Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Apple Pie

Bringing in the Sheaves
P.M. Shaw
Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness, Sowing in the noon-tide and the dewy eve; Waiting for the harvest and the time of reaping, We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.
Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves, We shall come rejoicing bringing in the sheaves.
Sowing in the sunshine, sowing in the shadows, Fearing neither clouds nor winter's chilling breeze; By and by the harvest and the labor ended, We shall come rejoicing bringing in the sheaves.
Going forth with weeping, sowing for the Master, Tho' the loss sustained our spirit often grieves; When our weeping's over he will bid us welcome, We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves

Ok, I've been thinking about Brandy's blog (http://www.mrsbroth.blogspot.com/) and her post about the LDS prophet. More accurately, I've been thinking about some of the replies to her post. It's been a while since I've tried to put my faith into words and after thinking about it in the bathtub this evening here is my best shot at defining my faith.

Last fall I wrote:

"I always pictured God's truth as a pie (probably an apple pie). That pie has to feed many people, and it is a continually replenished dish. Any religion you can think of has at least a small piece of that pie. None of the religions have a monopoly on pie. Where religious issues get sticky is that each church adds some of their own toppings to the pie. After all, apple pie surely should be served a'la mode. But then again, some people prefer their apple pie with sharp cheddar cheese. Some like the pie hot, others cold. Once in a while you find enterprising gourmets who drizzle fresh caramel sauce over the apple pie and ice cream. Delicious, wonderful enhancements.

But how do we separate the enhanced toppings from the simple goodness of the apple pie God gave us in the beginning?The extra ingredients get all tumbled together. The dessert may be palatable in any form, but we tend to begin thinking that apple pie a'la mode is the only good pie. After a while we forget that in the beginning there was just pie. God didn't serve it with ice cream, we added that ourselves. When we forget who added the ice cream we begin to condemn those people who eat their pie with cheddar. They aren't as apple pie-ish as we are. Their truth isn't our truth. What we really forget is that God already gave us the truth and we chose to add to it to make it more palatable to us."

After much reflection I have found no better way to express my feelings towards religion. On a very personal level I can share what I feel while attending church and why I would lean towards one religion over another.

We come together, the church as the living body of Christ, to give thanks and praise to God. There is no ulterior motive in the formation of a church (at least there shouldn't be). We stand shoulder to shoulder and sing in praise of the Lord and my spirit is lifted. We drink from the loving cup and feel the power of the Lord as we accept his blood, shed for us. We come to the pastor and accept the body of Christ given for us... and our souls' thirst is quenched. We linger in fellowship after the service ends and break bread and drink coffee together and form bonds of friendship and love with others whose only purpose in being in this place at this time is to love and praise God.

It seems very elementary (keep in mind I did go to Catholic school) to post the Apostle's Creed here, but it's a very simple statement of belief- and, other than the belief in the catholic church, it captures my beliefs:

" I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth;

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen. "

Although I am willing to give everyone the freedom to exercise their choice of faith it really bothers me when their choices are exclusionary, bureaucratic and fear driven. There is a certain comfort level among Catholics. They truly believe that there are those who are Catholic and there are those who are in error. It's also their belief that God will sort it out in the end and you have responsibility for your own soul. They don't have to save you. You will come to God or you won't. That struggle doesn't seem to keep them from spending time hanging out with you today and it doesn't make saving you their top priority. The Catholics I know seem to be very comfortable in their own skins.

Lutherans seem much like Catholics. They're a little more relaxed since the belief in personal confession to God frees you from visiting the priest and confessing all to him before repenting. I love the policy of open communion. Sharing the body and the blood of Christ is so important that it shouldn't be reserved only for those who are up to date on confession and baptized into any particular church. The prevailing message here seems to be; "All are welcome at the Lord's table, the check has already been paid."

Hospitality. The Lutheran's offer of hospitality is what made the small voice inside of me say, "This is the place!" All are truly welcome. The little old ladies waiting by the front door will make sure you know where everything is and introduce you to anyone you might have common interests with. The pastor will offer you spiritual advice or talk about the Superbowl- your choice. When you're ready for the heavy stuff, the pastor is always available- and he doesn't mind if the conversation occurs over a fine bottle of wine.

The important things seem so small when you look at them individually. What does it matter if your faith allows you to drink wine? Who cares if people not of your faith can take communion with you? Does it really make a difference that you can or can not sing loudly or reverently during your church service? Is fellowship hour important or just a chance to mooch cookies after the service? Is it important to offer the opportunity for spiritual leadership to women? Can non-traditional families actively participate in your church?

I've been to other churches (lots and lots of other churches- theology has fascinated me since I was five). Some of them feel very good. Some of them make me feel uneasy. One of the churches I visited brought me much closer to God. I hadn't had a very personal relationship with God for a few years. When people started rolling in the aisles and speaking in "tongues" I started praying harder than I'd ever prayed in my life, "Lord, please get me through this safely. I promise I'll pray every day- several times a day. I'll be good, kind, compassionate, honest. I'll work in service to others. Lord, just get me through this evening. Please God, I'm scared. Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I fear no evil...." It did bring me closer to God and I have found that the power of prayer offers assistance and refreshment in all situations. It wasn't necessarily a bad thing to have that particular church experience :-)

Something that is anethema to me is bureaucracy as a form of religion. Does God really care if you dot your i's and cross your t's? If your baptism isn't recorded in the annals of history does that mean God will not know you during the final days? If you never heard the word of God -are you forever doomed unless someone baptizes you long after you've decomposed? Does God expect us to "save" everyone we come in contact with? Does God expect us to perfect our souls by denying sensual delights and call all the pleasures of the flesh "temptations?"

I believe God made our bodies so receptive to pleasure because he intended that we enjoy our existence here on Earth. The great commandment: Love God and love one another was revealed in the new testement. Doesn't the coming of Christ, who died for our sins, reset the parameters and free us from Levitican law? Following the order to love God and love one another is a bit more complicated than it sounds and the ten commandments still apply (I can't think of a single one that doesn't build on LOVE GOD AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER). Moderation in all things is key. Denying pleasure for the sake of obedience may help bring some people closer to God, but others among us are wired differently. In no way am I suggesting hedonism is the way to go. Simply put, we would all be better off if we worked harder on loving both our neighbors and our enemies and spent less time judging those who believe or act differently than we do.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Uncertain Expectations

“The best things in life are unexpected - because there were no expectations.”
Eli Khamarov

Last week my Great-Aunt Mary passed away in Rupert. My memories of her are few and dim. What I do remember is that she always was kind, seemed happy, and took time to acknowledge everyone around her and make them feel special. She was also a very good cook. If that's all people remember of me when I am almost 98 years old- the sum of my life can't be too bad!

Aunt Mary is the older sister of my Grandmother Loucks (Dad's mother).

As a child it was one of my greatest wishes that my grandmother would be kind, happy and acknowledge me when I was in her presence. When I was six I realized that I'd been at Aunt Kitty's for half a day and in the same room with Grandma- and she'd never even smiled or waved at me. Being kind of a strange six year old I decided to wait until she looked like she wanted to talk to me to go say hi.

That time, when she looked approachable to me, did not come that day. I abided by that choice (to wait to seek her out until she looked welcoming) for the next six years. In those six years I did not speak to my grandmother- not because I was ignoring her, but because I was waiting. No one, except me, seemed to notice.

There are some fabulous women in my father's family. I don't remember my father. He died when I was 22 months old. His sisters Kitty and Barb have children born the same year I was. My aunts were always welcoming and went out of their way to include me in family events. My Uncle George also went out of his way to include me and get to know me. If it weren't for the three of them I most likely would have been forgotten and everyone's life would have been more peaceful.

The (hmmm... I have a hard time finding the right word here. Is it rift? Absence? Unfriendliness?) difficulty I had forming a relationship with my Grandmother began to color my expectations of every family event and my hurt feelings had to have affected the way I interacted with everyone else. By the time I was twelve it was an easy leap of logic for me to believe that I truly wasn't needed in the Loucks family and most certainly my presence was wanted by very few of my family members. Although I did have plenty of experiences that led me to believe what I did, my own expectation of failure (in this arena) certainly contributed. Teenage girls are not joys to be around. Teen age girls who think they have reason to feel slighted are just that much worse.

Isn't maturity a wonderful thing (hope I attain it someday!). By the time I was out on my own and had formed some amazing friendships (and eventually a marriage) it was easier to believe that perhaps the difficulties with my grandmother weren't because I was such a very hard person to love. By the time I had my first child it occurred to me that perhaps the absence of affection wasn't even intentional. After the birth of the third child I was pretty certain that my grandmother could not possibly have enough time on her hands to even spend more than a passing thought on me at all. The woman did give birth to 11 children- and nine of them are still alive.

I almost forgot Jake's birthday this year! He's only three- and I have only three children! What would it take to keep track of and spend personal time with more than three times that many children? By this year, I truly believed Grandma's inaction in relation to me was more of benevolent sort of forgetfulness. And- well- I am an adult now- and grandma has been very welcoming every time she's seen me the past 8 years (all three of the times).

In the end, I did not pursue a relationship for a number of reasons. Blood binds us together but it doesn't give us a shared past or an affinity for each other's company. I don't know her- and she does not know me. It's awkward getting to know someone new and when the fear of failure is strong - because I've failed in this same arena many times in the past- the reward has to be weighed against the risks. I am 34 years old this year and can admit that I have given up any sort of expectations when it comes to my father's family, largely because I would need to carry at least half the responsibility and I am tired.

I am tired of trying to meet other people's expectations of me. I am tired of pursuing relationships, whether friends or family, that are not equal and reciprocal. I am tired of worrying and wondering. I am tired of fearing failure and spending energy on things that, in the final analysis, aren't really very important to me. I am tired of being a perpetual teenager.

I am a grown up and it is within my abilities to choose the people I want to spend my time and energy on. It is my choice whether to spend my time on any relationship. It is also my responsibility to care for my husband and children and provide a safe, welcoming environment for them to grow strong and wise. Any choice I make that affects my physical, mental, or emotional well being has to be weighed in relation to it's effect on that responsibility.

I wrote most of my father's family off. They are off my radar and it has been quite peaceful in the corner of my mind that is labeled, "family." Relationships I never had can't be mourned or worried about. If they didn't like me when I was 2 then it isn't my responsibility to try and convince them to like me now. I don't know them, they don't know me. Although we are related we certainly don't need to have a deeper connection. Life is full and busy around our house.

All of this writing (some of it pure drivel) has been leading up to this- My grandmother reached out at her sister's funeral. She invited me to her home (which is a whole 25 minutes or so from mine). She gifted me with an afgan and was hoping to find a photo album she thought I'd like to have with pictures of me and my Dad. Most shocking of all- she told me she'd been missing me- and it was a bit emotional for both of us.

Uncle George and Mom were there (we'd ridden to the funeral together) and we stayed and visited for quite a while. It was awkward but it was good. Grandma showed me pictures of all her great grandchildren and I promised to bring my sons to visit her soon.

It is such a strange thing that when you give up expectations amazing things can, and often do, occur. I no longer hurt because I seemed doomed to only have 5 grandmothers in my children's lives (Truly- 5 grandmas before Grandma Loucks). My heart was filled with joy because we have the opportunity to know 5 amazing women who are our progenitors. My husband has two truly lovely sisters my children have relationships with (as well as a brother, his dad, and the spouses of his siblings). Blessing after blessing has been showered upon my little family. And now, when I wasn't looking for it, we have regained a sixth grandma.

Life is strange, though wonderful. I'd closed that chapter in my book. Now it looks as if there may be more pages to write in the history of our hearts about the Loucks family. It's awkward, but there is promise here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Compassion in conservatism

One of the blogs I read a while back (sorry, I can't remember which one) made the statement that there is no compassion in conservatism.

Today I'd like to tell you the story of the bread working in the community.

There is a bakery in Boise (capitalist bakery, that is) that donates all their bread over run to the local refugee center. The local refugee center uses what it can and tries to distribute the rest of the bread throughout the community so that nothing is wasted.

One of my friends is friends with the refugee center's director. She came to visit the other day and brought a huge bag of bread with her. When I say huge... it was hard to lift... both because of it's weight and it's mass. I protested, but she left here without that huge bag of bread.

There was way more bread than our family could eat or store. Waste was going to occur. I hate waste. Waste is sinful (especially when so many are making do without the plentiful food they had a few years ago when the economy was good).

Have I mentioned that my husband's family is Mormon? Mormons are very efficient in the way their wards are organized. It took just one phone call to begin the ball rolling and get the bread distributed to households who could really use a little extra bread. Once I started giving the bread away I found many other venues we could have used to distribute the excess bounty.

You know what's amazing? The government wasn't involved. We gave the bread away on inauguration day. So, you know, the actual distribution had to wait until after we heard Obama sworn in. Other than that, the bread distribution was totally free will.

We're a happy group of bread give away-ers (yep, I just made up that word). Isn't it amazing that the bakery donated their excess bread so that it wouldn't waste? And then the refugee center passed on whatever they couldn't use. My friend passed on what she couldn't use. I kept a couple loaves and then passed on the rest.

A lot of families benefited from the generosity of the bakery. The bakery benifits by generating good will in the community. Those who can afford their bread pay for it. The people who have less and can't afford a $4.00 loaf of bread still enjoy the product (and we tell our friends and family about this wonderful bakery). Lots of people could have hoarded the bread or let it go to waste. People could have waited too long and let the bread become stale or moldy. Yet, we all did what we had to do in order to make sure waste did not occur.

Charity begins at home. Communities work together to care for the weakest and most needy of their members. Even the weak and needy can contribute to the community effort. Everybody wins when communities work together.
Lots of people pulled together to make sure the most posssible people benifited

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Would you buy this?

Ok, I'm about to share a horrible mistake. I love the green cow fabric. It makes me happy. The colors, the images, the happy cows... I love it all. Yesterday I made a bag for Dave's mom's birthday. The idea of making some bags to sell on Etsy has been hovering around the edges of my mind for a couple weeks now (since I love making the bags and I'm about to run out of family and friends who still need one). Last night I decided to try making two bags at the same time (assembly line style) and see if I could shave some time off (and to figure out how many bags I can feasibly make in a week).

The first bag I had planned out in advance. It went together with no problems. The second bag (the Happy Cow Bag) I pulled fabric from my stash and just started cutting. I wanted to finish before bed and didn't spend much time planning it. I made both bags with the same dimensions. Pat's bag- I really like. The Happy Cow bag- has a huge orange stripe and nothing else to really recommend it. I did iron some fusible web on more of the cow fabric and make some cute little appliques that take up some of the orange space. But now the question is- should I put the bag on Esty or dispose of it some other (less public) way. Would you buy this bag (no, an affirmative answer does not constitute a binding legal contract for the purchase of said bag)?

Here's Pat's Daisy Bag.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Labor Pains

I've started a quilt for Dave's grandma but it's not going very quickly. This may have something to do with me being an idiot and dual enrolling my oldest son in homeschool and "specials" at the local elementary school. This means we spend about 2 hours a day running back and forth and waiting (with not quite enough time to accomplish anything). It also means we have to fit the structured part of our lessons in either before or after school instead of at our leisure (which worked very well during Christmas break). I think next year we're going to commit 100% to homeschooling because running back and forth to school every day is getting in the way of our education :-)

Here's the fabric for the quilt. It's a much more mellow, earthy pallette than I've worked with before. I hope it all comes together the way I'm picturing it in my mind.

Here are some of the completed and partial blocks. Does it look too much like an old lady?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Miranda's birthday present

I've been pretty lazy since Christmas but I did start a lap quilt for Dave's grandma and yesterday I made a tote bag for Miranda. Chris and I also made a bunny softie. Chris even sewed the arms and legs himself- too bad I forgot to take a picture!

Here's a picture of Miranda's bag. I really like the fabric combination. Chris donated the fabrics out of his personal stash. He didn't mind sharing since it was a present for Mir.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Angst resolved

I finally received a response from the co-op director with info about my co-teacher. It turns out she's someone I graduated from high school with (about a million years ago). She also has the curriculum thing in hand since the human body class was her idea. It's such a relief not to have that hanging over my head anymore. I just have to show up and teach my classes (we're alternating weeks). She's following the Joy School curriculum (which I've never seen but have heard good things about) and plans to adapt it to fit within our alloted time.

My co-teacher also suggested facebook as a great place to catch up with others (so I'm not shocked when I walk into a room and am working with someone I actually know- but don't recognize). That same day my cousin Angie sent me an invite so that all the cousins could be in contact easily. It's now official. I think I may be addicted to facebook. Hopefully once the new wears off it won't seem so seductive and steal so much of my time.

Friday, January 02, 2009

I am so confused at the moment. This fall we had the opportunity to enroll in a homeschool co-op that meets on Fridays in Boise. The winter class begins the end of January. All new parents are required to teach a class their first session their family is enrolled in the co-op. My four year old is very speech delayed and so I listed the preschool as my first choice for teaching.

Good news! I was assigned to team teach "the human body" in the preschool class. This should work out well since I'm afraid Sam (my son) will need some extra help communicating with others in his class.

Bad news! I have no clue who the other teacher in my team is and the school directors have requested that curriculum outlines be turned in by January 9th! More bad news! I am the 4-H leader who taught cloverbuds (5-8 year old members) in the rabbit project all about reproductive physiology. My six and seven year olds could all diagram (and label) the female reproductive tract (rabbit), discuss the difference between mitosis and miosis (and why they're different), and diagram the development of a kit from zygote to embryo to fetus. Yea! Great 4-H animal science skills for kids who are breeding their rabbits.

Now, how do I figure out what to teach a group of preschoolers about the human body. I need direction (truly, everyone wants me to have direction... I have strange children and no clue about what is age appropriate). I have emailed the directors of the coop 3 times and never received a response. My computer fried a while back and I do not have contact info for anyone in the co-op (since we're new to all of this) except the email address for the directors. What do I do?

I'm afraid that if I don't hear anything this week I need to back out of participating in the co-op this winter. If they don't respond to questions and concerns now- how difficult is it going to be to get along and have a productive year once classes start? We are so new to this. Is it possible that things are much more loosely structured than they look? I hate to be unprepared at the start of a project. It almost always means the entire project will be stressful, unorganized, and not nearly as fun as it could have been.

Thursday, January 01, 2009


As mothers we serve our families. Every day. During the holiday season this service is something we take for granted. We're the mommies. Of course we serve our children, our husbands, our parents, our in-laws and sometimes our friends. Who serves us?

It's so easy to caught up in serving others, in particular our families, that we forget what an important lesson it is for our children to learn to serve others. If we always act in service to them, eventually we become servants TO our children. I love my children as much as any other mom, but I never intended to become an unpaid servant in my own home.

This year one of my goals is teaching my children to be more compassionate and helpful in our home. All three boys love to help, but they only like to help with the fun stuff. No one offers to lift a finger when something really boring (or gross) needs to be done. A lot of that is my fault. I haven't expected them to help and so I never ask them for help with a lot of chores. Also, I respond pretty quickly when they have needs but rarely ask them to respond that fast when I need something. I've always assumed that I'm the mommy and it's my job to do most of the work.

It's true. Most of the work is mine. It doesn't have to be. I ran around the entire holiday season like a chicken with it's head cut off doing things for my family (and with my family). Every night I went to bed late and I woke up early in the morning. My family for the most part played, watched television, ate the meals I prepared, and pursued their own interests. In retrospect it would have been very nice if they'd helped in preparing gifts for others, cooking meals, setting the table, cleaning, doing laundry, or generally being of service to the whole family. My husband was wonderfully helpful and cooked dinner for a week and a half straight to allow me time to quilt.

This year's goal: Teach the kids to work in service to their family.

Now, if only I had a plan of action to bring that goal to fruition.

Jake camping in the living room

Jake camping in the living room