Friday, December 31, 2010

Honest to God Lament

I invite you to listen to this sermon on lament, delivered by my friend Laura last semester.

Thursday, December 30, 2010


I said goodbye to my granddad a couple weeks ago. At the time, I’m not sure he knew who I was, and I know he didn’t understand the gravity of the situation—that his granddaughter was seeing him alive for the last time. But despite his lack of understanding, he treated the situation with gentle grace, and spoke over me the blessing that he’s uttered thousands of times—over his children and grandchildren, over his own wife and the spouses of his family, over friends and even over healthcare providers: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and give you his peace.”

During the last several days I spent with Granddad, I was struck by the gentleness he showed to all those around him. When I was growing up, I remember him being a little rougher around the edges. He had tender moments when he’d take me and my brothers sledding or tell me he had me tied up in his golden thread of love that I could never escape. But the softer side was not his dominant one. Years later, in Granddad’s final weeks of life, that softer side rose to the surface, filling in cracks and covering the rough edges and sharp corners of his character.

He treated everyone with kindness, even when he didn’t necessarily know who they were or why they were there. He spoke blessings over people when they went to bed or left for the day. He bantered with the hired caretakers. He got excited when he saw my dad and realized, for the twelfth time that day, who he was. His dementia tore his short-term memory to shreds, but he even dealt with that graciously. Often he would turn to me after focusing on something or someone else for a few minutes, and would have already forgotten who I was. But every time I can remember this happening, he either greeted me with an excited “Hello!” or asked, “Who’s that beautiful young lady over there?” Even in not recognizing me, he would call me beautiful.

Granddad also spoke of Anne in the most glowing terms I’ve ever heard a man talk about his wife. After 58 years of marriage, he still called her “my bride” and loved her immensely. He would rave about what an amazing woman she is, about how well she’d taken care of him for 58 years, and about how hard he’d tried to take care of her for 58 years. Several times during my visit, he told me I was beautiful and followed it with, “But not as beautiful as my bride.” While so many marriages end in painful divorce or lapse into bland coexistence, Granddad and Anne’s long, loving, joyful marriage testifies to the blessing that a lifelong marriage is.

Early this morning, Granddad stopped breathing, after 81 years of life and 58 years of marriage; after raising a family of ten children and more grandchildren and great-grandchildren than I care to count right now; after working as a pilot and patent-holding metallurgist and building countless homes with Habitat for Humanity; after impressing his devout faith upon his children. And now the Lord’s face shines, undimmed, upon him, and he is experiencing the Lord’s peace in its purest, most untarnished form.

Playing cards on one of Granddad's last good days

The day before I told him goodbye

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Dinner in a Pumpkin

This past weekend, I tried a new recipe for a casserole baked in a pumpkin. Here is my modification of this recipe from Basically, I adjusted the quantities so I could cook one serving for myself in a pie pumpkin and freeze 2 more meals' worth for use in the future with pie pumpkins or some other form of squash.

Dinner in a Pumpkin

1 pound ground beef
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 14-oz. can chicken stock
1 box of Uncle Ben's long grain and wild rice mix, Original Recipe, including seasoning packet
1 10.75-oz. can condensed cream of celery soup
6 oz. fresh mushrooms
3-4 pie pumpkins

In a large skillet over medium heat, brown the ground beef. Drain. 

Mix in salt and pepper, pumpkin pie spice, brown sugar, chicken stock, rice, and flavor packet. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 25 to 30 minutes, until rice is tender.

Remove and reserve top of each pumpkin, being sure to cut at an angle so the top will work as a lid. Scoop out seeds and stringy pulp.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  

Mix cream of celery soup and mushrooms into the meat and rice mixture. Spoon 1 to 1-1/2 cups of the mixture into each of the pumpkins, and replace pumpkin tops. You will have about 5 cups of beef/rice filling.

Place pumpkins on a large baking sheet, and bake 1 hour in the preheated oven, or until pumpkin is tender (after 30 minutes, check every 10 minutes. If you're only cooking only one pie pumpkin, 40-45 minutes should be long enough).

Serve in the pumpkins, eating the meat of the pumpkin as well as the beef and rice filling.

Alternate version if you're just cooking for one: Just prepare one pie pumpkin, scoop the rest of the filling into 2-3 zip bags, and throw them in the freezer for future meals. 

Next time I make it, I will probably add some fresh celery (or at least dried celery seed) and garlic.

Before going in the oven.
With the filling inside.
Leftover filling ready to go into the freezer.
All gone!
I felt the need to get artistic with the empty pumpkin.

Monday, February 22, 2010


I love that we have different seasons, each with different attributes. Even in tropical climates where it’s hot and humid year round, there is at least a rainy season and a rainier season. Or in arctic climates, I’m sure there’s a cold and snowy season and a colder and snowier season.

I love that—at least in places with four distinct (or semi distinct) seasons—each season is just long enough for you to really appreciate the next one. By the time spring rolls around, we’re tired of cold temperatures, and we’re ready to wear short sleeves and drive with the windows down. And by the time summer rolls around, we’re ready to go swimming and take family vacations. And by the time fall rolls around, we’re excited about cooler temperatures and pumpkin-scented candles. And by the time winter rolls around, we’re eager for snow and Christmas and bundling up against the cold.

One thing I love about the seasons in Texas is that we have so many random days that don’t fit into the season in which they fall. Two days ago, it was 70 degrees; when I left campus this evening, it was snowing fiercely. Maybe I just like variety, but I enjoy the 70-degree days in the middle of February to break the norm of cold temperatures. And I love the days in the summer when it drops to low 60s or even 50s, and then pops back up to 102.

I like that we also experience seasons in our lives and spiritual journeys. If we didn’t go in cycles we would become stagnant—and I believe even getting “stuck” in a good place can become unhealthy. Spring, bursting with life, is so much more refreshing when it comes after a harsh winter. And a harsh winter is so much more bearable when there’s the remembrance of past summers and the hope of new springs. Those random out-of-season days are so needed in our spiritual lives, too. A day of spring in the middle of autumn or winter gives hope that it won’t always be cold, hard, and dead or dying. A day of fall in the middle of summer serves as a sobering reminder that it hasn’t always been this warm and carefree, which helps us appreciate summer that much more.

There are things I like and dislike about every season, both in the weather and in life, but I am trying to be grateful for each one and to search for God in each of life’s seasons.