a big day around here because it is the day after the fifth which is a really big day. It's my birthday, you see. So now I am the big two nine. Don't laugh; I know I'm a young'n. So after we have my big day when picking up a tree is usually part of the festivities, we get to decorate and things get a whole lot more festive around here. I have been about two weeks without getting to the grocery store or Christmas baking would have started much earlier! I am one ingredient short on several recipes. I do hope to post more this month, mostly recipes as I try them out, so I am thinking there will be more to check in on. Don't hold me to it though. Anyway, a big trip to Dierberg's is set for whenever Aug wakes up from his nap, and then let the baking begin! So I could possibly even have recipes for you tomorrow.

Aren't we ambitious? Christmas brings out the best and worst in most of us, I expect. I usually do accomplish amazing amounts of things. But I have also already had two borderline psychotic episodes since Thanksgiving. You know, it's just the stress; it gets to me. But I don't want to cut anything out because it's all so fun! There's just a lot to manage: gifts, crafts, budgets, timing, shopping, baking, cards, and this year Elspeth's baptism (and baptismal gown!). You will all be proud, and maybe a little sad, but I had a reality check and decided that this is not a good year to make the usual Christmas dress for Amabel. I have wanted another girl for years so I could make matching dresses. This was my first real opportunity but there just wasn't time! That's good that I realized but sad that it is so, especially because I also didn't get to make Amabel a birthday outfit for the first time this year. I have now ruined two traditions! But only this once, I hope to be able to pick them back up for next year. It does help that my mom bought them all Christmas outfits a few months ago; so they will have something to wear. But you know how disappointed I am. Just gotta make a bubble, as George would say, make a bubble and blow it away! There may be lots of Christmas bubbles with my name on them this year!

But in all the scurrying and bubble blowing, I hope to remember the point. Never is the Gospel so clear and unveiled than in lyrics of so many Christmas carols. I miss Christmas carols in all the choir-y fanciness that Christmas takes on. Did we just sing carols as kids? I don't know. I am one who generally dislikes (not just doesn't care either way, actually dislikes- sorry Elizabeth) choir music. I like more simple arrangements. I like to be able to sing too. I can't sing awkward songs that no one has ever heard before, even if the choir has been practicing since September and the translation is very beautiful. I know it's just a preference thing. But I sure do miss the "usual." Somehow it has become unusual. One song that was sung every Christmas at my church in Nashville is somewhat of a rarity, meaning I have never heard it anywhere else, though it was part of the usual there. If I can somehow find the lyrics, or hopefully a recording, I will share it with all of you. In the meantime, here's a snippet of another that I think is surprisingly undersung/played, but I am sure you will recognize it:

Hark now hear the angels sing
A new King's born today
And man will live forevermore
Because of Christmas Day!

Trumpets sound and angels sing
Listen to what they say
That man will live forevermore
Because of Christmas Day!

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