Sunday, October 6, 2013

Learning to Love a 'Good' Storm

My husband and I are very different. In many ways. One example is that I love rain; he loves storms. And while it may seem that I'm just parsing words, there's a big difference in what we love when it comes to wetness emerging from the sky. When I think of rain, the following resonates:

   I hear leaves drinking rain;
   I hear rich leaves on top
   Giving the poor beneath
   Drop after drop;
   'Tis a sweet noise to hear
   These green leaves drinking near.

   And when the Sun comes out,
   After this Rain shall stop,
   A wondrous Light will fill
   Each dark, round drop;
   I hope the Sun shines bright;
   'Twill be a lovely sight.
             - The Rain by William Henry Davies

I love what is soothing about rain. What it does to the earth. The good that comes from it - both in my spirit and in the world around me. But as much as I love rain (albeit on a limited basis), I grew up never really wanting to experience a storm. To me, a storm brings fear, it brings the loss of things we love (like power and cable and trees and roofs), and it means we should hunker down and hope for the best. So, I came into our marriage with a NOAA weather radio - programmed to notify me of potential storms in my county, and the counties where my immediate family members resided. I wanted to be prepared for the storm, and able to notify my family that they should be prepared for what was coming as well. I'm not sure I ever thought about enjoying a storm. Until I met Colman.

Colman is an artist at heart. And specifically, he's a photographer by trade. So, he's drawn to light, to the majestic of any kind, and to the things that convey power through the senses. So, lighting brings brilliance and thunder brings awareness. About storms, Colman says, "There's just nothing else like it." He likes how powerful a storm is. And he's not afraid of it. He loves its beauty. And he's not intimidated by it. And I have learned to love his love for storms. I don't have my own love for storms, at least not the way I love rain or the way he loves storms. But I love what a storm does to my husband. What it brings out in him.

Recently, we were talking with friends about how much Colman loves a good storm. And he said to me, during this conversation, that I'd gotten to where I love storms too; he was trying to get me to admit that I'd come around to his way of thinking. But I said, "No. I just really like you." And it's true; I now approach the storms with him. But I'm drawn to him, and he's drawn to storms. So, if I want to be near my husband during a storm, I'm going to find myself on the front porch instead of in the tub. And I'm learning to appreciate the storms in my own way. But I hope I never get over how much I really like my husband. And how I like seeing the world through his eyes (as much as I can). And how he brings something to my life that I would never cultivate on my own. Such as a love for storms. Something I can hardly explain.

Proud Music of The Storm by Walt Whitman
PROUD music of the storm!
Blast that careers so free, whistling across the prairies!
Strong hum of forest tree-tops! Wind of the mountains!
Personified dim shapes! you hidden orchestras!
You serenades of phantoms, with instruments alert,
Blending, with Nature’s rhythmus, all the tongues of nations;
You chords left us by vast composers! you choruses!
You formless, free, religious dances! you from the Orient!
You undertone of rivers, roar of pouring cataracts;
You sounds from distant guns, with galloping cavalry!
Echoes of camps, with all the different bugle-calls!
Trooping tumultuous, filling the midnight late, bending me powerless,
Entering my lonesome slumber-chamber—Why have you seiz’d me?

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Worthy Words

I've had such great intentions to blog. But when it comes down to it, I always find reasons to not do it. I don't have time. I don't think about it when I do have time. Or, I wonder: What do I even have to blog about?

But then I read other friends' blogs, and their subject matter is often simple. It's just a way for them to capture moments. To not let their lives pass them by without reflection. But it seems I still need a "prompt" – a place to start from. So, today, I decided. I decided I would start with whatever Bible verse(s) I'd read that day and reflect on how the Scripture relates to my life and where I am in my journey. I thought the prompt could have a dual purpose – to help me fully internalize what God is trying to say to me, and to get me writing again.

So, I went into YouVersion to pull up my reading for today from my current reading plan about God's promises. But what was I faced with upon opening the app? YouVersion's verse of the day - NOT what I was planning to blog about. It reads: "Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst" (1 Timothy 1:15). And this just makes me further reflect on my good intentions gone unfulfilled.

Isn't that how most of us become the worst of sinners? Most of us don't set out to do wrong. We just wind up failing miserably at doing right. We got derailed along the way. We got focused on the wrong thing. We got busy and forgot what was important. But the amazing thing is: God is there. He's always there. Whether we are actively present with Him or not, He is actively present with us.

The verse I planned to use as my prompt for this post and my point of reflection reads: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight" (Proverbs 3:5-6). What an amazingly perfect verse to counter the “verse of the day” I quoted above! Although I must fully accept that Christ came to save sinners (like me) and recognize my role as such (which I agree, I am among the worst), God also provides guidance on how to make my path straight – by submitting to Him, leaning on Him and trusting Him with all my heart. The promise the verse offers (according to my reading plan, i.e., I stole this): If I trust God and seek him, He will show me the way to go. Yet alas, as much as this guidance and promise make sense, therein lies the problem. I don't always submit. I don't always lean. I don't always trust. I don't always seek. Or at least not ENOUGH. I still slip. I still fall. (Daily.) And sometimes it's so far from the path that God would have me on. But fortunately, the redemption remains.

My solace is in the fact that, “where sin increased, grace increased all the more” (Romans 5:20). You see, we can’t out-sin God’s grace. He’s got more than enough. And if we need more, he’s got more to provide. And knowing that gives us freedom to stop thinking about how good or bad we are, and to just start focusing on getting to know God more and better and discovering how loving He is that He would save us from ourselves.

But I find it so interesting that, when I Googled “greater sin results in more salvation” (which is NOT the way to find Rom 5:20, by the way), the results generated were links to the following questions that others had posed: “What is the greatest sin?” “How much sin results in the loss of salvation?” “Are there different degrees of sin?” And I’m wondering what these questions really mean. Are we looking for how much we can sin and still go to heaven? Are we looking for ways to judge others based on the severity of their sin? Are we trying to decide if God can forgive even X?

I’m learning that, while God certainly doesn’t want me to sin, my sin doesn’t scare Him away. He doesn’t just love me or others when we’re not sinning. And it’s the recognition that He conquered sin that redeems us, not our own ability to conquer sin once we’re saved. He’s not looking for perfect people (thank goodness, since there are none!). He’s looking for us to recognize His perfect love. And He just wants us to live in response to that love. Wow.

Now, if you ask me, THAT’s something worth blogging about!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Diving Right In ... The Joys of Making Plans

This past month - January 2013 - has been kind of a blur, but a good blur. So, I'm documenting it now, while it's still somewhat fresh. What started out a new month in a new year with resolutions and new possibilities turned out to be pretty productive and fun, but also was gone in a flash. One reason for that is that I actually followed through on having friends -- who we've said we wanted to have over -- over. (The other big reason: Work has been CRAZY! But enough of that talk ...)

Crazy busy work this month
So, I hate that we often say that we want to have folks over and then it doesn't happen. We attended a StrengthFinders seminar this month that helped us realize why that happens. (HINT: Colman has Woo in his top five strengths. I have Responsibility in mine. So, he's great at getting people to love him, but not as great on follow-through; contrastingly, I don't feel the need to have everyone like me, but I do feel the need to fulfill promises that I make. What a pair we make!) So, I started doing my part to change that. I made plans. I am not good at being spontaneous, but if I know about something in advance -- even if it's not way ahead of time -- I do much better. As a result, we've been busy every weekend this month.

And while we normally are busy, this month was different. In the past, I wasn't as good about making plans. And since I wasn't making plans and I'm not good at spontaneity, we weren't having company over. Instead, we were constantly going to one last-minute thing that popped up after another and eating out a ton. This month, I'm not sure we've eaten out at all. (Lie: We have at least had some fast food, but that doesn't really count. Right?)

Jan 4 - First Friday @ the Athenaeum. Our church is in a historic theatre, and there's ArtSpace in the mezzanine area. So Indy Metro Church often curates the space; and this month the focus is on the sex trade industry. There were some great pieces of visual art, as well as touching letters from women who had been in the sex industry, and a speaker. We saw our friend Hannah there (her sister, a church intern who is heading up our new Strip Club Church ministry, was the curator). I mentioned having her and her husband Andrew (and their daughter Violet) over for dinner; and Hannah said she knew she was free the next weekend. (She's a third year med student - so you pounce when you know there's an opening in their schedule.) So, we tentatively set dinner plans for the following Saturday night. Then we had to leave the art exhibit before the speaker was done because I had worked so late that Friday night (until about 7 p.m.) that I literally picked Colman up and we went straight there, and we were STARVING. So, we actually did go out to dinner that night. (Evidence of said eating out LIE.) It was yummy. We went to Ralston's, a new favorite of ours. (We went there the first time in October, after watching Indy Metro's production of C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce, which Colman was in.) Colman found a new beer that he loves - a bourbon barrel ale (and he doesn't like bourbon or normally bourbon ales). We also are obsessed with their sweet potato fries and their various sauces.

Jan 5-6 - The rest of this weekend is kind of a blur. I don't have anything on my calendar for it. But what I am remembering is: We saw a movie on Saturday night - I think Les Miserables. I also think this is the night we grabbed dinner at Penn Station. I had a vegetarian sub - with artichokes - and it was wonderful! Will do that again! Sunday night we got a call from our friend Angie - she had gotten off work early - and she and her husband Gavin wanted to do dinner. So, we went to Bru on Mass Ave with them and had a great dinner (I had the garlic cheeseburger - SO good!) and caught up. (So, apparently we ate out every night this weekend. Oops. Fun times though! Good thing we joined the Y earlier this week - on Jan 4.)

Bike Hub YMCA @ City Market

Jan 7 - We were supposed to go to our friend Dan's house for the National Championship Game - Bama vs. Notre Dame. But we got a call on our way over that he didn't have the station the game was showing on. So, we invited them to our house, and turned around and headed home. We ended up having five guests to our impromptu party - Dan, Stephany, Brian, Sarah and Bridget. The game ended with a good outcome for Bama, but not so great for Colman and the other ND fans. Fortunately this meant I won a bet, and our pastor and Colman had to wear Bama gear at church on Sunday (1/13). Roll Tide!

Jan 8 - Had our First ActiviTuesday, which was established by our friend Robyn to create mid-week fun-portunities (my word creation). She came over to our house, and we had a Wii Bowling and a Karaoke competition. The Karaoke didn't go so well for me. But I won (I think all games) at Wii Bowling. This never happens. Colman just had a REALLY OFF night!

Jan 9 - First City Group gathering of the year. Our group recently merged with another group. So, we're just getting to know each other. No study. Just food and hanging out. There was a ton going on. We all of a sudden went from having one child (who usually sleeps) at our group to having five. And we've invited another couple to join us that have a babe as well. They haven't joined us yet though. Will be interesting to see how our groups meld together.

Jan 12 - We went to church and attended a StrengthsFinder seminar from 9 to 1 p.m., then headed home and ate, took a nap, cleaned the house and went to the grocery store, then came home and started cooking and did more cleaning because ... As a result of seeing Hannah the previous weekend at First Friday and making plans at that time, we had our friends Andrew and Hannah and their daughter Violet to dinner. She's a vegetarian. So, I had to stretch myself to figure out dinner. I found a recipe for Hearty Chicken Stew with Butternut Squash & Quinoa Recipe on Pinterest and gave it a try. I followed the recipe up until it got to where I needed to add the chicken broth. At that point, I divided the ingredients into two pans (more in the non-vegetarian version, since Andrew typically eats chicken when it's available, even though he eats vegetarian most of the time - this turned out to be the right decision) and put vegetable broth into one and followed the directions for the chicken version for the other. Colman did not love this. (He often doesn't love things that scream healthy.) But I really liked it, and our guests seemed to enjoy it too. They had seconds, which always makes me happy. And I learned to cook with quinoa, which was a bonus. I served it with the red wine that they brought and Garlic Parmesan Skillet Bread - the Carrabba's Bread Dip Seasoning version. Loved this. The one thing I realized (the next time I made it) was that mine wasn't looking like the picture, and I didn't understand why. (I "tossed" the biscuit pieces into the pan, but I didn't "toss" the biscuit pieces. So, all of my seasoning was on one side. So, I was serving it upside down, so that the seasoning was visible. But that meant the top was flat, instead of rounded ... I'm so dumb sometimes ... From now on, I will be tossing the pieces in the seasoning and then serving the bread bumpy side up. Gotta laugh at myself on that one. But I guess it did involve baking, which is not my thing. So that's my explanation.) Speaking of baking, Colman was nice enough to prepare brownies for the occasion. But I turned the oven on super-high (425 degrees - not sure why, probably because I often use that temp to COOK, not bake), and I burned his brownies. So, we had break-apart cookies come to the rescue instead. The downsides: Whenever I decide to make soup or stew, we always have a random temperature spike. So, it was 50 or 60 degrees outside when I made and served this stew. Also, Violet hit a wall pretty early, so they weren't able to stay very long. But it was fun while it lasted. :-)

Jan 13 - My friend Hollie's and my nephew Brey's (2nd) birthday. After church, we met privately with the StrengthsFinder coach over coffee (Starbucks - had hot chocolates) and lunch (Hoaglin's - had the super yummy sausage gravy and biscuits). Colman hadn't determined which Myers-Briggs personality type he was yet (he was 50/50 on one component [ENFP vs. ESFP] and tried to pick out the characteristics that fit him most from each; but the guy wasn't having anything to do with that method of determining Colman's personality type), so the coach couldn't offer us much guidance. But we still had some interesting conversations about our strengths and weaknesses and my personality type.

Pastor Aaron and Colman - Making Good on their Bet
Jan 16 - Had City Group again - still just a hangout night. Not as great of turnout this week. Some sicknesses and folks working late. So, very low key and laid back.

Jan 19 - We had our friends Tim and Tara Tang, and their kids Annie (6) and Josh (3) over for dinner and our Christmas gift exchange. I exchange with Tara, and we give gifts to the kids. We haven't had them over in forever for some reason. (Probably because I didn't plan ahead and then our weekends got booked with last-minute activities, also had to do with our moving to a new house and getting packed up in the old house and being unsettled in the new one and then holidays - lots of excuses!!!) So, it was great to have them over and visit. I made Garlic Parmesan Crusted Chicken and followed the recipe exactly (which I rarely do), and it was great. The last time I made this, I sauteed and baked the chicken instead of grilling it. I probably slightly prefer the baked version, but this was amazing grilled too! We served it with Twice Baked Potatoes. I did the bacon version, but just let people add the bacon if they wanted it, since Tara doesn't eat bacon when pregnant. We also served French bread (purchased at the store) with olive oil and the Carrabba's Bread Dip Seasoning. And Tara and Tim brought a tasty salad. I again fouled up the dessert. I tried these Healthy Peanut Butter Cookies, and they were awful. Basically peanut butter honey taffy. Ridiculous. Break-apart cookies again saved the day.

Garlic Parmesan Crusted Chicken

Jan 20 - Went to church in the morning and met up with our friends Robyn and Nate to see Silver Linings Playbook that night. Colman and I had Wendy's beforehand, but I've been pretty good about avoiding fries lately. So, I had chili and a grilled chicken sandwich of some sort. The movie was really good. We went to Applebee's afterwards to finish watching a basketball game. I had a dessert coffee and an appetizer. (So much for eating well. At least I didn't blow it at dinner and after the movie.)

Jan 23 - Very low turnout with group - just us, the Mosses and Andrew and Violet. Ended up calling it a night before 8 p.m. Was kind of a blessing in disguise because I had a huge deadline for work that I needed to focus on.

Jan 26 - This weekend, we had our friends Keith and LaNita for dinner. Colman grilled some amazing ribeyes seasoned with Southern Flavor, which is actually made in my hometown and provides an incredible charcoal flavor. Plus, he grilled them just right. I made Roasted Parmesan Potato Wedges, which were OK but not phenomenal. (I think I can tweak them with garlic salt [and maybe panko bread crumbs?] and make them a go-to side.) What I made for dinner that was really good was Bacon-Wrapped Caramelized Sesame Asparagus. I was afraid Colman wouldn't like it because it's so different - with sesame oil and sesame seeds; but he (WE) loved it! I will make this again and again and won't be afraid to add more sesame seeds next time. I also served the pull-apart skillet bread again (and this is the time I realized it didn't look right, but tasted fine). And the big surprise - the dessert I made was a success!! We had Chocolate Chip Cake, which was moist (despite my and apparently Keith's concerns) and super tasty. We also had some great red wine, courtesy of our guests, and had a blast playing Euchre.

Euchre - Not a Great Hand
This evening was a great way to round out our entertaining calendar for the month and bolstered my confidence that we can handle this level of entertaining - if I just know in advance.

Jan 30 - Had our most "successful" City Group meeting of the year. Almost everyone was there, and we had our first lesson as a group. Yay! Hopefully, we can keep his going.

The one negative (which should be considered a positive) to hosting every weekend when my work schedule is so packed: I had to be laid back about the condition of the house. Colman was great about doing the cleaning, and helping me do some of the food prep. But if I had had time to be crazy (and if my back hadn't been giving me such fits this month), I probably would have. Hopefully I have learned from this that the crazy isn't necessary -- that the time with friends and the hospitality we provide is more important than clean baseboards and a dust-free home.

But Colman and I probably won't be able to maintain is the level of hospitality (i.e., entertaining every weekend) year-round. I think having company twice a month is more reasonable, and is still an increase over what we were doing last year. But I'm glad we dove right in and realized that it's not as much work as I often make it out to be.

We're taking a break from entertaining this weekend and heading to Elkhart. Looking forward to attending a Super Bowl party on Sunday night and dinner with Terry and Erica Moore next weekend.

Good times!