Monthly Archives: July 2010

Fiction Friday #10

(This is a continuing series called “Kissing Frogs” posted every Friday.  To get caught up, you can click the “Kissing Frogs . . . so far” link at the top of the page.)

Joey realized part of the way through Sunday School that he had a muffin paper stuck to the tread of his shoe.  It wasn’t surprising considering the gas station coffee cups and take out containers that flooded his truck at the moment.  He and Jack had put in an intense 20 hours of work over two days to replace the plumbing over at Sophia.

Knowing that they couldn’t expect a functioning office to operate without water, the men had committed to do the plumbing work in a single weekend.  Working from five pm Friday evening until midnight and then returning at eight the next morning and hearing the last successful flush near nine  Saturday night, the men were both exhausted, but pleased with both a task well done and time with close friends.

As Joey bent to tug the muffin paper loose, he smiled.  The weekend could have been a total write off.  When Tracey left Friday evening, as the men were setting up, she locked all the doors, telling them someone would be by in the morning to let them back in.  Joey drove up on Saturday morning dreading the “why don’t you have more done?  Will this be finished in time?” style questions he knew he would face the minute Tracey opened those doors.  Instead, he was greeted by Joanna’s contagious smile and home made Banana-Buckwheat muffins.

She’d stayed for three hours, first chatting and asking questions about plumbing in general, and the current tasks specifically, but pretty soon she was threading fittings and carrying PVC.  In fact, her assistance cut at least an hour from the project, and certainly made the start of the day much easier to bear.

When she jumped up from a finished stretch of brand new PVC and said, “Uh-oh, late for fight club,” Jack and Joey both laughed.  She actually apologized for leaving them, and as she locked the doors there was a strange sense of let down.  Jack sighed, flexed his fingers and went back to measuring and cutting pipe.

“I think you should introduce her to Will.” was Jack’s suggestion after remarking at her vivacious personality.

Joey was strangely ambivalent to the suggestion.

The Will in question was teaching Sunday School, and he grinned as Joey sat up, muffin wrapper in his hand.

“So both Wisdom and Folly are women who call out to young men who lack sense.  This is important, guys.  It’s not just a word picture.  The women we choose will either be wisdom or folly. . .”

The lesson from Proverbs faded out again and Joey spent the next half hour in quiet contemplation.

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How the Theology of Entropy Gave Me a New Way of Looking at Housework

I’ve been telling people lately that cleaning is not my spiritual gift.  Most people laugh, either in pity or sympathy, but one person helpfully pointed out that cleaning isn’t a spiritual gift listed in scripture.  That person didn’t know me very well.  That’s one of the hard parts about moving.

But I digress.

I’ve blogged a lot about my battle with housework and learning to be tidy to the glory of God.  I keep blogging about it, because I keep struggling with it.  I’m making baby steps (or the Lord is making baby steps in me) and things are better now than they were before the mackerdoodle was born.  Usually.

But even on the good days, I find myself resenting the continual return of disorder in my home.  Tuesday my house looked fine.  We had a friend join us for lunch and while he certainly didn’t ask me if Martha Stewart had staged my home, he also didn’t check to see if his tetanus shot was current.  Less than 24 hours later, there were dirty dishes, the floor needed to be mopped (again), and the hot spots could be seen from space.  That just ticks me RIGHT OFF!  I like to accomplish a task and move on.  I can’t do that with housework.  I get the kitchen clean, go to clean the toilet and come back to find crumbs on the kitchen counter and dishes in the sink.  It’s sisyphean.

As I was mopping the floor (again) this week I began to contemplate entropy – the scientific concept that things move from order to disorder – as my mental response to an article about theistic evolution.  It was completely unrelated to the chore I was completing at the time, but as I thought through the abstract concepts of entropy, I realized my home was an example of entropy in action.  If left to itself it proceeds from order to disorder and can only be returned to order with an expenditure of energy.  At that realization, the abstract ideas bouncing around in my brain began to have  a concrete application.

The puritans considered entropy a result of the fall of man.  A large part of their theology said that God’s command to subdue the earth was a command to restore order from chaos; to continually expend the energy required to fight the effects of sin on creation.  For this reason they considered tradesmen to have a high calling from the Lord, because when a cooper repaired a barrel or a plumber repaired plumbing or a blacksmith repaired a broken plow, those men were redeeming creation from the fall.  This was also applied to the calling of women in their homes.  Men fight entropy outside of their homes, and women do it inside.

That puts housework into a completely different category for me.  The reason the Lord commands us to be busy at home, is because it is one of the ways we fight the effect of sin.  Housework is more than an inconvenience, it’s a direct assault on the powers of this world.  It’s not mopping, it’s spiritual warfare!

So sometimes I’m too tired to mop and that won’t change when I see it as exercising dominion, but the days I feel like all I do is put things away, it helps to think of that in spiritual terms.  It also helps me to see teaching my children to pick up after themselves as a part of training them in righteousness.

Anyway, if I happen to mention that I’m about to engage the enemy and exercise dominion in the toy room, I’m not talking about disciplining my kids, it’s just time to tidy up – probably because guests are coming.


How to Make French Onion Soup

Well, some of you asked so here it is:

French Onion Soup (or: the easiest way to fool people into thinking you’re a gourmet cook)

Ingredients:

  • 6 or 7 onions.  (I use sweet onions, but that’s your taste)
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 tablespoons of flour
  • 1/4 cup of Sherry
  • 2 boxes of beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste

cut up the onions as fine as you care to eat them and put them in a heavy pan (I use an enameled cast iron dutch oven) with the butter on a medium high heat.  Stir periodically.  The butter will sizzle and the onions will get this really happy golden color.  It takes about fifteen minutes or more for that to happen, depending on the size of your pot and the amount of onions.

When the onions are the happy color add the flour to the pan, whisking it into the butter and the onions until it forms a paste.  Let that paste get to a light brown color.  This is called a roux.

Pour your sherry (don’t use cooking sherry.  It’s nasty.  Use the real thing) into the roux and whisk briskly or the roux will lump up.  (This is the hardest part of the entire thing, and it’s NOT HARD.)

Once the sherry has incorporated into the roux and you have a nice rich onion/sherry paste, stir in your beef broth.

Add the thyme (dried will do.  I just happen to have a thyme plant on my back deck.) and then the salt and pepper to your liking.

French Onion Soup I Made All By Myself

Let it simmer on your stove for as long as you want, stirring periodically.

When you’re ready to serve, place thick cubes of good french, artisan or sourdough bread into an oven proof bowl, ladle the soup over the bread, and layer provolone and swiss cheese over the warm soup.  Pop it under the oven broiler until the cheese is bubbling and lightly browned.  Serve (sitting on a cooler plate) and soak up the praise and admiration.

The last time I did onion soup, I happened to have some large artisan rolls in my freezer.  I made them into bread bowls and serve the soup in that.  It was really, really good.  We all had two helpings.


On the Reality of Changing Ponds

Why are we having a hard time feeling settled in church here?  It’s the question we are asking every Sunday after church.  We’ve been to the same church for five Sundays or so.  We’ve had lunch with the pastor.  The cheesedoodle doesn’t go apoplectic in tears when I leave him in nursery any more.  We are getting to know people, and meeting new people.  Our next door neighbors go to the same church, and we love them.  So why are we still feeling odd about it?

At first we thought it was because we left behind a church that we loved so much.  That may be a bit of it.

Then we thought it was because of the size of the church.  Despite being small for St. Louis, it’s larger than any church in which we’ve been involved – both separately and together.   That may be a small part.

We’ve been in five churches in our marriage and in every one we’ve been unique.  In three Jonathan was on staff.  In three we were the only foreigners in the church.  We’ve been “the infertile couple”, “those Canadians”, “the guy who used to work at a church”, “the ones who want to go to seminary.”  In one church Jonathan was the only ordained man.  We’ve always been special.  There’s been a spot for us and we liked that.

It is humbling, and I think good for us, to realize that we’re not as unique as we think we are.

No matter where we go here, we’re pretty mundane.  Most of the guys at Covenant have been on staff with some church or parachurch organization.  Not only are we not the only foreigners, we’re not even the only Canadians.  We walk through the doors of any church with our boy and our girl, and we look like average, middle America, suburban seminarians.  There are thousands of people just like us in this city and some of them can be found in any PCA church you care to name.

The fact is, we’re now in a much bigger pond, realizing that we’re smaller fish than we thought we were.  It’s a good lesson.  It’s the first of many good lessons.  I know we’ll find a place and a niche here in which to serve and use our gifts and benefit the body of Christ.  I know that we will benefit from the searching out and finding of that place, rather than having it handed to us with fanfare and thanksgiving.

Here’s to going deeper in our bigger pond.


What Else Is He Hiding From Us?

The cheesedoodle is almost 14 months old, and has shown exactly zero interest in walking.  Jonathan and I have been standing him on his sturdy little legs and squatting a distance away with our arms outstretched saying, “Walk to us, cheesedoodle!  Come on.  You can do it!  Walk!”  After a moment of watching our antics with an amused expression on his face, the cheesedoodle drops to all fours and crawls to us; openly laughing at our attempts.  The mackerdoodle, interestingly, has been less than enthusiastic about these attempts, standing beside us saying, “He can’t walk.  He’s a baby.  He can’t walk.”  We thought she was feeling supplanted as the “big kid” in the house.

On Friday, the cheesedoodle took three steps from Jonathan to the mackerdoodle and all of her ambivalence disappeared.  He was walking to HER and that made it okay.  She began to say, “Let’s do it again, baby!  Walk to me!” but her brother still laughed and continued to crawl.

Saturday night we had some neighbors come for supper.  Their twin boys (the same age as the mackerdoodle) and the mackerdoodle were running around the living room having a great time, when all four adults, sitting at the kitchen table, realized simultaneously that the cheesedoodle was walking across the living room, through the midst of three running preschoolers.  The second he realized we were looking at him, he sat down, laughed and crawled away.

I kid you not.

It makes me wonder what other skills he’s hiding from us.  Maybe he can speak in full sentences.  Maybe he’s secretly potty trained.  Maybe he has string theory disproven and is working on an alternate quantum theory.  Who knows?  He’s obviously playing his cards close to the chest.


Weekend Inquiry: How Do You Start Your Day?

I’m sitting at the computer with my morning coffee, checking e-mail and doing a quick scan through the facebook status updates.  A good cup of joe and a few minutes of “screen time” are my favorite part of my morning routine.  What is yours?


Fiction Friday – #9

(This is a continuing series called “Kissing Frogs” posted every Friday.  To get caught up, you can click the “Kissing Frogs . . . so far” link at the top of the page.)

“So that was interesting.”  Jack was sitting in the passenger seat of the truck.  “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you like that with a woman.  How do you know her?”

“I don’t think ‘know’ is the right term.  You know that singles bible study I go to on Tuesday nights?  She comes on the weeks she doesn’t have a boyfriend.  She comes so infrequently that she thinks she knows me from Sunday School at her church.”

Jack laughed.  “Which would indicate how frequent her attendance is there, too.”

Joey laughed with him.

“She’s exactly everything I don’t like in a woman, so she pushes my buttons a little I guess.  But she’s a good business woman, and she’ll pay on time, which means regular paychecks for a year, and we probably won’t have to actually see her all that much.”

Jack nodded.  “And when we do, I’ll do all the talking, and you’ll just smile and nod, and go to a happy place inside your head.”

Joey laughed out loud.  This is why he worked with friends.  This is what would make this job better than the school janitor job.  A year working all day with one of his best friends was two prayers answered in one go.

***

Jan Billar-Sykes had voluntarily committed herself to a psych evaluation.  She sent a message to Tracey through the hospital, and Tracey responded with flowers and a fruit basket.  She spent the afternoon doing damage control, and touching base with the other two authors working on this new line of books.  But always in the back of her mind was dinner with Andrew Faulkner.

She was the last one to leave the office, as was her habit, and as she locked the doors, she realized that a sleek, dark blue Mercedes was sitting at the curb, and Andrew was emerging from the back seat.  Tracey pushed the whisps of hair that had come loose from her hair clip, and felt the oil that was sitting on her forehead.  She looked and felt like a woman who had been at work all day.  Was this his plan, or was she supposed to go home before now?

Andrew reached her with a smile, and took her elbow, guiding her to the vehicle.  She could smell his cologne, and feel the hem of his jacket bumping the back of her knee.  And here came the dizzy butterflies in her stomach.

“Tracey.  Shall we carry you home so you can feel a little refreshed before we eat?”

She smiled and nodded as she climbed into the car.  After giving the driver her home address, she settled into the leather seats, and turned, to see Andrew looking at her intently.  She smiled nervously.

“So tell me a little bit about yourself.  Are you any relation to Edward MacManus?”  Andrew seemed genuinely interested, but the question was not one Tracey welcomed, especially from a vocal conservative who had been on the opposite side of her father’s outspoken liberal politics.  Tracey looked at the back of the car seat as she spoke.

“He’s my father.  I began listening to your local radio show when I was in college just to make him mad.”

Andrew chuckled, and leaned back in his seat.

“Well, I guess I won’t be able to use that on the air, as much as I may want to.”

There was a brief silence, and then Andrew laughed again.

“You know, for someone who makes a living by talking, I’m just not very good at small talk.”  He turned slightly to look at Tracey.  “And this is the first date I’ve been on since the Clinton administration.  I don’t get out much.”

Tracey was shocked, and it must have shown on her face, because he smiled, and said, “I’m flattered that my lack of a social life surprises you.”

“I have a hard time imagining you wanting for female attention.”  Tracey responded.

“I don’t travel in the kind of circles where available, intelligent women abound.  My listening audience is sixty percent male, and the intelligent women I encounter tend to be either married or acrimonious, or both.”

Tracey laughed and Andrew gently rested his finger tips against her shoulder as he finished his thought.

“I think what is drawing me to you is the combination of your obvious intelligence and your peaceful grace.”

A blush was flooding her face, and in the back of her mind, a warning siren was sounding.  She was neither peaceful, nor graceful, and at some point he was going to figure that out.  But not tonight, because they were already at her house, and Andrew was telling her to dress casually, he had planned a picnic.

The evening was beautiful.  They ate Greek food on the grass by the river and then walked beside it in the crisp early spring night, drinking cappuccino.  Andrew told stories about his early days in radio that had Tracey in stitches.  Tracey asked him questions she had wondered about since those early college years, and he answered them in as great a detail as he could.  There were no silences now, and as he talked, Tracey found herself almost unable to concentrate when those big blue eyes would turn on her intently and look at her like she was the only thing in the world.

He walked her to her door, his hand once again resting lightly on the small of her back.  When she unlocked the door, he touched her elbow, and she turned to face him.

“Thank you Tracey.  I haven’t enjoyed an evening this much in years.  Can I see you again.  Personally, I mean?”

“I’d like that,” was all Tracey’s throat would let her say.

He stepped closer, kissed her on the forehead, and then turned and walked to his car.

Stan was indignant at being left alone for an evening, but Tracey didn’t notice.  She sat in silence for almost half an hour, just going over the evening in her mind.  When she did go to bed, she didn’t sleep for most of the night.  In retaliation, Stan jumped from the bed, when she finally did fall asleep, and clawed apart the closest pair of pantyhose.  Satisfied with his revenge, he curled up in the small of Tracey’s back, and dreamed of female cats with long whiskers.